There is a kind of magic that draws you to Tuguegarao, where no tourist leaves this place without being fascinated by its charms. Whether it is for a day, a weekend or much longer, Tuguegarao City has risen to become one of the most popular destinations.
Nestled in Cagayan Valley up north, this city takes pride in offering various types of travel package. Be it about scenic rivers, mystical caves, historical churches and lighthouses. It also serves as a great jump-off point to road trips going to Palaui Island in Sta. Ana and Ilocos region. With so many options from kayaking to spelunking, where do you begin?
The best way to start your itinerary is to visit the Protected Landscape and Seascape in Peñablanca, a 30-minute drive from Tuguegarao City. You will be asked to pay an environmental fee of Php20 before entering the seven-chambered Callao Caves. Callao Caves is famous for its cathedral located in the first chamber where natural light penetrates its crevices illuminating green, yellow, and orange streaks. The smaller Sierra Caves is known for its magnificent limestone formations. While in the area, experience a banca ride on the crystal-clear Pinacanauan River, which passes through a mororan, a continuous drizzle of water from the side of Sierra Madre Mountain. From below, you will be amazed by the views of rocky cliff formations and bat caves. Spend the day swimming in the river and watch the circadian flights of bats at 6 p.m.
At night, there is a wide choice of reasonably priced accommodations in the city. All offer fine selections of native foods such as longganisang (sausage) Tuguegarao which is known for its garlic flavor. The best ones come from Manang Baby (Tuguegarao Special Longganisa, 52 Burgos Street; mobile no. +63905 923 2466) who is known to prepare the cleanest and most flavorful homemade longganisa in town.
A one-hour-drive from Tuguegarao is Piat, a place famous among pilgrims who are requesting for favors. It is known for the image of our Lady of Piat that was brought to this place from Macau in 1604.
Devotees seek repose in this miraculous figure, and their prayers and favors are known to be answered. The lady’s image is made from papier-mâché and is placed on the side altar of the Parish Church in Piat. Due to the numerous favors obtained through her intercession, she has endeared herself to the whole community in Northern Luzon. The feast of our Lady of Piat is celebrated on July 2.
On the way to Piat is Buntun Bridge, the longest river bridge in the country that gives a breath fromtaking view of the Cagayan River.
To cap your day, treat yourself to the highly recommended local pansit batil batong, which is made up of noodles, slices of carabao beef, bean sprouts, and topped with egg. Some variations of this are served with lechon carajay (deep-fried pork chunks) and liver, with prices ranging from Php40-Php60. This goes well with soy sauce, sliced onions, vinegar, and calamansi. Famous panciterias (noodle houses) in the city are Gretchens, Natans, and Boks.
One of the major attractions that must not be missed is the Iguig Calvary Hills with life-sized Stations of the Cross on top of 11 hectares of rolling hills. A favorite destination during Holy Week, it offers a serene view of the Cagayan River below. Beside this landmark is the Church of San Antonio de Galicia, created in 1700s from brick and stone, and one of the few churches in the country with flying buttresses still intact. A brick stairway is found behind the church that leads to the river. It was used by Spanish officials who traveled from town to town by river, and by merchants who needed to transport goods to and from galleons.
The friendliness of the locals has consistently invited tourists to visit this quaint town. All these can also explain the unique and generous hospitality of the Ibanags of Tuguegarao City.
GOT ANOTHER DAY?
Jump aboard a van going to Sta. Ana, Cagayan, and experience the natural beauty of this town. The food here is simply amazing. Imagine feasting on fresh lobsters, yellow fin tuna, blue marlin, tanigue (Spanish mackerel), crabs, shrimps, and other freshwater fishes.
Sta. Ana is home to the untouched Anguib Beach. Tagged as the Boracay of the north, Anguib beach prides itself with white sands and pristine blue waters. Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean to the east and by the Babuyan Channel to the north, it is expected to be best site for wind and kite surfing because of its consistent northeast winds from November to March. Camping here is a great option for the adventurous travelers as there are no resorts or inhabitants. Other islands worth visiting are Manidad Islet and Gotan, which has a magnificent view of mangrove plantations.
Another banca ride will take you to Palaui Island. This island offers an amazing experience of uncovering different varieties of flora in the forest, dipping in the waterfalls and having a glimpse of the colonial lighthouse. The crystal clear waters are tempting and the white sand from dead corals is simply beautiful. On top of the hill sits the 1,800-year-old lighthouse called the Cape Engaño. From the top, you can witness a splendid view of the Pacific Ocean, the Dos Hermanas islands, the Babuyan group of islands, rolling hills, and white sand beaches.
• Hotel Roma
Corner Bonifacio and Luna Streets, Tuguegarao City;
• Pampanguena Pensione and Coffee Shop
No. 43 Caggay Highway, Tuguegarao City; tel. +6378 844 4639; mobile no. +63906 496 2950; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; rates start at Php500
• Hotel Lorita
Buntun Highway, Tuguegarao City;
tel. +6378 846 2565; mobile no. +63920 923 2435; http://www.hotelivory.com.ph; rates start at Php660
• Jotay’s Resort
Centro Sta. Ana, Cagayan Valley; tel. +6378 858 1026; mobile no. +63906 478 1270; www.jotayresort.com