We all know people are drawn to the natural beauty of Mt Mayon as a reason for visting Albay. But venture further, there are other attractions to add a little adventure to one’s sight seeing. About 16km passing through the town of Guinobatan is the municipality of Jovellar. Found tucked in the town of Quitinday is a nature gem still off the tourist trail. Discover scenic canyons, waterfalls and an exciting underground river.
Jovellar Rice Cakes and Kinunot
The jump-off to Jovellar’s natural attractions is in Quipa Village, Quitinday. Not to be mistaken with the Quitinday Green Hills which is in Camalig, Jovellar is already close to the border of Sorsogon. The Quipa River runs through the municipality all the way to Donsol in Sorsogon. At the Quipa Village tourist center, pay the Php 20 entrance fee for each person. Also make sure to try some of the local rice cakes to carbo load-up on this river adventure.
Among the signature dish in Jovellar is the Kinunot dish. Kinunot means “flaked”. For this dish, the main ingredient, the grilled chicken meat, is flaked and cooked in coconut milk, onion, garlic, chili, ginger, lemongrass and malunggay (moringa). Another interesting delicacy to try is their rice glutinous rice cake, binut-ong cooked in coconut milk and wrapped n banana leaf. There’s this pleasant saltiness and creaminess in the cake fully flavored with coconut milk. Locals love pouring hot tsokolate over it for an added flavor. Then there’s also the balig-ang fruit that looks like a smaller duhat. This purple sweet can be eaten sour but turns really sweet when ripe.
Naglaus Underground River
It only took us at least 10 minutes to reach the viewpoint of Naglaus Underground River Cave and see the river the flows through the cave. The descending trail of makeshift rock stairs was easily manageable. Because of the rains the day before, the water looks muddy than the usual emerald color it has our guides say. Going down further, despite the earthly colors dominating the flow, the canyon looks impressively scenic with those dramatic rocks and foliage forming a passage for this river. I could only imagine how it looks in green color. Though it doesn’t seem to deter some locals from jumping and enjoying the river.
The locals made a bamboo stairway and a wooden bridge to access the cave mouth. There’s a refreshing cascade of water near the cave mouth. On this trip, I was only able to reach the waterfalls and not explore the cave. Our guide told us the cave is about 150-meters long and can be explored through a bamboo raft. It would have been exciting to see what is inside though if it wasn’t for the limited time in Jovellar. There’s also the Sigpit Falls, 350 meters the opposite direction of the cave mouth that would have been interesting to see. Well something to come back for. Hopefully still an off-the-grid destination in Bicol.
How to go to Jovellar:
- From Legazpi City, ride a jeep to Guinobatan. Fare is Php 30. Travel time is 30 minutes.
- From Guinobatan, take a jeep to Jovellar. Fare is Php 50. Travel time is about 45 minutes.
- From Guinobatan town proper, hire a tricycle to take you to Quipa Village Tourist Center. Fare is Php 10.
Notes and tips:
- Entrance fee is Php 20 per person.
- Bamboo raft rental which includes guide is Php 200. Raft is good up to 10 persons
- Bring food and water (but take the trash with you when you get back ;))
- Bring spare clothes to change
- Rocks can be slippery so it is best to explore barefoot or cross river shoes with good traction.
- The last trip jeepney trip from Jovellar to Guinobatan is 3pm. Make sure to go back by that time. If you miss the jeep, habal-habal can be hired for Php 40/pax.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.