Dear Manong Royce // GUBAT, SORSOGON: If I Fell In Love, This Would Be What It Looks Like (Part 3/3)

“Manong” (Shortcut: “Nong”) in my native tongue (Hiligaynon) is the equivalent of “kuya” in Filipino or “big brother” in English or “bully” in real life.

* I kid, of course. My brothers obviously never bullied their youngest only sister, who despite being perfect and awesome was so easily gullible as a child. Obviously I do not carry any emotional scars …

When you have 3 older brothers, calling them all “Manong” is confusing and calling them “Manong [insert name]” is too long. So, I call my brothers by our designated nicknames (Have I ever mentioned that we were nicknamed after cars?— Dodge, Chevy, Royce, Kia). Instead, “Manong” is reserved as a term of endearment. “Manong” as a term of endearment means “I need something from you, pretty please” or “I totally messed up and now you have to fix it for me” or “You’re paying for this, right?” or quite simply “I need money”.

Anyway, this letter is for Brother No. 3. Royce likes adventure. Royce likes adventure so much, he becomes adventure. I am often jealous of Royce because we are closest in age (well, if you call 4 years apart close) and because everything I can do, he can do better (and I mean the important stuff, like cliff jumping, skin diving, surfing, and adventure-ing). My brothers are harsh critics; they are my mother’s children (as am I). Royce likes to tell me things as they are which I often resent, but which I mostly need to hear. Royce says he will charge royalties should my blog ever become something because he was the one that nudged me to physically send out my letters.

Dear Manong,

People might to start to think there’s nothing to do in Sorsogon but surf (Well, what’s wrong with that?), so I’ve made a list of things that we need to cross off in our Sorsogon province bucketlist. Most of it we’ve already done (1-9), but I think the remaining ones (10-15) are so crucial to our experience, we better get on it.

What I love most about Gubat, Sorsogon is that all the other tourist spots are accessible from there, so that will be our point of reference.

The Sorsogon Bucket List: 15 Must-Do’s

(1) Swim with Whale Sharks in Donsol – DONE & WOULD DO AGAIN

This is number one on the list. It can’t be any other number. I mean, how many times can you say you get to swim with the biggest fish in the ocean? — and wild (but friendly) ones at that!

This is a photo of Royce with a whale shark and is a visual example of why I get jealous. For the record, I was very much in-the-moment; I was so afraid to drop the GoPro. (Whale shark season is from November-May)

Butanding squad 😎 Butanding sighting in Donsol isn't guaranteed (unlike in Oslob). Like many great adventures, it starts on a boat (technically it starts in a government office and an AVP, but let's get past that). Strictly 6 to a boat (If you're traveling with less than that, the tourism office can always pair you up with others). Each boat is assigned a BIO (Butanding Interaction Officer), a commander of sorts thus he is law. Ours was Kuya Jun (on the left). Once the spotter (perched on top) sees the butanding, the boat is steered towards it and everyone is made to go on one side of the boat — gear in place, legs dangling, ready to be deployed. And when your BIO says jump, you jump, no questions lest you miss the butanding. We did this for each encounter — around 5-6 times, chasing after the 5 whale sharks in the area that morning. Because of Kuya Jun and his crew, I met two butanding head on (and had two mild panic attacks as well), swam on top of two (thought — what if it suddenly swims to the surface and its dorsal fin pierces right through me), swam beside one for a good minute (my NatGeo moment), and used up whatever feeble swimming talents to the limit trying to fit in with and in the wild. #youcantswimwithus #carsontheroad #carsunderwater #sorsogonwiththewind #donsol #sorsogon #butanding #whaleshark #travelph

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(2) Look for Fireflies – DONE BUT …

We went to the one in Donsol in Ogod River, but next time we can try passing through Sorsogon City for the Buhatan River Cruise. Gina Lopez* seems to highly recommend it.

* Gina Lopez is the ex–Department of Environment and Natural Resources secretary of the Philippines.

(3) Camp Out in Matnog – DONE

Matnog is famous for Subic Beach with its pink sand. Nearby is Tikling Island and Juag Lagoon Fish Sanctuary. Between you and me, should we ever go again, let’s avoid the summer flock of tourists. I liked that we had the island all to ourselves.

This was taken in Subic Beach in Matnog, known for its pink sand. I don’t have a better photo of the pink sand, but it was/is.

This is Tikling Island, maybe 5 minutes away (by boat) from Subic Beach. The locals say it’s better to snorkel here in the summer months. We went in November of 2015, and the water wasn’t as crystal clear.

