|My booked room|
W O W
B A G G A O
It's the reaction that I received one too many times weeks before my planned Cagayan Valley tour from Manila. I was determined to have a layover in Tuguegarao City after a 12-hour grueling bus ride and eventually end my northern Philippine adventure in Sta. Ana. It's the usual tourist route in the province anyway. Between such destinations, I was set to spend at least a night in Baggao, a town next to Gattaran, Peñablanca, Amulung and Alcala. It's considered to be semi-remote by local travelers that I talked to because getting there meant making a detour from the Baybayog-Alcala junction and tackling a long and winding road that have patches alternating in dirt and cement.
communist rebel base. However, all these didn't faze me because I spotted online a cozy looking lodging called Country Inn Hotel and Restaurant. For starters, I was able to book a room over the phone without any hassle. I figured that if there's something that's as inviting in pictures as that establishment, a natural attraction is definitely close by.
|(left) Clubhouse Sandwich and Fries; (right) Ilokanong Pakbet and Grilled Liempo|
|Spring Chicken In Mushroom Sauce|
Two Hours From Tuguegarao
It's safe to reveal that my travel instinct didn't fail me. Country Inn Hotel and Restaurant is where it is in the quaint village of San Jose because, as it turned out, there's a couple of waterfalls and caves, plus a hot spring nearby. I only managed to learn about this right before I had my dinner of Ilokanong Pakbet and Grilled Liempo at the hotel's restaurant. As a result, thinking about my next day itinerary left me convinced that the additional two hours of travel that I endured from Tuguegarao aboard a van was worth it. Heck, the Club Sandwich and Cheese Fries that I had after check-in was appetizing enough to make me remain unfazed against the previous contentions of my peers. Its accompanying glass of lemonade was also so refreshing that it relaxed my nerves.
I comfortably settled into my booked room at the two-storey hotel after spending a few minutes checking out the garden where it's located. It appeared that the space outside also serves as an open-air garage for cars of guests whether on overnight stay or as part of a special event at its clubhouse. It's pleasantly tucked away from the main road where the restaurant is, so it's understandable for someone new arriving from any neighboring town to always mistake the latter to be the actual hotel. An interior pathway connects the two although there are also guestrooms at the second floor of the restaurant.
My booked room was exactly how I saw it online, only better on site. I was a bit astonished to see that something fancy like it would exist in the rural setting of the town, especially after coming from the highly urbanized city of Tuguegarao where most establishments were next to nondescript.
|Frozen Cookies 'N' Cream|
|The irrigation across Duba Cave|
The inn was neither modern nor dated. It was simply teeming in countryside feel that's normally palpable in Tagaytay and Baguio. If anything, it's a home away from home.
Instagram-Worthy Restaurant Treats
As for the restaurant, its quirky interiors belie uncompromising attention to dishes and featured treats. Outside, the sight of sad-looking eateries seems to be the norm. At Country Inn, though, a wall can't just be a wall. It needs to have a splash of colors and a display of bric-a-brac for enhancement. Even the food is plated with fondness and served in inventive ways that are truly Instagram-worthy. Most of all, they are not lacking in attractive taste. My orders of Spring Chicken In Mushroom Sauce, pork bits-topped Chopsuey, and Baby Back Ribs for lunch were quite memorable for being delicious. For dessert, I highly recommend the Frozen Cookies 'N' Cream for solo indulgence.
I noticed that the restaurant seems to be the only decent dining destination in the town that can serve a panoply of dishes which makes it sought-after by locals three times a day (morning, noon, and night) and in between main meals. As a result, its Clubhouse and KTV Room are also the favorite venues for the residents' special events as the restaurant also offers catering services for formal and informal parties.
|Lyka Herrero of Country Inn Hotel and Restaurant|
Young Innkeepers Maiyo and Lyka
The young couple of Maiyo and Lyka Herrero are the innkeepers of the hotel and restaurant and they seem to be breathing new life into the 2003-built establishment. As a matter of fact, it's Maiyo's doting mother, Audrey, who started the brand that can now also be seen via Country Inn By The Sea at a beachfront of Sta. Ana, three hours away from Baggao.
Should you visit the place soon and find that everything seems to be a bit different, it's because a renovation plan is on the way this year to make it before its anniversary.
|Breakfast of Ilokanong Longganisa|
After a tasty breakfast of Ilokanong Longganisa, I took advantage of the whole morning exploring the rest of the town where Duba Cave and River is. And, since Peñablanca's Laglagto River and Rock Formation is just a 30-minute hike away from its border, I also made the easy side trip giving me the chance to cross an old hanging bridge in the province. It was just unfortunate that I had to cancel a visit of an attraction called Bluewater Falls and a hot spring as I had to make a necessary check-out for my next two-hour journey to Sta. Ana.
|Cornfields in Baggao|
|The facade of St. Joseph Parish in Baggao|
Country Inn Hotel and Restaurant
Official Facebook fan page of Country Inn Hotel and Restaurant
Address: San Jose, Baggao, Cagayan, Philippines 3506
Mobile: 0917-685-2837 and 0915-397-2300
More to come of my Cagayan tour soon!
More Photos Below: