Voluntouring in Bicol, Philippines: Part 2

By Mark Wiens 17 Comments

This is the Part 2 of Voluntouring in the Bicol Region of the Philippines: Part 1

At the Base of Mt. Mayon
At the Base of Mt. Mayon

In July 2009, I ventured to the Bicol Region in the Philippines to check out some Gawad Kalinga villages (Building Houses with Hope), see some local attractions, eat some chili peppers and bicol express, meet some people, and have more valuable adventures with Gawad Kalinga.

I was on assignment as a volunteer with Gawad Kalinga and the newly developed voluntourism program for students from Ateneo de Manila University.

GK builds homes in the Philippines, aiming to create sustainable villages, form safe communities, and transform danger and poverty into nation building and lifting each other up.

Iriga City: GK Character Village
Iriga City: GK Character Village

Though the rain disrupted much of the hiking and outdoor adventures that I had anticipated, there were still a few worthwhile options that I can suggest while visiting Bicol.

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Cagsawa Ruins
Train of Tricycles near Iriga City
Train of Tricycles near Iriga City

I stayed in Iriga City at the GK Character village which has an excellent guest house (it’s easiest to arrive in Iriga City and have a tricycle take you to the village, the people will be more than happy to see you).

I awoke one morning at the crack of dawn, and along with a homeowner from the village (he offered to be my guide), we made our way to Cagsawa, a quaint town on the slopes of the lethal Mt. Mayon.

Though the volcano was covered in thick clouds this day, I was still able to see the church ruins at the base, and able to feel the true eeriness at the hands of the evident destruction of the volcano from previous eruptions.

Mt. Mayon stands at 7,946 feet high and stands out with its nearly perfect cone shape as an incredible sight to see.

Naga City
Hot spring in Naga City

Close to Naga City are the beautiful Paniuason hot springs.

The warm pools of water are situated in a lush volcano valley, next to a gorgeous roaring river.  I would say they are some of the most lovely hot springs I’ve seen and very necessary for the soaking of an aching body (which is just about always for me).

Camsur Watersport Complex, which I mentioned in Voluntouring in Bicol is also one of the main attractions that Bicol and Naga City have to offer, ranking as one of the best man made water sports parks.

In the right season (usually February through May) there is the brilliant opportunity to swim and view whale sharks, explore islands (one where Survivor was filmed), and go to beaches for surfing, all the in the Bicol region. Swimming with whale sharks is near the town of Donsol, Sorsogon which is close to Legazpi City.

When I was in Bicol the weather was dreary and cloudy, so for the most part I remained quite low key, visiting some people and conversing.

Allow me to visit with a local community, eat Bicolano food (bicol express, laing, pili tarts), and take an afternoon siesta (nap), and I find myself quite satisfied.  Bicol is a great place to pursue environmental adventures as well as simple relaxation.

My time in Bicol was limited but I was there long enough to conclude that the region is a wonderful area to visit by way of relaxing attractions and the people are warm, friendly, and very generous.

17 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • EJ Juen Jr

    9 years ago

    That hot spring looks nice and the water looks very clear and inviting. IWe’re planning to come here later and see that majestic Mayon Volcano with a perfect cone shape. We’re also planning to have a side trip in Donsol to have a whale shark interaction experience. This place really looks cool. 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      9 years ago

      Cool to hear you’ll be visiting the those areas, I wish I would have had more time in Bicol, it’s such a wonderful place.

  • Peter Garant

    10 years ago

    Bicol is certainly on my list of places to visit here in the Philippines.

    They were hit hard last year both earthquakes and 2 volcanoes.

    I wanna see Mayon and I want to go butanding (snorkeling with the whalesharks)

    Thanks for the post here, I enjoyed it.
    Peter

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Yes, it’s unfortunate that Bicol is hit but such hard weather conditions. I didn’t have time to see the whalesharks, but that sounds like a lot of fun as well!

  • Zandro

    10 years ago

    Kakamis bumalik dito sa Bicol. I remembered the last time we webt here and we took home some ginataan goodies like pinangat and pili. Their food diversity is really rich and great

  • Randall

    11 years ago

    Mark, it’s so cool that you volunteer in so many places. Once I get my income up that’s exactly what I want to do. Nothing like helping out kids and the local people. There is nothing else that can touch you heart like that.

    • Mark Wiens

      11 years ago

      Yah, that’s true and you have a great time doing it. Hope you can start volunteering and helping out soon Randall!

  • rain

    11 years ago

    thanks for posting i just missed my home town i a am from bicol (first district)can you come to my hometown too ..it’s just a small town but it’s nice (malinao ).

  • Mark Wiens

    11 years ago

    Hey Jason, you will have a wonderful time in Bicol and the Philippines. It is a beautiful place with fantastic opportunities and great people!

  • Jason of Two Backpackers

    11 years ago

    Thanks for the info on Bicol. We will be heading to the Philippines eventually and we are taking in every bit of information we can.

  • Craig

    11 years ago

    Great to see someone both volunteering in and writing about Bicol. We covered it in ITP magazine issue one, and the author really got me excited about visiting one day!

    • Mark Wiens

      11 years ago

      @Kat: Thanks, I loved my time in Bicol for sure and I also would love to go back sometime soon.

      @Craig: Thanks for pointing that out, I will try to look up the issue about Bicol on ITP.

  • Kat

    11 years ago

    I haven’t been to Bicol in a while. My mom’s family is from Bacacay, a few towns from Legaspi. Wonderful post, Mark. Makes me want to go back all the more.