Sorsogon Road Trip: Bulusan

From Barcelona, jeepneys bound for Gubat and Bulusan pass by just in front of St. Joseph Church, one of the oldest churches in Bicol Region. Our little group wrapped it up and readied ourselves for the next leg of our day trip – Bulusan.

Bulusan is home to one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines – Mt Bulusan and this is our next destination for this day. We arrived at Bulusan town proper and while it is still early, we looked for a place where we can get our brunch. After a hearty meal, we took a tricycle that will take us to Bulusan National Park.

I’ve been here many years ago, I was around 10 years old back then and I was able to go around the lake with my friends without us knowing where it was leading us. We registered and soon started our trek. We felt really proud that Teloy is comfortable with the surrounding vegetation and never complained about the long walk. There were several rest area around the lake but most of them were already in ruins. Me and Baba couldn’t help but compare tourism efforts in other places we have visited.

Still, Bulusan Lake is enchanting and charming than ever. I remembered seeing shrimp swimming near the rocks and there are still plenty of them even today. The place was very peaceful and all you can hear are the sounds of the wind and the birds. We passed by one or two men quietly fishing as if they too hesitate in breaking the calm. You see green everywhere you look, there’s lush green forests that surrounds an emerald green waters. It looked so deep, you’d feel kinda creepy sometimes when you try to imagine what creatures might be lurking underneath!

We arrived back at the entrance and rested for a while. I appreciate the new additions that the management are trying to introduce though the park’s upkeep still lacks a bit. There are kayaks and other water vehicle you can try out to explore the lake. They also offer climb packages for those interest to scale the mysterious Bulusan Volcano.

The trek was tiring, but we still have one more destination for this day trip and it’s going to be a wonderful, soothing and relaxing end to this roughly planned trip.

Sorsogon Road Trip: Barcelona, Sorsogon

While the school year is still ongoing and the travel fund is slim, we with our little tot are limited to weekend exploration and day trip adventures. Good thing Bicol Region has a lot of nook and corners that we have yet to explore.

Sorsogon City is only an hour away from Daraga, Albay so it sounds like a day trip is convenient enough for us. Oh we were wrong! The province of Sorsogon is indeed blessed with natural wonders and beautiful sights to behold, but of course, you have to go off the beaten track to discover them. So from the city, we headed to Barcelona, a municipality that is one hour away from the city. 
The municipality of Barcelona is located in the eastern shores of Sorsogon and is surrounded by the municipalities of Gubat, Bulusan and Casiguran. Being fond of old churches, we specifically chose this route to see one of the oldest churches in Bicol, the St. Joseph the Worker Parish which now called the Barcelona Church. It was constructed using coral stones, egg whites and “tuba.” It is an imposing structure with the original facade and the belfry though several restoration efforts in the church interiors were apparent.

Barcelona Church faces the sea and a small park where ruins of the late Presidencia Building and which were once used by the Spanish. Being close to the sea, it was destroyed during the Japanese occupation. This day, what appears to be a busy port during those days still exists but now it has become a silent onlooker to busy fisherfolks and youngsters passing time at the park.

After taking pictures and resting under the trees in Barcelona Church’s yard, our little group decided to pushed on to our next destination and continue with our exploration in – Bulusan. 

The Oriental Hotel Legazpi: One Fine Staycation Experience

It was a couple of weeks before Baba’s birthday and I had been scouring online booking sites for somewhere special (and nearby) that we can go and celebrate for the weekend. I fortunately found this rare treat from Oriental Hotel Legazpi, hesitated a bit and then pushed the reservation on.

Considered as the only 5-Star Hotel in the City of Legazpi, a staycation here really is a treat! The Oriental has 115 rooms and have minimalist design. It is located in Taysan Hills so it offers guest a great view of the majestic Mayon Volcano.

We got a deluxe mountain room which offered plush interior design in white, silver and black. It has modern amenities such as a 32-inch cable ready LCD television perfect for my boys, wifi and a work desk perfect for me!

