WHEN things go south, you know you’re headed for trouble. But for Bicolanos, going south means family and togetherness because when the road leads south, they know they are coming home.
Bicolanos will also tend to agree that the best way to travel home from Metro Manila or any point North of Luzon is via “Southroad.”
It offers scenic views: miles and miles of greenery, churches, historical sites, and of course, a unique view of the three majestic volcanoes of the Bicol region—Bulusan, Isarog and Mayon. The volcanoes can usually be seen at daybreak if you leave Manila in the afternoon the day before.
But for many travelers, the long—and often winding road—leading to Bicol can eat away so much time that could have been better spent reuniting with family and friends or lounging on a secluded beach.
This is what the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) hopes to change under the current administration. One particular project, the Luzon Spine Expressway Network, aims to make Southroad a shorter option for those who like to see the sights but in less time.
The 1,101-kilometer Luzon Spine Expressway Network will shorten the travel time to Bicol from Ilocos to only nine hours from 20 hours.
Public Works Secretary Mark A. Villar said this network is composed of high-speed expressways, such as the Skyway, TPLEx, CLEx, and Nlex Harbor Link, among others.
“This [length of road built] is over three times what it was when the Duterte administration came in,” Villar beamed in a recent Build, Build, Build briefing.
Traveling to Bicol is just part of the improvements made by the Duterte administration, however. According to Villar, traveling and living in Bicol has also been improved through better roads, bridges, and classrooms.
The DPWH reported that for Bicol region, a total of 1,670 kilometers of roads; 295 bridges; 706 flood-mitigation structures; and 8,437 classrooms were built under the Duterte administration’s Build, Build, Build program.
In all, the BBB program has accounted for these projects spread nationwide that, while focused on infrastructure, are nonetheless geared toward promoting human development: 26,494 kms of roads; 5,555 bridges; 10, 376 flood-mitigation structures; 144,925 classrooms and 187 evacuation centers.
Sorsogon, Camalig Bypass Roads
The most recently opened to the public was the Camalig Bypass Road, a 3.5-kilometer stretch that diverts traffic in Camalig, Albay and showcases a panoramic view of Mayon Volcano.
Secretary Villar led the opening on June 15, 2021. “A new bypass road complete with shoulder, drainage, solar lighting, and road safety markings and signages will provide the people of Albay not only a faster, safer route than the congested Camalig town proper road, but also a scenic view of the majestic Mayon.
Villar said, “This new road is seen to assist in the income-generation of small-scale establishments and farmers in the area” by decongesting Camalig’s commercial district and facilitating the transport of goods and services.
This seen to reduce the 15-minute travel time to Barangay Libod from Barangay Salugan to just five minutes.
Costing P237.44 million, work on the bypass road began in July 2018 and was implemented by the DPWH Albay 2nd District Engineering Office.
“The completion of Camalig Bypass Road is another proof that we are committed to accomplish our major projects across the country before President Duterte steps down in 2022,” noted Villar.
Earlier inaugurated, in August 2020, was the 5.52-kilometer Sorsogon City Coastal Bypass Road. The four-lane road traverses three barangays, Sirangan, Sampaloc, and Balogo. The road leads to barangays such as Pangpang, Tugos, Cambulaga and Talisay in Sorsogon City.
Villar said the road improvements in Bicol will also include the Pasacao-Balatan Tourism Coastal Highway in Camarines Sur.
Build, Build, Build (BBB) Committee Chairperson Anna Mae Lamentillo earlier described this as a 40.69-kilometer coastal expressway traversing the municipalities of Pasacao, San Fernando, Minalabac, Bula, and Balatan in Camarines Sur. It will be an alternate route to Daang Maharlika, traversing 15 barangays and serving 8,000 motorists a day.
Other BBB projects completed in Bicol by the current administration include:Imelda Boulevard in Catanduanes, San Fernando-San Jacinto-Monreal Road in Masbate, Esperanza-Placer Road leading to Pasiagon beach front in Masbate, Camarines Sur Expressway Project, Legazpi City Coastal Road, Albay-Sorsogon Connector, Cagraray Island Circumferential Road in Albay, and Matnog-Sta. Magdalena-Bulusan Road.
With these new infrastructure projects completed, the whole of Bicolandia becomes more open to the rest of the Philippines and, hopefully, the world.
And so, when the roads lead south, it doesn’t always mean trouble ahead. It could spell reunions, new friends and great, uplifting sights.
Image credits: Dmitri Valencia