Showing posts with label Sorsogon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sorsogon. Show all posts

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Sorsogon: Bulusan Lake & Volcano, Barcelona Church & heritage houses in Juban

Sorsogon Provincial Capitol
If you're looking for something else to do in Sorsogon after whale watching in Donsol, drive down south! The province has a few interesting sites south of Donsol, particularly in the towns of Barcelona, Bulusan, Juban and Matnog.

The capital of the province is also named Sorsogon. Sorsogon City is actually two towns that were merged when the city was created: Sorsogon and Bacon. Drop by the Sorsogon Provincial Capitol which has a really elegant park with centuries-old trees still standing. Taste seems to be a missing element among many local governments. But Sorsogon proves that it still exists.

Barcelona Church, Sorsorgon
A few kilometers from Sorsogon City is the town of Barcelona. The Barcelona Church is the best preserved Spanish colonial church in the province. But the altar has been altered. In front of the church are ruins of the Old Barcelona Presidencia. We noticed construction going on beside the ruins of large letters which spell "Barcelona, Sorsogon." By now, it should be finished and I'm sure this will be a popular photo spot for visitors.

Bulusan Lake, Sorsogon
Further down is the Bulusan Volcano Natural Park where Lake Bulusan is located. The lake, on the southern slope of Bulusan Volcano, is quite small at 28 hectares. There are facilities for rowing and kayaking. You can also walk around the shore which is a little over two kilometers, or hike up to Bulusan Volcano.

The town of Bulusan used to have a fortress church. The church is no longer there. But the walls and belfry, which must have doubled as a watchtower against Moro pirates, are still standing.

Bulusan Volcano, Sorsogon
Bulusan Volcano towers over the towns in the southern end of Sorsogon. We got a really nice view of the volcano from Irosin Church.

Grajo Heritage House, Juban, Sorsogon
On the way back to Sorsogon City, we passed by Juban which has five elegant heritage houses namely Alindogan, Alindogan-Gorospe, Grajo, Lasala, and Olondriz.

Anyway, you can visit all of these sites in a day. At the southern end of Sorosogon is Matnog, the jump-off point for Samar. The town has the best beaches in the province, particularly Subic Beach on Calintaan Island. That's my next target.

Here's something for you. Saw this quite a lot around Sorsogon. How many people are in this tricycle?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sorsogon: Whale shark (butanding) interaction tours in Donsol

Whale shark or butanding (Photo from Dir. Maria Ravanilla, DOT Bicol)
Donsol has become a popular destination for visitors to the Philippines because of its whale shark (Rhincodon typus) or butanding interaction tours. From Legazpi City, we drove to Donsol, Sorsogon which was about two hours away.

As soon as we arrived, we proceeded to the Donsol Visitors Center to register and do the necessary briefing. Upon arrival at Donsol, all tourists have to proceed to the Donsol Visitors Center to log, register and pay the required fees (Php100 for Filipinos and Php300 for foreigners; Php3500 per boat). You will then be required to watch a briefing video.

If you arrive in the afternoon, it's best that you do this upon arrival to avoid the lines the next morning, which is what we did. Boats leave only in the morning starting at 7 a.m. Although some boats leave early in the afternoon, there's a smaller chance to see the whale sharks since their feeding time is usually over.

You will also be given a boarding pass, after which you wait for your boat assignments and proceed to the boats when given. If you register the afternoon before, you immediately proceed to the boarding pass and boat assignment stage the next morning.

Each boat has a butanding interaction officer (BIO), spotter and a crew. Make sure to discuss your trip with the BIO. If you have your own snorkeling gear and fins, make sure to bring them. If you don't have any, there are a lot available for rent. The fins are necessary to be able to keep up with the whale sharks. I tried swimming without the fins once and it was quite challenging.

After registering, we proceeded to our accommodation. I was billeted at Villa JoLee (rooms start at Php1500 a night). After settling down, it was free time. In the evening, we went firefly watching in the Ogod River.

