► OTHER BICOL PRODUCTS

Bicol is not only proud of its natural wonders and good food but has been also noted to be the major producer of abaca products even before the Spaniards came to the Philippines.

Abaca is grown almost everywhere in Bicol. Volcanic area like the provinces of Albay and Sorsogon, are best suited for abaca cultivation. The Philippines' tropical climate, high to moderate rain fall, and rich in volcanic soil are particularly important in the growing of these plants.

Some of the common abaca products now being sold all over the world are: Bags, Table Runners, Place Mats, Wallets, Belts, Slippers, Carpets, Hammocks, Wall Decors and even ropes.

Americans have been the largest importer of abaca since 1830s , followed by Japan, and Australia.... The American navy uses abaca rope because it has a remarkable strength and more resistant to salt water decomposition than other known fibers. In fact, it was and still is the strongest of all natural fibers. Such qualities that were also appreciated by other foreign shipping companies all over the world.

By 1925, the US Department of Agriculture officials attempted to grow abaca in the Central American countries but despite experimental planting in their willingness to expand the industry in several other central American countries, efforts came out to be futile. However, at the end of World War 2 they have finally succeeded cultivating Abaca somewhere in Equador.

The abaca plant is a restricted material and government regulated. So, while Abaca's seeds and flowers are freely shared among countries, Thus, if a country other than the Philippines claims to grow abaca, DNA testing will always trace its origin to the Philippines, especifically Bicol.

► VEGETABLES TURNED NOODLES

NO food coloring agents have been added to give such bright and happy looks to these delicious noodles. These multiple vitamins and minerals' enriched noodles are products of Bato, Camarines Sur. Thanks to those people who made veggies a lot more easier to eat.

These happy looking noodles come in different flavors like:

Green Noodles: MALUNGGAY/Moringa + (leaves, seeds, and flowers), which are rich in vitamin C, ascorbic acid, iron, calcium, and phosphorus and have been claimed to help lower blood pressure, aid in circulatory stimulation, ease pains caused by rheumatism, headaches, migraines not to mention that it can also help prevent tumor.

Orange Noodles: CARROTS are excellent sources of antioxidant compounds, pro-vitamin A carotenes, which help protect against cardiovascular disease (lower risk of heart attack) and cancer and promote good vision, esp. night vision.

Yellow Noodles: SQUASH+( shoots and flowers)- Alttogether, they become another excellent sources of Vitamins A & B, calcium, phosphorus, and iron, which are very good in promoting good vison, increase rate of metabolism, helps maintain healthy skin and muscle tone. Enhance immune and nervous system function.

And many more...

► BICOL EXPRESS

Add zest to your short stay in Bicol with the taste of the authentic fiery Bicol express invading your tongues. If I were you, I would not leave Bicol behind without tasting this spicy treat especially prepared for you by the very people who originally concocted it many decades ago. Obviously, it is the name that easily identified Bicol Express as another Bicolano dish. However, it is the exquisitely unique blended flavors of thick coconut milk, shrimp paste, pork, garlic, onions, and a handful of really hot green and red chili peppers(labuyo) that made Bicol express all the more popular not only domestically but internationally as well.

How it is prepared? Very easy☺. Mince a handful of garlic, chop several pieces of onions, chop thinly sliced pork into very small pieces, cut those small labuyo into two and get a pint of fresh thick coconut milk from the market. Once you have all the ingredients ready, set aside coconut milk and sauté all the ingredients in 2~ tablespoons of good oil in the following order. Garliconions→chopped pork meatshrimp paste(washed to lessen saltiness)→labuyo. Add coconut milk and put salt or whatever taste enhancers you'd prefer to add in. Stir occasionally until it's cooked. Done. It's chao time!

► CANDIED PILI NUTS

With pili nuts being endemic to Bicol, whenever someone speaks of BICOL, image of pili nuts comes into mind especially when the talk is about sweets. Pili trees are usually grown in the Bicol forests. Unless you are a Bicolano, you will not recognize which of those trees that you see around you are Pili. The color of a "ready to harvest" pili nut is more like magenta in shade. These nuts come in clusters. The way pili nuts are harvested is similar to that of harvesting coconuts. In Bicol, they call the tree bearing pili nuts as simply, PILI.

After harvesting these pili nuts, locals blanch them in lukewarm water for a few minutes and once the external covering of these nuts softens, they are ready for serving (TINOLANG PILI). The dark magenta-colored skin is then peeled off until the cream colored meat-like part is exposed. This part is then- dipped in fish sauce "patis" to give it a more delightful taste.

