This blog is all about roaming the Bicol Region, Philippines wisely on a budget. We'll talk about what Bicol has to offer when it comes to great hotel deals, good food and where to go on your vacation. So, I hope this blog site will be helpful to those of you on the look out for great deals while you have fun in Bicol. After all, the wisest of us believe that the concept of toil is just a myth, and life should be a never-ending vacation.
I have a degree in Journalism but I did not pursue a career in writing since life offered me instead jobs in the areas of Finance, and later on, public safety. I settled with what felt comfortable and secure instead of reaching for a higher goal that might have made my life more fulfilling than it is. Eventually, I plan to write more and find more avenues to showcase my love for writing and for self expression. Every life is a journey and I believe that there is always an opportunity and the time to do what we love and what makes us happy while there is still so much as a breath left in us.
Hello everyone! Today, we had lunch at this restaurant that serves authentic Korean food. The name is MannA Korean Restaurant located at Parkview Executive Village in San Felipe, Naga City- about 10 minutes drive from Magsaysay Avenue. It was my second time to eat there so I know the food is delicious and authentic as the owner is a Korean couple who barely speak any Tagalog. And lo and behold! Who did I happen to sit next to? It’s Soong Jong Ki from Descendants of the Sun, so naturally, I was beyond thrilled to say the least. I am so convinced that DOTS is the best. drama. ever. (Insert girly giggles here).
So after waiting for what seemed like 20 minutes and we were so hungry because we got there at 12:30 PM (that is already late lunch for us), we got served first with the Korean Seafood Pancakes. My favorite. It was as expected – a soft, moist, hot plate of deliciousness. The slightly spicy, sweet dipping sauce makes all the difference.
Then one by one they came out fresh from the kitchen. The half soy chicken, half seasoned chicken, 2 bibimbap, 1 beef bulgogi, 2 bowls of ramyeon, and 2 pitchers of iced tea. We ordered The Family Pack (good for 6-10 persons) for P1,200.00 only and everything was delicious! The kimbap was not part of the promo, but was an additional order of a co-worker.
I noticed that the interiors haven’t changed much, just a few more tarps with pictures of their food and prices were installed. But I guess that is the charm of the place – it is simple to the eyes but explosive to the palate.
It was a very satisfying meal and I’ll gladly recommend this restaurant to the Naguenos who are tired of the usual fare and want to try something new and to the tourists who are visiting Naga City. Although it is a bit on the outskirts of the busy city streets, as it is located in the rural area in San Felipe, every bite makes the trip all worth it. So, I guess my love for Korean drama might only be possibly outdone by my love for Korean food.
When in Albay, make sure to visit the Magayon Art Gallery, located at the lobby of Albay Provincial Capitol Building, which serves as the avenue for local artists to show off their visual creations. It is especially fun to go there during Magayon Festival because of the many activities like the parade of huge folklore characters made of paper mache, parade featuring the different festivals of the different towns, pageants, trade fairs and beer plaza. However, since the festival was just held last month (May 2017), I think it will be something to look forward to next year.
The Capitol Grounds
Magayon Art GAllery
So, I was being dorky and found some ways to make this painting more interesting I think using just the format tools (effects) of MS PowerPoint:
I have been to the GSIS Museo ng Sining in Pasay City and have seen paintings of Fernando Amorsolo and Juan Luna’s “Parisian Life” up close, but I found myself just as impressed by the works of our local artists in Bicol. So, if ever you’re in the area, I recommend you give the Magayon Art Gallery a visit. Thanks for stopping by!
Hello everyone! It is Saturday and I am so relieved to be at home instead of slaving away in front of the computer at the office. I was so looking forward to this long weekend (Monday is Independence Day here in the Phil!). Yesterday, as I ever so melodramatically declared to my friend and equally “slave driven” co-worker Rovi, I swore I would try to fatten up like it’s some kind of a life mission. So I will make an extra effort to pig out more and think less of work this weekend. (BTW, you can check out her blog at Rovi Diaries).
Anyway, I’m no cook so it’s Yoy who really cooked this one Bicolano dish that we usually have every other weekends. It is called Ginataang Langka which means young jackfruit strips cooked in coconut milk (gata). If there is one thing the Bicolanos love as much as sili (chili peppers), it would have to be dishes cooked in gata (coconut milk).