The next day, we were up early. Although we got to leave at 7 a.m., we were told the whale sharks usually come out to feed at 10 a.m. It takes an hour to get to the feeding area. So the best time to leave really is between 8 to 9 a.m. Unfortunately, we only got to see a glimpse of one butanding in the 5 hours that we were out at sea. The last time I was there in 2007, we saw four. For a detailed account of the Donsol experience, read Butanding and firefly encounters in Donsol, Sorsogon.

How to get to Donsol, Sorsogon
By bus from Manila, you could get off at Legazpi City (10 hours) and hop on a van or hired vehicle at the Legazpi Bus Terminal going to Donsol, Sorsogon (1 to 2 hours). Or you can take a bus directly to Sorsogon City (12 hours) and take a jeep or van to Donsol from there (1 to 2 hours). By air, you fly to Legazpi City. At the airport, hired land transport is available but not cheap. Alternately, you can take a tricycle at the airport to the Legazpi Bus Terminal and hop on a van to Donsol from there.

More photos of Albay, Sorsogon and Camarines Sur in the Ivan About Town FB page.

Thank you to Director Verna Buensuceso and Christie Navarro of the Department of Tourism Team Europe for arranging the trip of Nellie Huang and Alberto Molero of to Bicol! Thank you also to Director Maria Ravanilla and Amy Detera of Department of Tourism Bicol Region, Donsol Municipal Tourism Officer Nenita Pedragosa and Donsol EcoTour for their valuable assistance and warm hospitality!

Donsol, Sorsogon Tourism Office
Mobile No. +63 (919) 7070394 / (921) 9699544

Villa JoLee
Mobile No. +63 (908) 5606666 / (929) 1505658

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sorsogon: Bulusan, Sorsogon residents demand halt to construction of gas station beside church belfry

I got an SOS e-mail from Bulusan, Sorsogon. Now it's a gas station being built beside an old bell tower! It seems the Roman Catholic Church, Inc. is unstoppable! This is absurd!

Abraham G. Tan writes me, "We have an online group currently working on putting a stop to the construction of a gasoline station in a parcel of land which was originally a portion of the church's outer patio. The gasoline station, once finished, would superimpose itself on the ancient belfry and could only be but an eyesore. Yes, we were told that it indeed was all our current bishop's idea. Thus, we're not really expecting an easy fight. We already sent him a letter, for which we are yet to receive any response."

If you want more details, check out the nine page letter the group sent to Most Rev. Arturo M. Bastes, S.V.D., D.D., Bishop of Sorsogon.

On the Bulusan belfry, Tan writes in Flickr, "Its original pyramidal dome had been removed and replaced with a new one, the same period (early 1970s) that the old stone church was torn down (don't know if such destruction was really necessary), so I was told. Still, this belfry, the largest of the four baluartes de piedra dotting Punta Diamante in Bulusan, the Moro piracy days defense muralla, the stone fort that encloses the church complex of the Parish of St. James the Greater (one of the oldest in the province, founded in 1630), remains grand in its antiquity."

Learning about this development in Sorsogon is very frustrating. When will this ever stop? When will they ever learn?!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Holy Week practices in the Philippines

Aside from being one of the most solemn religious events in the Philippines, Holy Week or Mahal na Araw is a colorful display of Philippine culture and religious fervor. Here are some cultural practices you should not miss:

Palm Sunday
Today is Palm Sunday so we won't be able to witness these events again until next year. There were unique palm processions in Sta. Isabel in Malolos, Obando and Baliwag in Bulacan; as well as in Gasan, Marinduque. In Sta. Isabel, an image of the Humenta or Christ on a donkey joins the palm procession as women spread their tapis or traditional aprons as the priest walks by. In Gasan, the priest himself rides a real pony on the way to church.

Holy Wednesday
Many procession are held on this day. Check out the folk Baroque images in the Laguna towns of Pakil, Majayjay and Paete. In Paete, it is said that the images for the Catholic Wednesday and Aglipayan Thursday processions move and speak in archaic Tagalog. In Pampanga, some of the best heirloom carrozas are brought out in Betis, Sasmuan and San Fernando. Also check out the processions in Baliwag, Malolos, Barasoain (Malolos), San Pablo and Molo (Iloilo City).

