Tag Archives: Bicol province

#333 Peñafrancia Festival

River procession during the Penafrancia Festival

Tens of thousands of pilgrims, devotees, tourists come to Naga City, Bicol province, Philippines every September for a nine-day festivities in honor of Our Lady of Peñafrancia, the Patroness of Bicol, endearingly addressed by Bicolanos as “Ina” (Filipino for ‘mother’).

The festivities begin with the famous Traslacion procession during which the images of the Lady of Peñafrancia and the Divino Rostro (Holy Face) are brought by barefooted male voyadores from the Basilica through the main streets of the city to the Cathedral. This procession, which usually lasts for four hours attracts thousands of devotees from all over the country.  A colorful fluvial procession is also one of the highlights, with thousands gathering by the river banks to witness the river crossing.

The devotion started 300 years ago, in 1710, when Fr. Miguel Robles de Covarrubias had an image carved, a chapel built and processions held in honor of the miraculous image of the Virgin of Peñafrancia due to the many favors he received through the help of the Virgin. Since then the devotion has grew and has even reached abroad. Devotees’ accounts of healing and favors received through her intercession helped spread the devotion. 2010 marks the festival’s 300th year.

Long live Philippine Festivals!

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#189 Bicol Express

Bicol Express (in Bicol called sinilihan) is the name of a popular spicy Filipino vegetable dish. Bikol Express was coined or popularised by restaurants in Malate, Manila but is made in traditional Bicolano style (From Wikipedia).

The dish is a stew made from long chilies (siling mahaba in Tagalog or lada panjang in Malay/Indonesian), coconut milk, shrimp paste or stockfish, onion, pork and garlic. It is said to have evolved from gulay na may lada, another Bicolano dish which is nowadays also presented as one of the many variants of Bicol Express.

WikiPilipinas attributes the name Bicol Express to restaurant owner Cely Kalaw. Kalaw supposedly coined or named the Bicolano after the train that travels from Paco Station to Bicol. Some historians said Indonesian traders were active in the  Bicol region in pre-colonial Philippines, and the dish could have been one of the influences that Indonesians left to the natives.

Bon appétit!

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#126 Sinarapan

Sinarapan, compared with the size of a 10-cent coin

The sinarapan (Mistichthys luzonensis) is the world’s smallest commercially-harvested fish endemic or native to the Philippines. They are found in the Bicol region in southern Luzon island, particularly in Lake Buhi, Lake Bato, Bicol River and other bodies of water in Camarines Sur province.

Sinarapan are a type of goby and they are transparent, except for the black eyes. The sinarapan is so tiny, they measure only 2.1-2.45 cm and have an average length of 12.5mm. The males of this species are smaller, shorter and more slender than the females. A school of sinarapan, approximately 100,000 to 500,000 individuals, swim at an average depth of 7 to 10 meters. If placed inside a tabletop aquarium, they live for only about 10 minutes

Today, the sinarapan are threatened with extinction due to overfishing.

Mabuhay ang sinarapan!

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#102 Donsol

Butanding (whale shark) diving in Donsol

Donsol is a small fishing and farming village located at the southern tip of Luzon island. Lush green rice fields, bamboo thatched houses, tall coconut trees and pink bougainvillea dominate the landscape.

Today, Donsol is internationally known as one of the best diving places to see whale sharks that migrate to the waters of Donsol each year. Between December and May they are sighted near the beach and Donsol residents claim one can see the triangular dorsal fin cutting through the water while standing on the shore.

Since 1998 the Philippine government has banned commercial fishing of the whale shark locally known as butanding, leading to so-called eco-tourism. Instead of agriculture, hotels, restaurants, taxi drivers, boat owners, and guides benefit from the whale sharks’ presence.

Swimming with whale sharks in Donsol was featured as the Best Animal Encounter in Asia by Time Magazine in 2004. The official whale shark season starts from November until the end of May when the sea of Donsol is at its clearest and calmest.

Over the last six year Philippine tourism officers claim that 95% of tourists that flock to Donsol in the season that runs from November to May, actually get to interact with whale sharks – an amazing record. The greater majority of tourists report up to six interactions in just a single morning.

Mabuhay ang Donsol!


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