(4) Bathe in Hot and Cold Springs – DONE

Sorsogon province is laden with hot and cold springs (which likely means there is a nearby volcano, namely, Mount Bulusan). The more famous ones are in the town of Irosin. They seem to be a favorite of families for the weekend ihaw-ihaw (barbeque) getaway. Be warned, you can tell how crowded a place is by the number of jeepneys parked outside.

Masacrot Cold Springs in Bulusan — According to legend (or Kuya Nards), if you bring a (closed) soda can or bottle to the deepest part in the middle of the natural pool, you end up with an ice-cold beverage. I still can’t tell if he was just joking.

This one is Orok Cold Springs in Casiguran. Farther up the cold springs is Busay Falls, a 30-minute trek.

(5) Trek to Waterfalls – DONE BUT …

I’m starting to grow a fondness for waterfalls. They’re particularly a good way to kill time when the surf is bad. Emil was telling me that there are a couple more we need to visit around the area. They’re on my list.

(6) Kayak Bulusan Lake – DONE

I went again last month (with Christina in tow). We no longer went kayaking, but the view is still breathtaking. TIP: There’s a hanging bridge out at the back. Let’s trek to that next time.

April 2015 // The lake is maybe a thousand feet deep, which explains why I was a little worried at the start.

Bulusan Lake is a crater lake. In the distance you can see Mount Bulusan, an active volcano.

(7) Surf in Gubat – DONE BUT MORE MORE MORE

I think I rave about Lola Sayong Eco Surf Camp way too much for someone who isn’t a local (Read my previous posts HERE and HERE). I do think we need to go back when it’s season and the waves are at their best. Kuya Noli says it should get really good by the end of September. Otherwise, he recommends we set up camp a few days before an LPA (“low pressure area”, that is, a typhoon), granted it doesn’t make land fall in Sorsogon (Obviously).

When I visited last May (2017), they had already built this “community (bonfire) area” for inuman and tugtugan (drinking and singing) sessions

I’m a big-time trying hard surfer wannabe.


(8) Snorkeling – DONE

It’s not Palawan or Anilao, but no matter, underwater is underwater. The reef breaks have decent corals, though they’ve mostly died from fishing and typhoons.

I went night snorkeling/fishing! Check out my video here:
Night Snorkeling/Fishing (Edited in GoPro Quik)

(9) Explore Prieto DiaZ – DONE BUT …

We’ve been to Paguriran but not to the Mangrove Eco Park, a sandbar (Halabang Lapis Sandbar), and a cave (Nagsurok Cave)! Plenty more to vist.

Paguriran is an island lagoon! I don’t think we went at the right time, so I guess that’s one more reason to go back.

This is the part that’s boring because I no longer have pictures. I’ve organized this from my least to most wanted activities:

(10) Balay Buhay SA UMA Bee Farm IN BULUSAN

This is to balance out all the high-adrenaline activities. Frankly, I’m not a big fan of bees (they scare me), but I’m a fan of honey (also homey) and quaint places. I think Mom would like this.

(11) Beach Bum in Magdalena

There are six beaches to choose from: Suhoton Beach, Olango Beach, Balading Beach, Suki Beach, Liang Beach, and Alig-igan Beach.

Admittedly, I’m not that crazy about beach bumming as I prefer to get tanned because of activities, but the photos I’ve seen look lovely, and shouldn’t that be enough a reason to go anywhere?

(12) Climb Mount Bulusan

This isn’t particularly easy, but how many times do you get to hike up an active volcano anyway?

(13) Surf in Bulusan

Kuya Noli has been telling me there are reef breaks in Bulusan and that we should definitely join them next time. Paddling out is going to be a bit of a problem, but I’ll do it if you do it first!

(14) “Side trip” to Northern Samar: Biri Rock Formations, Capul Island, San Antonio Island

A boat from Gubat will only take roughly 1-2 hours!

Northern Samar is among the most pestered areas in the Philippines by typhoons, but like diamonds that form under pressure, beautiful rock formations (in Biri) have emerged. And that’s why we’re going— diamonds!

TIP: I believe we can also surf in both Biri and Capul.

(15) Dive with Whale Sharks and Manta Rays BY Ticao Pass

Okay, this is it. This is why we need to get (diving) certified this year. MANTA RAYS. WHALE SHARKS (Also THRESHER SHARKS in Malapascua, Cebu; but that’s another conversation).

I chanced upon this map in Bulusan Lake. It’s very useful for our gallivanting:

Tourist Map of Sorsogon

Let’s go!

P.S. “Moral” dilemma: do I send you a letter or do I just yap about it again when I see you?


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