Ever since a friend of mine shared the photo of the Fireflies in Bicol, it had been added at the top of my bucket list. So, this year, along with my friends (same friends I went with to Ilocos) we started planning our Bicol Tour.
In the end, we formed a group of 7. We decided to do it DIY instead of package. We found a van for rent to Bicol for 22,000 PHP which includes gas, toll fees, driver and his expenses. It can actually go down to 20,000 PHP but since we have included Sorsogon in our itinerary, the driver requested to increase it to 22,000 PHP.
We agreed to meet at Starmall Crossing along Edsa at 9:00pm. We were early, unfortunately, the driver seems to have other plans and arrived VERY late at 1:00am. We are really stressed out at this time and not in good mood as we need to adjust our schedule because of him. Leaving at 1:00am, we arrived in Albay, Bicol at around noon.
Bicol belongs under Philippines’ Region V which homes the world famous Mayon Volcano. But in the past years, Bicol is making its name not just from Mayon but also in its whale shark tourism.
Our first stop is Mayon Skyline. Unfortunately, cloud have obscured the full view of place. We were advised by the locals that we should expect Mayon to “come out” during early morning or late afternoon (An added frustrations for our very late driver) If he had arrived as planned, we could have our perfect view. But since we would like to enjoy the place as much as we can, we just ignored these things.
I honestly don’t know which way should I look to see the Mayon! lol
We had our lunch below Mayon Skyline. As we are in Bicol, we ordered the famous Bicolano’s delicacy – Bicol Express. I wasn’t impress that much but we’re hungry and everything tastes so good! haha!
Our next stop is a church by the hill. We visited the church to receive our blessings and took some photos as well. They have this life size replica of the last supper which really amazed me. I could not remember the name of the church, if somebody could just help me – I’ll update this 😀
It’s raining and really cold, but that won’t stop us from enjoying the day. 🙂
I also had the taste of my first Chilli Ice Cream here 😀
This one is not too spicy, it actually tastes like strawberry with a bit of spice in it.
Third stop is Daraga church – It was already 4:00 in the afternoon. We realized our driver is not that much familiar with the place as there are times that we’re just going round and round wasting our time. It is from this experience that we realized the advantage of a packaged tour. Though DIY is cheaper, it would be difficult to plan your trip if no one in your group is familiar with the place. However, DIY is cheaper 😀 Hence, I highly recommend that if in case you decided to do the DIY tour, look for drivers who are locals or have experienced driving to your destination and advise the driver beforehand of your planned itinerary.
But good things come to those who pray and wait!!! Right after our prayers, we had our first glimpse of the beauty that is Mayon. Another good thing is that the church has the perfect location for Mayon viewing.
Textbooks and postcards are definitely not exaggerating. With it’s perfect cone and picturesque surrounding view, Mayon Volcano should be considered as one of the wonders of the world.
After satisfying our eyes and cameras of the beloved volcano, we went our way to proceed to Donsol where we are scheduled to see my life dream Fireflies by the River. Sadly, it is raining a bit when we arrived in Donsol thus fireflies watching were cancelled. So we rescheduled our watch on the next day as our hotel is just nearby. By luck, and without having any plans, we found out that Butanding watching is very near our hotel and it’s the season for Butanding. In fact, the Butanding (or Whale Shark) festival just happened weeks before our arrival. So, we decided to do the Butanding watching as we have the whole day to spare until our firefly watching.
We stayed at Amor Resort, please see their rates here: http://amordonsolwhaleshark.com/
We decided to take the fan room for below price:
- 1000 PHP – for 3 people, fan room only, additional 300 for additional person
- Add 1000 PHP to use AC
You can check with their staff about Butanding and Fireflies watching. However, as the Butanding Tourist Center is just walking distance away, we decided to go and book by ourselves.
Below is our expenses for Butanding Watching:
- 3000 PHP – boat rent for 6 people – Butanding Watching
- 100 PHP – environmental fee/head
- 250 PHP – diving equipment rentals/set
Butanding watching usually starts at 10am and onwards. The above payment will take you for 2-3 hours. Unlike Butanding Watching in Oslob, Cebu, tourists and tour guides are not allowed to bait the whale sharks with food. They let the whale sharks come on their own, not to disturb their natural behavior. There are watchers standing at the top of the boat, called spotters, who will inform the boar stirrer where to go once they “spotted” the giant fish. Once the boat reached a certain distance, the tour guide will ask the tourists to jump (with life vest of course) and he will guide the group where the Butanding is. It is strictly prohibited to touch the Butanding, and we’re only allowed to swim with them at a certain distance. In my opinion, this is so much better than what is being done in Oslob, Cebu.
After 2 hours of searching, we were only able to spot 3, 2 got away easily but the 2nd one, we were able to swim with it for a few minutes (lucky us, others weren’t able to see one)
(Link for the video to be posted soooonnnn!)
With suntanned skin and satisfied smiles, we returned to the resort for our lunch. We bought some crabs earlier from some fishermen and asked the hotel to cooked it for us.
After refreshing ourselves, we decided to go out of Donsol to Cagsawa Ruins. (Entrance fee is 5 PHP)
The Cagsawa Ruins (also spelled as Kagsawa or Cagsaua) are the remnants of a 16th-century Franciscan church, the Cagsawa church. It was built in 1587 but was burned down by the marauding Dutch in 1636. However, it was reconstructed again in 1724 by Fr. Francisco Blanco. In February 1, 1814, Mayon Volcano caused its most violent and deadly eruption that engulfed the surrounding houses and killed nearly 2,000 people who took refuge inside the church. Only the belfry of the Cagsawa church remains as a grim and silent testimony of that fateful day. For almost two hundred years, it has withstood the test of time and the elements to become one of the most recognizable landmarks of Albay Province. The ruins are located in Barangay Busay, Cagsawa, in the municipality of Daraga, Albay, Philippines. – WIkipedia
We took our time taking pictures, eating and buying some souvenirs. There are stores in and out of the gate. In fact, Pasalubong center is right beside the gate. I recommend you buy your trinkets/pasalubong here as they are much cheaper compared to others.
And if you haven’t had enough … here’s me trying to do a 360
After couple of hours of nonstop eating, photo shoots and buying, we returned to Donsol at 8pm to meet our tour guide for the firefly watching. We have met our tour guide from Butanding Tourist Center and offered us a different path for Fireflies watching. For the fireflies, it is 250php/head. 6 persons in one boat. How all of us got in one boat??!! sssshhhh!
To say it was a magical experience is an understatement. I was glad that my friends enjoyed it as much as I did.
(link of the video here sooooonnnn)
Afterwards, we returned to the town proper, near Cagsawa ruins for our last night. I am hungry and running a fever. It is only 9pm yet all lights are off, stores and restaurants are closed. So we were forced to go to the main town to take out some food and for me to buy some meds.
On our last day, we went to Quitinday Hills, the Chocolate Hills of Bicol. It is not yet tourist famous, but I believe it will be soon. But unlike Chocolate Hills, Quitinday Hills’ Hills are ever green, not changing color.
Quitinday Hill Fee – 25 PHP
And here’s us trying another 360
Didn’t help at all lol!
After a sweaty climb (but definitely satisfying) we went our way back home. But before exiting Bicol, we visited Our Lady of Perpetual Help church in Legazpi (not sure of the exact location) to say our praise, thanks and good bye.
But I would also like to thank my friends that came with me here. It basically is my dream but they’re still game to come with me. It’s been years since we got together again, but it feels like we’ve never parted 🙂 thanks guys!