The hotel also offers refreshing view of the city and Mayon at their infinity pool. We decided to spend the afternoon swimming until it rained! So we went back to our room and spend the rest of the afternoon watching TV and writing.

Before going down for dinner, we went to the pool area just to see a panoramic view of the city with Mt. Mayon silhouetted at the backdrop, however it rained once again so we just proceeded to Jasmine Restaurant. We ordered some ribs and pork skewers. Teloy loved the bread that was served while waiting for dinner. After dining, we just hurried back to our room so that I can resume writing my articles while Baba and Teloy, bond over movies and our “baon” beers.

Our reservation included buffet breakfast for two, for Teloy we paid half for his buffet breakfast fee. Though we all think it was a lot more than the cost of what Teloyskie ate there. After several months of moving back here in Bicol, I kinda miss this kind of breakfast banquet. They have a complete line of Filipino breakfast variants such as tuyo, longganisa, daing and tocino. But they also have sausages and bacon and a selection of cereals, yogurt, breads and pastries, juices.

After filling up, I secretly talked with some of the restaurant crew for a surprise birthday cupcake for Baba. Several minutes later, the crept up behind him and gave a birthday song which blew him away! Baba almost hated me there for surprising him and he seemed so conscious of the other people in the restaurant who are looking our way.  After a while, he thanked me profusely for giving him one of the best birthdays ever!

Before checking out, we once again spent time swimming at the hotel’s infinity pool. It was still raining so Mt. Mayon was not in sight though the view in the pool area could have been truly amazing if the weather was cooperative.

The Oriental Hotel Legazpi City

  1. Address: Taysan Hill, Sto. NiƱo Village, Legazpi City, Albay, Legazpi City 4500, Philippines

5 Local Summer Hot Spots For the Adventure Seekers

Summer vacation is just a few weeks away and while some people have started planning early on, others are still undecided where to go. Here are some of our favorites  that you can consider and why we are suggesting them.

1. Baler

People flock to Baler for the clean surf break in Sabang Beach and the thrill of surfing at Cemento Beach and Charlie’s Point. Considered to be the birthplace of surfing in the Philippines, you can find all sorts of accommodation lining up Sabang Beach. Beyond surfing, Baler is rich in culture, history and natural wonders.

2. Bicol

Of course, I love my own region. Bicol is composed of six provinces and each one
offers a different kind of thrill for the adventure seekers. Explore the lovely islands and crystal blue waters of Calaguas in Camarines Norte, Caramoan in Camarines Sur and Tikling in Sorsogon. Adrenaline junkies can try out wake boarding in CamSur Watersports Complex, surf in Bagasbas Beach in Cam Norte or try out the ATV ride to Mayon Lava Front. Bicol is also popular for its culinary expo featuring hot and spicy dishes. Do try out the Chili Ice Cream!

3. Boracay

Many people complain about Boracay being too crowded especially during the summer months, but still you really can’t say no to this beautiful island paradise. I am much awed by its powdery white sands and crystal blue temperate waters. When in Boracay, you’ll find all the adventure you want and need. Head to Bulabog Beach for some hot water sports such as kite boarding and jet skiing. You can also try parasailing and other group activities such as banana boat ride. And for us, nothing beats the sunset view in Boracay.

4. Palawan

Why not Palawan? I’ve visited Palawan twice at the height of summer and love it both times. Coron is located on the northern Calamian group of islands. Island hopping and snorkeling in Coron gives you the best views of tall limestone karsts and the colorful marine life under the waters. On the other hand, flying to Puerto Princesa gives you the option to explore the country’s greenest city or head to other hot destinations such as El Nido or to Sabang beach which is the jump off point to the Underground River.

5. Sagada

Sagada is a town you will surely fall in love with.  The weather is cool and you are provided with scenic landscapes and mountain views around you. Adventure seekers will not be disappointed with this charming town up north. The Cave Connection will deplete all your energy in a pumping 4-hour cave exploration adventure. Your hiking and trekking activities will also be rewarded with magnificent and powerful waterfalls such as the Bomod-ok and Pongas.

