From Legazpi City, we travelled to Naga City by van. Riding the bus would take longer, since there would be numerous stops along the way to pick up and drop off passengers. These days, there are the UV Express vans which transport passengers to all parts of the country. We took one of those vans from Legazpi to Naga. It was a pleasant drive, although we got stuck in traffic in one area of the highway.
Upon our arrival in Naga, we checked into Naga Land Hotel. It was the one assigned to us by the convention organizers. We were not too happy with our stay there and I will write about that in another post. Meanwhile, we had some time to go around Naga.
One thing nice about our hotel, though, was its location. It was located in Naga Centro, just a few steps away from a mall, Plaza Quince Martires, the San Francisco Church and numerous eating places. On our first night, we had dinner in Bigg’s Diner. Bigg’s Diner serves typical American diner-type food alongside Filipino rice meals. The decor invokes nostalgia, with mementos and photos of icons past.
The following day, we went to the mall to catch the first screening of “Avengers: Age of Ultron”. I know there was more of Naga to explore, but we wouldn’t have a chance to watch the movie once we got back to Manila. And we really couldn’t miss this movie.
We had lunch in the mall foodcourt. I wanted to try a local food outlet – Geewan. The lechon kawali looked promising and I saw that most of their customers ordered it. Many restaurants and food outlets serve lechon kawali but many disappoint. Geewan, however, was a revelation! Their lechon kawali is one of the best I’ve had. The meat is soft and tender, the skin is crispy and crunchy. Good choice, I must say.
Another great foodie find was a cupcake stall in SM Naga – Cake My Day. They had different flavored cupcakes displayed and all of them looked so tempting. We ordered the Chocolate S’mores Cupcakes (P50), Dulce de Leche Cheesecake (P55), and the Fudgy Brownies (P50). They were absolutely divine! I fell in love with the Dulce de Leche Cheesecake. It was light and sweet, the texture was creamy and everything tasted perfect! If only they kept longer, I would have packed my bags with these yummy creations. Too bad they only had one outlet. These cupcakes could easily compete with those found in Manila.
In the afternoon, we went around to see the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral (or more formally called the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist). This is the seat of the Archdiocese of Caceres. I think this is the biggest church in the Bicol area. They were preparing for a wedding when we were there so we couldn’t stay long.
Right next to the cathedral is the Holy Rosary Seminary (or the Seminario del Santissimo Rosario). It is said to be the “oldest Christian higher educational institute for the clergy in the Philippines”. Formerly the Casa de Clerigos established by Bishop Andres Gonzales, OP in the 1700s, the seminary was built in 1785 and finished in 1845. It was declared a historical landmark for having produced patriots and heroes, including nine of the fifteen Bicolano martyrs.
In front of the cathedral is the Porta Mariae. This is a triumphal arch which was put up to commemorate the tercentenary of the devotion to Our Lady of Peñafrancia. The arch measures 18 meters wide, 4 meters deep and 11 meters high. On top of it is a 10 feet tall brass image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia and two angels on each side. It is truly a grand structure.
We went to the San Francisco Church later that day to hear Mass. On the way there from the hotel, we passed by the Plaza Quince Martires. A monument honoring 15 Bicolano martyrs of the Philippine Revolution stands in the middle of the plaza.
According to the marker outside the church, the San Francisco Church is the first church in Naga and one of the oldest in the Bicol region. It was established in 1578.
Our trip to Naga was memorable because of good food and interesting places. I’m glad we were finally able to visit this part of the Philippines.