Bicol Region

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Region V

Ph locator region 5.png

Regional center {{{center}}}
Population 4,674,855
– Density 265.1 per km²
Area 17,632.5 km²
Provinces 6
Cities 7
Municipalities 107
Barangays 3,471
Cong. districts 14
Languages Bikol, Masbateño, Sorsoganon, Tagalog

Bicol Region or Bicolandia is one of the 16 regions of the Philippines occupying the Bicol Peninsula at the southeastern end of Luzon island and some other islands.

It consists of six provinces, namely, Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate, and Sorsogon. It has one independent chartered city, Naga City, and six component cities, Iriga City, Legazpi City, Ligao City, Masbate City, Sorsogon City, and Tabaco City. The regional centers are Legazpi City, the region's political Center, and Naga City, the region's most progressive city and it's commercial, educational,financial, religious, and cultural center.

Inhabitants, called “Bicolanos,” speak any one of several dialects, including Bikol Rinconada (Iriga-Buhi area), Bikol Albay (Albay Province), Bikol Sorsogon (Sorsogon), Bikol Catanduanes and Bikol Partido (municipalities surrounding Lagonoy Gulf). Standard Bikol is Bikol Naga, and it is generally understood by other Bikol speakers.

The Bicol region is often seen as the epicenter of the counterculture and liberal politics in the Philippines. As many of its inhabitants seem to oppose many right-wing governments and ideology in which they blame for corruption. The region has a political reputation of voting always for the opposition. It is also widely seen as a stronghold for the National Democratic Front.

Albay's archaeology shows concrete evidence of trade with China and Malaya/Indonesia going back two thousand years. The first Spanish contact was in 1565, when a treasure-galleon returning to Cebu from Acapulco, Mexico, was swept off course and the captain recorded his awe at the sight of Mt. Mayon erupting. Mt. Mayon is the most prominent of the several volcanoes in the province, and one of the most famous jewels of the Pacific Ring of Fire; its eruptions have repeatedly inflicted disaster on the province, and enriched the survivors. When at peace, it is a particularly beautiful mountain. Albay has a large amount of rich flat land, and agriculture is the largest component of the provincial economy. Coconuts, rice, abaca, and maize are the chief crops. Handicrafts bolster rural incomes. Commercial fishing is also important, and the province has several thousand manufacturing enterprises. There are plenty of places to visit, offering opportunities to swim at beautiful beaches, scuba-dive to wrecked galleons, explore caves, climb volcanoes, admire waterfalls, lush vegetation, Baroque architecture, etc. Gold-mining and jewelry manufacture continue to distinguish the province. Agriculture and fishing are major factors in the province's economy, and several handicrafts and small-scale industries are widely practiced. Tourism is insignificant, though Daet has become a destination for surfers.


Dive Sites

The Bicol region is located at the southerly tip of the island of Luzon, and is overlooked by the towering presence of Mount Mayon, a fully active volcano which rises majestically to a height of over 8,000 feet. Dubbed, for obvious reasons, as the worlds most perfectly shaped cone, Mount Mayon stands proudly over the capital city of Legazpi, the capital city of Bicol. Despite the fact that the majority of the dive sites here are unexplored, there is one major reason for scuba divers to visit the Bicol area, and that is the opportunity to snorkel with the multitude of whale sharks which inhabit the waters around Donsol. These whale sharks, or Butanding, which can grow up to a length of 15 metres, are drawn to the area by the large amounts of krill and plankton that flow down from the San Bernadino Straight and into the Visayas. Each year, large numbers of these whale sharks can be seen here, and although the best months for viewing are between March and May, it is possible to begin seeing them from the middle of December.

Since the whale sharks of Donsol were discovered in 1988, increasing numbers of people have flocked to the area to encounter one of the true giants of the ocean. As such, a number of restrictions have been put in place to ensure the protection of this truly magnificent spectacle, and subsequently the waters around Donsol are a declared national park.

Political Divisions

Bicol is composed of six provinces and 7 cities.

Province Capital Population
Pop. density
(per km²)
Ph seal albay.png Albay Legazpi City 1,090,907 2,552.6 427.4
Seal camarines norte.png Camarines Norte Daet 458,840 2,112.5 217.2
Seal camarines sur.png Camarines Sur Pili 1,551,549 5,266.8 294.6
Seal catanduanes.png Catanduanes Virac 215,356 1,511.5 142.5
Seal masbate.png Masbate Masbate City 707,668 4,047.7 174.8
Seal sorsogon.png Sorsogon Sorsogon City 650,535 2,141.4 303.8


Pre-Spanish Colonialization

The original Bicolanos were the indigenous people e.g. the Agta that roam the peninsula. They can be found in the area of Mt. Isarog and Mt. Iriga. They have their own culture and economy. before the foreing commercial influence, their cultural practices were friendlier to the environment even if they practice the traditioinal slash and burn agriculture.

One of the elements of their slash and burn practices is to leave the land for a while for it to recover. They transfer to another area.Pmcalara 12:45, 2 September 2007 (Taipei Standard Time)

Contrary to western Historians that Philippines was discovered by the Spaniards, there were already Bicolanos in the region. Artifacts from several museums in the region can attest to this. Some of these artifacts were found in Ticao Island in Masbate. There were aftifacts the pre-date the arrival of the Spaniards by at least 500 years.