Where to Eat in Legazpi: Cie’s Pastry Cafe

Since coming back to Bicol early this year, one of my worries was not being able to find pasties and coffee concoctions that would satisfy my sweet cravings. I know one or two popular coffee shop in the city but I was surprised to find a wonderful place just a few steps off Pacific Mall.

Cie’s Pastry Cafe is located in Landco Business Park, Legazpi City. The shop share the same location as the largest mall in the city so I wondered several times I was there why there were very few diners here. The prices of the cake slices where truly affordable and the quality of their food products are impeccable. So it I thought, Legazpenos might still not be open or appreciative to concept of coffee shops or maybe the place still lacks incessant advertising so not a lot of people know them.

Blue Curacao Spritzer

delectable cakes at Cie’s

The place has a cozy and relaxing ambiance. I loved doing my articles here because it is quiet and I get to feast my eyes on those delicious pastries for motivation. The cafe also serve light meals and pasta dishes. They also serve yogurt and have cute dispensers for yogurt toppings and garnishes. I brought Telosykie here a couple of times, he found the yogurt a bit too sour for his taste but he loved the cakes!

Open-faced Guinobatan Longganisa Sandwich

If you find yourself tired and weary from exploring the city and Pacific Mall, drop by this quiet place and order some spritzer (P70 i think) or that watermelon smoothie or a frappe (P110?) to cool you down. They have open-faced sandwiches that feature Bicol originals such as the Guinobatan Longganisa Sandwich (P125-150) and appetizing pasta creations. Groupies should also try out their Mom’s Pizza which we really loved!

Cie’s Mom’s Pizza

Mayon ATV Tour Experience: Extreme Adventure Worth Taking

My first ATV experience in Boracay can be considered mild if not for my freak accident with the gas, an incident which left me with gashes on my legs and Baba with a horrifying picture of me almost being thrown off the machine. The incident made him a bit paranoid about me getting into other motorized vehicles on my own so when Sheng invited us to join them and experience the Mayon ATV ride, I kept mum about it and decided to tell Baba what I did after the experience.

Woke up early that Sunday and headed to Bebe’s house to meet up with her, Gang and Joa. Then we dropped by Rochelle’s place before heading to Bogtong where the ATV company would fetch us. I’ve heard and seen “Your Brother” ATV in Legazpi but have never really thought about giving it a try. The tariff price, Php 1500 for the activity seems too pricey for me, good thing Sheng is treating us today.

After some prep-talk and two rounds to warm up, we proceeded to the gully of sand and stones. We started at around 9:00 in the morning but the temperature is fast rising. We loved the view of Mt. Mayon from our trail and the guides are very attentive to our needs – photo ops and all. But just a short distance from our starting point, Bebe fell off her ride which worried the whole team. A guy with some sort of medical training checked her vitals and for anything out of place and applied first aid. Once we are sure that she’s okay, we resumed riding, but this time, she was just a back-rider on Gang’s ride.

The trail going to the Lava wall really was challenging. Compared to the short ATV ride we had in Boracay, this one truly is extreme. The price was justified with length of the ride and the distance covered. Finally, we arrived at the Lava wall, had some water break and excitedly hiked up the wall of rocks formed from the Lava that Mt. Mayon spewed out. It was already noon and the sun was blazing hot so we hurriedly took pictures and got back to our bikes, despite the lovely view we have from there.

With the Mayon ATV Experience, you will really ride through all-terrain possible! From rocky, to sandy to muddy, river crossing and finally, some much needed flat grounds. We returned to “Your Brother” ATV headquarters all feeling battered and broken. Each bone and muscle in my body seem to be aching and in pain. When they announced that we still have a free zipline ride in  Lingnon Hill, we all declined feeling we had had enough adventure for the day.

After having lunch together, we all went home tired and sore but happy otherwise. I went straight to bed and woke up late in the afternoon, decided to call Baba and eventually admitted to doing what he was afraid I would do. Fortunately, he was only a bit sore and was just cool about it!

