Bicol Region

Bicol Region
Region V


  • Kabikulan
  • Bicolandia

Location in the Philippines
Coordinates: 13°30′N 123°20′E / 13.5°N 123.33°E / 13.5; 123.33Coordinates: 13°30′N 123°20′E / 13.5°N 123.33°E / 13.5; 123.33
Country Philippines
Island group Luzon
Regional center Legazpi
  Total 18,155.82 km2 (7,010.00 sq mi)
Population (2015 census)[1]
  Total 5,796,989
  Density 320/km2 (830/sq mi)
Time zone PST (UTC+8)
ISO 3166 code PH-05
Municipalities 107
Barangays 3,471
Cong. districts 14

The Bicol Region, also known simply as Bicol, (Central Bikol: Rehiyon nin Bikol/Kabikolan; Rinconada Bicol: Rehiyon ka Bikol; Filipino: Kabikulan; Spanish: Bicolandia) is a region of the Philippines, designated as Region V. Bicol comprises six provinces, four on the Bicol Peninsula mainland (the southeastern end of Luzon) – Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, and Sorsogon – and the offshore island provinces of Catanduanes and Masbate.[2]

The regional center and largest city is Legazpi City, Albay.[3][4] The region is bounded by the Lamon Bay to the north, Philippine Sea to the east, and the Sibuyan Sea and Ragay Gulf to the west. The northernmost provinces, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur, are bordered to the west by the province of Quezon.


The Bicol Region comprises the southern part of Luzon, the largest island in the Philippine archipelago. The total land area is 5.9% of the total land area of the country. Around 69.3% of the total land area is alienable and disposable while the remaining 30.7% is public forest areas.[5]


The Bicol region was known as Ibalon, variously interpreted to derive form ibalio, "to bring to the other side"; ibalon, "people from the other side" or "people who are hospitable and give visitors gifts to bring home"; or as a corruption of Gibal-ong, a sitio of Magallanes, Sorsogon where the Spaniards first landed in 1567. The Bicol River was first mentioned in Spanish Documents in 1572. The region was also called Los Camarines after the huts found by the Spaniards in Camalig, Albay. No prehistoric animal fossils have been discovered in Bicol and the peopling of the region remains obscure. The Aeta from Camarines Sur to Sorsogon strongly suggest that aborigines lived there long ago, but earliest evidence is of middle to late Neolithic life.[6]

A barangay (village) system was in existence by 1569. Records show no sign of Islamic rule nor any authority surpassing the datu (chieftain). Precolonial leadership was based on strength, courage, and intelligence. The native seemed apolitical. Thus the datu's influence mattered most during crises like wars. Otherwise, early Bicol society remained family centered, and the leader was the head of the family.

The Spanish influence in Bicol resulted mainly from the efforts of Augustinian and Franciscan Spanish missionaries. The first churches in Bicol, the San Francisco Church, and the Naga Cathedral, both in Naga, along with the Holy Cross Parish in Nabua, Camarines Sur, are instituted by the Holy Order of the Franciscans. One of the oldest dioceses in the Philippines, the Archdiocese of Caceres, was also instituted in the Bicol Region. During this time, Bicol was dotted by many astilleros (shipyards) which were focused on constructing Manila Galleons from the local hardwood forests.[7]

Administrative divisions

Provinces of Bicol

The region comprises six provinces: Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon and the island-provinces of Catanduanes and Masbate.

As of 2015, Camarines Sur is the region's largest province in area and population, occupying 5,481.6 km2 (2,116.5 sq mi) or around 30.4% of the total land area with a population of 1,952,544. Catanduanes is the smallest in area as well as population with only 1,511.5 km2 (583.6 sq mi) or 8.4% of the total regional area and a population of 260,964.[1]

Province Capital Population (2015)[1] Area[8] Density Cities Muni. Bgy.
km2 sq mi /km2 /sq mi
Albay Legazpi City 22.7% 1,314,826 2,575.77 994.51 510 1,300 3 15 720
Camarines Norte Daet 10.1% 583,313 2,320.07 895.78 250 650 0 12 282
Camarines Sur Pili 33.7% 1,952,544 5,497.03 2,122.42 360 930 2 35 1,063
Catanduanes Virac 4.5% 260,964 1,492.16 576.13 170 440 0 11 315
Masbate Masbate City 15.4% 892,393 4,151.78 1,603.01 210 540 1 21 550
Sorsogon Sorsogon City 13.7% 792,949 2,119.01 818.15 370 960 1 14 541
Total 5,796,989 18,155.82 7,010.00 320 830 7 107 3,471

The region has one independent component city, Naga, and six component citiesIriga, Legazpi, Ligao, Masbate City, Sorsogon City, and Tabaco. Masbate and Sorsogon are cities in their eponymous provinces.

