Bicol Express At Last

Naga Travel Blog

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Quipayo Church In Calabanga, Cam Sur
I left Manila at a very unholy hour (6:30 AM) to fly to the heart of Bicol region - Naga City. I arrived in Naga Airport (which actually is located in another town of Pili). My friend and former teammate who invited me over phoned me the night prior to my arrival that she will be picking me up in the airport. Upon arrival, I discovered that the airport's backdrop is Mt. Isarog, another imposing yet assumed to be dormant volcano. After waiting for few minutes and after several taxi services that approached me, my friend and his uncle arrived and picked me up from the airport. It was almost 45 minutes drive from the airport to Naga and another 20 minutes to the place where my friend lived - in Calabanga, a town annexed to Naga.
Calabanga is a sleepy quintessential Philippine town where everything moves in a slow motion; Padyak (local version on tuktuk) is the king of their road.  

Upon arrival at their place, we had a very Filipino breakfast of dried fish including a dried fish only to be found in this town - the abo. The fish with flesh tomatoes, newly cooked steam rice and lot's of stories was our breakfast. My friend who worked with more than 3 years ago and I had so much catching up to do. It was a hearty breakfast, my first breakfast in Bicol. After breakfast, we freshened up and went to where her mother was but before meeting up with her, we went first to a very old church which is only 5 houses away from where I am staying. The church is called Quipayo Church (de Immaculada Concepcion). It is another ancient Church founded by the Franciscan missionaries who came to Camarines Sur in 1578.
Old Penafrancia Church
The church is small relative to the churched I saw in Bohol but it still a pretty church. The facade is still the original but the interior of the church has been modernized already. It has a bell tower which was closed during our visit.

After meeting her mom, we went back to the house for our lunch. The interval between the meals was less than 2 hours. Again, it was another feast of rice, grilled fish and bicol express. I was so looking forward to eat an authentic bicol express. This dish has been the icon of the region. It is made of baby shrimp with a little amount of ground pork and a local chili - "siling labuyo". Bicolanos (people from Bicol) are known for their extreme indulgence to spicy dishes. They would eat anything with the "siling labuyo".
Basilica Minore


Anyway, My friend needed to go to school thus I would be alone to explore Naga. I really had no set itinerary for this trip. I know virtually nothing in Naga, so I decided to visit the churches. I hired a tricycle to bring me to the three famous churches of Naga City. My first stop was locally known as Francia Church. This is the original home of Our Lady of Penafrancia, the patroness of Bicolandia. The Church's hand-painted ceilings and fine architecture has been preserved for the merely for the appreciation of the devotees and visitors. The church is supposed to be an old church but heavy alteration due to series of renovation made the church look young. I am simply not a fan of renovation.

Next stop is The Basilica Minore.  This is the new home to the said to be miraculous image of the Patroness of Bicolandia, also known to the devotees as "Ina" (Filipino term for mother).
Naga Metropolitan Church
Thousands of pilgrims flock to this site during the September celebration of the Peñafrancia Fiesta just to visit and venerate the virgin. There's also a fluvial parade for this occasion. The church is a very modern one, which I like. It is not posing to be anything but modern.

Last church on my list is the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral or simply known to the people here as simply the Cathedral. It was constructed from 1816 to 1831; the Cathedral was for many years the seat of the Archdiocese of Caceres which encompassed the six Bicol provinces. I like this cathedral better than the Cathedral of Tagbilaran, Bohol. It is very massive and looks old though one can see traces of recent renovation. I arrived there at 2:30 PM, it was closed during that time.
So I wandered around the city, found an internet cafe just to escape the heat of the afternoon. At 4:30 PM, I went back to the Cathedral where my friend would be waiting for me.

After the church visit, we went to Bean Bag - a local version of Starbucks, prices were cheaper by 60% but the quality was at par or even better. I had a good time there. We went home, ate a very good Bicolano dinner and slept early because I planned to go to Mt. Mayon as early as possible the next day.  
planisphere says:
@Sylwia, please visit us. :)
you will have fun here in the Philippines. Thanks for the smiles! :)
Posted on: Jan 20, 2016
SylwiaG says:
After all of your pictures know one thing! I absolutely must to go to the Philippines! There is simply blissfully! Great pictures. Congratulations!
Posted on: Jan 20, 2016
planisphere says:
salamat salamat. :) i love bicol. parang andaming pede puntahan pa. :)
Posted on: Apr 02, 2009
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Quipayo Church In Calabanga, Cam S…
Quipayo Church In Calabanga, Cam …
Old Penafrancia Church
Old Penafrancia Church
Basilica Minore
Basilica Minore
Naga Metropolitan Church
Naga Metropolitan Church
Francia Church
Francia Church
Basilica Minore
Basilica Minore
Naga
photo by: planisphere