Sunday, February 10, 2013

The South Road Adventure

The South Road Adventure
 Road Trip From CamSur to Metro Manila
(South Road Series 1) 

The South Road refers
to the stretch of Maharlika Highway
from Manila to Matnog, Sorsogon,
and connects the island of Luzon to Visayas.

 My family seldom travel by car to Manila.
The last time I remember taking a bus was in
1999 on my way to Denver, Colorado when
our flight was cancelled due to bad weather.

After almost 14 years- we decided to travel
from Naga To Manila thru the famous thoroughfare.

We promised our daughter a wakeboarding holiday
at the Nuvali after she completed her mastery exams
in her home schooling program and she has
been complaining that CWC was crowded with foreign tourists
and the queue at the wake park was kilometric.

Naga City  to Manila

We would be taking a Ford E 150 van
for the trip to Acacia Hotel in Alabang.

That van was almost fuel- empty,

...and we gassed up full tank
at Petron in Concepcion Grande
with a total cost of 5,697 +++

We were finally able
to leave at about 9 AM.

We passed by thru rustic CamSur towns of
Milaor, San Fernando, Pamplona, and Libmanan

One downside of traveling on Philippine countryside
is that they all look the same and the town centers
are so identical it’s hard to tell one from the other.


We had our first toilet stop in Petron Sipocot.
They have clean toilets, and a well stocked
convenience store and gift shop.

This is an ideal rest area as you prepare for the
long drive to Manila before entering the
long, lonely stretch of Quirino Highway.

^^^ The road to the left leads to Quirino Highway while the one
 on the right leads to Sipocot Centro and Daet Camarines Norte

Also called the Andaya Highway-
Quirino Highway  would take you to
the town peripheries of
Lupi, Ragay, and del Gallego.


These towns are formerly called
railroad towns as they were accessible only by
Philippine National Railway trains in the past
until Quirino Highway opened in the 1990’s.


This highway also serves 
as an exit way from Bicol-

...and the gateway to Quezon Province thru 
the town of Tagkawayan,where the road condition 
turned from good, then bad,  to worse.

…Quirinio Highway  would take you back again 

to Bicol thru  Sta. Elena, Camarines Norte
until you exit the Quirino Highway.

It is where we spotted the Legazpi based Pares King.
We would have loved eat lunch there
but it was only about 10: 30 when we passed by
and was too early for lunch.

We’ll eat there on the way back.
I promised my family.

Then, just like passing the a Twilight Zone
you would later find yourselves being back again 
to Quezon Province thru the town of Calauag.

It was already nearing 12 noon and we had been
traveling for almost almost 3 hours so
we had another toilet stop at Petron Calauag
and bought some snacks for the kids.

And off we went our way to Manila-  passed by
 the traffic -choked Lopez town center…


…to the progressive town of Gumaca-

…where we stopped at the rows
of very popular seaside restaurants
that apparently serve fresh seafood dishes…

But we were disappointed to see
that these rows and rows of seafood restaurants
were nothing but rows and rows of
 dilapidated ramshackle within the highway.

The food are pre-cooked and displayed on glass counters
right beside the very dusty and very busy highway.

We decided to eat somewhere else-
and started looking for a  fast food restaurant
with better sanitary standard.

The kids were getting bored and hungry
until we reached the scenic town of Atimonan.

 This is where the excitement began…
 “Monte- Mar y Cielo”- this quaint little town
has the best natural attractions with everything on it.

Green Mountain on the one side of the road,
the beautiful ocean on the other side
and the clear, blue  sky on the backdrop… 

I asked the kids to watch out for the statue
Of the mermaid sitting on a rock.

“There’s the Mermaid”- they chorused
as we passed by this iconic landmark
of this seaside town.

The Sun, the Sea, the Mountains
and even a mermaid-
what more can we ask for?

A real rain forest perhaps?
O, Yes- they’ve got one !


A virgin rain forest is what one get to see
at  the “Zigzag Road”  Atimonan/Pagbilao
bypass road that winds around the green
Sierra Madre mountain range.


This ribbon- like  road 
is popularly known as ‘Eme”

...the Spanish pronunciation
 for the letter “M”-


,...derived the ‘M’ shaped
 winding stretch  of zigzag road.

This very scenic mountain road
serves as a boundary to the town
of  Pagbilao Quezon...

…and leads the fast rising 
city of Lucena.

This is where we stopped for lunch
at a local Jollibee store by the highway.

The good thing with these giant fast- food chains
Invading the countryside is that
they provide the weary travelers
clean and comfortable air- conditioned restaurants
with neat and tidy toilets,

Hot comfort foods,


...and refreshing treats-
fast and easy.

After our Lucena stop,
We  further drove to the progressive towns
Sariaya, San Pablo,  Candeleria,

...and Alaminos which gave us a
perfect view of the famous Mt. Banahaw.

We we’re particularly impressed with the new
Sto. Tomas, Batangas expressway entrance
to the south super highway.

It was very modern and motorists are greeted
by the very scenic view of the fabled Mt. Makiling.

The modern expressway took us to
a leisurely drive to the highly progressive
Laguna towns of Calamba and Sta. Rosa.

The South Superhighway
... was not crowded at that time-

....and we arrived at the 
Acacia Hotel in less than an hour.

