Travel Guide: Accommodation, itinerary, and places to see when planning a trip to Cagayan
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Best things to do in Cagayan
When we overheard Cagayan, it reminds us of Sta. Ana port and the fine beaches in Luzon’s northern most tip, particularly port Irene with luxury vehicles via Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport (CSEZFP) or Cagayan Free port zone. SUVs and/or European brand [right-hand drive vehicles] converted to left-hand with B-prefix license plates of Region 2, Cagayan Valley. Indeed, Cagayan is considered a progressive region ahead other urban counterpart. The typical question entails why some of the locals are labeled as “silent-types” or “mahiyain” (shy), NO they’re not. Normally, it’s a way of saying, mind your own business and stop meddling in what does not concern you.
Getting in Cagayan, thru air or by land, the latter makes your Cagayan road trip bolder, more interesting. Depending on your travel phase, you may reach Tuguegarao City between nine to twelve hours. Best things to do in Cagayan aside from vitamin sea in Sta. Ana, is to take a road trip to Cagayan’s city capital, Tuguegarao. Explore the towns of Piat, Peñablanca, Enrile, Alcala, and so on.
Buntun Bridge (est. 1969). The second longest river bridge in the country next to San Juanico Bridge. The bridge links to the city of Tuguegarao to Solana all the way to Apayao. In June 1, 1969, the bridge opened to vehicular traffic with an infrastructure that measures 1,369 m (4,491 ft) and spans the mighty Cagayan river (being the largest river basin the Philippines). Due to frequent floods in the country, the bridge underwent expansion by cause of widening of the river channel. The bridge’s construction plan was change to 14 240-feet Japanese steel through truss spans, one 50-feet structural steel approach on the Solana side.
Explore Tuguegarao City. The public transportation in Tuguegarao is the tricycle and “kalesa” or “karitela”, horse-drawn carriage with mag-wheel tires. The minimum fare for the tricycle is PhP12 per ordinary ride.
The term “Tuguegarao” was coined from either of the following “garao” (means swift river current) close to Filipino’s “galaw” (move), “taraw” (a specie of palm tree), “tuggui gari yao” (this was cleared by fire). “The last seems plausible if interpreted to mean that the areas pointed to by the natives to the first Spaniards was a “kaingin.”
How to get there?
Via air. Tuguegarao City (TUG), the capital of Cagayan, may be reached by plane from Manila (MNL) through the daily flights of Air Philippines and Cebu Pacific.
Via public commute. By land, Tuguegarao City can easily be reached by air-conditioned buses with comfortable seating capacity, a estimate travel time of 9-11 hours from Manila.
Via independent motorists. Take the North Diversion Road and exit at Sta. Rita Cagayan, Alternative road via Ilocos Norte, passing by the picturesque Patapat Bridge.
Where to stay and eat. When staying in Tuguegarao, choose accommodation from lodges and hotels along the city proper. Hotel Carmelita is a one-stop hotel as they capture the interest of travelers/tourists with their by line: Stay, dine, celebrate, and unwind.” Strategically located within the vicinity of the airport, bus terminals, tourism sites and city hubs. The hotel houses Culinare café and Acustico bar and grill, all in one roof. Adjacent to the hotel is fastest growing Filipino food chain, Boy Kanin, the branch opened this September 2019 with a 24-hour operation, dine-in capacity of 100+ persons. The attic and the whole concept of the store, represents Boy Kanin’s years of success in the industry. A cheery Filipino vibe epitomizes from the design as they were influence immensely from fiesta banderitas (buntings) and palarong pinoy (Filipino local games). What’s good to have? The menus is quiet close to what we Pinoys indulge in – great food and affordable price! Check out the food selection at “Sarap ng Kaning Pinoy.”
Cagayan Museum and Historical Research Center. 19th century structure, it was built to be the Tribunal de Tuguegarao during the Spanish regime until it became Cagayan Provincial Jail for some time. To date, the complex was converted to Museo de Cagayan. The former location of the museum is at the provincial capitol complex.
A free guided tour to the museum is available. Get to know the Cagayan history, ethnic groups, and their ancient culture through the insights of the museum’s resident researcher/tour guide. Broad collection of artifacts, ethnography, antique, heirloom pieces, liturgical works, and trade wares of the province and fossils of animals that once wander the valley. The museum also, boast of the replica of the Callao Man’s extensive data on the discovery of Callao Man by the National Museum of the Philippines.
How to get there?
Corner Otis &, Aguinaldo St, Tuguegarao, Cagayan
Museum Hours: 8:30AM to 4:30AM
Rizal Park. Is a historical site with centennial-old monument of Dr. Jose Rizal stood at the center of the park. Hoisted on August 17, 1918, the statue is accentuated at the base with four Filipina in Spanish period setting. Situated in between complex of Cagayan Museum and Historical Research Center and Tuguegarao East Central School.
How to get there?
Aguinaldo Street corner Rizal Street
St. Peter Metropolitan Cathedral or Tuguegarao Cathedral (est. 1761). The church is an 18th-century Baroque-style architecture, iwas constructed from January 17, 1761 to 1767 by the Dominicans who came to evangelize Cagayan Valley. WWII damaged the structure severely losing the original interiors. The cathedral with the belfry is said to be the biggest Spanish colonial church in Cagayan region.