The ingredients are the following: 3 cloves garlic, half of a medium sized ginger, 1 small onion, 1 small tomato, 2 cups coconut milk, half kilo young jackfruit strips (available in the Philippine/Asian markets), half kilo freshwater shrimps (you can also use half kilo small sized crabs instead), 1/2 teaspoon sugar, salt and ground black pepper to taste.
Basically, the first thing is to chop your onions, garlic, tomato and ginger. Then bring the coconut milk to a boil, stirring occasionally. Yoy likes to use our medium sized wok for this, although you may also use a pot. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, salt and the young jackfruit strips. Lower the heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes or until the jackfruit strips are cooked (should be soft).
Then add the shrimps and cook for another 5 minutes or until shrimps have turned bright orange. Add more salt, a little sugar, ground black pepper to taste. Garnish with green and red peppers and simmer for 2 more minutes. And you’re done!
Enjoy it with a steaming bowl of rice and fried fish with soy sauce and calamansi (local lime) as dipping sauce for those truly satisfying Bicolano flavors. For me, it tastes of home. Nothing says Welcome to Bicol better than an incredibly spicy chili-based dish like the Bicol Express or the creamy, coco-nutty flavors of the local dishes such as Laing and Ginataang Langka.
The beginning of the rainy season can now be felt here in Bicol, even though the heat is still the same as if summer is not quite ready to leave just yet. The rain falls every now and then, at the most unexpected times, as if to mourn the death of our soldiers who fought hard in battle to keep the peace and to protect the innocent in Marawi. God bless them. And as the country is torn and heartbroken over the war waged by the terrorists against the government and its people, I myself don’t feel the enthusiasm to urge people to travel and have a fun time just now.
However, I would like to introduce a place that is great for introspection. A peaceful place that can be a solace for troubled minds. In this time of turmoil for my country, we need to find that peace within ourselves, to extend our hands to God for comfort. Below are the photos of my visit to Kawakawa Natural Park in Ligao, Albay some years ago. It is a place I can think of that made me feel so near to God before, even though God is really within us all in the first place.
“Welcome to this famous hill without a hilltop” the marker says. The locals have told us that Kawakawa Hill is so named because the shape of its crater is easily likened to a “kawa” or a wok being used for cooking.
Every summer is the right time to visit to witness hundreds of sunflowers while in bloom. Unfortunately, when friends and I went there they have just harvested the flowers a few days ago, which then left us with only a few blooms to enjoy.
The view from the top was so relaxing that I can easily see myself retiring and living in such a place. There is something about being in a high place that is uplifting to the spirits as well. I remember instantly feeling better.
KawaKawa Park is not hard to find. There are markers along Maharlika Highway in Ligao, Albay that points to the direction of the park which is located in Tuburan. So whether you come from Legazpi or from Manila, it is very accessible. The entrance fee happens to be P10.00 only. Also, the locals are quite helpful and friendly so there should be no reason to get lost.
Cagsawa Ruins are what remains of a 17th century church built by the Franciscans. It is considered as one of the most frequently visited tourist destinations in the province of Albay.
According to history, last February 1, 1814, Mount Mayon (famous for its perfect cone), began its most violent and deadly eruption in recorded history wherein the church was destroyed and thousands of inhabitants were killed. The bell tower miraculously survived and over time, it has developed into a top destination for tourists and locals alike for the beautiful view of the Mayon Vulcano in the background. And so history goes, although that is not why many people visit nowadays. For the most part, people go there to have their picture taken with the vulcano and the belfry of the old Cagsawa church as the backdrop. Lol. I mean, nothing wrong with that. And I was definitely no exception (Mt. Mayon and I have tons of photos together!). I guess that is pretty much all you can do when you visit anyway (if you’re not into shopping for pili nuts and handicrafts).
The place can be so charming, especially when the weather is right.
Those are just some of the photos taken while touring some friends from Manila.
Hello again and Happy Mother’s Day to all supermoms out there!
Anyway, since yesterday was Mother’s Day and we really do celebrate every special occasion like Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, every birthday, Christmas, New Year’s Day and the list goes on, we decided to go swimming at Amesola Spring Valley Resort in Del Rosario, Naga City. I remember one of my readers here commented that I really seem to like water. He’s probably right.lol.
