About 70 kilometers away from the famous Mayon lies another Bicol stratovolcano gem: Sorsogon’s Bulusan. When translated, it means “where water flows” as the place is home to several springs and waterfalls.
Bulusan Volcano Natural Park (BVNP) has geothermal fields and boasts two crater lakes. One is named Bulusan and the other is Aguingay, and both are within the heart of the rainforest.
According to the Foundation for the Philippine Environment, BVNP is also considered to be one of the remaining intact forests in the Philippines.
“Bulusan is a preserved area, that’s why it’s always regarded and included in scientists’ and taxonomists’ research,” says Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer Veronica Banares-Gallanosa.
The Tale of Bulusan and Aguingay
In terms of where and how Bulusan Volcano was discovered, locals would share the myths and legends. One in particular revolved around a happily married couple, Bulusan and Aguingay. Their village chief, named Casiguran, was extremely jealous of the pair.
Bulusan was the only warrior who managed to capture the heart of the most beautiful lass in town and this made Casiguran bitter.
Years later, Casiguran falsely accused Bulusan of killing his own father, Apo Juban. He ordered that the innocent Bulusan should be fed to a giant man-eating bird called Mampak that resides on top of the volcano.
Bulusan died, but this did not stop Casiguran’s selfishness. He also ordered Aguingay to throw her newborn into the mouth of the volcano. Aware of Casiguran’s power over the village, Aguingay complied. And since it was never her intent to kill her own child, Aguingay then took her own life.
It was too late for the townsmen to save the couple after finding out about Casiguran’s lies. The villagers then mournfully walk down the volcano, carrying the lifeless blood of Bulusan and Aguingay.
Locals believe that it was Bulusan’s blood and Aguingay’s tears that formed the two lakes upon the slopes of the volcano.
Health and Wellness Spot
What isn’t a myth, fortunately, is the many things that you can do at the park. Nestling at the foot of the volcano is its very own emerald lake surrounded by lush tropical evergreen trees and vines.
Tourists may kayak, stand up paddle, or ride a five-person boat. Sometimes locals would also organize fitness events such as zumba.
“If tourists are into health and wellness, Bulusan Volcano Natural Park is actually a perfect spot for jogging, biking, and zumba activities. Although for zumba, we only allow soft music because noise could rattle monkeys, birds, and other animal species,” says Banares-Gallanosa.
Kayaking for 30 minutes is at Php100 per person while boat rentals are Php600 inclusive of 2 paddlers or guides.
For tourists seeking adventure, BVNP also offers a 2D1N (two days and one night) mountaineering activity at Aguingay campsite. It is a three-leg major climb which starts at Bulusan Lake then to Aguingay.
The next day, mountaineers will climb going to Bulusan Volcano, the last stop would be its crater, the Blackbird’s Lake. At the descent, mountaineers will be able to see BVNP’s reforestation areas.
The trekking fee costs Php10 while the guide fee is at Php150 for every 10 persons.
Flora and Fauna
Strongylodon Macrobotrys, commonly known as Emerald or Jade Vine can be seen around the natural park. “This vine is the one engraved at the back of the five-peso coin,” says Banares-Gallanosa.
Along the road going to Bulusan Lake, Etlingera Elatior or Torch Ginger plants and Bird’s-nest Ferns can be seen as well. At the entrance, there are curtain-like hanging roots of Hanopol. “We call it Avatar’s shower. We really preserve and maintain it. It’s also often part of the tour as tourists would really stop to take photos with it.”
There are also endemic plant species that were named after Bulusan. An aquatic plant, Schefflera Bulusanicum and a fern, Prenephrium Bulusanicum.
BVNP is also ideal for birdwatching as there were also sightings of endangered bird species such as Philippine Hornbill locally called Kalaw, Brahminy Kite, Serpent Eagle, and Woodpeckers. There are also endangered Philippine Long-Tailed Macaques within the rainforest.
“We have a lot. Aside from the bird sightings, when we do mountaineering, especially going to Aguingay, there are traces of wild boars,” says Banares-Gallanosa.
Upon arrival at BVNP, travelers must first register at the ecotourism center and will be shuttled around the area using the park’s electric jeepneys. Since it is a protected area, activities are regulated and the volume of tourists is controlled. Currently, the carrying capacity of the natural park is 400 tourists.
“Back when we still didn’t have e-jeepneys, when tourists would go around, right after they park their cars, we ask them to switch off their car engines because even car engine noise agitates the wildlife,” Banares-Gallanosa explains.
Kaingin or traditional deforestation used to be frequent at Bulusan. Locals would also extract resources such as honey. “But when we opened Bulusan as a park, some of them became our eco-guides,” Banares-Gallanosa says. As of the moment, BVNP has 33 eco-guides.
“Whatever you see here, all the improvements, the integrity of nature, it’s a convergence of everyone. It’s all because of the people on the ground. And that’s what I’m most proud of,” Banares-Gallanosa ends.
Tour Details (Requirements, How to Book, Dos and Don’ts)
While Bulusan is the fourth most active volcano in the Philippines, the lakes and rainforest within its vicinity turns out to be a great setting if you wish to sit back and chill with friends. The calming ambiance as you set foot on Bulusan Lake would definitely charm every visitor.
Regular entrance fee is at Php50 and environmental fee at Php10. Roundtip cost of e-jeepney is at Php35 per head. The natural park is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Explore Sorsogon responsibly by making sure that you comply with the province’s health and safety protocols, such as wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.
For the latest travel information about Sorsogon, you may visit their official website or Facebook page. You may also review updated safety protocols and requirements on Philippine destinations at www.philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel