2 New Sorsogon Ecotourism Sites in Bloom: Balay Buhay sa Uma Bee Farm and Lola Sayong Eco-Surf Camp

Sorsogon is home to successful ecotourism sites, such as the community-based, NGO-funded wildlife interactions in Donsol and the DENR-managed Bulusan Volcano Natural Park. Recently, new additions followed suit through individual and group efforts.


These include the agri-tourism site Balay Buhay sa Uma Bee Farm in Bulusan and the non-profit organization Lola Sayong Eco-Surf Camp in Gubat.

Balay Buhay sa Uma Bee Farm

Coconut shells turned into technologies for beekeeping.

It is a techno-demo farm for backyard beekeeping using kiwot (stingless bees). The technology aids in trasferring these Philippine native bees from the wild to community areas for pollination and production of honey, pollen and propolis.

Colonies of Trigona biroi or stingless bees.

There’s no need to go to the forest and burn trees for honey. It prompts conservation of endemic trees too especially those attract native bees. At the farm, two scarce local trees it is propagating now are palali and petroleum nut tree.

Why Stingless Bees

Ant-like size kiwot bees

The stingless kiwot bees are abundant in the wild. It’s eight species add to the mix of pollinators in the environment, preventing us from experiencing the global bee crisis called colony collapse disorder.

These bees are now considered the key remaining pollinators in certain regions, writes author, researcher and member of a beekeeping society Julian Wright on his website, which deals on pollination in the country. They are “appreciated as a valuable pollinator for a range of crops.”

The UPLB Bee Program, headed by Dr. Cleofas Cervancia, has been using the kiwot bees for large-scale pollination of high-value crops like mango, lanzones and rambutan in certain communities in Luzon.


Kiwot bees have all the features of a honeybee, except the sting. Because pollen serves as their food, they also pollinate the flowers they visit. For these and the abovementioned reasons, it makes production affordable than with imported bees. It is safer too, given the lack of sting and farmers can sell hives as well.

Main Benefits

Stingless bees are number one pollinators of mango, said Cervancia in an interview for a government TV network. In Bicol, it increases yields of pili nut and other crops. Luz Gamba, the farm’s owner, said in the same TV interview how not only their crops get pollinated but also the crops of neighbor farms.


Gamba is one of the collaborators in this program, which addresses certain needs of a community. Where she had a hard time starting, it helped fill the gap when technologies and training for their proper use (including of honey harvesting) were made available. Now, the farm is earning and getting known including to researchers.


Bees produce products like honey, pollen, wax and propolis. Propolis is a high-value clinical ingredient; and in the Philippines, it is a component of soap, toothpaste and shampoo. The farm now has honey products and another demo farm in Guinobatan produces pollen. The program’s participatory approach creates livelihood in the community.

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Incidentally, it attracts tourists and researchers too that the farm has huts and other types of accommodations for visitors that want to stay overnight. It also used honey in cooking meals for guests.

National Economic Benefits

Stingless bees produce a high amount of propolis, which is rich in anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Inquiries from China and Japan are a chance to penetrate global market through propolis and stingless bee exportation.

In the meantime, this increase in local production narrows the gap between imported products and locally made. Thanks to the increasing awareness of bee products and in backyard beekeeping as a sustainable livelihood for farmers and the community.

As a Tourist Attraction


It offers a farm living experience in a serene and nature-calming environment. The Mount Bulusan is visible at the farm and the thick rainforest that surrounds it. There is a natural spring pool where water comes from Bulusan Lake and a fishing pond too.


If the need for adrenaline rush beckons, there are outdoor activities to try nearby. These include kayaking at Bulusan Lake, hiking at Mt. Bulusan, dipping in hot springs and surfing in Gubat – the next featured destination in this article.

Lola Sayong Eco-Surf Camp


The Rizal Beach in Gubat attracts tourists for surfing. A group of grateful surfers turned a part of this beach, which was a deadly area, into a thriving tourist destination.

Its mantra: pure fun, healthy eats and clean, simple living. There, visitors have the beach for the playground; the two-floor modest huts for accommodation; the beachfront detox area for idling sans drinking and smoking.

hammock area

As an ecotourism site, it promotes environmental protection in a number of ways. One is through the use of natural and sustainable materials. From the huts to the restaurant and the function area, everything is built with bamboo.


Trees surround the bamboo tables in the outdoor dining area. The huts’ first level doubles as a day bed, which is open-air and comes with a pitched hammock. It is only at night time will you use electricity and during occasional trips to the bathroom.

smoked fish (1)

Expect locally sourced ingredients – often from the market, sometimes from their backyard – for their homecooked meals. The cook’s unique take on its menu brings about these flavorful meals: tuna seasig (seafood sisig), smoked fish cooked ala bicol express and the grilled tuna jaw. Pair them with fresh fruits and vegetable shakes.

tuna seasig

These simple, signature dishes reintroduced Bicol and Filipino food, the Granny’s Hearty Grub way. For that, it was one of the featured destinations in the region for the Flavors of the Philippines last April.

surfing (2)

Its founders give their passion for surfing a greater purpose by forming a non-profit organization that is Lola Sayong Eco-Surf Camp. It helps send local boys and girls to school; welcomes youths to their club, and hold environmental and health-related seminars for the community.

Both promote a simple lifestyle where comfort is found in nature and developed in sustainable ways. So that communities will benefit too, while attracting tourists in the process, without harming the environment.

Photos courtesy of Balay Uma sa Bee Farm Facebook page and Laurie Gucilatar.


Standout Bicol Food and Drinks in Madrid Fusion Manila 2017

Bicol’s third-year participation in Madrid Fusion Manila was so far the most productive.

DOT Representatives
National and regional DOT representatives with Renato Jao

Renato Jao, Albay’s ambassador for culinary, said this year people already knew what to expect [from the region]. “The optics also shifted to B2B as they showed interests in the products we showcased,” he added.

This MFM 2017 the region placed the spotlight on Daraga, Albay, as three sister cafes and restaurants – Tyler’s + Boulangerie and Cafe, 528 Ilawod and Balay Cena Una – joined the event. Each showcased specialty food and drinks specially made for MFM.

Roasted Coconut Creme Brulee


Tyler’s smoky dessert is tinutungan-inspired as it used roasted coconut instead of the traditional cream. As you bite, the smoky feels hovered around your mouth then settled in your tongue. Masiram! (Delicious)

Bunguran Banana Bread with Pili Nuts

Bunguran Banana Bread

It was moist, not too sweet and didn’t have a bitter aftertaste, perfect for the mocha chili 528 Ilawod was serving. Adrian Ocampo, a part-time videographer based in Manila, said it looked like an ordinary bread until you tasted it. “Fresh, fruity flavors erupts in your mouth.”

The Mainstays 


The Oriental Hotel showcased bicol express and pinangat, two most popular dishes of the region. It also introduced kinunot, kalo-ko and rice cake with Guinobatan longaniza.

Kalo-ko is a dessert made from taro shell filled with sweetened taro flesh.

A reporter that visited the booth said his ultimate favorite was pinangat, while another visitor wanted kalo-ko to be sweeter.

students who tried Bicol's Best products
The students enjoyed Bicol’s Best products, especially the Bicol express tinapa.

The tinapa bicol express from Bicol’s Best was also a crowd  favorite, from students to young professionals to working moms. The pure pinagat pleased those who liked it not spicy.

Puto with longganisa
Rice cake with Guinobatan Longaniza.

The table next to it displayed bite-sized Guinobatan longaniza. Made of chopped pork meat and lots of garlic, but brown sugar toned it down. Every bite was packed with flavor, thanks to one of its secret ingredients – gin?

Varieties of pili candies completed Bicol’s showcased products, from starters to meals to desserts and drinks.

On the second day, the display box for the bestseller Mazapan (pili nut bar) was empty. “Visitors couldn’t help but get a handful,” said the owner’s sister-in-law.

The choices for spicy drinks and refreshment were Choose Philippines best dessert, the sili ice cream; Da Vinci’s chili garden, and Ilawod’s new cocktail, hablom

Brewing Machine
528 Ilawod’s beautiful corner

Incidentally, we met Rachel from Goldilocks. She ranked Bicol as one of her top picks, along with Nestle and Philippine Airlines.

“Why,  was it because the person you’re talking with is from Bicol?” I teased.

“It was filling and familiar (being also a Bicolana)  and the delicacies are to die for, especially the creme brulee,  Guinobatan longaniza and Bicol express tinapa.

Catch these authentic and specialty Bicol cuisines and more when you visit the region. In the meantime, enjoy these beautiful creations from ShelMed.

Until the next Madrid Fusion Manila! 🙂

Photos courtesy of Adrian Ocampo