Places

NAGA CITY IN SEPTEMBER

Whenever the month of September comes, also marks the onset of the busiest time in Naga City as preparations for the Penafrancia Festival can immediately be felt. You can feel the energy as the usual pulse of the city suddenly gets a little bit quicker as the excitement for the festivities builds up.

Naga in September is like a crazy mass of crowd. People are everywhere, mostly dressed their best, lining along the roads to watch the Civic Parade and Float Competition, the Penafrancia Voyadores Festival Street Dance Competition and the Bicol Region Military Parade, among other activities. Also, there are concerts going on almost every night sponsored by the malls like SM, Robinson’s Mall and LCC. Across the street from SM City Naga in Barangay Triangulo, a carnival was also set up wherein the air is always wafting with the smell of newly cooked hot cakes and popcorn to the delight of the kids, with rides like the ferris wheel, caterpillar ride, horror train and the carousel. Peddlers and vendors are everywhere calling out to the crowd offering their wares.DSC08308

Nothing says fiesta more than the Banderitas hanging everywhere in the city. It’s great to see them blowing in the wind, you know it wouldn’t be fiesta without them.

 

By the way, you know what would be the best and most meaningful thing to do when in Naga? Let’s go do a Visita Iglesia! (visit the churches). Ok, did eyes just go rolling for a split second there? Nobody thinks this is fun? Well, I hope more and more people are willing to go along with this because you don’t have to be a Catholic to appreciate a tour of our beautiful churches. You have to visit these churches to understand why they are a major part of the city’s identity and the life of its people.

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Basilica Church in Balatas, Naga City

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Naga City is not known as a pilgrim city for nothing. Its churches are its main attractions and the city welcomes thousands of devotees of “Ina” come September of every year. So, maybe you won’t find beautiful beaches here like in Sorsogon, Masbate and Catanduanes, but Naga City is spiritual as it is a happening city.

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Naga City Metropolitan Cathedral

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San Francisco Church at night
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Partial View of San Francisco Church

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Sadly, the influx of tourists and devotees of Our Lady of Penafrancia does not help the crime situation any as thieves also get busier during this time of the year. So I would advise everyone in Naga to please ever be so mindful of your valuables just like you do when in Manila. Wear those sling bags that can be worn across the body with the bag placed right infront of you. If carrying a backpack, wear it on reverse (as in infront of you). Of course, you can’t do this with those really big backpacks so just for the small sized ones then. And please, please avoid brandishing your high-end cellphones about, as tempting as it can be, or as nice as the rose gold color of your iPhone 7 matches your pretty peach outfit, please stop yourself from doing this. I have seen some people do this and all I could think about was “there goes another victim in the making.” The augmented police force is everywhere, in every corner, in every nook and crook, but they can only do so much. They can’t watch every single person in the crowd all the time. So better watch out for yourselves. Be smart, be careful, and don’t be a victim.

Happy Fiesta Naga!

 

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Resorts

HACIENDAS DE NAGA (NAGA CITY, CAMARINES SUR)

It’s September once again and it’s the Our Lady of Peñafrancia Festival here in Naga City. I feel the festive mood as more people flock to the city that seems to have gotten even busier. The sights, sounds and activities are exciting indeed. However, I will have to put you on hold for now with the festival as I plan to write about it on my next post.

As of now, I can tell that many tourists and folks from nearby towns have arrived as I hear different languages and dialects being spoken in the crowds. And really, it has become more crowded at Centro, CBS terminal, at the churches and malls like SM. September is always a vibrant and happy time to be in Naga. However, sometimes all that roaming around and chasing after what events to watch and what things to do next can definitely take its toll on anyone. Sometimes, you just need to relax and really have fun for the sake of having fun!

So, if you travelled to Naga for the fiesta, but some R&R is very much in the order of your business, Haciendas de Naga might just be the right place for you. This resort, located in Brgy. Carolina, has a massive land area where you can do all sorts of activities like horseback riding, pili nut picking, wall climbing, and of course, swimming. Its major attraction is their massive wave pool and water slides.haciendas-de-naga-8haciendas-de-naga

By the way, the deepest part of their pool only reaches up to about 4.5 feet so it’s safe even for those who are not very good swimmers. Just make sure to stay in the shallows if you happen to be shorter than 4.5 feet LOL, especially when the waves are on so you won’t swallow the pool water or drown. No worries, they also have a very spacious kiddie pool so the kids can swim safely.haciendas-de-naga-10 haciendas-de-naga-2

If you like water jets, Haciendas has something sort of like that too to massage aching backs, just sit inside of this round elevated pool with the fountains (look for the mermaid). haciendas-de-naga-3

You can also lie on your stomach on the concrete ground and let the water being spouted by the “dolphins” to massage your whole body. It is a pretty relaxing experience.haciendas-de-naga-13

You can also explore the grounds and see the massive fish aquarium but sadly, it is so very poorly maintained and the water is stagnant and blurry that I highly doubt a single fish would survive thereat. I don’t have a picture as I decided against taking any. Hopefully, it is all improved by now.haciendas-de-naga-9haciendas-de-naga-1

The thing about this resort is that it is kinda far from the Centro of Naga, but the upside is that they offer free transportation if your group is composed of seven (7) or more persons. They will have their van fetch you infront of Nagaland Hotel which is in a very accessible location in Centro. However, if your group is small or if going solo, you can take a jeepney infront of San Francisco Church in Centro going to Brgy Carolina and ask the driver to take you to Haciendas de Naga wherein he will pull over on the tricycle stop that you will then take to bring you to the resort. Waiting for the jeepney to Carolina can take such a long time though as jeepneys going there are few and pass by far in between. The more attractive alternative is to rent a tricycle or one of those E-trikes that are plenty here in Naga to take you directly to the resort. The price will depend on how good you haggle with the driver. Mine was P300 for one way trip only as I had to go solo to join family members who went ahead earlier.

