Catanduanes, aka 'Land of the Howling Winds', is whipped by typhoons. As a result, tourism is yet to make great inroads here, leaving the few travellers who do make it over here to explore the sedate fishing villages, the jagged, beautiful coastline and the caves and waterfalls of the interior at their leisure.
Surrounded by water on three sides, Masbate Town, with a bustling port area and a compact grid of streets clogged with yellow tricycles, is exactly what you imagine a Filipino port to be. As such, there are no attractions whatsoever in the town proper, but just a few minutes’ tricycle ride away the chaos lessens, and busy streets give way to mangroves and beaches.
Only 50km or so from Naga, the mountainous, thickly jungled Caramoan peninsula may as well be worlds away. Approach it by boat, and you may feel as if you're arriving at the Jurassic Park island, with its jagged cliffs, teal sea and pristine strips of sand (minus the dinosaurs and with the addition of bronzed fishermen paddling their bangkas amid the choppy waves).
Centred around its mighty cathedral-cum-fortress, Marinduque's capital has considerably more character than most Filipino towns. Its narrow streets are lined with 19th-century ancestral houses in various states of repair, with capiz-shell windows and upstairs verandahs spilling over with flowers.
The capital of Catanduanes does not offer much for travellers, but it has a couple of really good restaurants, transport connections to other parts of the island and is a convenient base for day trips to nearby beaches. There are a few internet cafes in town, and the PNB and BDO on either side of the town plaza have ATMs.
Bulusan Volcano National Park & Around
South of Sorsogon is Bulusan Volcano National Park. Just inside the park, Bulusan Lake is a popular picnic spot, and there’s a 1.8km walking trail around the crater lake. When the mist is lying low over the surrounding forest and the birds are singing, it’s a lovely, peaceful spot and the clear, still water makes for an inviting swim.
In the bustling market town of Daraga, the baroque-style Daraga Church, set on a hill splendidly overlooking Mt Mayon, was constructed completely from volcanic rock in 1773 and with detailed sculpted reliefs on the columns. From Legazpi take any Daraga-bound jeepney (P8) along Rizal Ave.
Daet & Bagasbas
There’s little to hold travellers in Daet once the banking/internet chores are done (head for Vinzons Ave), but it’s the access point for Bagasbas Beach, a long, white strip of sand 4km north of town that draws surfers with its temperamental waves and kitesurfers with its consistent winds.
Until the ‘discovery’ of whale sharks off the coast here in 1998, Donsol, about 45km southwest of Legazpi, was an obscure, sleepy fishing village in one of Sorsogon’s more remote areas. In 1998 a local diver shot a video of the whale sharks and a newspaper carried a story about Donsol’s gentle butanding.