City Population (2015)[1] Area[9] Density City class Income class Province
km2 sq mi /km2 /sq mi
Iriga City 111,757 137.35 53.03 810 2,100 Component 4th Camarines Sur
Legazpi City 196,639 153.70 59.34 1,300 3,400 Component 2nd Albay
Ligao City 111,399 246.75 95.27 450 1,200 Component 4th Albay
Masbate City 95,389 188.00 72.59 510 1,300 Component 4th Masbate
Naga City 196,003 84.48 32.62 2,300 6,000 Independent component 2nd Camarines Sur
Sorsogon City 168,110 276.11 106.61 610 1,600 Component 2nd Sorsogon
Tabaco City 133,868 117.14 45.23 1,100 2,800 Component 4th Albay


Population census of Bicol
1990 3,910,001    
2000 4,686,669+19.9%
2010 5,420,411+15.7%
2015 5,796,989+6.9%
Source: National Statistics Office[10][1]

Bicol Region has a population of 5,796,989 as of 2015 census, growing at an average annual rate of 1.29 percent between 2010 and 2015. The region's population density increased to 320 persons per square kilometer in 2015.

In 1970, Camarines Sur was the only province with close to a million population. Albay, which was next in rank, reached the 1970 population level of Camarines Sur only 20 years later. Masbate and Sorsogon were in the same level every census year from 1970 to 1980. It is noteworthy that distribution and growth of the 1970 population were towards areas that were sparsely populated but agriculturally rich and/or endowed with fishery resources. The island province of Catanduanes and its municipalities have exhibited very low population growth from 1970 to 1980.

In 1980, the pattern was towards urbanization. This was due to the pull of newly installed infrastructures, particularly roads, and the sporadic growth of trade in strategically situated municipalities that have better economic opportunities. The 1990 growth originated from the strong attraction of employment opportunities in established urban centers, which have become a source of growth of adjacent municipalities. This situation was highly evident in Naga and Legazpi areas, whose surrounding municipalities exhibited high growth rates. Unmistakably, the spill-over effects of development permeated those initial high growth areas.

Looking at the growth rates, all of the five provinces registered positive increases except for the province of Camarines Norte. Most evident were those for the provinces of Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon, all of whom registered more than 50% increments in the 1980-1990 and 1990-2000 periods. The positive increase in the growth rate of Catanduanes was attributed to the improved sea transport facilities for ferrying people and cargo to and from the port of Tabaco. The opening of the port of San Andres and the rehabilitation of Virac Port likewise provided better access to goods and services in the province.

The Bicolanos are descended from the Austronesian-speaking immigrants who came from Southern China during the Iron Age. Many of Bicolanos also have Chinese, Arab, and Spanish admixtures. Most of the townsfolk have Spanish Mixtures and their language is referred to as Bicol or Bicolano. The Bicolano language is very fragmented, and its dialects are mutually incomprehensible to speakers of other Bicolano dialects. The majority of the Bicolano people are devout Roman Catholics due to the Spanish conquering the country and converting them to their religion. Catholic Mass is celebrated daily in many churches in the Bicol Region.


Further information: Bikol languages

The people of the Bicol Region, called Bicolanos, speak any of the several languages of the Bikol language family, called Bikol macrolanguages, an Austronesian languages closely grouped under the Central Philippine languages family such as the Visayan languages and Tagalog. The four major groups of language in Bikol are Coastal Bikol (with four sub-languages), Inland Bikol (with six sub-languages), Pandan Bikol (lone language) and Bisakol (with three sub-languages). The majority of Bicolanos understand and speak Central Bikol language (a member of Coastal Bikol group of languages) since it is the language used in literature and mass media, but with varying degrees. A known misconception of many Bicolanos is that Central Bikol, used in the cities of Legazpi and Naga, is the standard Bikol. Central Bikol, though spoken by the majority and with speakers represented in all provinces in the region, is not a standard Bikol since other forms of Bikol used in the region are separate languages and usually unintelligible. However, the standard form of Central Bikol language is the Canaman dialect.