Maundy Thursday
In churches around the country, the Mass of the Last Supper will be celebrated in the evening. After this Mass, the Blessed Sacrament is enshrined in an Altar of Repose or monumento, and churches remain open for the visita iglesia. But some people do the visita iglesia while the sun is out though in order to see the lavish colonial churches in daylight. I have an old post on visita iglesia suggestions at Visita iglesia routes for Holy Thursday. But I'll have another entry on churches to visit soon.

Around the country, the chanting of the pabasa continues. In San Fernando and Guagua, there are colorful puni or pabasa stations with a fiesta atmosphere. Also check out the cordero or Lamb of God rituals in Betis, Guagua, Pampanga and Morong, Rizal. A lamb sculpture made out of mashed potatoes or kamote (sweet potatoes) is the center of this practice.

Good Friday
There is so much to see on this day. There are public self-flagellations in many towns around the country. In San Fernando, Pampanga; Pulilan and Hagonoy, Bulacan; and Navotas, they use wooden slats attached to ropes to whip their backs. In Hermosa, Bataan; Sasmuan, Pampanga; and Pakil, Laguna, flagellants use chains. In Kalayaan, Laguna penitents wear fronds and flowers. While in Infanta, Quezon, penitents wear hoods embellished with flowers to invoke fertility.

In Magalang, Pampanga and other parts of Pampanga, penitents crawl on the ground or carry crosses made out of banana trunks. In San Pedro Cutud in San Fernando, about a dozen penitents are nailed to wooden crosses after a traditional play called the Via Crusis. Check out the entry Good Friday in San Fernando, Pampanga to get detailed information on Good Friday practices in San Fernando.

The moriones, with men dressed as Roman soldiers, are held in General Luna, Quezon; Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro; and Boac and Gasan, Marinduque. The one in General Luna is said to be the oldest moriones event in the country. There is also amulet hunting and testing as well with shaman assemblies held such as those in Calabanga, Camarines Sur where hooded shamans pray at the Holy Bier at 5 a.m. In Pakil, Laguna, check out the Turumba procession of the Nuestra Senora de los Dolores de Turumba.

In the towns of Sta. Rita and Sasmuan in Pampanga; as well as Tayabas, Quezon and Boljoon, Cebu, the sermons on the Seven Last Words of Christ are followed by the Tinieblas, a theatrical ritual marking the death of Christ with the banging shut of the church doors, the wailing of women and the hammering of church roofs to symbolize thunder. The body of Christ is brought down from the cross by two men dressed as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. In Boljoon and Sta. Rita, they are assisted by people dressed as the Marys and St. John who all deposit the image on the lap of a woman designated to be Mother Mary. She wails loudly for several minutes. In Sasmuan, the town orchestra plays the Stabat Mater as a choir sings. This is followed by a public veneration of the image Christ's body or the Sto. Entierro.

Some of the most lavish processions of the Sto. Entierro are held in Lingayen, Pangasinan; San Fernando, and Guagua, Pampanga; Malolos and Baliwag, Bulacan; Binan and San Pablo, Laguna; and Argao and Carcar, Cebu. In Carcar and Sorsogon, Sorsogon, the Soledad procession is held late at night.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sorsogon: Butanding and firefly encounters in Donsol, Sorsogon

It was a long drive to Sorsogon, the southernmost province of Luzon island. We left Manila at 10 p.m. and arrived at 9 a.m. the next day, just in time for the whale shark or butanding encounter. I was with Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet, Ivan ManDy of Old Manila Walks and his friend Jenny Tan. The best time to interact with the whale sharks is in the morning, as much as possible, before 11 a.m.

When you arrive in Donsol, there are directional signs which point you to the Butanding Visitors' Center of the Donsol Tourism Office in Barangay Dancalan. There you will need to register and pay the appropriate fees which include PHP100 per head for registration for locals, and PHP3500 per boat which can accommodate a maximum of seven people. You will also need to rent snorkeling equipment for P300, mask, snorkel and fins included. Make sure you have fins or else you'll regret it.

