Saturday, June 18, 2016

Saturday, June 18, 2016
(top L-R) Palaui Island, Cagayan Premium Coffee and Laglato River
(bottom L-R) Callao Cave, Anguib Beach and Duba Cave
At the old hanging bridge over Laglato River of Penablanca



If you happen to live somewhere in the Northern Philippines, a Cagayan getaway is easy to be had. There are a lot of destinations in this tip of the Luzon landmass where you'll be surprised to know as tourist-friendly. They may not be the usual kind of attractions found elsewhere in the country, but they're certainly unique. Most of them are windswept, almost rough on the edges. Their beauty lies in how idyllic they look because most travelers can't afford to stay long enough to change the landscape which is the great paradox of their locations. It's like seeing a guest stay for the stunning sight and have them leave in a heartbeat only because they're accessible to return to. The emotional effect, however, is a different story altogether.

I actually found it easy to reach from Metro Manila. A 12-hour bus commute was enough to make it happen. It was from my first layover in Tuguegarao City where my other nights in the province started to look like a whirlwind of a vacation. The other layovers began to unfold like they were my target destinations themselves. Each town I stayed in had something spectacular to show me. Leaving the place from Aparri to endure the non-stop 14-hour Deluxe Trip of Victory Liner was sort of heartbreaking. It was easy to do, but Cagayan was just hard to leave behind.

Should you decide to see it for the first time, here are six destinations in the province that I personally visited and recommend:

The lobby of Hotel Joselina in Tuguegarao City
Having a cuppa of Cagayan Premium Coffee and more at Barako Boy in Tuguegarao City
Hotel Joselina's guestroom with bathtub 
Dining in Tuguegarao City

1. Have A Layover In Tuguegarao City For Pancit Batil Patung and More

Most travelers from Metro Manila prefer to fly to Cagayan and deplane at the Tuguegarao City Airport to skip the grueling 12 hour-long bus commute. It's actually highly recommended because it will save you energy enough to make you scope the city on foot where most of the eateries selling the famous Pancit Batil Patung are located.

In my case, I opted for the bus ride and settled to ease down my travel nerves with a cup of Barako Boy's Cagayan Premium (Syphon Coffee), a vacuum-brewed coffee that's served with milk. I had one next to my booked layover crib at Hotel Joselina.

From Tuguegarao City, one can simply ride a van to nearby towns like Sta. Ana (3 hours away) for white sand beaches and Peñablanca (less than an hour away) for a visit of an epic-looking cave and a pristine river with an old hanging bridge. The city also has a terminal with vans that go directly to Baggao which is a less explored town by tourists.

The opening of Duba Cave in Baggao
Country Inn Hotel and Restaurant in Baggao
Laglagto River
Crossing a rock-studded river in Baggao

2. See The Wow Factor of Baggao's Caves and Cornfields

Baggao used to be in the news for being a stronghold of the New People's Army (NPA) rebels. As a result, the place is left unexplored by outsiders.

What travelers are missing out on by skipping this town are spectacular views of cornfields and visits of the enchanting Duba, an underground cave, and a host of other caves where intrepid guests booked in the town's only decent hotel called Country Inn Hotel and Restaurant are expecting to see the circadian flight of bats.

Baggao is also the best access route to the next town of Peñablanca's charming river and riverside rock formations called Laglato where one can frolic in clean, flowing water and traverse an old hanging bridge that's built over it. Being there is actually like still being in Baggao as the river runs through the border of the two towns.

Read more about Baggao.

Callao Cave's series of chambers
The Pinacanauan River runs next to the cave
Callao Cave can be this epic
The cemented steps to the entrance of the cave

3. Have A Callao Cave Side Trip In Peñablanca

Most tourists visit Callao Cave while on layover in Tuguegarao City because the natural attraction is highly accessible from the Cagayan capital. One can hire a tricycle or jeepney to reach it for roughly an hour, but a habal-habal is the fastest way to reach it in 30 minutes via the Peñablanca-Callao Cave Road.

