Friday, September 7, 2012

The other Cagayan

I read in an airline magazine, when you say Cagayan, people would normally think Cagayan de Oro. This seems to be true. It's famous for white water rafting, and also is the nearest airport to some Mindanao destinations. But I'm not blogging about CDO right now. Today, I will let you see the other Cagayan, or parts of it.

Cagayan in the north, is part of the region of Cagayan Valley (Region 2) in the Philippines.  Cagayan is sometimes referred to as the "Land of Smiling Beauty, its capital is Tuguegarao City. It is at least a 15 hour drive from Manila, or you can also opt to take a plane which only lasts 45 minutes. The ideal days to vist the place would be during summer because the whole Cagayan Valley may be the most visited region of storms and heavy rains.

So, what can you do in the place? You can visit Callao Cave in Penablanca, the most known tourist spot in the province. It is roughly 45 minutes away from the city. You can hire a van or trike to take you to the place. If you are in a large group, it is best to hire a van. The cave has 7 chambers, 5 of which have sky lights. The last 2 chambers are more harder to reach as you would need to go down a rocky pathway and is not advisable to visit during rainy season as the way becomes muddy, none the less, the first few chambers are sufficient enough for you to enjoy. There is a minimal entrance fee and a volunteer tour guide will assist you inside the cave.

From the entrance, you will climb stairs to the entrance of the cave which will take 15-25 minutes depending on your phase. The chambers are just a few meters away from each other so this is really not as strenuous as you may think.

The Chapel at Callao Cave

After trekking the cave, you can also go for a relaxing boat ride along Pinacanauan River just at the side of the cave. A both ride will cost you Php 500/boat and you can also eat at the end of the river where the boatman will pick you up after. At nightfall, you may also be able to see bats storm out of the bat cave near the river.

Once you are back in the city, one thing you should miss is trying out Tuguegarao's famous noodles, the Pancit Butil Patong. It got its name from patong or to put on top. The noodles, together with its toppings also comes with soy sauce, onions, calamansi and a bowl of soup.

For Catholics, the next activity you can do is visit some of Cagayan's churches. Cagayan is a great place during the Holy Week if you want to do some Visita Iglesia. Some known churches are the Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat, Iguig Church in Calgary Hill, and St. Peter's Basilica in the capital. The Basilica Minore in Piat houses the miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin Mary while the Iguig Church has life size images of the stations of the cross and has a view of the Cagayan river.

Basilica Minore (L); Iguig Church (M); St. Peter's Basilica (R)
If you have run out of activities to do in the capital, you can also consider going to Santa Ana. Santa Ana is the home of the Cagayan Special Economic Zone which host casinos and other gaming facilities, some exclusive to Chinese visitors. You can also see several second hand vehicles for auction there. To know more of the place, visit the municipality's facebook page

Being on the northern part of the Luzon, there are many coastlines and beaches in Santa Ana. Port San Vicente is located at the edge of Santa Ana and is the entry point via boat to the place, across the Port, you will also have the view Palaui Island.

You can take a ferry trip from Santa Ana to Batanes, the farthest place north of the Philippines, during the calmest of weathers.

From the port, you can hire a boat that can take you to the three most famous destinations in the place; Palaui Island, Maninad Island and Anguib Beach.

Palaui is considered to have one of the great beaches in the Philippines. The view is breathtaking and can be compared to a mini Batanes. You can either trek the island which will take you at least 2 hours to reach the other part or you can ride a boat that will take you to the other side which takes 45 minutes. On the other side of the island you will see the lighthouse of Cape Engano.

As mentioned on the picture below, the lighthouse was inspired by 3 lighthouses: in Cape Bojaedor in Burgos, Ilocos Norte; in Capones Island, Zambales and Isla de Cabra in Mindoro.

The lighthouse is an additional climb of 20-30 minutes, which was really tiring especially during the time the sun rises the highest. Good thing the view of the island was really worth it.

After a tiring walk from the lighthouse, you can relax at Anguib beach (pronounced as angib). Half of the beach is private and offers an entrance fee of PHP 500 together with buffet lunch. The other side costs only PHP 20. According to the locals, you can also reach the beach via land but the gate towards the beach is normally closed, so the best option is still to take a boat ride to the San Vicente.

Anguib is tagged as the Boracay of the North. Don't get your hopes up as the sand is not as fine as Boracay, and there are also many weeds in the water. There is also not much to do in the place. During weekends, they say that the beach really gets packed with locals.

Maninad or Crocodile Island is a small island between Palaui and the mainland. From afar, it looks like a crocodile and the place is really stoney.

Well, can I say that the trip was worth it? Honestly, for me I travel to explore. I want to learn as much as possible, as they say, the more you travel the more open-minded you become. You get more experience. If you are after the beaches, I'd give it an 8. There is not much to do in Cagayan considering you will have to travel for 15 hours by land, but I recommend the place to people who wants to learn about caves, if you want a secluded place to enjoy on your own, if you want to hike and explore.

If you are planning a trip to Tuguegarao via plane, 4 days is enough (flights are in the morning only). An overnight stay at Santa Ana in the first night, rest on the second, then tour the city on the third day.

View of the Cagayan River from the airplane.

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