Soon to hit the boob tube in the next few weeks is a travel-inspired teleserye featuring Luzon’s southernmost point, Sorsogon. Aptly titled “I Left my Heart in Sorsogon,” the series puts the spotlight on attractions which have become more accessible because of improved road network over the past few years.
But long before the telenovela’s star, Heart Evangelista, left her heart in Sorsogon, the late Inquirer founder and matriarch Eugenia Duran-Apostol had also left her heart and so much more in her beloved hometown. Mother Eggie must have driven the 13-hour 600-km rough ride countless times during her lifetime.
With new diversion roads and the Bicol International Airport soon to open in a few months, the province has become closer to Manila, and a road trip onboard a sedan wouldn’t be as daunting as it was before.
Pit Stop 1: Donsol. This sleepy coastal town was put into the world’s tourist map when the story of the slaughter of the butanding or whale shark, hit the headlines of this paper in the late 1990s. With her scuba diver nephew in the forefront of the expose, Apostol put media attention on the issue and helped put a halt on the killing and sale of the planet’s biggest fish. With a game-changing experience within the community, a unique tourist activity called butanding interaction was born.
Swimming with the whale sharks continues to be a top must-do for locals and foreigners alike during the amihan to the summer months when these gentle giants feed on planktons near the surface. If it happens to be an off season for the butanding, guests can go beach hopping, firefly-watching, or visiting the ruins of a Spanish-era astillero (shipyard) where galleons used to dock.
Pit Stop 2: Sorsogon City. This provincial capital is a hub of commerce, government, education, urban amenities, and public transportation. Right smack at its heart is the American-era Provincial Capitol Complex which has a postcard-pretty public plaza. Within the compound is the newly restored Sorsogon Provincial Museum and Heritage Center, a pre-war jail and courthouse.
Come sunset, the Rompeolas Baywalk is the place to be, with its al fresco dining stalls and promenade area with a mesmerizing view of Mt. Bulusan, Sorsogon Bay, and the Cathedral.
Beach bums can frolic in Bacon district and wade to the crater-like Paguriran Island, which has a creamy sandbar and a shallow lagoon enclosed by a craggy rock wall.
Hit the sack at the Siama Hotel, with its cozy and designer rooms, gourmet Bicol and Filipino favorites, and lush greeneries. A showcase of Milo Naval’s interior design artistry, the boutique resort can also arrange tours around the province.
Motorists can cruise at the 5.5-km, four-lane Sorsogon City Coastal Road and pull over for some Instagrammable snapshots at the linear joggers and bikers path.
Pit Stop 3: Prieto Diaz. This seaside town is home to the 3,215-hectare Abang Mangrove Reserve, a habitat to some 30 bird species, ideal for boating and kayaking, and awarded as among the country’s top wetlands. Complete your terrestrial adventure at the 666-meter long Nagsurok Caves which has an underground river that snakes through its length.
If you prefer wave-riding in style, you can hang out at Siama Surf which boasts of a similar designer taste with its sibling, Siama Hotel. After getting your feet wet in surfing, sink your teeth on home-cooked seafood or grilled delights and cap it with the local timatim sticky rice cake.
Pit Stop 4: Gubat. Situated at the Pacific coast, this is frequented for the powdery beige sand and turquoise water of Rizal Beach, and Buenavista Beach, Bicol region’s mecca for surfing 101. Lola Sayong Eco-Surf Camp, where some of the teleserye’s scenes were filmed, offers basic surfing lessons at rock-bottom rates, and also helps send youths to school.
Pit Stop 5: Bulusan. Swing by the lush Bulusan Volcano Natural Park and Bulusan Lake, which were once Sorsogon’s tourism icon. Easily reachable even on two wheels, the newly redeveloped park has added a view deck, amphitheater stone benches, visitor’s center, and native gazebos. Navigate the placid lake’s 16-hectare surface on kayaks or stand-up paddle boards and commune with nature amid the deafening silence.
Pit Stop 5: Casiguran. Nestled at the foothills of Mt. Bulusan in Sorsogon’s central part is Recidencia Del Hamor, a 24-hectare garden-themed resort, which is arguably the best in the province. If you are a plantito, this is your piece of paradise with its dense vegetation, virgin forest, flowing river and plants everywhere. To give guests the complete mountain and sea combination, it recently opened a Santorini-motifed beach resort in the eastern town of Sta. Magdalena.
With all these wonders and more, feel free to leave your heart, but not your car, in Sorsogon.