Interested in Mayon ATV Tour? Contact:
Your Brother Travel and Tours
Brgy Pawa, Legazpi City
(052) 742-9871 / 09054557594

Bagasbas Beach Surfing and the Bagasbas Lighthouse Beach Resort

This is part 2 of mommy and Teloyskie’s first ever backpacking experience together in the Bicol Region. We first explored Calaguas Island before coming to Bagasbas.

Soon as we landed in Vinzon’s port, our group boarded 2 tricycles and headed to Bagasbas. I was really very excited to see the waves here and boy they did not fail me! I’m no pro at surfing but the big waves in Bagasbas seem to call on to me, I got goosebumps just looking at the continuous waves coming in, but our tummies got the better of us and we started the search for food.

We wanted somewhere we can rest and rinse, but the establishment lining the stretch of Bagasbas beach disappointed us a bit. They were more like beerhouses and bars, so we settled for the pricey-looking Catherine’s  in Bagasbas Lighthouse Beach Resort.

The resort itself looked comfortable with a pool area, restaurant kiosks, kiddie jungle play area and coffee shop/bar. The shower area was open even for us diners and we asked if we can leave our stuff in the kiosk while we find surf instructors since the resort can’t provide for us. We had a hearty bicolano lunch and yummy milkshakes before heading down to the beach and finding surf instructors.

Except for Teloyskie who is still quite terrified of the waves and the water, the whole group enjoyed being pushed and splashed on by the waves. Teloyskie kept playing with the camera and behold, there’s no one single shot of mommy’s wave riding spree!!

A Dip in Calaguas Turquoise Waters: A First of Many

It’s been a month since Teloyskie moved in with me and we started living a sedentary life. He got summer school and photography workshop for the whole month of April, while mom worked at the adjustment required from a mom. Our world then revolved around one another, his summer classes, mum’s office, adventure time and hotdogs.

Outings were limited to malls, cafes and fast foods until that one fateful invitation – are you going to Calaguas with us? You and Teloyskie?

That fateful day came like a breathe of fresh air. I left the office at noon that Friday. Hurried home and packed my stuff, I was anxious at the getting good seats in the van from Daraga going to Naga and from Naga to Daet, Camarines Norte.

This is my first time to go traipsing with Teloyskie in a place we both don’t know and I thought it would be that easy. Sitting in the jump seat of a cramped van with my kid on my lap and his pack on his lap, my only though was…

“how in the world can they do this and make it all look so flawlessly easy?”

After more or less 5 hours of land travel, we arrived at our destination for the night – Daet, Camarines Norte. We stayed in Pink Diamond Hotel and explored downtown that night. The hotel is more like an apartelle, it has crappy internet connection and cable but it sufficed. Come morning we’ll be off to Calaguas!

We met with our companions at 6AM in Jolibee Daet-Bayan and soon found ourselves in a jeepney bound for Vinzon’s port.

teloyskie’s lifejacket
yawn… are we there yet?
Teloyskie was soo cool about everything and never did he complain about the 2 hour boat travel to Calaguas nor the oversized life jacket that swallowed him whole. He just ate, slept, looked around, slept and woke up when we arrive at our destination.

A Blue so Blue

Ate and I cannot find the exact words to describe the blue, the aquamarine, no the turquoise waters of Calaguas. It was so darn beautiful for words and Teloyskie turned to the temperate clear blue waters at once!

The long stretch of creamy white sand reminded me of Boracay Island. It was so powdery soft that you wouldn’t feel stones poking your soles when you walk around. The only issue we had was it was HOT! It was considered peak season for Calaguas beach camping thus the limited trees on the beach was surrounded with tents wishing for shade. The water was dotted with lots of service boats obscuring what could have been gorgeous view of beach.

There was a multitude of beach combers and the island was full of activity. I suddenly felt a pang of nostalgia for the true blue beach camping experience I had in Anawangin and Nagsasa were you can count the campers in your hands and you prepare all your food from scratch (or from the can/pouch). But that would have been an experience with a capital E for one with tot that keeps vanishing from sight every 10 minutes or so.

