Author: James Z. Carpio
Since childhood I would always hear the grown ups say that everything is fifteen minutes away from your location to your destination. Over time I too would always say this to our guests both from out of town or out of the country. But I suddenly had this bright idea to put this little known information about Naga City to the test. Is it a fact or a myth?
Last Saturday, I embarked on a small adventure. During my usual morning exercise with just a wristwatch and a notebook, I documented my tour of the popular destinations in my city. You must have seen in the movies or have read in American books about Beverly Hills and when you tour that place they have a star map. A star map is where you can pass by the houses of Hollywood’s famous movie stars and icons.
So we start at the corner of Liboton and M. T. Villanueva Avenue. I clocked in at 5:39 in the morning. The gated old expansive two-story house with a green roof is the ancestral property of a dynasty in the Philippine entertainment industry: The Yllanas. One of their relatives is also a high-ranking man of the cloth of the Catholic Faith.
There is a quaint hotel resort adjacent to the Yllana abode. I continued towards the left part of the suburbs. Just to add an interesting trivia, if I turned right then I would have seen the sprawling bungalows and houses of the spacious property of the Sisons. They are among the owners of the University of Nueva Caceres. Incidentally, they partnered with the Ayala Conglomerate just recently.
At 5:41 I arrived at the Naga College Foundation. It is a medium-sized college that is well known for its nursing and criminology courses. I walked farther along the road and at the intersection I turned left heading towards a church. I arrived at The Our Lady of Peñafrancia Parish Church, formerly the Our Lady of Peñafrancia Shrine at exactly 5:47 while the sun was slowly rising up and looking over the metropolis.
The Our Lady of Peñafrancia Parish Church is made of stones and bricks where the image of Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia was enshrined before its transfer to the Basilica Minore. Fr. Miguel Robles y Covarrubias pioneered the devotion to Ina here in 1810. The current building was established in 1845.
I walked back to Magsaysay Avenue and at the side of the streets were fresh fruits and other local products. I would have bought an avocado but decided to do it on another day. I was at the Magsaysay Bridge at 5:49 a.m. it is the official start of the Magsaysay District. This strip is the most happening place in the city.
At 5:51 I was at the square of the tourism haven of the city behind which is their deluxe upscale hotel. It is a sprawling hotel complete with convention rooms, a pool and a gym. I was at the lobby at 5:52 then went along to the next stop.
Going along Magsaysay I turned left and at 5:55 a.m. I was again at another hotel. This one is like a country house or a manor. In front of it is the Bicol Indian Sikh Temple. I headed towards the Basilica Minore and saw the magnificent basilica at 5:58 a.m. and it was teeming with joggers and bicycle enthusiasts. Amusingly, I saw two Siberian huskies being walked by their owner and then another Siberian husky held by a leash by another dog walker at a different area.
The Basilica Minore is where the old and original image of Ina is enshrined. It was built in 1983 and was completed in 1985. It is open even before the breaking of dawn as I sometimes go inside for a visit and a prayer. At one of those times, the Basilica was empty except for myself which was incredibly solemn and peaceful. The image of Ina has a regal and a holy presence as seen at the altar.
While walking back to Magsaysay, I clocked in at 6:01 a.m. at a Tunisian coffee shop and restaurant. I have been there before and it was quite a gastronomic experience. Their shisha and Turkish coffee is a must try along with other gems like shawarma, kebab, biryani and Moroccan Tea that make a solid menu. It is owned and managed by a Bicolana and her Tunisian husband. Hence, it is the real McCoy.
At the corner of Magsaysay and Dayangdang Streets is a Pizzeria where I celebrated my memorable birthday this year. At the hub you can bring food from other restos to another just like what we do. We buy dimsum and bring them to a Japanese Restaurant which is genuine and competitive in terms of menu prices. I came to the doors of this resto at 6:04 a.m. quite relaxed and looking forward to coming back.
When I was in Kuala Lumpur, I enjoyed a Malaysian coffee shop and their signature bun that they make and serve. There is a branch of that shop here just across the hub. Beside it is a tea house that caters to discriminating clients. If you want to sample a delicious ice cream that that has an original distinct flavor, I clocked in at that station at 6:06 in the morning.
A posh hotel is located along Magsaysay again at 6:07 a.m.; An American restaurant that serves sumptuous food at 6:08; An all you-can-eat buffet grill and restaurant at 6:10 a.m.; Another big hotel is located at 6:12 a.m. and they have a gym, pool and a live band at night. Farther along Magsaysay is the most delectable Filipino and Bicolano gastronomic delights among others at 6:14 in the morning.
Last stop is at the Immaculate Conception Church which is the end of Magsaysay strip clocking at 6:22 a.m. on a sunny Saturday morning.
Places to see near and at Panganiban Drive are two huge malls. The first one at 6:25 and the second one at 6:37 a.m. with the sun already brightly shining.
Then I reach the old city center by the Plaza Rizal flag pole at 6:44 a.m. and near that Plaza are two hotels, a high-rise and a historic one. Finally, I was at the historic district of Naga where the Porta Mariae, the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, the Archbishop’s Residence and the Universidad de Santa Isabel are located. Time check at this touristic places is 6:53 a.m. and at exactly 7:01 a.m. I was back at the Yllanas. Best times to do this tour is from 5:30 to 7:00 a.m. in the morning on a Saturday to avoid the rush hours during weekdays.
With a resounding yes it is a fact and not a myth. Everything is just fifteen minutes away and I just walked while doing this project. If you have your own mode of transportation or commute then you will have a lot more time to spare and enjoy this city tour. The rest of your vacation you can spend touring the highlands and the islands. Enjoy!