Bicol Beaches, in a Heartbeat

Roadtrip

“If you were taking a road trip tomorrow, where would you go?”

I came across this question in my A Sentence A Day diary that a good friend gave me for my birthday a couple of years ago. The diary has different questions I get to respond to with a one-liner, and these questions repeat on the same date for three years. Reading through my answers for the previous year, not only do I get to appreciate how time flies, but more importantly I get to reflect how my thoughts and feelings evolve and change on these different points in time.

Today’s question is different: after writing my response, I took read through my entry for last year and realized my thoughts remained the same. In a heartbeat I wrote beaches in Bicol, Luzon’s southernmost province. I’ve only been to Bicol once, when D and I spent a weekend exploring the surrounding areas of the majestic (and notoriously shy) Mayon Volcano. Because we were there for only a couple of days, we were not able to go to the beautiful beaches nearby.

First on my list (which I wrote this same day last year) is Caramoan Islands. It’s an isolated, and undeveloped rugged paradise composed of a cluster of islands in Bicol’s Camarines Sur. Tourists of Caramoan compare this beautiful place with El Nido in Palawan.

This year, I’ve written down Calaguas Islands as my road trip dream destination. It’s about 325 kilometers (one way) drive from Manila to the province of Camarines Norte in Bicol. Some dub this group of islands as “the next Boracay” because of its fine white sand.

Same thoughts for the same question, for two years in a row. I’m still trying to convince D to drive to any of these destinations – he said not this summer as the beaches are already packed (The heat is ON!), and he said I might want to consider flying to Bicol instead.

However which way, I intend to go to Bicol, to either (or both) Caramoan or Calaguas. Definitely this year, first chance I get. I have faith. It’ll be awesome!

boat
an almost empty white sand beach

 

Reminiscing Bicol

ATV

Mayon Volcano, the perfect cone shaped active volcano of the Philippines, is in the province of Bicol, which is the southernmost tip of Luzon. I’ve always been curious to go, having had friends from the University who lived there. I’ve heard so much good things about Bicol, but it was just so long a drive from Manila, that I’ve kept on postponing a trip. Until I saw photos from my niece’s quick holiday to Bicol – that’s what motivated me to finally go.

We were able to book promo airfare tickets from Cebu Pacific, and arrived around noon. As soon as we boarded off the plane, Mayon Volcano and its grandeur captivated me and D.

We stayed at Balay de la Rama Bed & Breakfast in Daraga, Legazpi. It was close to the tourist spots, and we were also able to arrange for a day tour through them. The famous ruins of Cagsawa was walking distance to the hotel so it was one of the first places we went to the next day after sunrise, in the hopes of beating the tourist crowds.

Cagsawa
Cagsawa Ruins

Shortly after, D and I went to an ATV adventure. We rode through black sand, streams and a forest. We had such a blast! Later D and I would compare our tan.

ATV
ATV to Mayon

After the ATV tour, we went to Lignon Hill, another place with a view of Mayon. We also went for a quick stop at the Hoyop Hoyopan cave, which was a cool relief from the temperature outside. Our guide told us that the cave played a significant part for the refugees during WW2.

Cave
Hoyop Hoyopan cave

Lastly, we went to the Daraga church. Built by the Franciscan priests in 1773, Daraga church sits on top of a hill overlooking Mayon. Its architecture style is Churrigueresque Baroque, and was built using volcanic rocks.

Daraga
Daraga Church

I know that my weekend in Legazpi was too short. I would love to go back to Bicol this year, perhaps to go swimming in Donsol, enjoy the water sports at Camarines Sur, or bask inĀ  the sun at Caramoan beach. These destinations are definitely in my bucket list for travel in the Philippines.