How to get there?
40 Gomez St., Tuguegarao 3500 Cagayan
College Avenue. Tuguegarao has Manila’s version of U-Belt or University belt. College Avenue and its surrounding street refers to the city’s area where there is a high concentration of colleges and universities, as well as middle and high school. Tuguegarao got its namesake as “the Center of Education in Cagayan Valley.
Major universities and colleges located in Tuguegarao City:
University of Saint Louis, Tuguegarao, St. Paul University Philippines, Cagayan State University, University of Cagayan valley, and Cagayan Colleges.
Other schools in the city include: Cagayan Metropolitan Institute of Technology, Medical College of Northern Philippines, International School of Asia and the Pacific, Maila Rosario College, John Wesley College, F.L. Vargas College, Credo Domine College, City Technological Institute, STI College Tuguegarao, AMA Computer College, TESDA Accredited Competency Assessment Center, and other educational institutions including: Tuguegarao City Science High School, Cagayan National High School, Tuguegarao West Central School, Tuguegarao East Central School, Tuguegarao North Central School, and Tuguegarao Christian Academy.
Department of Agriculture (DA) – Southern Cagayan Research Center (DA-SCRC) – Cagayan Breeding Station (CBS). Cagayan province is striving to develop the region as an agri-tourism farm destination. The agency is actively assisting the local farmers and livestock raisers to educate them on proper goat handling, feeding, slaughtering and meat processing, production and management practices, and applied innovation in agriculture and producing chevon-based products. “CBS promotes goat meat or chevon utilization, and link players of the goat industry in the region. The CBS also showcases genetic resources that can be used to develop the chevon industry in the region where the demand for meat goat has been increasing.”
The breeding station was created to mentor the goat farmers, and provide them with the knowledge on how to develop the genetic rearing of their native goats, and chevon processing.
“The CBS is committed to help in technology commercialization of the different product lines of goat and assists raisers and those who will be interested in packaging to meet the product standard and food safety for domestic requirement and foreign markets,” said Narciso Edillo, DA-Cagayan Valley executive director.
Products produced from best boers and kalahari reds include smoked sausage, chevon Hungarian sausage and chevon meatloaf, and leather crafts, among others.
Ref: MDCT/ With reports from DA Rehiyon Dos/ PIA 2-Cagayan
How to get there?
Maguirig, Solana, Tuguegarao, 3500 Cagayan
Callao Cave, Peñablanca, Cagayan. The scenic beauty of Callao Cave is accessible in between Barangays Magdalo and Quibal in the town of Peñablanca. The jump-off point is from Tuguegarao City with an approximate travel time of 35-minutes (21.4km). The cave can be smoothly trekked, ascending is easy peasy with the upgrade of the stairs and its just 134 steps!
Explore the seven-chambers with distinct massive limestone formation, skylights and a chapel. The cave is under Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape. The chambers were named after their visual patterns: Dog’s Head Formations, Skeleton, Praying Angel, Rocket, Lion’s Head, the Column, Elephant’s Head, and the Chapel. The Chapel, is the most highlighted chamber as it is frequently used as the focal background in photography, thus, the exposed image generally seen in tourism marketing visuals.
View our 3-minute video of Callao Cave
The locals converted this area into a house of worship, the skylight brightens the chapel hall through the opening. Our tour guide, mentioned that a special mass is held once a month. For the record, there were four couples who got married at this cave. The cave is also sought after venue for pre-nuptial photo shoot or wedding pictorial. For those who are planning to have their pre-nup shoot, the management charge a minima P500. Entrance fee for ordinary trek cost P20 and discounted fees for children, students and senior citizens.
When in Callao Cave, another significant story why a visit is a must, is to actually hear (and indeed be there!) the first-hand information about the Callao Man. Callao Cave is home to the oldest human remains (67,000 years old) found in the country and in the Southeast Asia, thus making the Cagayan as the “Cradle of the Civilization.”
“The 2019 Nature article describing H. luzonensis noted that: “The presence of another and previously unknown hominin species east of the Wallace Line during the Late Pleistocene epoch underscores the importance of island Southeast Asia in the evolution of the genus Homo.” (Détroit, F.; Mijares, A. S.; Corny, J.; Daver, G.; Zanolli, C.; Dizon, E.; Robles, E.; Grün, R. & Piper, P. J. (2019). “A new species of Homo from the Late Pleistocene of the Philippines”. Nature.) In April 2019, in a study by Florent Détroit et al., the fossils were attributed to a distinct species of archaic human, dubbed Homo luzonensis. The fossils are currently housed in the National Museum of the Philippines. A replica of the fossils can be viewed at Cagayan Museum and Historical Research Center in Tuguegarao City.
Sightseeing adventure includes: a view of the circadian flight of millions of bats at dusk from Mororan river, experience the “mororan” phenomenon, kayak or boat ride (P500 per boat), swim or go fishing at the Pinacanaunan river.
How to get there?
