4 Cultural And Historical Highlights Of The Bicol Region

August 05, 2022

Here are some of the best cultural and historical destinations that the Bicol region has to offer.

Located on the island of Luzon’s southeast peninsula, the Bicol region is composed of six provinces, namely Albay, Catanduanes, Masbate, Sorsogon, Camarines Norte, and Camarines Sur. The iconic Mayon Volcano, as well as an abundance of stunning valleys, mountains, and beaches, make Bicol one of the most scenic regions in the Philippines. Bicol is also rich in historical and cultural significance, full of museums, monuments, ruins, and other structures that hearken back to its colonial past.

Mayon Volcano in Albay in Bicol Region
Photo by Alexis Ricardo Alaurin

4 Cultural And Historical Highlights Of The Bicol Region

    Do you consider yourself a history and culture buff? Are you raring to know more about the Philippines’ long and storied history? Then you had best put Bicol on your bucket list and see firsthand the wealth of stories this breathtaking region has to share with visitors. Rest assured that you’ll find no shortage of comfortable hotels in Naga City, Legazpi City, and the many other developed towns and cities littered throughout the region.

    Here are some of Bicol’s most memorable cultural and historical highlights to help you start planning your itinerary:

    Peñafrancia Basilica (Naga, Camarines Sur)

    The Peñafrancia Basilica is the only Roman Catholic minor basilica located in Bicol and a popular destination for religious pilgrims from all over the world. It houses a miraculous image of the Virgin Mary, which is colloquially referred to as “Ina.” Venerated as the Bicol region’s principal patroness, Our Lady of Peñafrancia receives millions of local and foreign visitors each year.

    You don’t have to be religious to appreciate the basilica, however, as the structure is also a work of art in its own right. The interior is lined with ornate stained-glass mosaic windows depicting scenes from the Bible, and the soaring ceiling is meticulously hand-painted. 

    You can visit the basilica’s quaint gift shop to purchase souvenirs and learn more about its intriguing history. Alternatively, you can simply sit in silence in the church proper for a peaceful respite from your travels.

    If you’d like to add some excitement to your Bicol trip, you may want to visit Naga around September. The Peñafrancia Festival, a religious festival commemorating Our Lady of Peñafrancia’s feast day, is held during this month and draws myriads of visitors from all over the world each year. Highlights of the festival include a nine-day novena, daily masses, parades, and processions.

    Cagsawa Ruins Park (Daraga, Albay)

    On February 1, 1814, Mount Mayon’s most violent recorded eruption destroyed the once-lively town of Cagsawa, completely burying most of its structures in fast-flowing volcanic matter and debris. Survivors of the eruption resettled in the nearby village of Daraga. Today, only the outer walls and belfry of the Cagsawa Church remain, standing in commemoration of the place and of the people who once lived there.

    Despite being a site of such deep tragedy, the Cagsawa Ruins have since become one of the most important and well-recognized heritage sites in the Philippines. The National Museum declared them a National Cultural Treasure in 2015, which is the highest possible designation for a cultural property in the country. The image of the lone belltower set against the graceful backdrop of Mount Mayon in the distance is one of the best-known sights in Bicol today.

    Cagsawa Ruins Park also serves as a gateway to Mayon Volcano for visitors and tourists. Several hiking and driving tours are available at the park for you to choose from, including an ATV tour around Mayon’s rolling foothills. The Cagsawa National Museum is also a must-visit spot for those who are curious to learn about the history of the town and the surrounding area.

    Ligñon Hill Nature Park (Legazpi, Albay)

    Ligñon Hill is a 156-meter hill that sits between Legazpi City and Mount Mayon. It’s affectionately known by the local population as the “Protector of Legazpi City” for the way it shields the city from volcanic debris and other environmental hazards. The hill and the surrounding flatland are managed by the provincial and city governments, both of which officially designated it a nature park.

    Though Ligñon Hill Nature Park boasts a variety of attractions such as hiking trails, bike trails, and even a 320-meter zipline, history buffs will most want to take a walk through the famous Japanese Tunnel. 

    This L-shaped tunnel measures around 40 feet long and 7 feet deep and was used as a hiding place by Japanese soldiers during World War II. Adventurous visitors are welcome to explore the tunnel accompanied by a guide. Once you’re inside the tunnel, you’re sure to feel like you’ve taken a trip back in time.

    Bagatao Island Lighthouse (Magallanes, Sorsogon)

    The Bagatao Island Lighthouse is a historical landmark located on Bagatao Island, a small isle on the eastern side of Sorsogon Bay. The 29-foot tower is located on the island’s southwestern headland, where its light helps approaching ships safely traverse the perimeter of the nearby Ticao Island en route to the Pacific Ocean.

    The Bagatao Island lighthouse has been operational since 1904 and was built in the latter days of Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines. Its construction was part of an effort to open the Philippines to international commerce via the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade.

    No matter where you come from, exploring Bicol will surely awaken your appreciation for the Philippines’ rich and colorful history. Once you discover this region’s many wonders, you’ll want to begin planning a return trip before you know it.

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