Teloyskie spent most of his time playing in the water in the morning, after lunch I successfully convinced him to rest and take a nap for him to re-charge and have more energy for more playing the afternoon. At sundown, asked one local to get us some water for rinsing at P10 per balde. After dinner, we settled down and prepared to sleep. Teloy still is reluctant to do so and make incredulous comments just to irk mommy. I know he’s enjoying this activity and I can see that he’s taking backpacking like a duck to water.

Woke up from a comfortable sleep and settled outside our tent to admire Calaguas at sunrise. My little lion still sleep soundly in the tent, but soon he stirred and stretched. And while he was stretching, he said “Mommy, I’m gonna swim…” so we did.

After brekkie, we spent all our remaining time down the waters and baking “siopaos” and “siomais” in the sand. And even when we are about to leave, ate and I still can’t find the blue that is Calaguas.

Our Calaguas experience was made oh-so-convenient by a local tour operator. Andy and Rocky of made sure that each and every one of their guest enjoyed Calaguas.

My little backpacker even had the privilege of occupying the “top deck” of the boat to and fro the island.

Magayon Festival’s Legendary Monsters

Living in my home province for the past couple of months have limited my explorations at the moment. I have met several couchsurfers for dinner or coffee and that have contented myself with the travel stories they have shared.

For the month of April, some things have changed and improved. My son finally is with me and there’s Magayon Festival running to entertain vacationers and tourists during this hot summer months. Magayon Festival was originally celebrated in the month of May. I remember coming to the Beer Plaza during college (some 10 years ago) and drinking with my best buddies til dawn. 

Over the years, the government of Albay have enhanced and improved the program of activities for the Festival. One thing that me and my son have enjoyed in this festival is taking pictures of the monsters displayed at Albay Park. We were not able to see the Parade of Giants but no worries for us because they were displayed for photo ops purposes in the park!

buy my pumpkins please!

 These monsters are the only ones that took my son’s fancy. The scarier the better! After the photo ops, we all headed to Daraga Night Market to buy stuff that mom will bright to Masbate. Teloy once again wished to be photographed with the vegetables on sale!

Settling In To Settle Down: Testing the Waters of 2013

2012 gave me a lot to be thankful for. As the year slowly close, I did not feel the same excitement that I did last year. I received something really big this last quarter – a promotion and I’m so grateful to have something that many of office mates covet. But of course, some things come with a price, for this one, its a pending reassignment to Region V, specifically in my home province, Albay.

Since learning about the promotion, I prepared myself for moving yet it still felt hard to let go of the things that I’ve been used to for the last 7 years. Yes I’ve stayed that long in Manila and the family I had there at work as well as all the conveniences and entertainment it offered seemed to have spoiled me. When the order came out, the days seemed to fly so fast and I’m feeling mixed emotions as my scheduled settling in came close.

“Cold feet” as they say, but what really stalls me from feeling excited about settling is to my home, it already sounded like settling down. Do this mean I’d soon give up scratching my itchy feet and minimize my travels? It’s the struggle between my desire to continue wandering and the pressure of settling down. I’m yet unsure about what 2013 will bring me and the family that I’m starting to build, yet we’re testing the waters.

I’m here in Legazpi now and my boss says I’m going to be bored here soon, I might but  I hope to get my old-perky self back up. There’s no use mopping around so, I weighed the perks of being here, I’d have my Teloyskie with me all the time and we can plan our trips together soon.

It should be easy, where I am right now lies the Majestic Mayon Volcano complemented by sapphire waters of Albay gulf. I am just a couple of hours away from the friendly giants of Donsol, Sorsogon, undiscovered crystal blue beaches in Matnog, Sorsogon, and also a couple of hours away from CamSur Watersports Complex and a lot more around waiting to be discovered.

2013 have just started and though a lot of things seemed unsure yet, that will be the thrill of it!