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Around Bicol in 30 Plates Day 1: Naga City Food Adventure

Just when I decided to go on an indefinite food blogging hiatus, another invitation came my way. It made me think twice about my planned break. I knew I couldn’t say no but It’s nice to pretend that I can practice self restraint and decline once in a while.

Bigg's Diner Magsaysay Branch Around Bicol in 30 Plates Day 1
Bigg’s Diner Magsaysay Branch

In this particular adventure we get to visit some of the most famous adventure and tourist destinations in Naga, Iriga and Legaspi City. I want to say that this particular detail sold it to me, but heck the darn tour is called “Around Bicol in 30 Plates”. My hands were tied and my arms were twisted. So instead of saying “no” I said “bring on plate number one!”…

Hot Chocolate and Wall Decors
Left: Hot Chocolate / Right: Wall Decors

Around Bicol in 30 Plates Day 1

Our adventure started at Cubao where all the participants gathered in Isarog Lines terminal for an overnight bus ride to Naga City. I assumed that our overnight bus to Bicol would be an endless and tiring journey. But they generously set us up with the Lazy Boy Premier seats that Isarog Lines currently offer to its Naga bound passengers. How was it? Its comfortable and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

Tapsilog and Chocolate Cake
Tapsilog and Black Forest Cake

The food trip started upon arriving in Naga City. Since it was too early to check-in to the hotel, they decided to bring us to their Bigg’s Magsaysay Avenue Branch. I like the minimalistic appeal of the restaurant. It appeared to be rather small from the outside so i was surprised to find all the space when we got inside the establishment.

Blue Lemonade - Avenue Hotels Welcome Drink
Blue Lemonade – Avenue Plaza Hotels Welcome Drink

Opened in November 15, 2010, Bigg’s Magsaysay Store is the newest branch in Naga City. They first served their signature hot chocolate, Im not sure how it was made but for the lack of a better adjective let me just say it was really really good. Lol! For super early breakfast, we tried their famous Tapsilog. With just the right amount of salt, sweetness and absurdly tender meat, I think their Tapsi is way better than that of Rufo’s. To satisfy our sweet tooth, they served carrot cake and Black Forest Cake for dessert.

Avenue Hotel's Poolside
Avenue Hotel’s Poolside

Our rooms at The Avenue Plaza Hotel were still occupied so the organizers brought us to the foot of Mount Isarog to experience their ATV Adventure to Malabsay Falls and vice versa. Naga City is a place where you can enjoy the beauty of nature despite of its urbanized environment. Located in Barangay Panicuason, Malabsay Falls is just about 30 minute jeepney ride and 10 minute ATV ride from the jump off point.

On our way to Malabsay Falls
On our way to Malabsay Falls (photo courtesy of John Marx)

After our visit to the falls we enjoyed another ATV ride back to our put in then we proceeded to Panicuason Hot Springs for our lunch picnic. We all indulged in Bigg’s Extreme Supreme Burger with potato fries paired with their famous Rock n Roll Iced Tea. Hows the burger? Its definitely better than the ones served in major fast food chains in Manila. It’s a juicy burger patty topped with crispy home made bacon and dressed with herby mayonaise dressing. Mouth-watering ey?

Travel Bloggers at Mount Isarog National Park
Travel Bloggers at Mount Isarog National Park (photo courtesy of John Marx)

Some of us were still wet from dipping in the springs but we had to stick to our itinerary. Our next stop was in Biggs Commissary where we were introduced to the officers of Biggs Diner.

Panicuason Hot Springs
Panicuason Hot Springs

We also visited J. Emanuel’ Pili Nut Processing – one of the most popular Pili products factory in Naga City. Its interesting to see and witness how Pili Candies are cooked, packed and packaged for delivery. At the ground floor of the factory, a small shop offers the produce on a factory price.

