Bicol is a peninsula at the southern end of the largest Philippines island of Luzon.
Most known for Mayon Volcano, with its perfect cone
|Camarines Norte |
Rainy province with hidden beaches and small towns.
|Camarines Sur |
Better known as CamSur, the largest most populous and richest province of Bicol is rich in cultural heritage and beaches.
Little-visited island province with beaches, prehistorical monuments and old churches.
Has a reputation for poverty, but it also has beaches, old churches, Visayan culture, and a rodeo festival.
The gateway to eastern Visayas, with Visayan and Bicolano cultures,
- 1 Iriga - Center of the "Rinconada district" in Camarines Sur.
- 2 Legazpi — Regional center, and capital of Albay
- 3 Ligao - Small city further inland in Albay.
- 4 Masbate City — Capital of Masbate province.
- 5 Naga – Commercial and economic center of Camarines Sur
- 6 Sorsogon City - Capital of Sorsogon province.
- 7 Tabaco - Little port city, has the ferries to Catanduanes
- 1 Calaguas Islands
- 2 Caramoan – A small beach town in Camarines Sur
- Mayon – An active volcano, known for its almost perfect cone, in Albay.
- Misibis Bay (Cagraray Island, Bacacay, Albay)
The region is largely fertile lowland, dotted with volcanoes.
The local people are called Bicolanos, which are well noted for their spicy local cuisine.
Bicol, by and large, has a tropical rainforest climate, with no clearly defined seasons. While the rainforests have mostly disappeared save for small patches, it generally rains at any time of the year in the region. The rainiest months are generally November and December.
The region is regularly struck by typhoons, some of them devastating. When combined with explosive volcanic eruptions, rain from those storms can create devastating lahar, mudflows that form when rainwater and lava mix. The last major typhoon that devastated much of Bicol was Typhoon Durian ("Reming") in 2006, which made landfall while Mayon was erupting.
Most Bicolano speak one of the various Bikol languages, which form a continuum with the Visayan languages. There are generally three major Bikol groups:
- Coastal Bikol, includes Central Bikol (Bikol proper), the most commonly spoken and understood variety, and Southern Catanduanes Bikol, spoken around Virac.
- Inland Bikol, includes Rinconada and the Albay Bikol languages like Buhi, Libon and the Miraya varieties.
- Pandan Bikol or Northern Catanduanes Bikol which is distantly related to Southern Catanduanes Bikol, is both a group and a language in itself.
To a similar degree as Chinese dialects or the major European languages, Bikol languages are notable among Philippine languages for its wide variation between dialects. Regions of provinces, cities and towns may have their own dialects, many not mutually intelligible.
A group of Visayan languages influenced by the Bikol languages called "Bisakol" is spoken in southern Sorsogon and Masbate. Masbatenyo, a language mutually intelligible with Hiligaynon, is spoken and widely understood in Masbate. Hiligaynon is widely spoken natively in Masbate's southeastern tip. A Waray dialect influenced by local varieties of Bikol is spoken in the southern tip of Bicol, around the towns of Matnog, Bulan, Bulusan and Irosin. One Bikol dialect spoken in Sorsogon have a lexicon heavily influenced by Hiligaynon.
Tagalog is also spoken around areas near Quezon, and has largely supplanted Bikol in Camarines Norte. Tagalog in Bicol is mostly of the Tayabas (or Quezon) dialect, but standard Tagalog (Filipino) is also understood, which is also spoken by Bicolanos as second language. Bikol spoken in northwest Camarines Sur, Naga and Camarines Norte are heavily influenced by Tagalog.
Multiple bus companies provide service to destinations in Bicol, and a trip usually takes 8-11 hours. All involve a major layover at Lucena in Quezon Province, and multiple meal stops along the way.
From Manila, the terminal for buses headed for Bicol is at the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX), though you can catch one from Alabang in Muntinlupa and Calamba in Laguna.
- Philtranco has ordinary and air-conditioned buses to Daet, Legazpi, Naga, Sorsogon City and Tabaco, as well as various small towns from Manila. Philtranco subsidiary Amihan also has services to Tabaco and Tiwi.
- DLTBCo. has regular air-conditioned and deluxe buses to Daet, Legazpi, Naga, Sorsogon City and Tabaco. Buses onward to Samar and Leyte also provide service to towns along Maharlika Highway beyond Sorsogon City on the direction of Matnog.