On
ce the outer layer is removed, the pili nut shell is then exposed. Pili nut shells are as slippery as lemon and orange seeds when they are wet, that is why- locals have to dry them first before they start the cracking process for easy extraction of pilinuts embedded within those shells. But, aside from the meaty outer layer enveloping a pili nut shell the pili nut itself has also its own thin wrapping, which is colored like that of an old red brick.

After they are done extracting
these nuts from their respective shells, locals boil them for several minutes until done. The next step is- peel off those nuts skin- after which, they would start cooking these raw pili nuts into sweet luscious candies.

Popular candied pili nut products are
:
brittle pili nuts, caramelized pili nuts, yema, azucarada....

As to pili nut shells, some locals who live far from the city, burn and turn them into charcoals, which by the way, is said to have more energy/heat than that of charcoals made out
of wood and coconut shells. With a stock of generous charcoal on hand, they can then cook their pili nut candies without the need to spend more on butane gases and kerosene.

► PINANGAT & LAING - ANOTHER FAMOUS BICOL TREATS

PINANGAT and Laing (side by side)hit the spot- 2nd to the famous "Bicol Express". These two Bicol treats also became the talk of many Bicol food enthusiasts- from north to south. In fact, PINANGAT & LAING are now among the many popular Filipino dishes that earned major spots in famous restaurants' menu books and buffet food counters all over the country. Pinangat was originally concocted in the town of Camalig, Albay. Because of its popularity, many tourists who visit Legazpi City make sure that aside from tasting the spicy Bicol Express, they also get to bite these two other authentic treats. Although many cooks and housewives tirelessly try to experiment cooking Pinangat and Laing- the way they heard or imagined they should be, in the end- their own versions would still taste very differently and not even close to those that were actually prepared in Bicol. Basically, the ingredients needed in preparing Pinangat and Laing are the same: dried shredded taro (gabi) leaves, whole taro(gabi) leaves, ground meat or seafood ( as fillings) , thick coconut milk, lemon grass, onions, other natural taste enhancers, siling labuyo (really hot chili peppers-optional), and most important of all- the SECRET technique that no one knows until now except those that came from the family of whoever originally created this dish. A secret that became a LEGACY. Beat it!

► BEST TRAVEL TIPS TO BICOL-PHILIPPINES

IF YOU are planning to go somewhere this summer, GO for BICOL. Either you are coming in directly from abroad or from Manila, here are some tips to guide you on how to get to Bicol easily and economically. With me as your virtual guide, I'll make sure your minimal budget will suffice. And, rest assured you'll get nothing but the best deals- from cheap good food, rewarding local trips, safe and economical hotel accommodation, and most importantly- polite tour guides who will happily take you and your companions around Bicol for only Php500-fee a day($11). However, to get the best out of the $11 that you are paying them, make sure you do not starve these tour guide/s. Okey? The secret is to book your flights as early as NOW to avoid missing the summer fun! So, let's keep the ball rolling! Call your travel agencies and book your flights to the Philippines and to Legazpi City. Or, sit down, surf the net and start browsing for cheap package deals. Early reservation cost much lesser than those that are made just weeks before your intended dates of departure. For you to ENJOY the beaches in Bicol to the max with a bonus of not missing the sighting experience of the "Butandings" (friendly whale sharks) in Donsol Sorsogon, visit Bicol between March~June. Hotels in Bicol are mostly the same. Clean, safe, and employs only trustworthy and accommodating staff. Still, it will not cost you anything if you take extra care of your belongings. Note: Make sure that you arrange everything from Hotel bookings to licensed tour guides who will take you around when you get there - prior to leaving for Legazpi City.

There are 2 airports in Bicol. One is in Pili, Camarines Sur (for small aircrafts only) and the other is in Legazpi City. Take Legazpi bound flights. From Manila, there are 11 flights bound for Legazpi City daily via Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific. There are five(5) flights coming in from Manila and 6 six (6) from Cebu, either via Cebu Pacific or PAL. All Legazpi bound aircrafts are Airbus 300s and occasionally, bigger ones land there too..


FROM THE AIRPORT
, you can hire local taxi cabs to take you to your Hotels or make sure to ask your booking agents if there will be shuttle buses or transport service cabs waiting at the airport to take you to your hotels and vice versa?

► PREPARING FOR YOUR TRIP TO BICOL

There are many hotels in Legazpi City for future visitors to choose from. Just search the net containing Hotel accommodation guides for those planning to visit the place but remember that for you to fully enjoy your trip to Bicol, the best time to visit is from February to June as rainy season starts from July to November.

Now after you are through with your flights and hotel bookings, your next step would be to start planning where you want to go. Starting with places you would REALLY love to visit when you get to Legazpi City.

