When the Spaniards first landed on its shores, Bulusan must have looked like tropical paradise itself – with the prerequisite volcano as backdrop. It must have seemed so exquisite that even “Morros” who were notorious pirates in the 1700s and early 1800s just had to raid the población over and over again. In fact, in the entire province of what was then Albay it was only in Bulusan where six baluartes de Piedra, two each in the barangays of Macabare, Tawog and Layog (now part of Barcelona) and five more in Dapdap, were constructed. The baluartes de Piedra in Dapdap formed part of a triangular muralla (fortification) and was called Punta Diamante. It enclosed the church and rectory of St. James the Greater. Punta Diamante served as a refuge for townspeople when Morros attacked.
Apart from the crumbling remains of the baluartes and the platters, jug, plates and Chinese vases excavated recently, Bulusan’s rich historical past has not been preserved as well as Vigan’s. But why romanticize ruins? If there’s any town in the entire province where God chose to reside in, then it might as well be in Bulusan. Because in Bulusan, there are 12 natural attractions that only God could create. It doesn’t seem fair that in Bulusan, his blessings flow incessantly, like the mountain streams and lake filling resorts that have mushroomed within the town.
A mere hour’s drive from Sorsogon City, guests can take a pick which route to take. One can take the Sorsogon-Casiguran-Juban-Irosin route and on the way back, stop at Vicky’s in Irosin for some pili candies. If they choose the route from Sorsogon to Gubat then on to Barcelona, they are in luck, for along the way are the most scenic views from the car window.
There are the glimpses of beaches along Gubat and Barcelona, capped by Tan-awan, a cliff road that overlooks the town of Bulusan, San Bernardino Strait and the expansive Pacific Ocean. From the top, one sees forever, “from Tawog to the north, to barangay San Antonio to the south. And on clear days, offshore islands like San Bernardino or Parola (because of its lighthouse), Biri and the main island of Samar can be seen.”
But then one must pass Dancalan Beach, to my mind one of the best beaches in Sorsogon if you’re the kind who just likes to paddle about.
The beach is golden and sandy, sheltered within a cove which makes it safer to swim in. There are cottages that are generally tidy. Ignore the videoke machines. The best time to go in any case is on weekdays when there are fewer people who go to the beach and prefer to sing. There are two other beaches, Miliga-biga and Riroan, also popular swimming spots for locals.
Then one goes up the long and winding road. On one’s right is a view of the Pacific, the other majestic trees dominated by the pili. It is possible that the center of the pili’s genetic biodiversity can be found in Bulusan.
Then there is Palogtoc Falls, arrived at only after a short walk under a canopy of forest foliage and the twittering fauna. There is no sweeter sound, apart from the humming of birds, than water falling freely. And in Bulusan, there is water everywhere – pure enough to drink. Masacrot Spring is not far behind, a pool unique because of its carbonated mineral water. “Masacrot” is the vernacular for tart. It is also very cold. In Bgy. San Francisco one finds Bayugin Falls, enclosed by a thick forest and mossy rocks. It is where Bayugin River begins, merges eventually with Paghasaan River and then flows into Bulusan River.
The jewel in Bulusan’s string of natural wonders would have to be Bulusan Volcano, a mountain that erupts every so often just to make its presence felt. On its feet is Bulusan Lake that is now enclosed by a protected forest park. Tourists can kayak, swim, go fishing, hike, mountain climb and do other activities.
From the Bulusan Parks and Wildlife one can go directly to Balay Buhay sa Uma for lunch. It’s a resort with an expansive garden, a pool and native but well-furnished cottages. But those are not the reasons why it’s popular. Balay Buhay sa Uma happens to serve one of the best meals in the province. For P450, the set meal covers fried tilapia fished from a big fishpond that is right under the dining area; tinutungang native chicken; fern salad; soup; lemongrass or cucumber juice; ginataang suso; and fruit.
It’s incredible that all these destinations, impossible to write about in this post, are accessible within an hour from Sorsogon City, and in a single municipality at that. One day is not enough to cover all tourist spots.
Such diversity and abundance is an opportunity for employment to hundreds of Bulusan residents. But it must be based on a sustainable program that won’t damage the environment.
Header photo: Alma P. Gamil