Now this resort is very near our place, in fact, we probably got there in less than 10 minutes via the tricycle that we rented for P100. However, if you are coming from Centro Naga, you will need to take a jeepney to Del Rosario (P10.00 each person) and tell the driver to pull over at the corner of Del Rosario-Cararayan Road. It’s hard to miss because it is located just right before you pass the arch that says “Welcome to Naga City.” Then, ride a tricycle to the resort (P5.00 each person). However, if you are coming from the direction of Legazpi or Pili, you may take a bus or UV Express van and pull over at the corner of Del Rosario-Cararayan Road. Then wait for a tricycle to convey you to the resort.
When you get there, the entrance fee for adults is P150 each while the kids go in for P100 each. The cottages are priced at P600 and above and you get to use their three (3) swimming pools where the water they say is always fresh and cool as the source is the nearby Mount Isarog. The newly renovated pool, which is located at the right side of the resort, is bigger and has lounge chairs for those who care to go sunbathing (although sunbathing is not really a thing for Filipinos). Anyway, I recommend if you go to the resort, get a cottage by this bigger pool especially if you are bringing kids along, because the cottage we got was situated by the Twin Pool (on the left) and the water at the kiddie pool thereat had these things floating around (not sure what). And I thought the water at the bigger pool looked more fresh.
The resort is rather basic and simple, but I can tell they have been putting in best efforts and invested a lot of money to turn the whole place into what they hope would be a cutting edge facility someday. It paid off somehow judging from the marked improvement of their pools and amenities. For instance, there is a gym now featuring new modern equipment. There are fitness programs available too. Their rooms (for overnight stay) have been newly renovated and clean, although the prices have gone up as well. What with P1,500 for single occupancy! I don’t think it’s wise considering their location is really far from Centro Naga (where the malls, shops and restos are). I mean, if you are travelling to Naga City solo, you’d wanna get a standard room at Nagaland Hotel (for about P700), which is affordable and pretty much close to everything.
Anyway, Amesola Spring Valley Resort has been under renovation for over a year now, but there is still much to be done, especially in the area of landscaping. The place is spacious and has a forest feel to it that they should put into good use. I guess because people would love an exotic place where they can feel one with nature. They need to maybe spruce the place up with more flowers and fruit trees. And maintenance staff should be on the look out for people who litter by the pool for goodness sake! We have seen litter all over the Twin Pool area. And if guests (especially small kids) can’t be imposed upon to behave impeccably, then the staff must take it upon themselves to keep the place no less than immaculate.
My over-all verdict is: I was pleasantly surprised that the resort is very near where I live but apart from their decent sized swimming pools and noisy videoke, there is not much to offer the day swimmers. A koi pond or a large aquarium, some fruit picking, a vegetable farm, bikes to rent, a zip line, hanging bridge and a wall to climb would have made a world of difference. However, with all things considered, we still had a good time. I guess when you’re with a kid and she enjoys swimming so much, you kinda get the feeling that you’re having fun as well despite the unbelievable noise of three videoke machines playing simultaneously.
I’m looking forward to when they have made the place truly packed with entertainment and more refined, with stricter rules against littering, especially when their videoke machines are finally placed farther apart. I hope to see some more noteworthy improvements on my next visit.
It was my first time to go to Pasacao two days ago, and it was only about 40 minutes of commute from Naga City, where I live. That near, but it took me nearly six years before I was able to go. I used to hear about it a lot though. I also heard that the beach was not impressive so I was not really in a hurry to see it.
So, it was the perfect opportunity when a family reunion (Yoy’s side) was scheduled on the 3rd of May to finally give Pasacao a visit. Although I learned that it has always been their tradition to hold the reunion on that same date every year, it was our first time to attend. I guess, we always had a valid reason (or some poor excuse) not to go.
Anyway, how to get there from Naga City? Ask a tricycle driver to take you to the van terminal in Sabang near LCC Department Store. The tricycle fare is P8.00 per person while the van fare to the town of Pasacao is P50.00 per person. Upon reaching Pasacao, ask a tricycle driver to take you to Barangay Balogo where the beach is. The tricycles can be rented for P100.00 per trip to transport a whole group of people to Balogo. There should be no problem looking for a place to stay when you get to Balogo as resorts and travel lodges are everywhere.
As expected, Balogo beach was no reason to jump up and down about. The beach was crowded and loud with drunk people singing karaoke the whole night, and a bit disorganized. The sand is also on the gray side and dogs roam about. So, at the crack of dawn the next day, we rented a boat for P600 to bring us to the island of Daruanak- the one just across the beach. And to Mainit Island after.
