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My Magallanes


Although renowned for its majestic, almost perfectly conical Mayon Volcano, the Bicol region has so much more to offer.

Sorsogon in the Bicol Peninsula is at the southeastern tip of Luzon Island. It is bounded on the north by Albay and Albay Gulf, on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the west by Burias and Ticao Passes, and on the south by the Samar Sea and San Bernardino Strait.

A 10-day trip to Bicol's southern provinces of Sorsogon and Albay would be ideal. If you hope to cover the four provinces of Bicol, you might end up disappointed (in 10 days you’ll be lucky to do two). Our first destination was Sorsogon, the southernmost province on Luzon.

The "new diversion road", called Quirino Highway, bypasses much of Quezon National Park, and saves you two hours of travel time as you won’t have to go through Daet, the capital of Camarines Norter. The old road that goes through the park is refered to as "eme-eme" by the locals because "it is like driving on the letter m."

In Sorsogon, one of the best inns is Fernandos Hotel. David Duran, whose family owns the hotel, is a gracious host and offers guides on how to go around Sorsogon in two to three days.

When in Sorsogon, don’t miss touring around Bulusan Volcano. The main landmark of Sorsogon City is the Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul. The back side offer a good view of Sorsogon Bay.

In Prieto Diaz, interesting sites include Nagsuroc and Pinanaan Caves, and Toten Beach where you get a good view of Mayon Volcano and Rapu-Rapu Island. Around Rapu-Rapu are a few dive spots. To get to Rapu-Rapu Island, hire a banca from Prieto Diaz town proper. Gubat town is known for its expansive picturesque fine cream sand Rizal Beach that many liken to an undeveloped Waikiki. If you like chicharon, JunJun's snackyard, beside Gubat town market, is known for its excellent chicharon.

Centuries-old Barcelona Church and ruins are in the neighboring town. From Barcelona, drive to Bulusan Volcano National Park. The idyllic Bulusan Lake is 2,000 ft above sea level.

A 2.9 km cemented trail takes you around the lush perimiter of the lake. If you are intersted in trekking, Mt Bulusan is a 2-day climb (contact PENRO, Sorsogon, tel. (6356) 211-1461 or 211-1205).

Sorsogon is also known for its many natural spring resorts. Around Bulusan are Paloktok, an inviting spring-fed swimming pool, Masacrot known for its consistency of mineral soda, and Mateo Hot and Cold Springs in San Benon. Other popular springs, Palhi and Bucalbucal, are north of Sorsogon town proper.

Then there’s the recently remodled Irosin church, which sits on top of a hill in the farming town. It offers a nice view of Bulusan. In Juban, admire nice the old houses.

A trip to Matnog, southernmost town on Luzon, offers a marvelous scenery along the way--rice fields and gentle green volcanoes. Before Matnog is Bulan, departure point for ferries to Masbate and Ticao Islands.

Also in Bulan is a centuries-old Spanish church. Matnog is the departure point for the ferry to Alen, Samar, a sign at the port reads "you are now leaving the island of Luzon."

This is one of the cleanest ports I have seen--the water is clear and not murky and boys dive off the pier to retrieve coins that people throw in.

Nearby are Tiklin and Calintaan islands. Tiklin has a pristine white sand beach: be careful as currents can get strong (banca rental to Tiklin is P500). There is snorkeling off cream sand Subic Beach on Calintaan. In the nearby forest is a cave inhabited by bats.

Also visit the cream sand beaches of Sta Magdalena. Villa Veronica is a day resort along a narrow beach. Take a refreshing dip in the clear waters or rest under one of the picnic huts.

There’s the very pretty Olango Beach in barangay San Rafael. There is good swimming in the middle (where it is sandy beneath the water) and snorkeling on the outer fringes (by the reefs). The sea is an inviting clear aquamarine and tall coconut trees fringe the shore.

Bacon is also a good place to check out. Off Tolongapo Beach is one of the best dive spots of Sorsogon. Several simple resorts line the beach. Also near Bacon are the Bato Limestone Caves, where ancient artifacts were excavated in 1956.

These are just a tiny portion of the many sites this province posseses. Magallanes, the site of the 1st mass on Luzon, and this is where secluded beaches and island hopping from Magallanes to Malawmaoan Island and Bejia Beach on Bagatao Island. Bagatao Island was an important shipyard during the Spanish regime. A favorite diving spot here are the waters near the two lighthouses, which guide ships that ply the Ticao Pass and Sorsogon Bay. In Magallanes, one can arrange for a Whale Watching adventure. But be sure to go there during the whale watching season. and do hope to return to admire the whale sharks (locally known as “butanding”) off Donsol. Those interested should contact Fernando's Hotel or other hotels in Sorsogon for arrangements and details. Go in small groups (to limit the disruption of the natural surroundings) and support efforts to save these gentle giants. Whale shark watching can cost around $25/person, minimum of 4 people. This includes a banca and BIO (a Butanding Interaction Officer who is experienced at diving with whale sharks).

Capital: Sorsogon
Area: 2 141,4 sq km
Population: ca. 700 000
Cities: 1
Number of Towns: 15

The land: Mountains sprawl along the northeastern part of the province. The tallest peak is Mount Bulusan, an active volcano 1560 above the sea level, Lake Bulusan lies on its slopes.

The major rivers are the Cawayan River in Sorsogon town and the Putiao River in Pilar. The capital town lies on the slender rock of land that joins the provinceęs two parts separated by Sorosogon Bay. Except for landlocked Irosin, all the towns lie along the coast.

The eastern half of the province has na dry seasons but with very pronounced maximum rain period from November to January, while the western half has rainfall more or less evenly distributed throughout the year. Sorsogon lies at the hearth of the typhoon belt. A brief history

In 1570, Fathers Alonzo Jimenez and Juan Orta of the Augustinan ORder led a group sent to explore the island of Luzon. Upon reaching its southern shores, they found a small fishing village at the mouth of Ginangra River in what is now Magallanes town. The village, called Gibalong by its residents, became the first Christian settlement in Luzon. Later, the friars called the whole Bicol region "Tierra de Ibalaong".

When the Spaniards had settled in Gibalon, they set out to further explore inland. Upon reaching a small river emptying into what is now Sorsogon Bay, they asked a native they met for the name of the place. The native, not understanding Spanish and thinking they were asking for directions, answered, "Solsogon" meaning "trace the river by going upstream". Through constant use, Solsogon became Sorsogon.

Sorsogon was established as a province on October 17, 1894. Bicol is the predominant dialect but because it is a gateway to the Visayas, their version is a unique mixture of Visayan and Bicol dialects.

The province has a fertile soil due to past volcanic eruptions and yearround rainfall make Sorsogon a major producer of abaca. It is said the province produces the best hemp in all of Bicol.

Other crops widely grown are coconut and rice. The province also has a significant fishing industry as it is surrounded by rich fishing grounds. Raw materials abound for cottage industries.

Deposits of sulphur, kaolin, limestone and coal are largely untappe.

Getting there and away: Airplanes land in Legaspi City from Cebu and Manila, and Sorsogon town is only 59 kilometers away from the airport.

Buses come from the south on the way to Manila, and from Manila to the south go through the province.