by Danny O. Calleja
LEGAZPI CITY — People tired of rat race and packing for summer vacations have good places to go in Bicol that offer discoveries of hidden natural and historical treasures.
Bicol, a beautiful region southeast of Manila is boundless in terms of natural and century-old man-made wonders distributed among its six provinces composed of Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon.
It is a peninsula famous for its majestic mountains and volcanoes like Mount Mayon, Isarog and Bulusan.
Apart from hospitality that Bicolanos offer as a priceless present, the region also has a lot of “must visit” places for vacationers — hot springs in Sorsogon, water falls in Albay and Catanduanes and world class resorts making it the right destination for people who love to have a cool, relaxing and adventurous vacation.
From Manila or elsewhere out of the region, they could come directly to this city, the regional center of government, transportation, communication, commerce, hospital services and education.
The city is served by at least five commercial flights of leading domestic airlines daily and land trips are available 24/7 to and from almost all points of destination and origin.
Hotels, logging houses and restaurants for all classes are in here for vacationers to stay while enjoying the fantastic view of the famous Mayon Volcano, the world’s most perfect cone as they plot shorter routes to other parts of the region.
Shopping for provisions and later, take home commodities is not a problem in this city where giant department stores, food shops and souvenir stores abound.
From the city, the regional office of the Department of Tourism (DOT) could guide them where to go first and where to stay last to complete a once in a lifetime journey through the wilds, islands, deeps and heights of the region.
For those taking a luxurious option, the DOT says they could come and stay at the Misibis Bay Resort and Spa, a private tropical hideaway built on a pristine stretch of beach along the southern tip of Cagraray island in Bacacay, Albay.
This breathtaking, five-hectare island resort with lavishly furnished villas and world-class amenities could be reached via 45-minute scenic travel by land, 15-minutes by a private helicopter or 30 minutes by fast watercraft.
Vacationers can experience the diversity of Misibis Island where exquisite adventures arise from a treasure trove of infinite possibilities and discover Misibis Bay, the country’s leading luxury island playground.
Great things to do in Albay apart from getting up close with Mt. Mayon, according to DOT regional director Maria Ravanilla are cooling down at the waterfalls, exploring caves, feasting on the local cuisine, burying feet in the volcanic black sand beaches, hiking up Ligñon Hill, exploring the wild of off-shore islands, scuba diving and visiting century-old churches including the Cagsawa Ruins.
From here, Catanduanes, an island province in the Pacific Ocean could be an ideal destination for its virtually still untouched by development and ecological treasures that makes it a great vacation getaway.
The island is two and a half hours via ferry boats with regular daily trips from Tabaco City, 30 minutes away from this city.
Catanduanes boasts of Puraran Beach in the town of Baras which is the site of the so-called “Majestic” waves prized by surfers. The island also has yet-unspoiled white beaches all along its coastline, as well as diving spots for snorkelers and scuba enthusiasts, and cascading waterfalls farther inland.
It is paradise waiting to be discovered.
Another destination is Sorsogon, so as not to miss the chance of interacting with the “gentle giants of the ocean”, the butandings (whale sharks) of Donsol.
The month of May is the peak season for butanding interactions.
Staying in Donsol overnight at any of the dozens of resorts and lodging houses in town would also be exciting because of the natural attraction of fireflies while watching along the beach and river banks right off the sanctuary of whale sharks.
Down southeast of the province are clean beaches along the coastlines of the Pacific Ocean and San Bernardino Strait, the vast virgin forest within the Bulusan Volcano Natural Park that lies down the slopes of the restive Mt. Bulusan rimming the magnificent Bulusan Lake and the sprawling mangrove forest of Prieto Diaz town that serves as sanctuary of hundreds of bird species including migratory ones.
Along the way between these sites is Barcelona town, the home to the oldest church in the province built in 1874. The church was beautifully built out of corals that form its walls and the enchanting carvings on the coral façade make it a priceless relic.
Matnog town at the southern tip of Sorsogon that serves as the jumping board between Bicol and the Visayas is another paradise to discover being gifted with preserved nature, immaculate white to pinkish powdery sand beaches kissed by crystalline waters, uphill caves, fish and lobster farms, fish and marine turtle sanctuaries and an amazing view of sunrise and sunset.
The larger portion of the municipality’s mainland is rimmed by high mountains teeming with coconut palms and residual forests that offer a soothing feeling of relief from the air pollution in urban cities because of its lush green growth.
Accommodation and food in these areas are less expensive.
From Sorsogon, Ticao Island in Masbate province would be the best destination where sea diving in the Manta Ray Bowl down Ticao Pass off Fernando and San Jacinto towns is a once in a lifetime experience.
It will be an hour boat trip from Bulan town. Accommodations and good foods are available at beach resorts along the Pass.
From Ticao, access is easy to the Burias Island for a visit of the historic Claveria town that offers a lot of cultural experiences, beautiful sceneries, religious antiquity, superb cuisine and impressive hospitality.
The municipality locates an underground cave that can be reached through an underwater entrance called Boca Engaño where stone caskets with human remains believed to be more than 500 years of age exist and the San Isidro Beach that is being compared to the Miami Beach of Florida, USA and Cancun of Mexico.
Lacing the southern strip of Burias Island and spanning more than 10 kilometers of pure white sand and turquoise water and boasting of diverse marine ecosystem that houses endemic species of sea plants and animals, San Isidro Beach is more of a sanctuary for fairies and searching souls severely bruised and beaten by the intricacies of urban living.
For those introverts trying to avoid the din from bars and entertainment houses in the cities, the entire length occasionally interrupted by few thrusts which serve to decorate it for more effects, the beach is an enchanting paradise for the living coral reefs and crustaceans that outnumber the people residing alongside its shores.
Claveria could then be the last island hopping stop and daily boat trips across the Burias Pass to Pioduran town in Albay available to facilitate a return trip to the Bicol mainland.
The boat trip is about two hours and Pioduran is an hour and a half by land to this city or nearly three hours to the Camarines Sur Watersports Complex (CWC).
Located in Pili, Camarines Sur, CWC is the wake boarding playground of Bicol for those who are looking for real water sports adventure.
The place could be a take-off point to the Gota Village Resort in Caramoan town which is another world-class vacation and eco-tourism spot of Camarines Sur.
Indeed, completing this vacation island hopping in Bicol would show a vacationer that the region is a combination of the old and the new.
Old churches, untouched natural wonders, rich history and culture and the picture of modern Bicol never ceases to impress even as newly-built structures in support of its fast-pacing development takes place.
Come and experience the wonderful destinations in the region and feel the real meaning of vacation and relaxation.
It’s cool to be spending summer Bicol. (PNA)