There was already a Bicol Culture. Also, the many Languages of Bicol are living evidence to this colorful culture. The Bikol Languages were closely linked with austronesian languages of South east asia and the Pacific. This indicate that the Bicolanos had an interaction, culturally and economically, with its Island neigbors. The propaganda that the Philippines and the Bicol region were discovered by the Europians were part of a plan to colonize the nation--physically and culturally.

The economy was based in agriculture and fishing.Pmcalara 11:27, 2 September 2007 (Taipei Standard Time)

In the Island of Masbate, there was still the practice of the local folks to thank elements of nature e.g. water, wind, land, river, etc. before and after harvest. They called this as Pa-Ulaw or Pasasalamat literally thanksgiving. Thanking elements in nature througy Pa-ulaw is not a Western Philosophy as introduced by Christian Philosophy. Related to Pa-ulaw is the Pa-tamoy or nagpapaalam literally asking permission. This means also asking a bountyful harvest or water. In the Pa-tamoy indigenous people as permission from un-seen elements in nature for them to use the land, if they are doing agricultural activities.--Pmcalara 17:33, 2 September 2007 (Taipei Standard Time)

Pa-ulaw and Pa-tamoy have a big possibility that these were handed down by their ancestors centuries before the the Europeans colonized the Bicol region. This practices are now part of Filipino and Bicolano fold religiosity that is still observed today (as observed by Perry Calara, unpublished).Pmcalara 12:45, 2 September 2007 (Taipei Standard Time)

Spanish Colonialization

The seat of power was based in Nueva Caceres (now Naga City).

American Colonial Era

The Americans controlled Power and Economy.

There were revolts against the occupiers e.g. the Simeon Ola revolt in Albay.

Most of the Business, particularly Mining industry in Camarines Norte and Masbate, were controlled by the Americans.Pmcalara 11:27, 2 September 2007 (Taipei Standard Time)

World War II

The Bicolanos were dragged in the fight of two imperialist countries in the world--Japanese and the Americans. They were fighting for world economic and political dominance particularly in the Asia Pacific Area.

The Japanese landed in the region a few months after they bombed Pearl Harbor. When the Americans left the region, Bicolano guerillas were left to defend the region. Guerilla forces were organized around the regions to independently fight the new japanese colonizers. Many battles were fought by the Bicolanos without the Americans.Pmcalara 11:27, 2 September 2007 (Taipei Standard Time)

There were also elite politicians who collaborated with the Japanese.

Post World War II

Most of the Politicians in powers were pro-Americans who re-occupied the regions after the War. Some pro-American guerillas became political leaders.Pmcalara 11:27, 2 September 2007 (Taipei Standard Time)

Martial Law

Bicol bacame to be known as an opposition region perhaps because of its anti US backed Marcos regime and its anti-people Martial Law. Many anti-fascists and anti-imperialist organization emerged in the region during this dark era in the region.

Some of the more prominent were the Bicol Saro, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan- Bicol (BAYAN-Bicol), and many sectoral organizations e.g. Alyansang Magbubukid ng Bicol. Many Bicol Saro members were politicians who unified in the anti-fascist movement. Some were local elites removed by Marcos from power.Pmcalara 11:36, 2 September 2007 (Taipei Standard Time)

Bayan had provincial chapters and to some extent municipal chapters. The organization represented the Middle and Lower class of the social spectrum.

While there were legal organization actively fought the dicator, the the re-organized Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) also organized the underground New Peoples Army (NPA) in the regions in the mid 1970s. Romulo Jallores and his brother Benjie started it in the Caramoan Peninsula of Camarines Sur.

Post People Power One (1986)

Many of the Bicolano opposition elite who fought the Marcos ruled Bicol regions after the downefall of the dictator. There were instances that some Marcos cronies also took local powers after winning in the elections.

The traditional feudal patronage politics of pre and during the Marcos regime continue to exist.

Backward economy based on traditional agricultural practices continue to exist. The political and economic condition also continue to feed the armed rebellion of the New People's Army (NPA)that existed during the Marcos regime.

The rebellion even expanded to the Island of Catanduanes.Pmcalara 12:19, 2 September 2007 (Taipei Standard Time)

Post People Power Two (2001)

During the 2001 Elections, the Militant Bayan Muna party list emerged as the dominant partylist group in Bicol when they got the most number of votes in the partly list elections.

From February 14, 2001 until december 15, 2006 about 127 Bicolano activists from progressive organizations and partly list were extrajudicially killed under the Macapagal-Arroyo regime.

list of those killed can be found at the [Karapatan-Bicol] website.

Local elites continue to dominate the political arena after the 2007 elections.

Component Cities

¹ Naga City is an independent chartered city.


The Bikol languages are the dominant languages of the region. Tagalog is also spoken in most of Camarines Norte as well as in the municipality of Del Gallego, Camarines Sur. Two Visayan languages, Sorsoganon and Masbateño, are spoken in Masbate and Sorsogon; they are collectively referred to as Bisakol.


"scubaworld" 2005.(accessed on September 11,2007)

Original Source

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