Other Bikol languages are Rinconada Bikol, spoken in southern part of Camarines Sur province, Pandan Bikol spoken in northern part of Catanduanes island and the Albay Bikol group of languages that include Buhinon, Libon, West Miraya and East Miraya. Albay Bikol speakers can be found in Buhi, Camarines Sur, central and eastern parts of Albay and in Donsol, Sorsogon. The standard form of Rinconada Bikol both in pronunciation and writing is the Sinabukid (Highland) dialect of Iriga variant. On the other hand, Buhinon of Buhi, Camarines Sur and Libon of Libon, Albay are the languages that are only used in their respective municipalities. Rinconada Bikol and Albay Bikol group of languages are members of Inland Bikol, while Pandan Bikol is the only language with no sub-languages or division.

The majority of the population in Masbate and Sorsogon speaks Minasbate and Sorsoganon respectively. The two are Visayan languages but heavily influenced by Bikol languages, thus tagged and collectively referred to as Bisakol, a portmanteau of Bisaya (Visayan) and Bikol (Bicolano).

Aside from Masbateño, three more Visayan languages are spoken in Masbate, including Hiligaynon/Ilonggo is spoken in the southwestern tip, while Cebuano and Waray-Waray are spoken in the southern part of the island province respectively. Tagalog is the dominant and native language of Bicolanos living in the municipalities in the northern half of Camarines Norte.

Bicolanos also speak and understand Filipino, the national language of the Philippines. English is widely understood in businesses, schools and public places.


Bicol Express

The region retains Roman Catholicism as the overwhelming religion of the great majority. The Catholic religion has the highest number of followers than any other area in the Philippines. The Catholic church grew in the Bicol Region through the efforts of the Bishops from Nueva Caceres(Naga) from the late 14th century until the Philippine Revolution in 1898. Naga, Camarines Sur is the religious center of the Bicol Region. The region houses one of the oldest dioceses in the Philippines, the ecclesiastical Archdiocese of Caceres, which is centered in Naga, Camarines Sur. Other dioceses include are the Dioceses of Legazpi, Sorsogon, Daet, Masbate, Libmanan and Virac. Fiestas (Feast day of saints) are annual celebrations of parishes, from a simple barrio fiesta honoring a patron associated for good harvest, to a town fiesta honoring a miraculous saint, a diocesan fiesta like the feast of Our Lady of Salvation, or a regional one such as the Our Lady of Peñafrancia Fiesta, the largest Marian devotion in Asia, a week-long celebration to honor the Virgin Mary, dubbed as the "Patroness of Bicolandia". In Luzon, the Bicol Region holds the most number of men entering the seminary for Catholic priesthood, or women entering the religious life to become Catholic nuns. This can be accredited to the Holy Rosary Seminary, Daughters of Mary, and Daughters of Charity Convents in Naga.

The largest minority religion in the region is Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) known for its magnificent worship buildings, commonly called chapels or kapilya, with towering spires that dot the Bicol landscape. Each province represents one ecclesiastical district (E.D.) with the exception of Camarines Sur which is divided into two - Camarines Southwest E.D. in Naga, and Camarines Southeast E.D. in Iriga City. In total, INC has seven ecclesiastical districts in the Bicol region. The chapel of local congregation of Legazpi, Albay is the biggest.

Other religions are also well represented in Bicol such as Protestants denominations of Seventh-Day Adventist church, Baptist Church, Pentecostal, born-again

Culture and traits

The Bicolano cuisine is primarily noted for the prominent use of chili peppers and gata (coconut milk) in its food. A classic example is the gulay na lada, known outside the region as Bicol Express, a well-loved dish using siling labuyo (native small chillies) and the aforementioned gata.

Like their other neighboring regions, Bicolanas are also expected to lend a hand in household work. They are even anticipated to offer assistance after being married. On the other hand, Bicolano men are expected to assume the role of becoming the primary source of income and financial support of his family.