There were just four of us and good thing we met a group (Isa, Meg and Raf) and decided to share the boat. Isa actually recognized Ivan ManDy since she had been on one of his tours. And it turns out, she was trying to look for Donsol info here in my blog but didn't find any. And the funny thing is we did Donsol together.

Anyway, each boat has a well-trained Butanding Interaction Officer (BIO) who will serve as your guide in the water, plus a spotter who will look for these gentle creatures for your group. Although there is no guarantee you'll see i>butandings, the crew members are expert spotters. Since we were at the tail-end of the season which is from November to May (peak is February to April), we kept our hopes up.

Just a few minutes from the shore, our spotter located a butanding and at the signal of our BIO, we jumped into the water. The butanding however disappeared quickly so I wasn't able to see it. So we went back on the boat and looked again. The second try was more successful since I was able to take photos of it. It was a really exciting feeling swimming on top or beside the whale shark. We got to see six of them that day! But the interaction was a bit short that day, just a few seconds. Our BIO said that his longest was an hour and 45 minutes! He was also GMA's BIO when she visited Donsol and after 30 minutes, the president was the one who begged off. That's why it's really best to visit during the peak months.

We called it a day after the sixth sighting. By the time we got back, we were so hungry since we hadn't eaten breakfast (if we stopped for breakfast, we would have missed the opportunity to check out the butandings). So we decided to have lunch at the Woodland Farm Resort Canteen where we ordered adobado (adobo with gata), kilawin, bicol express among others. We also decided to stay there for the night and got an air-conditioned room with two queen-sized beds for PHP1500. After lunch, we got some sorbetes from a vendor outside the canteen. It turns out, the Bicol version has coconut milk in it.

Jenny had to rush back to Manila that day to so we brought her to the bus station at Pilar Port (which is where the Masbate boats dock) in the neighboring town of Pilar. I was awed by the view of native houses amidst the colorful boats at Pilar Port. I hope towns in the Philippines preserve this kind of scenery but all of it is being replaced by concrete and hollow blocks. In Sorsogon however, you saw nipa houses lining the road to Donsol and it really made you feel you were in the Philippines.

We got back to Donsol at 5 p.m. just in time for another boat trip, this time along the Ogod River to check out the fireflies, Donsol's no. 2 attraction. Each boat is PHP1250. Again, we joined forces to bring down our costs. That's what backpacking is all about, trying to share expenses with new friends.

The river was a sight to behold with mangroves and nipa on each side. In front of us was a silhouette of the Mayon Volcano. We waited for darkness to arrive on an island in the middle of the river. At 7 p.m., we boarded the boat and started our trip back.

Then they appeared. Like fairy dust hovering around the trees, the fireflies gave an enchanting feeling as they flickered in the dark. One could say they looked like Christmas lights dancing around the trees. Sadly, we could not record them on our cameras. Indeed, the Philippines is blessed. I just hope local stakeholders could balance tourist arrivals with sustainable development and conservation.

The group had a sumptuous dinner at the Amor Farm Resort. It was all raves for the delicious food! We had laing, kinunot (malunggay with fish meat), inihaw na pusit, buttered shrimps, curry shrimps and Bicol express. If you do get to visit Donsol, make sure you have a meal at Amor. The night wasn't over since we had one last stop at the only bar in Donsol... BARacuda!

I liked the ambiance of the place. They serve meals too, but they have no menu, only the catch of the day. I was told that one meal was about PHP500, quite pricey for Donsol, but a hit among foreigners who visit the place. The bar owner, Juliet, is very friendly and interacts often with her customers. She explains that the prices also control the quality of the crowd and thus you don't get any of the town drunkards in her place.

We ordered margaritas and caipirinhas (a Brazilian drink similar to the mojito of Cuba) for PHP150 each. But since we were Pinoy, she gave us a discount which was quite nice of her. If only we didn't have to wake up early the next day, it would have been so much fun to stay and chill out there the whole night. She also has one room which I'm sure people willing to splurge would enjoy. Tired and sleepy, we called it a night at 10 p.m. More photos in Multiply.
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