September 5, 2015

Avenue Plaza Hotel to Launch New Menu on September 8

Great new flavors are coming to Naga City as Avenue Plaza Hotel, recognized as one of the highly acclaimed and top ranked hotels in the Bicol Region, is set to introduce a new collection of specialty dishes on Tuesday, September 8, 2015. The launch of the new menu is seen to further diversify Naga City's food culture by bringing fresh new selections to the city's cosmopolitan dining scene. Avenue Plaza Hotel's guests and patrons will soon indulge in a new array of culinary creations meticulously prepared by the hotel's award-winning culinary team led by chef Rudy Velasco.

Photo courtesy:

Last week, I was invited by Avenue Plaza Hotel to an exclusive chef's table dinner for the dry launch of Café Plazuela's new menu. Café Plazuela is Avenue Plaza Hotel's in-house fine/casual dining restaurant serving wide variety of local and international cuisine. Together with my Bicol Bloggers friends and the cool guys from, we were some of the first lucky individuals to try the upscale restaurant's new offerings.

The elegant Café Plazuela at Avenue Plaza Hotel in Naga City, Bicol, Philippines

The new menu will offer the best of local cuisine combined with dishes from around the world. It is a sumptuous collection of specialty dishes of Asian, Western, and Mediterranean influence. It will include a range of appetizers, salads, soups, seafood, steaks, and desserts.

Feast your eyes on some of the mouth-watering menu items that will be made available on the 8th of September.

Luxurious Crab Louis

Scottish Smoked Salmon Melba

Cold Cuts Harmony

Gambas Ala Venetian

Chicken essence with Coriander Quenelles and Quail Egg

The Classic Ceasar Salad

Prawn Pascagoula

Australian Tenderloin Steak

Cappuccino Chocolate Cheesecake

For inquiries and reservations, please contact:
Magsaysay Avenue, City of Naga "Heart of Bicol" Philippines, 4400
Telephone: (63 54) 473 9999 / 811 7888

August 23, 2015

Best of Bicol: Old Churches

Naga Metropolitan Cathedral in Naga City, Philippines #cathedral #church #architecture | Photo by @marc_abila

A photo posted by Bicol, Philippines 🇵🇭 (@itsmorefuninbicol) on

St. Joseph Church in Barcelona, Sorsogon, Philippines #old #church #architecture | Photo by @wayne_nsh

A photo posted by Bicol, Philippines 🇵🇭 (@itsmorefuninbicol) on

St. John the Baptist Church in Bato, Catanduanes | Photo by @jkmanalang

A photo posted by Bicol, Philippines 🇵🇭 (@itsmorefuninbicol) on

Daraga Church in Albay, Philippines #church #old #architecture | Photo by @dandandandannn_

A photo posted by Bicol, Philippines 🇵🇭 (@itsmorefuninbicol) on

May 16, 2015

A Love Affair with Mercedes

Whenever Camarines Norte is mentioned as a travel destination, the powdery white sand beach of Calaguas Island always comes to mind. With the sudden rise in popularity of Calaguas, it has become a household name and attracted thousands of visitors to the once unknown cluster of islands off the coast of Vinzons, Camarines Norte.

Never has it come to my attention that there is another group of islands dotting the eastern part of the province, equally charming but not as touristy as Calaguas. I only become more aware of this very unassuming coastal municipality when a friend from the Bicol Bloggers group invited me to join the familiarization tour of Mercedes Islands dubbed as Take Me To Mercedes #TMTM.

Mercedes: The Belle of the Pacific

Mercedes is a municipality that lies along the eastern part of Camarines Norte in the Bicol Region. With its northern part facing the vast Pacific Ocean and located at the mouth of San Miguel Bay, Mercedes is gifted with abundant natural resources from its rich fishing grounds. In fact, it is one of the largest fish trading hubs in the region and is known as the fishing bowl of Bicol. I have personally observed the hustle and bustle at the port of Mercedes during my visit, proof of the town's vibrant economy centered in the fishing industry.

Although the main livelihood of the people of Mercedes is commercial fishing, the municipal government knows that fishing is seasonal and depends on the monsoon winds. There are the lean months when fishermen could not go out in the open sea because of strong winds and huge waves. Acknowledging this fact, the local government of Mercedes through its Municipal Tourism Development Operation Center and with the assistance of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and other foreign aid organizations initiated efforts to promote tourism to provide an alternative source of income for the locals during the lean months.

Tourism is a lucrative industry that can invigorate the economy of a certain locality. Mercedes has a great potential to become the next big thing in tourism owing to its natural charm and beauty that earned the town its moniker as "The Belle of the Pacific".

