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Spectacular Sorsogon

Sorsogon, beaches, culture, travel, culture, province, spectacular sorsogon

Been there. Done that.

For an ordinary tourist—foreign or local—a popular Philippine tourist fare would be to snorkel somewhere in Palawan or a night’s out in Malate. But for an intrepid adventure seeker, traveling to the southernmost tip of the island of Luzon is a whole new experience.

Let me enlighten those who haven’t been to that exotic part of the archipelago. Yes, Sorsogon is that peninsula in southern Luzon jutting out into the Pacific Ocean and is one of the six provinces that comprise the Bicol region. Sorsogon comes from the vernacular word “sosogon” meaning “to follow”.

An ecotour paradise

The name of the province tells of a story of a group of Spaniards lost in the relenting wilderness of the Bicolandia. Coming across a raging river, they asked—with much effort—a native where they could find the nearest settlement. The native answered “sosogon” and pointed to the river. From then on, history and legend intertwined and facts got lost. One could only surmise if the Spaniards did find the settlement. Nevertheless, they could very well be the first tourists to a majestic land of volcanic terrain, marshy undergrowth, orchid-festooned woods and white sand beaches!

Fast forward to the present and Sorsogon still has that pristine quality that tourists are longing for in a dream vacation. Its 14 towns and capital city, also named Sorsogon, are pictures of unspoiled beauty despite modernizations which are—for the most part—complementary rather than inimical. The province still boasts of green and lush mountain forests that are sanctuary to rare flora and fauna and bountiful and crystal-clear seas showcasing magnificent coral reefs and tropical fishes. Cecilia H. Duran of the Sorsogon Tourism Council says that the province is one big ecotour paradise.

One-of-a-kind Pacific adventure

Because the province is almost completely surrounded by water, the geography offers exciting coastal and sea-based ecotour activities that cover most of the towns. Bask under the warm sun of the beaches of Gubat, Sta. Magdalena, Prieto Diaz and Bacon as you curl your toe fingers between fine grains of white sand. Or better yet, be tingled with the feel and sight of the pink sand island beaches of Matnog as you wander along primordial coves and inlets.

For the thrill-seekers in you, indulge in your favorite aquasports like scuba-diving, snorkeling, deep-sea fishing, surfing and jet-skiing. Not yet satisfied, then travel to Donsol and witness for yourself the phenomenon that has brought this once sleepy town to its feet. Marvel at the gigantic “Butanding” or whale shark as it glides harmlessly on the water. These gentle creatures, considered as the largest fish, are also seen off the shores of Pilar, Castilla and Magallanes from the months of October to May.

Exotic nature trek

If you are a nature enthusiast, you should not also miss the land-based ecotour that the province has to offer. At the forefront of this activity is the breath-taking trek in the Bulusan Mountain Lake Resort and the Mt. Bulusan Volcano and National Park.

Be enthralled by the calm, turquoise waters of the lake cradled by lush vegetation. Or brave the tempting and picturesque lure of an active volcano through mountain biking. It also doesn’t hurt to explore the mystical caves in the area. To cool it off, why not take a dip in the neighboring Irosin, reputed to be sitting on top of a vast reservoir of geothermal power.

There’s also the agro-forestry tour in which you can have an ocular inspection of the vast tracts of agricultural lands with its various products and resources. Here, there is special focus on the “Pili” tree plantations. Ever tasted the sweet pili-nut candy? Well, it’s just one of the by-products of the highly versatile Pili tree which is indigenous to Sorsogon.

A cultural wonder

Like any other places in the country, Sorsogon also showcases its socio-historical legacy via festivals held annually. These are glimpses into the cultural heritage of which each town has an abundance of. An example is the “Bandalaan sa Bulan” every 31st of May, a festival showcasing the many uses of the “abaka”, a fiber which for some time during the Spanish colonial era was a major worldwide export.

Also, regale in the old houses or “bahay na bato” of Juban and Barcelona (the Spaniards who eventually colonized this part of the country named it so for it reminded them of their own picturesque coastal hometown in Spain). Also, try not to miss the reputed oldest church established in the province at the town of Casiguran. Because the province is home to one of the country’s most devout peoples, “visita iglesia” or church visit is definitely a worthwhile component to a tour as Sorsogueños take good care of their churches.

In the capital city of Sorsogon, the “Kasanggayahan” Festival is celebrated from the 10th to the 17th of October in commemoration of its foundation as a province. Join the highlight of the festival, the incomparable “Pantomina sa Tinampo” or dancing in the streets and be swept off your feet by this coquettish dance of love. “Pantomina” is replete with strutting, whirling, swirling, swinging, kneeling and even rolling as it imitates the movements of pigeons engaged in an amorous courtship ritual. Truly, a reflection of a hot-blooded Bikolano.

Fiery cuisine & classy accommodation

And talking about heat and passion, never leave the province without ever savoring the fiery cuisine of which “Bicol express” is legendary. This is a spicy concoction of sautéed pork, fish or shrimp; chili pepper; a generous dash of herbs and simmered in coconut milk. Other local specialties include boiled crabs and lobsters which can also be bought fresh from local seafood stalls or requested at resorts, caught straight from the sea. Also, taste the tangy and delicious “kinilaw na sira”, raw fish fillets soaked in vinegar and chili.

These cuisines are also served in the several fine hotels and pension houses in the province. There’s the Fernandos Hotel just across the city hall compound of Sorsogon, a perfect jump-off point for a tour of the province. It offers excellent accommodation in its elegant executive suites and comfortable twin rooms. But if you want to get closer to nature, try Veramaris Resort Hotel in Gubat and awaken your senses to the soft murmur of waves at the famous and perfect beach cove that is Rizal beach, named after the nation’s national hero.

How to get there

Now, itching to go to Sorsogon? Easy. The Philippine Airlines and Air Philippines have daily morning flights from Manila to Legazpi City in the neighboring province of Albay. There are also flights from Cebu to Legazpi. From Legazpi, you can take a bus or rented car to Sorsogon which is only 45 minutes away. Provincial buses operating from Pasay and Cubao in Metro Manila also has daily trips to Sorsogon. If you’re coming from the Visayan islands of Samar and Leyte, you can take a ferry boat and drop anchor at Matnog Ferry Terminal.

Once there, getting around Sorsogon is a breeze. Just flag down taxicabs or for-rent tricycles to go to points of interests. There are also jeepneys and air-conditioned buses available all hours of the day in most towns. You can also go coast-to-coast hopping around the peninsula on rented motorized “bancas” or boats.

Truly spectacular

What better word to describe the province of Sorsogon, a land steeped in physical and cultural beauty, than spectacular. While it is lacking in stupendous shrines and monuments so common in other tourist destinations in the country, it has certainly in abundance of natural attractions. If you’re tired of the usual tourist fare of crowded city streets and overrated resorts, try the unpretentious charm of the countryside and escape to Spectacular Sorsogon.
Published: 2006-04-15
Author: Royce Ambrocio

About the author or the publisher
The author has been writing professionally for 10 years now across various industries: TV, print, advertising, and online commerce. He has done scripts for TV, feature articles in magazines and newspapers and copywriting for consumer, tranport and service companies.

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