Sorsogon Province

Sorsogon ProvinceThe Province of Sorsogon is located at the southernmost tip of the Bicol Peninsula. It is bounded on the north by the Province of Albay, on the east and northeast by the Pacific Ocean, on the south by the San Bernardino Strait and the west and northwest by the Ticao and Burias Passes. The province has an irregular coastline with good harbors in Bulan, Magallanes and along the shore of Sorsogon Bay, and it also shapes the end of the Bicol Peninsula, and except for its northern part, it is completely surrounded by water: The Ticao and Burias Passes to the west, San Bernardino Strait to the south, the Philippine Sea and the Pacific Ocean to the east. Sorsogon hugs the Bay of Sorsogon in its mid-portion, its capital town sitting right on the edge of this bay.

Sorsogon is characterized by an irregular topography and, except for the landlocked municipality of Irosin, all towns lie along the coast. They are all connected by concrete and asphalt roads. Mountains sprawl over the northeast, southeast and west portions. Mt. Bulusan, the tallest peak, rises 1,560 meters above sea level. The province is the gateway of Luzon to the Visayas and Mindanao through its Roll-on/Roll-off ferry terminal facilities located in the municipalities of Matnog, Pilar and Bulan.

Not much is known about the early exploration of the province, except that the portion of the region now called Sorsogon used to be called Ibalos during the early days of Spanish colonization. The island of Bagatao situated at the mouth of Sorsogon Bay, was also known to have been a shipbuilding center during the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade.

Sorsogon is known for its historic and panoramic places such as the “baluartes” in Sta. Magdalena, Bacon, Matnog, Casiguran and Bulusan; the “Tulong Gapo” and Rizal Beaches in Bacon and Gubat, respectively; the Irosin Church in Irosin; the tranquil Bulusan Lake and the geologically young Bulusan Volcano in Bulusan. Ecotourism destinations within the province include the exciting and high adventure Whale Shark or Butanding Interaction activity off the waters of Donsol; the exotic flora and fauna at Mt. Bulusan Natural Park with its mystical Bulusan Mountain Lake Resort; mysterious caves with interesting folk legends to explore; colorful dive sites and marine sanctuaries; hot springs and healing mineral water spas to soak in, relax and unwind; and picturesque little islands offering fine white sand beaches.

Sorsogon is a main sea link between Luzon and the Visayan islands, with boats and ferries crossing the San Bernardino Strait in passenger and trade traffic. Today the Philippine-Japan Friendship Highway maintains jump-off points in Sorsogon and Samar provinces, where land traffic to and from Mindanao, crossing Leyte and Samar through the San Juanico Strait, is ferried back and forth Samar and Sorsogon to proceed to the north of Luzon, or back to the south of Mindanao.

Sorsogon is one of the most densely populated provinces in the region. It had a total population of 522,212 in 1990. Many of its inhabitants are migrants from the Visayas such as Warays and Hiligaynons. Bicolanos, however, remain the dominant cultural group.

The people of Sorsogon are Bicolanos and generally speak the Bicol language. However, close proximity to the Visayan island of Samar has given the dialects spoken in the province a peculiarly Visayan tone and vocabulary, which probably indicates a mixture of the Waray and Bicol languages. Most Sorsogon Bicols can speak English and Filipino fluently.

The people of Sorsogon call themselves as Sorsogueños and are very religious and fun-loving people. The local languages spoken by Sorsogueños vary in some districts and municipalities. Among these languages include Bisakol, also called as Waray Sorsogon; Bikol and a form of Bikol called Minaraya. English is also understood by most educated people and is used in all government documents, schools and business.

Being mostly Roman Catholics, Sorsogueños are active in every festivity celebrated throughout the year. Like any other Filipino ethnolinguistic groups, each town honors their Patron Saint with celebration on its Feast Day. The Kasanggayahan Festival is celebrated in the whole province in the last week of October. It commemorates the founding of Sorsogon as a province. Pili Festival in Sorsogon City honors the Pili nut and tree which is indigenous to the province.

Sorsogon’s people are mostly farmers and fishermen engaged in the cultivation of coconut, abaca and rice. The seas around the province sustain subsistence fishing. The province reputedly produces the best abaca hemp in the entire region, a matter of great importance in a province that supports a number of abaca based industries. Sinamay cloth weaving and abaca fiber slippers are chief household industries.

The Sorsogueños, as do all Bicolano peoples, celebrate Ibalon, the old name of Bicol and the earliest settlement visited by the Spaniards, in epic form. The tale speaks of a time when great men called Lipod from a mythic place called Botavara settled in Ibalon. Led by Handiong, a warrior hero who slew the monsters that plagued the land of Ibalon. Handiong was instrumental in introducing laws, the culture of rice and the making of the boat. Under his reign, the boat rudder and sail, the plow, bolo, weaving, pottery and writing were introduced. Thus, under the mythical reign of Handiong, all of the necessities of Bicolano culture were introduced. Handiong was still alive when the last great monster, Rabot, was slain by a younger warrior hero named Bantong and thus ended the legendary period of Ibalon’s tale.

The province is easily accessed from other points in Luzon through the Maharlika Highway System, and buses plying the Manila-Tacloban or Manila-Davao route carry commuters all the way up to Matnog and are ferried across to Allen in Northern Samar. A network of secondary roads links the other municipalities together. There are two airstrips in Sorsogon although nearby Legaspi City Airport is the usual air link to the province. There are 3 major ports and 6 municipal ports that provide sea borne access to the province. Matnog is a major link between Luzon and Samar Islands, while the port in Bulan moves cargo and passengers between Sorsogon and Masbate. Reliable telecommunications link the province to the rest of the country and to the world. The province is a major source of geothermal power to the Luzon Grid and is amply supplied with electricity while local water districts supply water for domestic and industrial use. Nineteen private and government banks provide the province with a vibrant banking industry.

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