Isles of the Seven Sins

The centerpiece of Mercedes tourism is a group of islands known as the Siete Pecados, Spanish words that mean seven sins. Despite the name's negative connotation, the islands possess ethereal beauty so captivating that you might temporarily forget all the sufferings in this mundane world. So I guess that is why they named it Siete Pecados because it is sinfully beautiful. Haha

During our tour, we were only able to visit 4 of the 7 islands because the tides were unfavorable for boat landing on the rocky shores of the other 3 islands. Nevertheless, my experience on the 4 islands we visited is more than enough for me to see and to believe in the beauty of Mercedes’ mini archipelago.

Caringo Island – The farthest of the 7 islands, Caringo is located at the southernmost tip of Mercedes’ chain of islands. It takes about an hour boat ride from the town’s port to reach this island Barangay.

The island is surrounded by white sandy beach with lots of different kinds of shells. The reef near the beach is considered a fish sanctuary where you can find an underwater world of living corals that is home to a diverse marine fauna.

The main livelihood of the residents of Barangay Caringo is fishing. In recent years, seaweed farming was introduced to the residents as an alternative source of income. They were taught how to cultivate edible seaweeds to produce carrageenan, a gelatinous substance similar to gulaman.

Among the islands we visited, my personal favorite is Caringo. More than the island's stunning physical beauty, I felt the sincere effort by its inhabitants to promote tourism as one community.

Canton Island – If you are the type who enjoys me time, Canton Island is a perfect getaway. The island is uninhabited so you can enjoy the island’s pebble beach all for yourself. Nature lovers will also be delighted because the island features a mangrove forest where they can care for mother earth by planting mangrove seedlings.

The perfect time to visit the island is late afternoon. Climb the peak of Canton island and watch the spectacular sunset over the Siete Pecados islands.

Apuao Islands – The crown jewels of Mercedes are two islands, Apuao Grande and Apuao Pequeña, linked by a narrow sandbar. Like precious gems, the islands exude exquisite beauty that will surely mesmerize you.

Energizing sunrise…

Calm sea…

Pine tree-lined shores…

Lovely white sand beach…

Amazing view…

Everywhere you look, there is beauty. With what I saw and experienced on Apuao Islands, I now declare that I’m officially in love with this place. I wish that more people, especially the residents of Mercedes who haven’t been to Apuao yet, will make time to see the Islands so that they’d appreciate and love their hometown more.

Other Attractions

Mercedes, like a multifaceted diamond, has many faces. It has several other attractions aside from the Siete Pecados islands. If you are scared of boat rides or if your problem is seasickness, you can try the inland offerings of Mercedes and you’ll never have to leave the mainland.

Cayucyucan Beach – If you are not into island hopping but you love the beach, the beach in Barangay Cayucyucan is the next best thing. The beach is ideal for excursions, team building activities, or if you simply want to take a dip in the sea. If you intend to stay overnight, a couple of resorts operate in Cayucyucan. There are also several homes in the area that accommodate guests and charge minimal fee for the budget travelers.

I highly recommend Palms Farm Resort. The resort is lovely, colorful, and wholesome. It’s a family-friendly resort perfect for outings and family gatherings. The waters near the beach is shallow so it’s very safe for kids.

Brgy. Cayucyucan, Mercedes, Camarines Norte
Contact Nos. 0927-587-1001 or 0917-500-6639

Colasi Falls – Nestled in the lush rainforest of Mercedes, Colasi Falls is a magnificent work of art by Mother Nature.

The 1 hour travel from Mercedes town proper to Brgy. Colasi and another exhausting 1 hour trek up to the mountain are all worth the time and effort when you get to the 70-foot drop waterfall.

The awe-inspiring beauty of Colasi falls is overwhelming that I would not dare to count how many times I took selfies with it.

If you want to experience the refreshing waters of Colasi Falls, please coordinate with the Mercedes Tourism Office or the local officials of Brgy. Colasi. They can arrange experienced guides for your visit.

Catandunganon River – River cruising aboard the Doña Mercedes Floating Restaurant offers a new way to see a different side of Mercedes. The tour is a good opportunity to get acquainted with Mercedes because it provides a good vantage point of the town’s busy port area.

It also allows you to enjoy the sceneries along the banks of Catandunganon River while relishing the delectable Bicolano foods served by the staff of the Doña Mercedes Floating Restaurant.

Mercedes is Love, Love, Love…

Mercedes is a lovely place. Her natural beauty and the warmth of her people are what makes her even more endearing. She has an irresistible charm that will surely captivate your heart and make you fall in love with her.

“Love ko si Mercedes”, the town’s tourism slogan, is very fitting and spot on. I personally affirm the slogan because that is how I exactly feel for the place. I love Mercedes.

For travel arrangements, please contact the Municipal Tourism Office:

Tel. Nos: +63544441261 / +63544441151
Instagram: @lovekosimercedes
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