By Jai De Los Santos

“An Maogmang Lugar” or the happy place, is one of Naga City’s known names among tourists that visit the humble metropolitan city in the Bicol Region. Aside from being home to excellent public servants like Leni Robredo, Jessie Robredo, and Raul S. Roco, this independent component city hides more places that will surely leave all tourists and even locals a remarkable asin maogmang memorya.

1. Naga City Metropolitan Cathedral

Photo courtesy of Flickr

This Roman Catholic cathedral is a Parish of St. John the Evangelist and was completed in 1843 after 35 years in the making. The church stands tall in the city's center with its thick concrete gray walls and red roofings. The building’s crossing is topped with a cupola that rings numerous bells to call church-goers for the mass. The front facade is pillared with two belfries on both ends. Its high ceiling holds art painted by local artists as well as wide dioramas depicting the journey of Christianity to the city.

The Metropolitan Cathedral is open every day for the daily mass for pilgrims and the public. The area also has an expansive grassed yard and stores for picnics and public events. Be sure to not miss this darkly-painted cathedral in Naga as it holds the brightest colors and people to those willing to look!

2. Kinalasans

Photo courtesy of Blogspot

Starving after the homily? Kinalas or pancit kinalas is a local Bikolano delicacy that fills and warms up every local and tourist's taste buds with every sip. It's usually served in a bowl consisting of noodles colored with kinalas or scraped meat of either pork or beef. The soup is typically the broth of the meat used enhanced by a thick sauce of a similar broth garnished with lemongrass or green onions. The serving of the steaming bowl is usually joined with several other condiments like black pepper, fish sauce, and chili oil.

A trip around Naga City is never complete without a bowl of this brown soup that emanates warmth and the smell of a typical Filipino home. Best during the rainy season, kinalas shops are found all around the city, from the Centro to the outskirts. Prices vary from 30Php to 100Php, which gradually increases depending on additional ingredients like a hard-boiled egg and additional meat of choice.

3. Jessie M. Robredo Museum

Photo courtesy of ABS-CBN

Moving through the inner areas of the town, the City Hall of Naga stands at the east of the city, facing Mt. Isarog, where the sun rises in the morning. The great hall is opened with a suspending beam holding the words "Welcome to the center of good governance." A message every Nagueño holds onto religiously and a message that a few Nagueños took to heart as they served the country. One of them was the late Department of Internal and Local Government Secretary, Jessie Manalastas-Robredo, who is always remembered as the face of good governance in the region as he held Naga City in prosperity, simplicity, and kindness.

The museum named after him rests only a few meters from the city hall he called home for 19 years as the mayor. The building holds Jessie's life-long career as a public servant, husband, son, and brother— in various forms. The museum showcases his works and contributions to the city and the country until his passing in 2012.

The building of history is not only rich in content but is also picture-perfect with its architecture and grassed sloping roofing. The Jessie M. Robredo Museum recently won the Red Award in Placemaking at the Good Design Award Philippines last June 14 at the Ayala Museum. The awards body is a national design excellence recognition program organized by the Design Center of the Philippines. 

4. Centro Plaza Rizal

Photo courtesy of The Vagrant One

The city's main establishment-commercial area Centro is topped with a recently-restructured Plaza Rizal teeming with lights and stalls of street foods. The area is as busy as it gets with various activities, from morning Zumba classes to the evening and from city-organized public events to locally organized affairs. Naga's pioneering inclusion for locals is headed by various groups from the City Youth Officials to other private organizations. Last June, the month-long Pride celebration concluded with a local pageant, small businesses fair, and Pride March.

With or without highly anticipated events, the plaza is brightened with food stalls of street foods ranging from kwek-kwek, isaw, up to betamax (condensed chicken blood) and all other sorts of exotic foods you will not want to miss. Moreover, the plaza is surrounded by local stores, fast food chains, and small businesses for locals and tourists to enjoy. 

5. Mt. Isarog, Falls, and Hotsprings

Photo courtesy of Blogger

Meanwhile, in the outskirts, the sun rises first on this green beacon of Naga City, Mount Isarog. This mountain stands at 2,000 meters tall, all-prepared for anyone to conquer. It is adorned with seemingly unending canopies of tropical trees and plants and families of birds of all songs. 

Due to it being an active stratovolcano (fret not, it hasn't shown any violent activity since its 1915 mild earthquakes), the gentle lady hides numerous hot springs and waterfalls, both developed and natural, that are generally open to the public. Since the forest reserve was proclaimed a Protected Natural Park in 2002, the mountain has been at its safest for all its natural inhabitants, aborigines, locals, and tourists. The Isarog trail could easily be accessed from the Barangay Panicuason where a Philippine Girl Scout Campsite is resting.

From churches to food houses, to museums, and natural sights, Naga City is surely a place one would not want to miss. A happy place once again openly welcoming everyone to its heart's warmth, its mountain's sights, and its people's celebrations.

With these gifts, the pilgrim city of Naga will always secure a spot on everyone's bucket list. A myriad of hindrances may have been clouding tourism in this place during the pandemic, but just like Mt. Isarog and its people, Naga finds a way to once again make its way to our bucket lists. Now that our locals have been recovering from the pandemic, these underdogs are now regaining their lights to once again welcome tourists to enjoy their pride.  An maogmang lugar… no one else would know how happy a place could be until they are there. Biyahe na man tayo sa Naga!


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