Whenever I go home to Naga City in Bicol to visit my folks, I usually just laze around, enjoy my mother’s home cooked meals, and try out the new restaurants in the city. However, my recent visit this week ended up being pretty extreme. Aside from getting to try out the new ATV tour to Mt. Isarog, I was able to squeeze in a great motorcycling trip from Naga to Legazpi and back with Mac, one of my childhood friends based in Naga.
Unlike other places like Palawan and Siargao, which are frequented by foreign tourists, motorcycle rentals in Naga City are not as common. Thankfully, I have friends there who I can count on. I used Mac’s Honda Beat while he borrowed a Kawasaki Fury from another friend for the road trip. Ideally, for a ride like this it’s best to leave Naga at about 6 or 7am. However, it was already mid-morning by the time we had picked up extra gear, gassed up and did some last minutes tune-ups. As expected, the weather was sizzling hot.
Our first stop was CamSur WaterSports Complex (CWC), a very popular watersports park designed for wakeboarding, wakeskating and waterskiing in Cadlan, Pili. This park put CamSur on the tourist radar a few years ago, and has been a venue for various international events. Aside from the six-point cable system and water obstacle course, CWC has a swimming pool, man-made lake, in-house restaurant and cottages for overnight stays.
The most direct route from Naga to Legazpi is the Pan-Philippine Highway, which is about a 1.5-2 hr drive. We decided to take the longer, more scenic route through the Tiwi-Sangay road, which faces the Lagonoy Gulf, and then take the highway going back home.
This coastal road has got to be one of the most scenic routes I’ve ever driven on a motorcycle. The mountain road zigzags up through a sleepy community into a hilly area shrouded in a wall of trees. Rockslides are common in the area, and the road is littered with small stones and gravel, so one must careful riding here. I heard that the stretch of road is popular with the mountain biking community looking for a challenging ascent.
Once you get past a certain bend in the hill, the road just reveals the most spectacular landscape amidst the vast blue sea. The place is sparsely inhabited and hardly any vehicles pass here except for the occasional tricycle. For the most part it’s just you on the road, sandwiched between towering mountain walls and the blue sea. I just wanted to stop every 5 minutes to soak in the scenery. At multiple points I was screaming to myself while driving, “Sh*t, ang ganda ng view!”
The best spot is on the Partido Riviera at Patitinan, near the border between Camarines Sur and Albay. This view deck offers a good view of the stretch of the road and the coast below, with the waves hitting the shore. The water just looked so clear and inviting and the view was just simply amazing.
The sun was scorching by the time we got here, and unlike the rest of the open road, there was a lone tree here that offered a bit of shade, where we parked the motorcycles for a while to cool down. After resting a bit and enjoying the view, we decided to head on, passing more scenic roads.
It was past noon when we got to Tiwi so we decided to make a quick stop for refreshments at DJC Halo-Halo & Snack House, along San Lorenzo Street, very near the Tiwi Municipal Hall. They serve meals and short orders here, but what I really wanted to try was Tiwi’s famed Halo-Halo with cheese (orders come in 2 sizes – small (P60) or large (P75).
Grated cheddar cheese is sprinkled on top of the ube and assortment of fruits and gelatin. I’m not really a dessert person and prefer salty snacks, so I really liked the combination of salty cheese over the sweet fruits. Aside from the cheese, what makes the halo-halo great is that it’s made of a special blend of iced coconut juice and not water, so it’s much sweeter.
The remainder of our ride through Tabaco City, Malilipot, Sto. Domingo and the rest of Albay had us traversing all around the majestic Mayon Volcano. At one point, the volcano was directly in front of me looming in the distance as I drove by on the smooth roads. There it was beside us as we drove through rice fields and through different towns. We stopped a few more times to refuel (interesting name for a gas station below) and take more photos.
At one point I saw it standing majestically behind three crosses, a memorial shrine from Typhoon Reming, which battered the province in 2006. Embarcadero in Legazpi City has a panoramic view of the volcano facing the Albay Gulf with all the boats in the port. There’s a pretty long zipline here over the water that I’d like to try during my next visit.
We stopped by a giant sili waiting shed in Malabog, Daraga, Albay, which according to its marker was constructed to honor an Albayeno who consumed 550 pieces of red hot chili in just 3 minutes during the first ever Sili Eating Contest in the province. Now that’s hot!
The road was just a joy to ride on that we both continued to drive steadily on for several towns. I looked back at the view and wondered why Mayon seemed to be getting smaller. Apparently, we had already passed Daraga, Camalig, Guinobatan and Ligao without seeing the marker leading into Cagsawa ruins, which was our main destination. After asking directions from locals in Ligao (naligaw sa Ligao!), we found out that we had completely missed it and had to backtrack. We finally saw the white marker pointing to Cagsawa Ruins.
Cagsawa Ruins with Mayon Volcano in the background is said to be the most photographed icon of Bicol and there were lots of tourists in the area. The 18th century Fransiscan Cagsawa Church was destroyed by the 1814 eruption of Mayon Volcano and only the belfry stands in the ruins.
After a few quick pics, we headed to the first carinderia in the area for a very late lunch of fried chicken, bicol express and laing with fresh fruit shakes. Since I hadn’t eaten anything solid yet during the day and was already feeling dehydrated from the heat and the ride, I decided to forego the chili in my mango shake. I’ll make sure to try it out next time.
The sun was starting to set by the time we left Cagsawa Ruins, so we decided to go just straight back home without any more stops except for gas and bathroom breaks. My last photo of the trip was of Mayon Volcano in front of an open rice field as dusk was settling.
With all the detours and stops, the ride took roughly 10 hours and 307 kilometers. Though I’ve visited some of the tourist spots where we stopped by in previous trips, I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated the sights and flavors of Bicol as much as I did during this trip.
*Photos of me by Mac Servano