- Peñafrancia Tours operates luxury buses to Naga, Legazpi and Tiwi.
Philippine National Railways' long-distance services remain suspended as of 2019.
Bicol International Airport (DRP IATA) is the main entry point by plane, and is served by PAL Express and Cebu Pacific (and regional carrier Cebgo).
The three other airports with regular flights, Moises B. Espinosa Airport (MBT IATA), Naga Airport (WNP IATA), and Virac Airport (VRC IATA), are only served by the regional airline Cebgo.
Roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) ferries from Samar call at Matnog port, at the southeastern tip of the mainland, and takes about an hour. Another ferry route connects Masbate (at Cataingan) with Cebu (at Bogo), and takes 6 hours. Both ferries are part of the Nautical Highway system, and you can bring your vehicle with you.
Provincial buses are plenty, and all the cities and key towns are served by bus. Most major highways are well paved. Between Naga and Legazpi, you can take the train, but service is limited and quite slower than the bus.
Ferries and outrigger boats connect Catanduanes, Masbate and some other smaller islands with the mainland.
The first thing that comes to mind when most Filipinos hear of Bicol is the Mayon Volcano and the Cagsawa ruins commonly depicted in postcards, but the region abounds in many other hidden wonders, both historical and natural. These include many Spanish-era churches at most cities and towns, dormant volcanoes such as Mount Bulusan, Mount Iriga and Mount Isarog, the whale sharks of Donsol, Lake Buhi and the world's smallest commercially grown fish, the black sand beaches at the Partido region of Camarines Sur, and views of the Pacific from the coastal highway connecting Tabaco with the Partido region of CamSur.
- Hang out at Bagasbas Beach, Camarines Norte's best known surfing and kitesurfing spot.
- Wakeboard in Naga City after landing in the Naga Airport.
- Walk around Naga City to see 15th-century churches that has served as witness to Philippine History.
- Meet friendly Nagueños as you walk around the city center.
- Shop around Naga City with several malls and night bazaars.
- Celebrate nightlife in Naga City by visiting the Magsaysay Avenue, the most vibrant street, and the center of nightlife in Bicol.
- See various animal species at Albay Park and Wildlife in Legazpi City or ride a rubber boat by yourself.
- Enjoy riding a raft while watching the perfect view of Mayon Volcano at Sumlang Lake in Camalig, Albay.
- Island hopping is so much fun in Cagraray Island. Misibis Bay offers water activities to guests.
- View the perfect cone-shaped volcano named Mount Mayon up close at Lingyon Hill in Legazpi City and/or Mayon Skyline in Tabaco City.
- Swim and interact with 'whale sharks' the largest fish in the world in Don Sol, Sorsogon.
- Ride the waves at Lola Sayong Surfing Camp in Gubat, Sorsogon.
Bicolano cuisine is distinctive for its heavy use of spices, especially the wild red chili and the long green chili. Coconut milk is the most important ingredient to be added during the cooking. Typical main dishes will be pork, seafood or poultry.
Some common Bicolano dishes are:
- Bicol Express — Named after the eponymous passenger train, it is pork and pig's intestine slow-cooked in coconut milk, vinegar and some spices.
- Kandingga — a Bicolano version of the Tagalog dish called bopis. It is water spinach (kangkong) cooked in vinegar with pork innards.
- Pansit Bato — It is raw noodles which is the specialty of the town of Bato in Camarines Sur. It is cooked either with or without soup.
- Laing - Pronounced LAH-eeng, it is taro leaves cooked in coconut milk.
- Pinangat - overlapping taro leaves with pork inside and cooked in coconut milk and is sold locally in Camalig, Albay.
- Kinalas - is a dish consisting of noodles garnished by scraped meat from pork or beef's head and other parts, enhanced with a thick deep-brown sauce coming from the brains of a cow or pig. The dish is further flavored with spices and served in hot broth. Boiled egg added is optional.
- Inon-on – Round scad (Bikol: sibubog, Tagalog: galunggong) or any saltwater fish cooked with vinegar or lemon juice, garlic, onions with generous amount of oil and as little water as possible.
You can go north to Calabarzon or Metro Manila northward by land, or south to Samar or Leyte by ferry.