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Daet – Gateway to Bicolandia
By: Philippine Tourist Destinations
Published: Friday, January 11th, 2013

Daet has long enjoyed its title of being “The Gateway to Bicolandia”—and with good reason. Other than being Camarines Norte’s capital, it is spearheading efforts to put the entire province on the tourism map. Daet Mayor Tito Sarion has consolidated the province’s tourism efforts by putting the attractions of different municipalities together, pooling their resources, and marketing the destinations as a whole. The province has a young but promising tourism industry. Its numerous natural and historical attractions are comparable to the more famous destinations in the country.


The First Rizal Monument. This historic landmark in Daet holds the distinction of being the first monument in the country erected in honor of the Philippine national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. Locally known as Bantayog, this white stone obelisk was unveiled on December 30, 1898.


Bagasbas Beach. The mile-long stretch of Bagasbas beach does not have powdery white sand, but tourists flock to it for a different reason: water sports. Consistent waves throughout the year make this spot a top surfing destination in the Philippines; it is in fact ranked as 62nd in the world. Its sandy bottom and shallow waters make it safe and therefore ideal for those who are just taking up surfing. Even experienced surfers will enjoy its unrelenting and rampaging waves.

Bagasbas has also been the site for a number of local and international water sports competitions, among them are the International Kiteboarding Competition and the Kiteboard Tour of Asia. It will also kick off 2013 with the 1st International Paragliding Accuracy Competition.

Museo Bulawan. When you’re in town, make sure to drop by Daet’s repository of local history and culture. Its extensive collection of artifacts, which includes gold ores, jewelries, traditional clothing, utensils, and war memorabilia, is sure to pique your interest. Personally, I was captivated by the age-old implements, World War II weapons, and various types of sea shells on display.

Pinyasan Festival. Every third week of June, Daet holds a celebration of the Formosa variety of the sweet Queen pineapple, one of the province’s major products. Activities include agro-industrial trade exhibits, water sports competitions, and socio-cultural events. The festival is capped by a street dancing parade, with participants garbed in pineapple-inspired costumes.

Going around Daet is easy since there is an abundance of public utility vehicles. The fastest and most convenient way to get around is by tricycle—and there are a lot of them. Accommodation is also not a problem since there are a number of hotels to choose from. In our case, we stayed in Prime Suites Hotel, where the rooms are equipped with 32-inch LED TVs, air conditioning, and shower heaters. Free wifi access is also available. You can also try lodging in Hotel Formosa where the modern minimalist-inspired rooms look fantastic.

If you want to sample some of Bicol’s delicious fare, you can go to Aurora’s, Kusina ni Angel, Central Plaza Restaurant, Mongkok Dimsum and Noodles, and Terrace Grill.

Paracale
Have you ever been bitten by the gold bug? If ever you have the deep desire to dig for gold, then this is a great place to start. This town is most famous for its gold. The Spanish had their field day centuries ago; and more recently, the Americans and the Chinese. The town had, at one time, ten mining companies. Now, most of the mining activities are small-scale operations. Aside from gold, minerals such as lead, manganese, iron, silica, white clay, marble, and white pebbles can also be found here.
Not only is Paracale blessed with rich natural resources, but it also has several natural and historical attractions. When you’re in town, be sure to check out Maculabo Island, Pulang Daga Beach, and the Nuestra Señora de Candelaria Church.

Vinzons
This municipality is blessed to have most of the Calaguas Islands under its administrative jurisdiction. The 17-island group has recently been gaining the attention of tourists, mainly because of the powdery white sand, crystal clear water, and unspoiled charm of Mahabang Buhangin. There are no resorts on the island, so renting a tent is advised if you’re planning to spend the night. Before heading out to Calaguas, you might want to go around the town and check out attractions such as the St. Peter the Apostle Church and Porta Petri. Also, worth noting is that the long stretch of this town’s main avenue is flanked on both sides by peanut grass and flowering plants—which is quite nice to look at.

Mercedes
Endowed with vast and rich fishing grounds, this progressive town came to be known as the “fishbowl” of Camarines Norte. Fish merchants from neighboring towns and provinces regularly come here to engage in business. When in town, you might want to participate in the “bulungan” wherein bidding for a fresh catch is done by whispering. Bulungan is derived from the Tagalog word bulong, meaning whisper.


Perhaps Mercedes’ main attraction is the Mercedes Group of Islands or Siete Pecados. Its seven idyllic islands boast of white sand beaches and pristine beauty. The marine sanctuary in Caringo has untouched corals whose beauty and grandeur rival even the more popular coral gardens in the country. As we went island hopping, I couldn’t help but notice the thousands of shells and corals washed ashore. While I was collecting shells and corals, I realized that this activity would have been much more enjoyable if my wife was with me on the island.

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