However, even a well-known place like Bicol has its secrets. We'll peel back the veil on some of them below, so get ready to be surprised!
"Bicol" Is Not Just One Province
If you ask an ethnic Tagalog where he's from, he'll say "Manila" or one of the CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) provinces. But if you ask the same question of a Bicolano, he'll say "Bicol" rather than "Camarines Norte," "Camarines Sur," "Albay," "Sorsogon," "Masbate" or "Catanduanes." That's because, if he names one of the above provinces instead, even fellow Filipinos would ask him: "Where's that?"
It's important to note the differences between those provinces, however, and not just for geographical reasons. Bicol is a multicultural region, and even the so-called "Bicol dialect" has several sub-dialects. For example, in the province of Albay alone, the Bicol in the first district is very different from the Bicol in the third district. So don't make the mistake of assuming that all Bicolanos are the same!
Bicol Is One of the Most Disaster-Prone Areas in the Philippines
Granted, the Philippines in general is a disaster-prone country, with its tendency to attract at least 20 typhoons per year. But certain areas are more prone to disasters than others, including the Bicol Region.
Out of the seven cities and 107 municipalities in the region, five and 55 are prone to landslides and floods, respectively. This can be explained by the fact that Bicol is close to the Pacific Ocean, not to mention its poorly developed infrastructure compared to the rest of the country. Still, when times are good, Bicol is a beautiful place to stay in, with its pristine beaches, abundant greenery and other natural wonders.
Not All Bicolanos Are Fond of Chili
Spicy food (like the Bicol Express) is so common in the region, that it's practically the regional specialty. This makes it easy to assume that all Bicolanos love spicy food.
However, while many Bicolanos are fond of dousing their meals in generous amounts of chili, some hardly do so at all. As we mentioned earlier, never assume that all members of a single ethnicity are the same!
According to Local Legend, Mayon Was Once a Beautiful Woman
Despite being an active volcano, Mayon continues to attract tourists due to its perfect cone shape, and the challenge of climbing its extremely steep slopes. But if the locals are to be believed, Mayon owes its beauty to its origins as the burial ground of an unfortunate maiden and her lover.
Long ago, there lived a beautiful young woman named Daragang Magayon. She had many suitors, including an arrogant chieftain named Pagtuga. But she rejected all of them in favor of a young man named Panganoron, who saved her from almost drowning in the Yawa River. Seeing how in love the couple were, Magayon's father, Rajah Makusog, gave them his blessing.
Unfortunately, Pagtuga wouldn't accept his loss. He took Rajah Makusog as a hostage, and promised to release the old man only if Magayon agreed to marry him. Tearfully, Magayon agreed to the marriage.
As you might expect, Panganoron doesn't take losses lightly either. He decided to make Pagtuga capitulate by force, and in the ensuing battle, Panganoron managed to kill the arrogant warrior. But an arrow shot by one of Pagtuga's men also killed Panganoron, and another arrow mortally wounded Magayon when she tried to rush into her dying lover's arms.
Afterwards, Rajah Makusog buried the lovers side-by-side in a grave. The grave eventually rose to become the Mayon Volcano (originally "Magayon Volcano"), and people would say that whenever clouds covered the peak of the mountain, it meant that the lovers were kissing. But when the mountain erupted, it's said to be a manifestation of Pagtuga's anger at the loss of the woman he loved.
Bicolanos Love Festivals
No matter where you go in Bicol, and no matter what time of the year, there's bound to be a festival or two in the area. In fact, it's easier to count what times of the year Bicolanos don't have festivals!
Two of the most well-known are the Ibalong Festival in Legazpi City, Albay, and the Peñafrancia Festival in Naga City, Camarines Sur. The Ibalong Festival is essentially a celebration of the Ibalong Epic, which features a trio of legendary heroes named Bantong, Baltog and Handiong. Meanwhile, the Peñafrancia Festival involves the worship of the Virgin Mary image in the area, which we've talked about in detail here.
Other Bicolano festivals include the Abaca Festival in Virac, Catanduanes, the Pili Festival in Sorsogon City, Sorsogon and the Rodeo Masbateño Festival in Masbate City, Masbate. For more information on each festival, check this list of Bicolano festivals.
Certainly, there's more to Bicolandia than meets the eye. If you know of other surprising facts about Bicol that haven't been mentioned here, be sure to give us a shout-out in the comments!