The cave may be considered biologically dead but its remnants expose a historic part of the province's landscape that's worth seeing up close. It's where the fossilized remains of the so-called Callao Man was unearthed in 2007, a discovery that shines a spotlight on the ancestry of the mountain-dwelling Aetas of the country.

Inside the seven-chamber cave that spans two villages, the spectacle of light and darkness shape the chiaroscuro of the cathedral-like attraction. The first chamber, as a result, has been transformed into a chapel where masses are heard on special occasions.

Viewing the grassland of Cape Engano on Palaui Island
Anguib Beach of Sta. Ana
Palaui Island's Baratubot Falls 
Country Inn By The Sea in Sta. Ana

4. Linger In Sta. Ana For White Sand Beaches and A Hike of Palaui Island

The coastal town of Sta. Ana is where Cagayan can be the most windswept. It can be uncomfortably breezy at its white sand beach attractions of Anguib and Nangaramoan, but its remote island called Palaui is where the windy conditions become epic. The same island also offers two distinct hiking trails -- one easy and another challenging -- to reach the 47 ft.-high Cape Engaño Lighthouse that accentuates a picturesque grassland of the island. Along the way, one can make a side trip to the area's secluded Baratubot Falls.

While in Sta. Ana, you can stay at the Country Inn By The Sea for wonderful meals at its rustic beachfront dining decks. Or you can try the white sand island resort charm of Jerolynda for seafood-oriented boodle fights.

If you want to check out the neighborhood dining scene in Sta. Ana, the highway restaurant called Binching is a great spot to start. It accepts "paluto" or seafood that you purchased at the market or straight from the pier for cooking. Simply wait for your fresh meal to be served while en route to your next destination.

Read more about Palaui Island.

Binching in Sta. Ana is a great highway restaurant to have your seafood cooked and served.
The exotic Matara Beach in Gonzaga
Sta. Ana's Costa Carina Beachfront Resort
Matara Beach

5. Check Out Gonzaga's Exotic Matara Beach and Reefs

To see where most locals get their seafood diet, the town of Gonzaga has Matara Beach where residents are known to fish for a living. Their fresh catch are directly sold to beach-goers for roasting. The area is also studded with exotic rock formations at the beachfront.

Although the attraction is located in Gonzaga's village of San Jose, a recommended lodging can be had at the nearby resort called Costa Carina which is located in the next town of Sta. Ana.

Read more about Matara Beach.

Fishing in Aparri
A fish vendor at the Aparri Public Market

6. Culminate With A Seafood Exposure In Aparri

To intensify your seafood exposure, check out the fishing scene in the town of Aparri. It's where locals fish at the wharf of the town's Punta Pier by releasing fishing nets into the crashing waves below. Some can also be seen fishing in the traditional way of angling.

For the marketing side of the experience, you can proceed to Aparri's public market where a panoply of fresh hauls are displayed next to each other as if there's always a clearance sale.

Victory Liner has a Deluxe Bus Trip (non-stop and with comfy seats) that leaves the town daily (normally after lunch) for Metro Manila, so this is where you can decide to culminate your Cagayan adventure if ever.

Read more about Aparri.

Special thanks to local guide Vhin Cezar for the assistance

Where To Stay In Palaui Island: Nature Village
Mobile: 0935-336-6328 and 0935-122-8553

Boat Rental Contact for Palaui Island: Ariel
Mobile: 0935-122-8545

Check out the Cagayan-related attractions per post:

• Duba Cave of Baggao
• Laglagto River and Rock Formation of Baggao
• Country Inn Hotel and Restaurant in Baggao
• Country Inn By The Sea in Sta. Ana
• Palaui Island: Cape Engano Lighthouse, Baratubot Falls and More
• Nangaramoan Beach of Sta. Ana 
Jerolynda: Sta. Ana's White Beach Island Resort


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