Fri Mar 11 16:47pm
By Izah Morales, Yahoo! Southeast Asia
As the plane descended, I looked out of the window and caught sight of the serpentine flow of the Cagayan River. The green patches that covered the surrounding land made the setting look like a giant quilt.
It was my second time in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan but it still felt like the first time. Flying to Tuguegarao via Cebu Pacific was such a breeze. It was only an hour away from Manila by air. I had taken the bus before—and that trip took 10 hours.
There may be places that you visit only once, but Cagayan is definitely one spot that you’d always want to return to. As Region II’s Department of Tourism puts it, “Cagayan is where adventure never ends.”
Here are the top 7 reasons why you should visit Cagayan, dubbed as “The smiling land of beauty:”
1. Filipino hospitality is at its best. You wouldn’t feel that you’re away from home. The Cagayanons are ready with their warm welcome and would always offer a helping hand. The Cagayanons also boast of having the most peaceful regional command center of the Philippine National Police for four years.
2. The unspoiled Palaui Island. Going to Palaui Island from Santa Ana, Cagayan is an adventure in itself. You have to brave the huge waves before reaching the island. While on the boat, you may choose to scream your heart out or just marvel at the lush green hills, which resemble those in Batanes. After an hour and a half, you’ll marvel at the grandeur of the pristine cove, Cape Engano Lighthouse, and the Dos Hermanas islands.
3. The seven chambers of the Callao Caves in Peñablanca. Spelunking in the Callao Caves is not as difficult with the other caves. But, nonetheless, the stalactites and stalagmites are magical. I saw one that looked like a crocodile and the other one took the shape of an anaconda.
4. Kayaking in Peñablanca’s Pinacanauan River. Communing with nature is best done by kayaking along the Pinacanauan River, where life is serene and simple.
5. Snorkeling in the Matara Marine Sanctuary in Gonzaga. The white sand beach in Matara, which is a 40-kilometer stretch, can’t be ignored. Once you take a dip in the crystal clear waters, you’ll be joined by schools of fish swimming in the marine haven.
6. Cagayan’s gastronomic delights. You can indulge in the sumptuous Pancit Batil Patong, Pinakuffu, Sinanta, and Paua.
Tuguegarao’s Pancit is a noodle dish that’s topped with ground beef, egg, and chicharon. It’s partnered with a soup and seasoned with vinegar, soy sauce, and calamansi.
Pinakuffu is made of an upland rice variety of malagkit (sticky rice) and tastes like carioca. It is best eaten with Sinanta, a soupy dish with glass noodles.
Paua is made of chewy glutinous rice which contains sesame seeds, peanuts, and sugar bits. It tastes like Chocnut.
You can also taste the most expensive fish in the Philippines called the lurung or ludong (Pacific salmon), which is found in Cagayan River, the longest (520 kilometers) and widest river of the Philippines. The lurung costs Php 3,500 per kilo. Because of its price, the fish—which weighs anywhere from half a kilo to three kilos—is also called the “President’s fish.”
Known as the crab capital of the North, Buguey offers king crabs that are as large as dinner plates. They would surely make you salivate and satisfy your seafood cravings.
7. Century-old churches. If you want to do a pilgrimage this Lent, you can start your journey at the pilgrimage center of the North, the Basilica Minore in Tuguegarao City. It is home to Our Lady of Piat, who is believed to be miraculous.
From Tuguegarao, you can drive 15 kilometers further north to Iguig. There, you will find the Saint James Church in Cavalry Hills. At the back of the church, take the way of the cross with 14 life-sized religious images strategically placed in the 11-hectare rolling hills.
Alcala, which is 20 kilometers from Iguig, is where you’ll find the biggest and widest brick church in the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao—the Saint Philomene Church built in 1898.
From Alcala, you can visit the St. Dominic Spanish Colonial Church in Lal-lo, the original home of Our Lady of Piat before it was transferred to the Basilica Minore.
After Lal-lo, you can continue your reflection in Camalaniugan, where the San Jacinto de Polonia Church is. The bell tower of this church was forged in 1595 and it’s said to be the oldest Catholic Bell in Southeast Asia.
Then, you can head to Pamplona and visit the Church of Massi. The construction of the church was completed in 1617.
Ideas tickle her imagination while photos make her jump for joy. Izah Morales is one “photoholic” journalist who aspires to travel the world. Visit her travel blog at Tripadora.com