We traveled a total of about 9 hours
from Naga. to Filinvest City in Alabang -

... the E150 gas tank was still half full
and consumed about 3000 pesos in gasoline.

Not bad for a huge comfortable van.

Manila to Naga

On our way back to Naga,  we stopped
 by Shell Station at the Southsuper Highway to gas up
and bought some coffee from Starbucks.

We didn’t have so much stops except 
to buy native souvenirs at a roadside
handicraft store in Lucena

....and for a 3 PM sumptuous lunch
 at the Pares King In Sta. Elena,
(which I would rave in my future blogs)

It was an aseptically clean restaurant 
that serves delicious home cooked meals.

We arrived in Naga after 8 hours-
1 hour shorter than our trip four days earlier
due to lesser stops.

Pointers for South Road  Motorists

The sea-food restaurant row at the seaside community in Quezon
 is very popular meal stop for motorists.

I would not recommend this for family traveling with kids
since their meals are pre- cooked 
and are just displayed on glass caged counters.

Most of the restaurants are dilapidated ramshackle,
with windows opening directly to the dusty highway.

Fast food chains like Jollibee, Chowking and McDonalds’
are aplenty once you enter the town of Gumaca.

I would recommend Pares King.
It is a spanking clean restaurant in Sta. Elena
that serves really delicious freshly cooked meals.

You may also try their pre- cooked turo- turo if you are in a hurry.
But for family traveling with kids- take the freshly cooked orders


  1. Dining in those ramshackle restaurants? That's adventure.

    Jollibee and Pares King? Common, you're pulling my leg.

    Those are not South Road adventures.

    Driving in a luxury van isn't adventure at all.

    1. Ford E 150 is not a luxury vehicle.

      It is a utility van and the most commonly used van in the US. It could be configured as an ambulance, a tourist van or even as a delivery van. It is the cheapest van on it's class. It's the van for the masses in most western countries.

      It is not as expensive as its counterparts, not as flashy but just as comfortable.

      You also have a different idea of what an adventure is. An adventure may be of any kind of exciting activity no matter what it is. Try looking at the Webster dictionary or even the Thesaurus. A journey, a venture, a exciting trip as some of its few synonyms.

      Eating out on some dilapidated restaurants or traveling to Manila on a motorcycle could make one more adventurous but dining in more tidy restaurants and using a van is still an adventure nonetheless.

    2. Agree 100%.

      The best way to enjoy the South Road is by car or by bus. Airconditioned dapat for utmost comfort.

      Thank you for this wonderful post.

  2. I must say, I am with you with this one, I love good food and trying out new food trip adventures but I would rather eat in jollibee (not so exciting) if i get that desperate for food than subject myself to food poisoning eating in an unknown territory esp. in stop overs that would be a disaster rather than an adventure.hehe.

    I like turo turo esp. the ones in naga, im more familiar and had grown up with but It has to be freshly cooked on that day and hasnt been repeatedly reheated over and over again..which i can imagine quite a few of these turo turo practice it, sad to say but food and hygiene isnt still as strict and vigilant esp. in the provinces.

    Having said that I love eating fresh homemade stuff serve by proud and passionate nanays,lolo or the entire clan when I go for local regional food fares nothing beats lovingly done homecooked meals sometimes

    Thanks for posting your food and travel adventures esp. the philos trip. You got me a bit homesick though..hahaha..was checking sky scanner after reading your blog..

    X.S: Just like your sentiments its high time for food owners or any establishments that cater for tourism esp. the stop overs for a public toilet makeover doesnt need to be posh it just need to be in a good decent state! it would make a massive difference..(toilet rolls is a major plus factor)

    xs: If you're a bit of a spelling and grammar nazi, my apologies,its 4:07am over here and im ridiculously speed typing w/ my!

    1. I agree danodie.

      Nothing beats a real home cooked meals (as you have said cooked with passion like what out lolos and lolas do in the past). Maybe this was the reason why I raved like a madman when we found Pares King- offering freshly cooked home made meals and as you have mentioned clean toilets.

      We seldom see budget restaurants like this in the PI.

      I'm not a picky eater and grew up eating dirty cream, enjoyed having brain freeze from a street vendor’s scramble, and I crave for street foods like balut and fisballs.

      It just so happen that we really had to be careful where to eat whenever we travel with young kids as they have much lower resistance compared to adults.

      There's nothing worse than a vacation spoiled due to a spoiled stomach after eating some spoiled food.

      Thank you for reading my blogs and no, I am not a grammar and spelling nazi as this blog is full of grammatical errors anyway.

  3. Thank you for this post. Memories of the long but happy south road travels of my childhood made me miss this wonderful strip of Philippine high way.


    1. Thanks for visiting my blog Ayn.

      I also grew up watching for that mermaid in Atimonan during my past travels in the South road During my youth.

      The kids are doing the same thing this time.

  5. Hi, Like your blog. Now am planning this road trip from Manila to Bikol. May I know how is the road condition nowadays particularly the quirino tagkawayan area highway. Thanks.

    1. Thank you for visiting and reading my blog. The road condition in Maharlika highway I believe has improved a lot.

      Enjoy your trip and welcome to Bikol.