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.
Interest in Caramoan, Camarines Sur has surged ever since it was featured in the hit reality show Survivor. International franchises of the show that have been filmed here include Serbia, Israel, Bulgaria, France and most recently the 25th season of the US version, which started airing last week.
Aside from the great surf and host of nature and outdoor adventures, the province of Catanduanes in the Bicol region boasts of some of the best food. Bicolano cuisine is known for its generous use of gata (coconut milk) and spicy ingredients. Mix that with the natural abundance of seafood in the island-province, and you’ve got a perfect match. Here’s a food diary of the most memorable meals from my trip there.
Lobster: This delicious dish of steamed lobster was served for lunch in Majestics Beach Resort in Puraran Beach, a major surfing and tourist destination in the province. The meat of the lobster tasted tender and a bit sweeter than crab meat. Since the flavor was a bit mild, this went really well with calamansi and soy sauce.
By the time we reached the island, the taste of brine was thick on my lips, my eyes felt like they were on fire, and my clothes clung to my skin like wet rags. The two-hour trip aboard a fishing vessel from the port of Paracale in Camarines Norte to Mahabang Buhangin Beach in the Calaguas group of islands was a reminder that the sea demands respect.
Our boat was tossed along the lurching swells of unseasonably rough seas. Since I sat at the boat’s bow, I faced the full impact of the ocean’s wrath in the form of frothy cold saltwater sprays. I thanked the travel gods for the fair weather and imagined how fishermen braved the seas during inclement climate. “Wala ito,” said tourism officer Angel who was seated next to me. “May isang beses, 3 oras kami sa dagat kasi ang lakas talaga ng alon. Halos mangiyak-ngiyak na yung mga tao sa banka,” she said before she dozed off.
Once the island was in sight, I understood why people would brave hell or high water to get here. The island’s raw beauty is the stuff of dreams. It makes you wonder if you’ve drowned during the trip and are setting foot on paradise itself. Continue reading
Fiestas in the Philippines are a chaos of colors, costumes, confetti and circus tricks. For the jaded, they all start to look the same. But there’s still something about the rhythmic drum beats that fill the air, the complicated choreography, the lighting-quick costume changes, the traditional music segueing into popular dance tunes, and the smiles on the faces of dancers during provincial fiestas that I still find fascinating. Continue reading
UPDATE: A version of this article was published in Motorcycle Magazine Vol 6, Issue 4.
Anyone who’s been to Naga City in Bicol has probably eaten somewhere along the strip of restaurants along Magsaysay Road or chowed down on Kinalas at a streetside eatery. If you’re interested in motorcycles, you might want to check out a relatively new restaurant called Florespina’s at the boundary of Canaman. My mom recommended I visit this biker-themed bar during one of my visits to Naga since it’s walking distance from our place there.
“I am on the top bunk of a sleeper coach aboard the Bicol Express making its way from Naga to Manila. There’s something very nostalgic about the rocking motion of the train chugging along noisily on the tracks. I find the rhythmic vibrations of the train’s engine, sounds of metal clanging on metal, and echoes of ‘choo-choo’ of the train’s horn oddly comforting.” – excerpt from travel journal written on train 11/3/11 before lights were switched off
My sister and I were little kids the last time we rode the Bicol Express of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) with our parents. My mother says I first traveled by train when I was two months old. She managed to carry my sister (then 2 years old) and I along with all our luggage. Throughout our childhood, we would take the train frequently to shuttle back and forth from our home province Naga to Manila, to spend summers and Christmases with my grandparents and other relatives. Continue reading
NOTE 4/18/13: I recently got to visit Malabsay Falls again. Check out the updated post here.
Even though I grew up in Naga City, Bicol and often spend Christmas vacations and summer there, I’m sorry to say that I haven’t really been able to explore a lot of places. This is something I plan to resolve soon, little by little.
About a month ago, I decided to spend the weekend there to visit my folks. Lo, one of my childhood friends who works overseas, was also in Naga for a vacation, so I asked if he wanted to check out some of the tourist spots I’ve never been to. Because of the short notice, the quickest thing to arrange was a trek to falls in the Mt. Isarog National Park. The last time he went there was back in high school and he wasn’t familiar with the trail anymore, so he got two other friends of his to help guide us. Continue reading