Pili products factory
Pili products factory

Did i buy some? Are humans responsible for the progressive decay of earth’s eco system due to irresponsible overconsumption of natural resources? (WTF!) Of course i bought some!! A lit actually- salted pili, mazapan de pili, pili tarts, ginger tea, bottled laing and an abaca bag for my Mom.

Bigg’s Extreme Supreme Burger and Rock n Roll Iced Tea
Bigg’s Extreme Supreme Burger and Rock n Roll Iced Tea

We were finally able to check in to Avenue Plaza Hotel to freshen up before we continue with our next activity. Im a bit of a snob when it comes to hotel service so It was a bit disappointing to find out that our bags were still at the lobby when we arrived but other than that, the hotel was actually a big surprise for me.

Bottled Laing
Bottled Laing

Its been 9 Years since I last visited Naga City and finding new elegant boutique hotel is a welcoming surprise. The rooms are very elegant with comfortable bed and pillows, impressive bath room which were all impeccably clean. Its high ceiling reception area and restaurant is located close to their infinity pool and recreation building that houses the Spa, Gym and Fitness Room for Dance Classes and Group Exercises. (Avenue Plaza Hotel to follow).

potato fries, cheese sticks, hot and crispy chicken poppers with herb sauce
Potato Fries, Cheese Sticks, hot and Crispy Chicken Poppers with herb sauce

The food trip continues in SM Naga where we had Merienda. They served a huge appetizer platter with potato fries, cheese sticks, hot and crispy chicken poppers served with herb sauce. A huge plate of Spaghetti with Crispy Chicken and Pork BBQ on the side was also served as their main merienda dish topped of with their famous Chocnut inspired Rocky Road shake.

Spaghetti with Crispy Chicken and Pork BBQ
Spaghetti with Crispy Chicken and Pork BBQ

After our heavy merienda, we visited one of our Sponsors – All Flip Flops which is also located in SM Naga City. Each of us claimed a pair of black limited edition with “I Love Bicol” pins on it. We also visited the SM Naga’s atrium to witness some art installations and to check out some of the products that are proudly Bicolano.

All Flip Flops in SM Naga City
All Flip Flops in SM Naga City

Our second to the last activity for the day was a night tour of the City where we visited the Naga Cathedral, the Seminary and the famous Ateneo de Naga Chapel. Our stop in Ateneo de Naga was the most memorable for me, I wish I had time to visit my friends there but we were on a tight schedule.

Macaroni Salad
Macaroni Salad

Our final activity for the day was our stop at Bigg’s Diner Centro. The location of this restaurant proves that Bigg’s has captured a huge market in Bicol as this restaurant was sandwiched by two big food chain brands but it was interesting to see that Bigg’s Diner has the most number of customers.

Bigg's Baby Back Ribs
Bigg’s Baby Back Ribs

For dinner, we had their Baby Back Ribs served with their famous Macaroni Salad. What makes their Baby Back ribs interesting is that it is served with gravy instead of the usual barbeque sauce. At first, I thought it was a bit weird but after a bite it seems like my palate finds this more agreeable than the traditional recipe. Dessert for the night was their best selling Molten Lava Cake with Vanilla Ice cream on the side. That was an unforgettable dessert to cap our first day of food adventure.

Molten Chocolate Lava Cake
Molten Chocolate Lava Cake

With happy face and heavy, very heavy, stomachs we made our way back to Avenue Plaza Hotel to rest for the next day’s activities. I couldn’t believe that Ive had 10 plates for our first day, we have 20 and 2 unofficial plates more to go.

Bicolandia is really one of the best destinations for foodies and for adventourous souls.

Around Bicol in 30 Plates was sponsored by Biggs Diner (, follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

*Many thanks to Shulace for proof reading this article:)

Written by Melo Villareal

Melo Villareal is the Online Publisher of He is an Accountant by profession who left the corporate world at the age of 23 to explore his beautiful country and the rest of the world. Today, Melo works as a part-time Social Media Manager for local and international clients. His full-time work focuses on discovering interesting culture, explore different cuisines and take memorable photos from local and international destinations he's visiting.

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