Bicolanos are also known for being very religious, the place is known for Senora De Penafrancia. Bicolanos are often sweet, regionalistic, friendly, adventurous, puts high importance on education and social status. Contrary to what is believed, not all Bicolanos are fond of chili. Men often know how to cook.


Bicol Region has a large amount of rich flatland, and agriculture is the largest component of the economy, followed by commercial fishing. Coconuts, abaca, banana, coffee and jackfruit are the top five permanent crops in the region. Rice and corn are among the chief seasonal crops. Mining is also one of the contributors to the region's economy. Commercial fishing is also important with thirteen major fishing grounds supplying fish markets in places as far as Metro Manila.[11]


The region's tourism industry has been revived by the popularity of Mayon Volcano, the new CamSur Water Sports Complex, whale shark spotting, among others, which consequently increased the number of upscale resorts. Naga City has its colonial churches, and pilgrimages to Our Lady of Peñafrancia.[12][13][14]

The municipality of Daet and Catanduanes province have long been destinations for surfers.[15] The opening of the Southern Luzon International Airport in Legazpi City, which is under construction, is hoped to further boost tourism in the region.


Daragang Magayon Festival
Fluvial Procession for Our Lady of Peñafrancia


Bicol region is highly volcanic in origin and part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Known as the Bicol Volcanic Arc or Chain, the volcanoes are the results of the Philippine Sea Plate subducting under the Philippine Mobile Belt, along the Philippine Trench. Volcanism is evident by the number of hot springs, crater lakes, and volcanoes that dot the region starting from Mount Labo in Camarines Norte to the Gate Mountains in Matnog, Sorsogon.[24]

Mayon Volcano is the most prominent of the volcanoes in the region, famous for its perfect conical shape and for being the most active in the Philippines. Its eruptions have repeatedly inflicted disasters on the region, but during lulls in activity, it is a particularly magnificent peak. The southernmost tip of the peninsula is dominated by Bulusan Volcano, the other active volcano in the region. Tiwi in Albay and the Bacon-Manito area between Sorsogon and Albay are the sites of two major geothermal fields that contribute substantially to the Luzon Power Grid.[25][26]


From North to South

Photo Name
Mount Isarog is a 1,966-metre (6,450 ft) fumarolic volcano with a 2.5-kilometre (1.6 mi) wide crater breached to the east.[27] The mountain and vicinity covering 10,112 hectares (24,990 acres) is a protected area in the Bicol Region under the name Mount Isarog Natural Park.[28]
Mount Iriga is a 1,196-metre (3,924 ft) volcano with a large horseshoe-shaped collapsed crater located adjacent to Lake Buhi (foreground).[29]
Mount Malinao is a 1,548-metre (5,079 ft) volcano with a large crater about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) at its widest, which is breached to the east, The geothermal fields of Tiwi are located on its lower eastern slope.[30]
Mount Masaraga is a sharp-topped 1,328-metre (4,357 ft) Holocene volcano NW of Mayon.[31]
Mayon Volcano, the highest point of the region at 2,463 metres (8,081 ft), is also the most popular in the region for its beautifully symmetrical cone. It is also the most active in the country.[32] The volcano is one of the protected areas of Region V under the name Mayon Volcano Natural Park encompassing 5,776 hectares (14,270 acres).[28]
Pocdol Mountains with its highest elevation at 1,102 metres (3,615 ft), is a fumarolic group of volcanoes situated between Albay and Sorsogon provinces. It is the location of the Bac-Man Geothermal Power Plant and the PNOC Eco-Park, a 25,100-hectare (62,000-acre) ecotourism park maintained and protected by the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC).[33][34]
Bulusan Volcano, the other active volcano of the region, has an altitude of 1,565 metres (5,135 ft). It is located on the remains of the 11-kilometre (6.8 mi) Irosin Caldera.[35] The volcano is a protected area and the centerpiece of the 3,672-hectare (9,070-acre) Bulusan Volcano Natural Park.[28]


Ateneo de Naga University

From 1945 until 2011, the basic education system was composed of six years of elementary education starting at the age of 6, and four years of high school education starting at the age of 12. Further education was provided by technical or vocational schools, or in higher education institutions such as universities. Although the 1987 Constitution stated that elementary education was compulsory, this was never enforced.