And, I am here as AS YOUR BEST GUIDE EVER!

ARE YOU READY? Well, I am sure you are! But before we take off I want to check again if you've packed the ff:

CAMERA

─ SWIMSUITS

─ SUMMER WEAR

─ SUNGLASSES

─ HATS

─ UV LOTION

─ COMFY SHOES/SANDALS

─ LIGHT MULTI-PURPOSE BAG/or BACK PACK

─ PESO BILLS in small denominations

─ YOUR ENTHUSIASM and good HEALTH ( most important)

I STRONGLY ADVISE you guys not to bring your valuable belongings such as: jewelry, expensive watch, or important documents as you won''t be needing those in the Philippines. Just bring with you a good pair or two of your best evening dresses and elegant but comfy shoes, which you will only need in Manila if you plan to go fine dining in those world-class restaurants found either in Hotels or in any of those many social venues there. Otherwise, better not add extra weight to your luggage.

► LIGNON HILL


LIGNON HILL: Lignon hill is nestled between Mayon Volcano and Legazpi City Airport. This area was developed by the local government because of its geograhical location. Climbing to the top, visitors get to enjoy the breathtaking view of the Gigantic and beautiful Mayon Volcano up close. This is also the most common spot where local and international reporters, writers, journalist, and photographers take shots of the world famous majestic Mayon Volcano. The scene on the other side of this hill is the view of entire Legazpi City area, its neighboring towns, as well as mountains and Pacific Ocean shores embracing it. Lignon Hill is just a good 5-minute ride from Albay Provincial Capitol and 15 minutes away from Legazpi City proper. .

► CAGSAWA RUINS

CAGSAWA RUINS: From Lignon Hills take the new short cut via airport road, travel another 10 minutes and you'll find yourself in Cagsawa Ruins' site. There is actually nothing there but the remaining half buried Bell Tower and the frame of the old convent where the nuns who served there lived. It is the view of Mayon Volcano on the background that mesmerizes everyone who visits this ruins. Mayon Volcano's eruption in 1814 was what devastated the entire town of Cagsawa. In fact it buried many people alive as they were said to be trapped inside their houses when the lava spewed by Mayon Volcano flowed towards this particular town thus burying it in one mischievous eruption. Ironically though, it was Cagsawa's annihilation in the year 1814 that gave birth to its being linked with Mayon Volcano to date. Since the day the world heard of what happened to the poor town of Cagsawa, whenever Bicol is mentioned the first picture that comes into their minds is the image of a perfectly formed volcano with Cagsawa Ruins and the old Bell Tower sitting at the foot of it. (famous Bicol's emblem)

► HOYOP-HOYOPAN CAVE

HOYOP-HOYOPAN CAVE: Is found in Cotmon, Camalig's White mountain and just 30 minutes away from Albay Provincial Capitol.Hoyop-hoyopan is based on the word hoyop, which means blowing of air and this cave was named hoyop-hoyopan because once you are inside, you will feel soft winds blowing in from all of the numerous openings around this cave. And, because it is well ventilated, the inside of this cave really smells fresh. Among those that you will find inside this cave are: a few remains of cavemen who lived there millions of years ago. There are also bats hanging everywhere but there is nothing to worry about getting attacked by these small creatures because they are actually very friendly and they don't have that peculiar smell. The best deal awaiting curious visitors is the sight of very old stalactites and stalagmites formed out of those millions of years of this cave's existence. This cave is privately owned by locals and because of its unique wonder, the owners have decided to open it to the public. However, for maintenance purposes, they charge visitors an entrance fee of $3/head. There is also an improvised small souvenir stall outside the cave and they sell raw crystas as souvenirs. Prices depend on the size of the crystal stones. Minimum selling price of crystals- the size of a baby fist is at 50 cents and the biggest and more expensive of course is at $ 10 up. For further details about this cave, refer to pictures of Hoyop-hoyopan cave earlier provided.

► BUTANDING in Donsol Sorsogon

BUTANDING (Whale Sharks[scientific name:Rhincodon]) in DONSOL, Pilar, Castilla, and Magallanes, SORSOGON: With tourists being able to watch, touch, and literally play with 5-meter to 8 meters long Butandings- is just one of the many reasons why many tourist coming from all over the world flock to Sorsogon. A phenomenon that only in the province of Sorsogon, Albay exists. These sightings happen mostly in the months of February to June. Lucky visitors get to see 10~15 Butandings within a day. Although gigantic in size they may be, these huge fish are exceptionally gentle, playful, and very friendly that they even allow humans to play, interact, swim, and touch them...for more info check different websites featuring this phenomenon in Sorsogon. A 20~30 minutes boat ride from Donsol shores towards the deeper area of the sea is the perfect site to wait for these playful Butandings to start showing themselves up to excited and enthusiastically anticipating tourist. Once they do, It's PLAY TIME! Rental per boat is $100. A boat can accommodate 8~10 passengers.

