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A preview of the Bicol Caravan

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Our friends are planning a trip to Donsol, Sorsogon in Bicol this summer via a road trip. I was fortunate to have a business trip in Naga and Legaspi this past 3 days that I was able to learn the way and took some pictures as a sneak preview of our upcoming vacation. Thanks to the CBD manager, JayR assigned in the Bicol area, for showing us the way around. Here is a preview of the trip to Bicol and some tips to make the road trip enjoyable:

1. Photogenic but shy Mt. Mayon.

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If it is your first time to visit the bicol region, the view of Mt. Mayon will be breathtaking and awesome. If your intentions are pure according to the local folklore, you should be able to see mayon clearly (picture on the left taken at around 7am in the morning enroute to Legaspi). Otherwise, you'll only be seeing Mayon wrapped around white clouds (picture on the right taken @ the Cagsawa Ruins at around 2pm). Learning, have your cameras ready and take the first opportunity to shoot Mt. Mayon when the clouds are clear.

BTW, its best to visit the Cagsawa ruins during the weekday when there is no tourist. You can also buy cheap handicrafts in the tiangge and don't forget to buy mazapan pili.

2. The beautiful Naga.

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Naga is an ideal place for stop over on road to Donsol, Sorsogon (3 hours from Naga). It took us 8 hours to arrive in Naga but on the way back to Manila it took us about 10 hours. In both instances, we left at around 6 am in the morning and you'll arrive at around 4pm. Naga is the one of the big cities in Camarines Sur, and one of the places where the per capita income is similar to Manila. (Note: Bicol region is one of the poorest region in the country with the lowest per capita income similar to mindanao). There are a few places to explore here which includes:

a. Basilica Minore, Naga. Home to the miraculous image of the Patroness of Bicolandia, Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia. Thousands of pilgrims flock to this site during the September celebration of the Peñafrancia Fiesta just to visit and venerate the virgin.

b. Magsaysay Strip - This is where Malate meets Libis in Naga. One of my colleagues in college in DLSU, Junjee Abela, started the trendy restaurants that you can find in the now famous Magsaysay St. of Naga City. Five years ago, he started Chili Peppers with the vision of having a hip place for sales agents/ transients and the fallen eagles in Ateneo de Naga. After 3 years of successful operation, the other trendy restaurants opened including the asian food inspired, Coco Leaf, and the local coffee house, Bean Bag Coffee. BTW, when you eat in Chili Peppers, don't forget to other their killer foods which includes: Baby Back Ribs, Bangus Tail, Squid, and the Sinigang Bicol styel with coconut.

Since Naga, is the center of religious observances, there are no hanky panky places in the city.

3. Enjoying the road trip to Bicol.

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a. DVDs! Bring a car with TV/DVD installed and bring alot of DVDs of movies that you have not watched before. What I found effective was, watching the mushy Filipino movies of Judy Ann, Regine, Aga, Piolo, etc. and for sure, you won't fall asleep. If you want your passengers to sleep, put in the music of Nora Jones and Josh Groban and guaranteed this would rock your passengers to sleep.

b. Fresh Food Galore. This is the time to enjoy the food of the southern provinces of Laguna, Quezon and Bicol region. Here are some potential places to eat:
--> Palay-Isdaan in Pagbilao, Quezon. Enjoy eating lunch in a hut amidst ostriches, birds, snakes, crocodiles. There are videoke terminals in some of the huts so that you can sing while eating. The Tilapia is very good and you can taste its sweet freshness.
--> Bulwagang Salakot, Ave-sol Shell, Gumaca, Quezon. My mom and dad recommended this place, and they vouch for the freshness of the food, clean restrooms and the best coffee in that region. When we ate there, we don't like the inihaw na tilapia, and squid. JayR actually did not recommend this place because the place is old and the food is not anymore that great.
--> Lita's Carinderia, Atimonan, Quezon. I have not eaten here but this one is located facing the ocean and boasts of fresh fish and squid. There are alot of people stopping over in this restaurant.
--> La Cucina Salud, San Pablo, Laguna. A garden restaurant near Villa Escudero. There are alot of signs pointing to this place but I did not have the opportunity to stop over. I'm sure the ambiance would be great.
--> Biggs Diner in Bicol. Eating breakfast here is a must. Not that the food is great, but at least you can say that you have eaten in one of the successful diners concept in the Philippines. Bicol is the only region where Jollibee is not the number one fast food chain because of the strong equity built by Biggs in this region and a wider assortment of food.

This is just a preview of our upcoming Bicol Caravan. I can't wait to go back to the Bicol region with Rache, Aidan and our friends!

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