Anyway, the entrance+swimming fee at their Wave Pool is P300 for adults and P250 for kids. Prices can go up and down depending on the season and sometimes they have off-season promos so watch out for those. Better yet, you may contact their office at (054) 228-0375 or 0937-371-2451 and don’t be shy to ask for a discount or for promos especially if you are with a big group during off peak season.

For complete information on their rates and fees, please visit Rates and Fees.

Resorts

Dos Montes Natural Hillside Spring Resort (Malilipot, Albay)

There are a lot of good resorts to visit in Albay for families and friends looking to have fun in the water. One of them  is located very near along the National Highway in Barangay 1 Poblacion in the town of Malilipot. It is called Dos Montes Natural Hillside Spring Resort. As the name suggests, you can expect to find free flowing mineral-rich spring water which guarantees that the water is always fresh and cool. The resort has swimming pools both for adults and for kids as well as water slides for guests to enjoy.294945_449622468387997_2014583293_n526266_449620331721544_413612671_n536502_449622551721322_302164530_n

Some of their cottages are situated on the elevated reinforced hillside to give a great relaxing view of the whole resort as well as of the lush greens surrounding it. Just prepare your ears for the possible onslaught of videoke machines though, apparently we can’t have fun anymore without them. Lol.576563_449625481721029_1435118569_n546141_449622361721341_1862355388_n156591_3180686844913_1008543855_n

Their charges and fees are very affordable for P90.00 entrance fee for day swimming both for kids and adults and P100.00 for night swimming. For complete information on fees and the rates of their cottages click Fees and Cottage Rates.

Places

Daraga Church (Daraga, Albay)

Nuestra Señora de la Porteria Parish Church, really more known simply as Daraga Church, is a Roman Catholic Church in the municipality of Daraga, Albay, Philippines. The church was built by the Franciscans in 1772 under the patronage of the Our Lady of the Gate.

For the locals, Daraga Church is the go-to place of worship every Sunday wherein the breathtaking overlooking view of Mayon Vulcano has become but a normal sight. In fact, it only ever draws the usual ohhhs and ahhhs of amazement from visitors, being that it has always been there and the locals have gotten used to it by now, like an ever present, father figure watching over his brood.

However, on a particularly good day when the sun, the light, the clouds and the bluest sky have all conspired with each other to give you just a glimpse of that magical view, it honestly does have the power to make you catch your breath.daraga church 2view from daraga church

I remember years ago, there was much discussion on the radio as well as between everyone who cared to have an opinion that they were totally against the move of applying white paint over the facade of the church. Everyone thought the church looked regal and classic enough on its natural state, just gray and no paint on the outside. Some even said that the unpainted church showed so much character, that it was all the better showing off its age than pretending to be contemporary. However, it still ended up being painted on with white and people were outraged for a while. It took a few days (maybe weeks) but people got over it eventually.582513_447627698587474_1157023064_n

To this day, Daraga Church remains to be one of the must-see places when visiting the Bicol Region, especially the province of Albay. It has also been featured in some local films, one of the most recent was She’s Dating the Gangster wherein Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo (Filipino actors) had a scene shot inside the church.

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Places

Magayon Art Gallery (Albay Provincial Capitol)

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 Grounds555335_447606448589599_1233813034_n392494_447606468589597_272496225_n

Magayon Art GAllery

 

549421_447606805256230_1172652317_n575242_447606835256227_1981817209_n579723_447606928589551_2068803416_n 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:normal

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Plastic Wrapplastic wrap

Cut Outcut out

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!

Places

KAWAKAWA NATURAL PARK (LIGAO, ALBAY)

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.

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“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.

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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.543242_447582698591974_1930491131_n554638_447581715258739_103050721_n536653_447583481925229_1140660211_n

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.576365_447581998592044_1393260001_n562627_447582368592007_1719302356_n542362_447584278591816_778806875_n525787_447582041925373_1550998116_n

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.

Places

Cagsawa Ruins, Daraga, Albay

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). 48082_452951188055125_1578136340_n

The place can be so charming, especially when the weather is right.

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Those are just some of the photos taken while touring some friends from Manila.

Beaches

DARUANAK AND MAINIT ISLANDS (PASACAO, CAM SUR)

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

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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.

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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…

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Mainit Island

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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 =(DSC02905

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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!

 

Beyond Bicol

Reminiscing Samal Island (Davao City)

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

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The Infinity Pool

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Flora

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The Lagoon

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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!