6 Reasons Why Naga Is An Amazing Place
From “Zipbiking” to checking off an item on his bucket list, the Chosen Juan clearly had a blast in Naga.
Naga has got to be one of the best cities I’ve ever been to. With exceptional food, cheap tricycle rides, incredible tourist spots, and the kindest people you’ll ever meet, it’s simply impossible not to love this city. With the help of a free-spirited team from the Arts, Culture, Tourism Office of Naga City, I got to explore and experience this wonderful place for myself. With that, here are six reasons why you need to see this really amazing city.
1. Who Needs Ramen When You Can Have Kinalas Mami?
Mami is a pretty common noodle dish here in the Philippines, but the city of Naga has this knack for transforming something ordinary into extraordinary. Kinalas mami got its name from the Filipino word kinalas, which literally means to detach or come off. This is seen on how the mami is prepared: a pig’s head is boiled until the meat becomes extremely tender that it naturally comes off the bone. The broth and the meat are then used to transform a common mami into the hearty and delicious kinalas. Kitchen Everywhere is one of the many restaurants that offer this in Naga, but what makes them stand out among the rest is their special sauce that you add to your mami to make the broth thicker and more flavorful. Don’t forget the chili pepper while you’re at it! Remember that you’re in the Bicol Region where chili peppers are the rock stars of every meal.
2. Be Part of the Peñafrancia Festival.
One thing that amazes me about Naga is the devotion of the people to Our Lady of Peñafrancia, an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Every second Friday of September, many people—not just from the Bicol Region but all over the country—flock to Naga City to join the Peñafrancia Festival, especially during the Traslacion, the procession for the sacred image. An interesting fact about the festival is that while visitors and tourists are out on the streets, the locals are inside their homes! Why? Apparently, the locals have this fascinating tradition of staying in their homes so they can serve food to tourists who would stop by. It’s an incredible event where you get to see Filipino hospitality at its best.
3. Visit Mt. Isarog National Park.
I was surprised to know that even with a sprawling city like Naga, there are nearby places where you can reconnect with nature. Just a 20-minute drive away from the city proper is Mt. Isarog Natural Park. At the foot of Mt. Isarog, you can feast your eyes on a view of the whole city. And just a quick trek from the foot of the mountain is the world of Narnia—or at least that’s how it felt like. Mt. Isarog Natural Park is a natural reserve that serves as the habitat of endemic species of insects, and frequently visited by birds like the colorful kingfisher. As we walked deeper into the "Narnia-esque" jungle, the air became cooler and a faint sound of a waterfall got louder and clearer. We arrived at Malabsay Falls, and our guide warned me about the freezing temperature of the water. I swam anyway, and I enjoyed it: the temperature was just right for me. It was soothing and refreshing—not like an ice bucket challenge.
4. Go Wild at Panicuason Hotspring Resort and Adventure Park.
A short drive from Mt. Isarog National Park will lead you to Panicuason Hotspring Resort and Adventure Park. This resort offers four activities with increasing levels of excitement: from the least thrilling to insanity. The first activity is the ZipBike (250 PHP) where you ride a bike on a thin metal cable that is around 30 feet above ground (I was told that ZipBiking actually helped someone conquer his fear of heights). Next is called Hammock in the Sky where you chill (like a boss if you can) on a 60-feet high hammock, making it much scarier than the ZipBike. The third activity is the most popular and most talked about: the 11-second zip-line, also known as The Kneeshaker (300 PHP). This zip-line is only 200 meters long but has a speed of 60 kph. The last activity and the most extreme among the four is called the Tarzan Swing (200 PHP). I don’t want to spoil anything further, but let’s just say you’ll understand why Tarzan shouts every time he swings around the jungle.
5. Feed a Deer.
I don’t know why, but I’ve always wanted to touch and interact with a deer. Maybe I was influenced by Disney cartoons and animated movies. I even included it on my bucket list so when I learned that we will be visiting a deer farm in the nearby town of Ocampo, I felt giddy like a little child. When we got there, I wasted no time in getting close to these cute and tamed creatures. The best part was when they surrounded me as I fed them some Napier grass! I have no idea why it’s called Napier grass, but my deer pals think it’s real good stuff.
6. Discover Plaza Rizal.
We’ve all heard of the Rizal Monument in Manila, and I’m sure we’ve all seen it in person at least once. But what most of us possibly don’t know is the story behind it. In 1905, the government held a competition for sculptors where the winner’s entry will be used in constructing what would be the Rizal Monument. An Italian artist won first prize but for some reason, his design wasn’t used. Instead, it was the entry of the second placer (an artist from Switzerland) that was chosen in constructing the monument that now stands in the middle of Rizal Park. I was told that the monument in Plaza Rizal in Naga City is 99 percent identical to the forgotten design of the Italian artist. It is composed of a statue of Dr. Jose Rizal, surrounded by four women who carried things that each symbolized that passions of our national hero: a harp for music, a pen and scroll for writing and literature, a staff with two snakes for medicine, and a little boy for his love for the youth. Seeing this monument made me realize how much of a “renaissance man” Jose Rizal is. And a ladies’ man.
It’s amazing how I quickly transitioned from being a bit clueless about Naga to someone who passionately adores it now. With a lot of sights to see and events and thrills to experience, it will be hard to keep this much joy all to myself. So if ever you see me in person, pardon me if I end up talking too much about my love for her majesty, the “Queen City of Bicol.”
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