The recent loosening of travel restrictions is undoubtedly the go signal we have been waiting for to go back to our pre-pandemic old normal motoring lifestyle, notwithstanding the skyrocketing fuel price.
A long drive destination which has been itching to welcome back road warriors is the Bicol region, which was once like the East German crossing with the stringent requirements at the boundary checkpoint.
Last February, the Department of Tourism formally announced the resumption of the travel season in the Bicolandia, which has been for all intents and purposes, already open in recent months despite the fluctuating quarantine classification.
Camarines Sur, one of the closest Bicol provinces, beckons travelers to hit the road once more and rediscover why it is part of the “Exciting Bicol” brand tourism officials have created.
Pit Stop 1: Naga City
After the 8-hour drive from Manila, settle down in this urban hub which boasts of a wide array of accommodations and dining outlets which showcase regional cuisine, Filipino favorites and popular international dishes. Hit the sack at the newly opened Summit Hotel and Go Hotel Plus, the city’s first Filipino chain located within the Robinsons Place mall complex.
Also known for its Spanish-era name Nueva Caceres, Naga is monikered “Heart of Bicol” because of its historical and cultural significance within the region. It is also called “Pilgrimage City” because of its 310-year old Peñafrancia Festival, the country’s biggest and oldest Marian devotion, not to mention the numerous churches around it.
At the city’s outskirts are garden and farm-themed restaurants, cafés, and resorts, where you get a country-style meal while gazing at the towering Mt. Isarog.
At night, and hop from one resto, coffee shop or bar to the next along Magsaysay Ave. and get the vibe of this famed nocturnal colony.
Pit Stop 2: Pili
Named after Bicol’s versatile endemic nut, this bustling provincial capital town houses most of the car dealers because of bigger spaces and lower taxes.
It is home to the 19th dealership of Chery Auto Philippines under JLo Auto Group, which also carries the sister brand Foton, among others. It is designed with a 3-car showroom with service bays for after-sales services, and has a fleet of Tiggo 2 and Tiggo 5x subcompact crossovers, Tiggo 7 Pro compact crossover, and the 7-seater Tiggo 8 midsize crossover.
“Bicol is a promising region, and Camarines Sur is the top performer in terms of economic growth. The province’s booming economy is the main factor why we chose to have the Chery dealership here,” said Chery CamSur brand manager Felix Joseph Ygrubay.
Since opening in February last year, Chery Auto CamSur has sold 41 units, mostly among millennial employees and young entrepreneurs in the region.
Just a few minutes away is the CamSur Watersports Complex whose main attractions are a global standard six-cable wakepark, and an adjacent man-made lagoon for kayaking and triathlon tournaments.
Pit Stop 3: Consocep
For a whiff of fresh air in the searing hit, drive some 30 km to the upland village of Consocep in Tigaon, CamSur’s “summer capital”. Nestled at Mt. Isarog’s slopes is Hibiscus Camp, a garden resort and picnic grounds which offers a commanding vista of Mt. Asog, Lake Buhi, Lagonoy Gulf, and on a clear day, the perfect-coned Mayon Volcano.
Within the vicinity is the government-run Consocep Nature Park, which has a series of mesmerizing waterfalls, and Ocampo Deer Farm in the adjacent town. Along the mountain zigzag road are quaint garden shops, makeshift coffee shops and eateries of tasty and inexpensive local delicacies where you can stop for snacks and snapshots. With a 1.5T engine, a 145 hp max power, 210 Nm at 1,750-4,500 rpm max torque, and fuel consumption per 100 km of only 6.8L, Chery Tiggo 7 is a trendy head-turner vehicle in the highlands.
Pit Stop 4: Caramoan
Beach bums shouldn’t miss this archipelagic town on CamSur’s eastern seaboard. Made famous by the reality TV show Survivor, it combines powdery white sand beaches, rugged cliffs, posh tropical resorts, and lush biodiversity.
The drive from Hibiscus Camp to Caramoan población is a meandering 105-km journey which is a visual treat of the mountains and the sea, and a safe and leisurely drive with the Chery Tiggo 7’s smooth run, comfy interiors and panoramic sunroof.
For a consummate experience, spend the night at the luxe Tugawe Cove Resort, which blends a castaway feel and a few modern amenities. Hop around the outlying islands to get a feel of being marooned and surviving in a waterworld paradise.
With the reopening of the local tourism industry, road trippers and Chery owners in particular, can start cherry-picking the blossoming destinations in CamSur and the Bicolandia.