University of Nueva Caceres

In 2011, the country started to transition from its old 10-year basic educational system to a K–12 educational system, as mandated by the Department of Education.[36] The new 12-year system is now compulsory, along with the adoption of new curriculum for all schools (see 2010s and the K–12 program). The transition period will end with the 2017–2018 school year, which is the graduation date for the first group of students who entered the new educational system.

All public schools in the Philippines must start classes on the date mandated by the Department of Education (usually the first Monday for public, second Monday for private and third Monday for some colleges for the month of June) since the presidency of Joseph Estrada in 1999, and must end after each school completes the mandated 200-day school calendar organized by the Department of Education (usually around the third week of March to the second week of April). Private schools are not obliged to abide by a specific date, but must open classes no later than the last week of August.

Notable Bicolanos


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Census of Population (2015): Highlights of the Philippine Population 2015 Census of Population (Report). PSA. Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  2. "Overview of Bicol Region" Archived April 16, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.. Department of Agriculture Web Site; retrieved 22 May 2012.
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  4. Archived from the original on April 16, 2010. Retrieved March 18, 2010. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. Archived from the original on April 16, 2010. Retrieved March 18, 2010. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. Mara Angelica Refraccion. "Bicol (pre colonial history)". Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  7. "Astilleros: the Spanish shipyards of Sorsogon" (PDF). Mary Jane Louise A. Bolunia. Archaeology Division, National Museum of the Philippines. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
  8. "PSGC Interactive; List of Provinces". Philippine Statistics Authority. Archived from the original on January 21, 2013. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  9. "PSGC Interactive; List of Cities". Philippine Statistics Authority. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  10. "Population and Annual Growth Rates for The Philippines and Its Regions, Provinces, and Highly Urbanized Cities" (PDF). 2010 Census and Housing Population. National Statistics Office. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 9 August 2013.
  11. "Bicol Regional Profile". Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  12. Gatdula, Donnabelle L. (2013-06-03). "Naga City allots P1B for infra". Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  13. F. J. Lagdameo (2010-09-23). "PNoy's EO declares Naga 'Pilgrim City'". Vox Bikol. Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  14. "Proclamation No. 33, s. 2010 | Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines". 2010-09-10. Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  15. "Catanduanes Surfing like no other". 2016-01-28. Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  16. "Naga's Kamundagan fest kicks off « Dagos po sa Maogmang Naga". Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  17. "SP HIGHLIGHTS: Kamundagan Festival". Bicol Mail. Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  18. "Naga City's Kinalas Festival – June 17, 2011". Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  19. "MAGAYON FESTIVAL ("Festival of Festivals Showdown")". Archived from the original on 2016-03-16. Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  20. Archived from the original on November 9, 2014. Retrieved November 9, 2014. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  21. "Peñafrancia viva la virgen Naga City Bicol Philippines". Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  22. "Peñafrancia civic parade reels off today; military parade on Friday « Dagos po sa Maogmang Naga". Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  23. "4th Regional Military Parade Winners ~ Naga City Deck". 2012-09-14. Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  24. McDermott, Delfin, Defant, et al. (2005). "The Petrogenesis of Volcanics from Mt Bulusan and Mt. Mayon in the Bicol Arc, Philippines". University College Dublin School of Geologic Sciences; retrieved 22 May 2012.
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  26. Archived from the original on August 6, 2011. Retrieved August 1, 2011. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  27. "Isarog". Global Volcanism Program. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  28. 1 2 3 "Protected areas of Region 5". Bureau of Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau; retrieved 22 May 2012.
  29. "Iriga". Global Volcanism Program. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  30. "Malinao". Global Volcanism Program. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
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  33. "Pocdol Mountains". Global Volcanism Program. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  34. Jamoralin, Reynaldo T.. "Places of Interest". Sorsogon Tourism; retrieved 22 May 2012.
  35. "Bulusan". Global Volcanism Program. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  36. "K-12 Primer as of 20 December 2011" (PDF). Department of Education. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-05-22. Retrieved 28 April 2012.
  37. "Hon. Gerona-Robredo, Leni". Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  38. "John Arcilla". Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  39. "John Arcilla Photos | Who is John Arcilla dating? Girlfriend, Wife". Retrieved 2016-03-11.
  40. Marya Salamat. "John Arcilla, actor, environmentalist attends Peoples' Mining Conference – Bulatlat". Retrieved 2016-03-11.

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