I am not a resident of Naga City but I’ve been to this city several times that I will find my way back to the hotel even without a chaperone. My familiarity with the city came about when I reported to the Naga office of Manulife Philippines monthly for almost one and a half years. I was then with the agency force of Manulife Philippines and our group was tasked to developing the Bicol market. For four days every month, I called Hotel Mirabella in Panganiban Street my home. It was a few minutes jeepney ride to the Naga office from my hotel.
Hotel Mirabella is my choice when looking for a place to stay in. It offers rooms for couples, families and singles. The place is clean so with the room, beddings and bathroom. These are my barometers in choosing for a place to stay when out of town. The room rates are affordable and made more affordable with a discount. It has a wing for budget-conscious individuals like travelling salesmen. From the street, the facade doesn’t look like the facade of a hotel. In front are stores with the main hotel at the back. A small signage of the hotel can be seen at the side of the stores leading to the driveway. The budget rooms are located at the top of the stores. I learned from somebody connected with the hotel that the stores are long-time tenants of the owner of the hotel and has maintained a good relationship with them. The landmark in going to Hotel Mirabella is the Petron gasoline station at Panganiban Street which is just beside the hotel.
There are other hotels that are priced reasonably along Panganiban Street like Matt’s, Sampaguita but I prefer the homey ambience of Hotel Mirabella.
Looking for a place to eat? There are several eateries one can go to for a decent meal. Before the invasion of SM Naga, most of the food chains and local restaurants can be found at downtown Naga City or Centro for short. The city is no stranger to the popular ones like Jollibee, McDonald’s, KFC. Not to be outdone, local food chains are also represented at the Centro: Bigg’s and Geewan. Bigg’s prides itself as homegrown and the biggest Bicol food chain. Geewan, another quick service restaurant, is a must go. Local delicacies like Bicol express and laing are among the viands of the menu. Buy them frozen before your trip and these could be ideal pasalubongs.
Another landmark at the Centro that I don’t fail to visit is the Naga Restaurant for their steamed and toasted siopao. My colleague from Manulife who studied at Sta. Isabel de Naga introduced me to the toasted siopao. Subsequent visits led me to try the steamed version. It was sooo good. My husband and children loved them all.
For the past several years, there were developments in the Central Business District (CBD) with the contruction of SM Naga and along Magsaysay Avenue. Typical of any SM mall, the Naga branch houses a department store, a supermarket and eateries. Choose among homegrown eateries like Crown Park and established brands like Mang Inasal, Red Ribbon et al. Crown Park boasts of the hung ma, hung ma bread and pancit canton.
When there is more money to splurge on food, take a pick at the restaurants at Magsaysay Avenue, Naga City’s restaurant row. Because the venues are better, viands cost more. Our family’s favorite is Red Platter which serves a fantastic version of pinangat and Bicol express. Along the stretch, there’s a Japanese restaurant, various restaurants serving grill fish and meat, Yellow Cab Naga, other local eateries and coffee shops. If chilling out is what you want, go to Magsaysay Avenue. The famed Villa Caceres Hotel, site of wedding receptions and business conferences is along Magsaysay Avenue too.
What else can one do at Naga City aside from paying a visit to the restaurants? Do a mini-Visita Iglesia even if it’s not Holy Week. There are four big churches (cathedrals and a basilica) at Naga City alone. The venerated Penafrancia, the patroness of Bicolandia is in the basilica. The churches are not situated far away from each other so transferring from one to the other will not pose a problem. Take the tricycle or jeepney.
Bring home some dried salted fish from the Naga City People’s Mall. The dried fish section is located at the second floor. Park your vehicle at the third floor of the building. Your best bet for pasalubong are the abo, low-salt kitkit (smaller version of the espada of Damortis fame), and biti (boneless dilis, very crispy). There are a lot to choose from. Take your pick.
While at Naga City, you can spend a day or two at CWC for some watersports fun at the nearby Pili, Camarines Sur. Take a shuttle at Naga CBD when going to CWC. It’s free. At the CBD, you can practically go to anywhere in the Bicol region as there are vans and buses going to all points in Bicol. Caramoan, one of the 35 towns of Camarines Sur, is four hours away from Naga City. Spend 2 to 3 days at Caramoan for that idyllic summer getaway.
Now how do you get to Naga City, Camarines Sur? Naga City is accessible by land, air, and rail. You can drive your car or take the bus at either the Cubao Terminal or Pasay City (for Philtranco). When commuting by bus, I am partial to Isarog buses. I can have a good night’s sleep during the trip because of its spacious chair cum bed. Local airline carriers have regular flights to Pili airport. For budget conscious people, go by rail through the recently revitalized PNR trains. There are bunk beds in a compartment which is ideal for families and barkadas travelling together. Or stay at the conventional reclining chairs. One thing with travelling with PNR trains, you pay approximately 40% less than the bus fares.
Take a breather from city life even for a week and have fun in Naga City (also CWC and Caramoan).