Daruanak Island has a nicer beach, it is on the lighter side with broken corals and rocks. It’s a lot cleaner too, even the water looks bluer. A lot better for swimming.
We did not take a dip that time though because someone said there were urchins, so we decided to head on to Mainit Island, which is so called because there is a spring thereat that spouts hot water.
The view on the way to the next island…
In Mainit Island, the water is a little warm which is great for swimming. The shore is full of pebbles, all of different shapes, sizes and colors. I even found some blunt white crystals that got me a little excited. I had a field day picking my loot, only to leave them all behind on the boat when we got back to Balogo beach =(
It was a good day that went by too fast, then finally, it was time to go back home. Our happy faces though could mean we may be back next year. Same day too!
So I’ve been sick for three days now, probably the flu. And my kid has it too. So that definitely ruined my plan of featuring either food or another good place to visit here in Bicol. What a downer since I was eagerly looking forward to the long weekend to spruce things up in this blog (Monday is a holiday because May 1 is Labor Day here in the Phil. Yey!). But since I’ve been sick, I’m stuck at home and can’t do any of those plans, unfortunately.
Anyway, what happened was I found some old picture files from a work-related travel in Samal Island, Davao City way back in 2007. By the way, Davao City is not located in the Bicol Region, rather, it is located in Mindanao. Thought I’d just share it with you. I completely forgot about how pretty the island is until I saw the old pics I took using my old (and now defunct) Digital King.com camera which I bought for Php4,000 at a time when the average digicam still costed about P12,000. So kindly bear with the resolution.
Pearl Farm Resort
The Infinity Pool
Samal Island was absolutely divine. The whole experience was really special for me even though we were only there for the day tour. I also noticed that I liked to take photos of the view instead of myself back then. I guess, selfie was not yet such a big thing back in 2007. Thanks for walking down memory lane with me!
Sun, sea and wind on your face. Enough to make you forget all the never-ending deadlines at work and finally be free, even just for a day or two. All you need for a weekend getaway. Jason Mraz sang “You don’t need a vacation when there’s nothing to escape from…” Unfortunately for the rest of us working folks Jason, we do need a vacation.
So one time, we gathered everyone and cramped ourselves in two vans and headed off to Aguirangan Island looking for just that, an escape, a weekend getaway from work.
Aguirangan Island is located in Maangas, Presentacion, Camarines Sur, around 2 hours away from Naga City. So, we took the Pili Diversion road and turned left and drove all the way to Presentacion. Upon reaching Barangay Maangas, we coordinated with the Barangay Captain for guidance where to park the vehicles while we spend the night on the island which was on sight from the Barangay Hall by the way. Now, proper coordination was a must for our safety and the safety of the vehicles, plus they hooked us up with the bankero (boatman) so we would get a good deal.
Upon reaching the island, I was surprised that it was actually quite small and can be toured on foot in 5 minutes, the others said. So Manong Caretaker ushered us to this shady cottage which is a little far from the beach. They have these cottages under tall trees, which can feel a little creepy though since it felt like you’re deep in the woods. It is way better to stay in the cottages on the beach front for better view and access to the beach. Although, don’t expect to find air conditioned private rooms as there aren’t any. An open cottage is all you get, unless you bring your own tent. Our overnight stay costed us Php2,000.00 for the cottage and for use of amenities (public bathroom only) including the generator as the source of power to light up the whole place.
Anyway, the beach was amazing! Although the sand was not as fine and as white as in Boracay, but it is more like tiny broken corals like the ones in the sand bar of White Island in Camiguin. And the water was not too cold, just perfect for a relaxing swim.
By the way, the entrance fee for day time swimming is Php35.00 per person. There is no store on the island, so bring enough food, water and everything you think you’ll need for your day at the beach. Also, day swimming might be the better idea on this island since as nice as the place is, the state of its public bathroom was not for the faint of heart. Manong needs to do a better job cleaning it as the visitors need to be more responsible in using it.
The next day before we went home, Manong Bankero, as suggested by the Brgy Captain, gave us a surprise treat by taking us to a river (Salog) in the barrio where the water was refreshingly cool and clean. It was the perfect finale to our weekend getaway. (Credits to Bam for the great shot of the river below).