Bicol’s Most Stunning Pilgrimage Sites

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The Marian region that is Bicol boasts of the most beautiful, solemn pilgrimage sites to visit soon.

Home to the biggest Marian festival in Asia held annually in a September–the Peñafrancia–Bicol is a region filled with pilgrimage sites. They’re the kinds that seamlessly weave architecture, religion, history and tourism into expeditions that fill the soul and inspire the senses.

Grand, baroque churches that withstood hundreds of years (of typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions) are peppered across the region made up of stones, corals or clay. On some instances, hills overlooking breathtaking sights are made into ways of the cross) and some are built with gigantic, stunning statues, facing out into the equally beautiful Pacific ocean.

We’re listing down Bicol’s most picturesque pilgrimage sites for you to put on your must-visit list!

1. Kawa-Kawa Hill of the Divine Mercy Shrine in Ligao City, Albay
Photo by Joseph Trilles (Ligao City Facebook Page)

What sets this shrine apart from the rest is its interesting use of the hills behind it. Shaped like a massive kawa (a wok, or talwasi in some parts of Bicol), its slightly upward-rolling rim is dotted by scenes of the fourteen stations of the cross decorated with trees and flower beds. Making the climb itself from one station to the next is such an athletic feat as devotees from all over the country flock to this location as their panata (vow).

Photo from wikimapia

This place gets pretty crowded during the Lenten season and may have our frail Lolos and Lolas (grandparents) catching their breath on several stops. Our tip? Hydrate with water, go with family and friends, wear sports shoes and a face towel. The view at the top is spectcular.

Known for: Via Crucis (way of the cross)

How to get there: From Manila or Naga, take a Legazpi-bound bus or van and get off at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Tuburan, Ligao. Take a tricycle that will drop you off at the base point of the Kawa-Kawa hill.

2. Nuestra Señora de la Porteria Parish Church in Daraga, Albay
Photo from Wikipedia

Filipinos got a glimpse of this beautiful and historic church through films like Cathy Garcia-Molina’s She’s Dating the Gangster (Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla, Star Cinema, 2014) and the teleserye We Will Survive (Pokwang and Melai Cantiveros, ABS-CBN, 2016) but there’s definitely more to these cameos.

Erected in 1776, the facade of this church is a fine example of baroque architecture. What makes it all the more special is its use of volcanic rocks (from Mayon, obviously).

While declared in 2007 as  National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines, only its eastern and western facade, belfry and baptistry were deemed as such due to the series of renovations made over time, losing cultural significance along the way.

A photo of the octagonal belltower and its western facade, via

Known for: Its iconic facade and a view of the Mayon Volcano.

How to get there: From Legazpi City, Daraga is about 6 kilometers away. Take a Daraga-Legazpi jeepney route and get off at the Daraga Municipal Hall. From the municipal hall, take the stairs that will lead you up the church.

3. Shrine of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, Mother of Peace in Mt. Caglago, Caramoan, Camarines Sur
Photo from

557 steps–definitely a major climb–lead to this gigantic statue of the Mother of Peace in Mt. Caglago, Caramoan in Camarines Sur. Known for its majestic beaches, the town of Caramoan is also known for this majestic pilgrimage site announced by the Archdiocese of Caceres in 2000.

The giant statue as it faces the Pacific Ocean. Photo by

Known for: Via Crucis (way of the cross)

How to get there: From Paniman, rent a boat. Paniman is  also popular for island hopping in Caramoan, and a visit to the site is also included in some tour packages. Best time to go is before sunrise!

4. Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Candelaria in Paracale, Camarines Norte
This grand facade depicts the Our Lady of The Candle (Nuestra Señora de Candelaria) at the top. Photo from

This 409 year-old church is Camarines Norte’s first and oldest church located in the town of Paracale. Its location in one of Bicol’s oldest settlements, Paracale, means that this church may be a good stop when you visit Calaguas.

Even during its restoration, much of its Spanish-era elements have been preserved. Photo by

Known for: Its grand facade and well-restored interiors

How to get there: There are Paracale-bound buses in Manila but you may take the ride to Daet and ride a Jeepney heading to Paracale.

5. Begia Foothills Prayer Mountain in Cawayan, Masbate

Located on the southern tip of the province of Masbate in the town of Cawayan is this rocky Mount Begia that features the stations of the cross. There’s  a small Divine Mercy chapel at the foot of the hill. This site is relatively new and is slowly gaining popularity among locals and tourists. 

The giant statue as it faces the Pacific Ocean. Photo by

Known for: Via Crucis (way of the cross)

How to get there: Cawayan can be reached via public transport from Masbate City proper or from Cebu via ferry, where you get to dock right in the town itself.

6. St. Joseph Parish Church in Barcelona, Sorsogon

This church built in 1874 at the southern tip of Luzon in Barcelona, Sorsogon faces out into the vast Pacific ocean. It’s built using interesting materials: coral rocks stuck together using adhesives made with egg whites, local wine and lime. 

The facade of the church looking out into the Pacific. Photo by @alexpunker for Video Hive

Known for: Its breathtaking view and adjacency to the Barcelona Ruins Park featuring ruins of century-old buildings.

How to get there: From the Sorsogon Grand Terminal, take a jeepney bound for Gubat. From the Gubat Public Market, take another jeepney bound for Bulusan. Ask the driver to drop you off at Barcelona Church. If you came across a jeepney bound for Bulusan at the grand terminal, you may take that as well.

7. St. John The Baptist Parish Church in Bato, Catanduanes
The church is located in the town of Bato and overlooks the mountain ridges of Mount Lantad.

Built in 1830 and finished after over 50 years, this church is originally made of wood, established in the 1500s. This sits along the banks of the Bato river that leads into the Cabugao Bay southern Catanduanes, and the Spaniard’s practical interest towards riverbank settlements explain why this location was chosen.


Known for: Its stunning view of the mountains and a scenic highway leading to it.

How to get there: From Virac, ride a jeepney or tricycle to Bato. Travel time takes around 20 minutes.

8. Metropolitan Cathedral and Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Naga City, Camarines Sur

This list won’t be complete without mentioning one of the crown jewels in Bicol’s rich secular history, the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral. It’s the seat of the Archdiocese of Caceres and is known as one of the centers of the Peñafrancia festivities in September.

This photo of St John The Evangelist Metropolitan Cathedral is courtesy of Tripadvisor

The renovation of its exteriors in 2015, turning it into a ‘Black Cathedral that disappears well into the night’ (as opposed to its rustic past) through the use of protective, anti-corrosive materials has received flak from local critics. Its location in the city is reminiscent of how Spanish era-pueblos are built, with the Archbishop’s Palace and the Universidad de Sta Isabel across it.

Naga Metropolitan's cavernous interiors, impeccably painted. Photo by Christian Sangoyo for Lakad Pilipinas

Known for: The biggest Marian festival in Asia, happening

How to get there: Daily bus trips and flights from Manila are available and will get you dropped off at the grand bus terminal. From the terminal, you may take a tricycle to the Naga Cathedral.

We’re sure you guys have more locations to recommend to add to this list–let us know! ■

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