► FIREFLY WATCHING IN SORSOGON

FIREFLY WATCHING in Donsol, Sorsogon: Is another phenomenon found only in Sorsogon, Albay. This particular river cruising in the dark, which starts only when it is totally dark is one of the most thrilling experience I have had in Sorsogon. The earliest 1-hr river cruise starts at 6:30 pm. This is also among the unique experiences that tourists visiting Donsol, Sorsogon in Bicol get to enjoy after a day of fun with those playful Butandings. The idea is to cruise a long river very similar to that river where they shoot ANACONDA, where Jennifer Lopez played the starring role. The riverbanks on both sides of the stream are filled with trees where thousands of fireflies flock in each of the thousands of trees aligned there. The effect is spectacular! With all those Fireflies flying everywhere and glowing in the dark like small emeralds floating everywhere, NOTHING Compares. The slow boat ride in the dark and the amazing sight of small green lights floating everywhere (during the entire 1-hour trip) is an unforgettable unique experience indeed. You'll feel like being transported to the kingdom of mini fairies and the unknown, and with the thrilling boat ride speaking even more. You have got to experience taking this river cruise in the dark yourself to know the feeling, which I am finding so hard to put into words. However, much as you are dying to immortalize this adventure- it is an encounter that you cannot capture with your camera because fireflies glow only in the dark. Rental boats cost $25 per boat. A boat can accommodate 10 passengers

► TICAO ISLAND

TICAO ISLAND: This island is in Masbate and an hour boat ride from Bulan, Sorsogon. Bulan, Sorsogon is 40 minutes away from Legazpi City proper. From Bulan, Sorsogon you need to ride a boat to get to Ticao Island. Ticao Island is worth the long boat ride. If you'll explore this island, you get to see Virgin Waterfalls, BIG BAT Cave, you could also go diving, snorkeling, water skiing, and other water sports activities of your choice that may be offered to tourists for minimal rental fees. However, in order not to waste your time bargaining with the locals for cheaper boat rides or with guides to assist you in trekking this island I would suggest that it would be wise to seek the services of your travel agencies so that they could make the arrangements for you. For further details about this paradise in Masbate, just visit websites covering wider info about Ticao Island

► CAMARINES SUR WATERSPORTS COMPLEX (CSWC)

CAMARINES SUR WATERSPORTS COMPLEX (CSWC) in Pili Camarines Sur: Is just 40 minutes away from Legazpi City. There is also an airport in Pili, Camarines Sur but only small aircrafts land here. This is one of the places in the Philippines that caters to tourist who are into water sports. A man made lake has been artfully created and turned into a paradise for this type of people. Many foreign players in the world of wake boarding come here to play and some even stay for as long as one month. Evey now and then international wake boarding competitions happen here. In fact most of those who have visited and played in this complex did actually come back and some have become regular visitors of CSWC. Other activities that sports minded people get to enjoy here are: kayaking, swimming and after a long day of strenuous wake boarding, guests also get to enjoy interacting with fellow wake boarding enthusiasts. CSWC offers package deals every now and then. They have very affordable rental cottages. CSWC also presents a wide variety of very good food for their guests to enjoy . They also have supplies store & souvenirs shop within the premises.For more info just visit their websites.









► CARAMOAN ISLAND

CARAMOAN ISLAND

HOW TO GET THERE:

From Legazpi City (Albay), go to Naga City (Camarines Sur). From Naga City, hit the road going to Sabang. Once you reach Sabang, take a boat ride going to Caramoan. This would cost $ 2.50 per passenger- one way. Most of these boats from Sabang are bound for Guialo Port. From Guailo Port you can either go to Paniman or
Bikal. Don't worry- regardless if you choose Paniman or Bikal, the activities you'll be doing when you get there would still be the same, only the accommodation differs. Paniman offers better though a little bit more costly.

Activities that await anyone who visits this place would be- Island hopping, swimming, snorkeling, diving, trekking and exploring the islands.

There are a number of islands to visit when you get there. The famous of which is Gota Island- being the favorite destination of many adventurous foreigners. Maybe it is because of this island's breathtaking beauty that magnetizes many sea lovers to flock to this island.

Best Islands to visit are: GOTA, MATUKAD, VITA LAYA, and LAHOY. Then comes- LAHOS, UNUNGAN, BAGING, and BOGTONG.


I need not say fancy words to describe this place. Let the pictures talk....



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