Callao Eco-Tourism Zone
Peñablanca – Callao Cave Road, Peñablanca, Cagayan
Visit Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat (est. 1730). The jump-off point is from Tuguegarao City with an approximate travel time of 58-minutes (32.8km). Was first called Ermita of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is located in the outskirts of Piat in the province of Cagayan. The shrine is dubbed as the Pilgrimage Center of the North, and home to the 407-year-old Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Piat which wa brought to the Philippines from Macau in 1604.
Adjacent to the Basilica is the Piat Basilica Museum that holds several artifacts related to the Basilica or Our lady of Piat.
Life-sized representation of the stations of the cross
How to get there?
Via Cagayan – Apayao Road
Cagayan River or Rio Grande de Cagayan. The longest and widest river in the country with an estimate length of 25,469 km.
Zipline in Cagayan (est. 2016). Portabaga Falls Park and Resort, Sta. Praxedes is the first zipline in Cagayan. The zipline project has a length of 210 meters with an average riding time of 23 seconds and has two types of rides, the Superman Ride and the Hip Seat Ride.
Protected Areas. There are five declared protected areas in Cagayan Valley and are now classified as national parks.
The new five protected areas included in the 94 now classified as national parks in the Philippines are: Palaui Island Protected Landscape and Seascape (PIPLS); Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape (PPLS); Tumauini Watershed Natural Park (TWNR); Salinas Natural Monument (SNM); and Casecnan Protected Landscape (CPL).
The PPLS located in the province of Cagayan has the largest area with 118,653.67 ha. The CPL in the provinces of Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya and Aurora (Region 3) follows with a total area of 86,246.77 ha; the PIPLS in Cagayan, 8,048.57 ha; TWNP in Isabela, 6,509.38 ha; and the SNM in Nueva Vizcaya, 5,966.05 ha. Ref: https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1044271
Also included among other protected arears:
Magapit Protected Landscape. is a protected area of forested limestone hills and grasslands. The Northeastern Cagayan Key Biodiversity Area includes the Magapit Protected Landscape
Wangag Watershed Forest Reserve. to protect the area from deforestation and degradation. The proclaimed Watershed Forest Reserve is composed of the watershed areas of two major river systems in the municipality of Gonzaga, Cagayan, Province, Philippines.
Pilgrimage Sites. Aside from Our Lady of Piat and Tuguegarao Cathedral, Cagayan province is proud to have numerous heritage churches in the Philippines.
Parish Church of San Reymundo de Peñaforte (Malaueg Church) in Rizal, Apayao, Cagayan (est. 1607) – Rizal is known as the town of Malaueg. It is declared as one of the National Cultural Treasure by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts in 2001. One of the oldest churches in the Philippines, turned 400 years old on November 21, 2017.
Ciudad Nueva Segovia in lal-lo, Cagayan (1596) – created the Diocese of Nueva Segovia, the Sto. Domingo de Guzman became what is now the Church of Lal-lo.
Sto. Domingo de Guzman in Lal-lo, Cagayan (est, 1595) – moved to Vigan in 1758 due to Cagayan river’s constant flooding threat. The seat of the Diocese of Nueva Segovia remains in Vigan until today where is now elevated as the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia.
St. Philomene Church in Alcala Cagayan (est. 1881) – the widest brick church in Cagayan Valley measuring 30 meters width and 90 meters in length. St. Peter the Martyr (Church of Masi) Pamplona Church (est. 1617) – said to be the oldest church standing in Cagayan.
San Jacinto De Polonia Church in Camalaniugan, Cagayan – said to have the oldest catholic bell in the Philippines and Southeast Asia, The Santa Maria Bell (est. 1595). Also called the Bell of Antiquity or Camalaniugan Bell.
Sto. Domingo de Guzman in Lal-lo, Cagayan (est. 1595) – moved to Vigan in 1758 due to Cagayan river flooding threat.
St. James the Apostle Church in Iguig, Cagayan (est. 1765) – the hilltop erected church was completed in twenty-two years late in 1787. Calvary Hills is an 11-hectare hill with structure of fourteen station of the cross. The place is frequented by pilgrims during the lenten season.
Pata Church Ruins in Sanchez-Mira, Cagayan (est. 1575) – locals actually said the ruins were part of Claveria town. The church of Pata is the first church in Cagayan and is considered the oldest church ruins in Northern Philippines.
Nassiping Church Ruins in Gattaran, Cagayan (est. 1596) – 1596 was the year Nassiping was established, there is no actual records when and who built the church. To date, part of the ruins is till used as a chapel.
Camalaniugan Ruins in Camalaniugan, Cagayan (est. 1764) – Ruins of the Old San Jacinto de Polonia Church, said to be the third church that was built during the mid-1700’s. In 1900’s, the convent was damaged from Cagayan river’s over flow and later in 1845, the church was completely destroyed by typhoon and earthquake.
Pudtol Ruins in Pudtol, Cagayan (est. 1684 ) – was constructed as a fortress to protect Apayao. In 1815, the church was abandoned as a result of relentless aggression of Isneg/Isnag ethnic group.
Spanish Horno, Camalaniugan, Cagayan – the biggest and most preserved “horno” (brick kiln)
Horno Ruins Tuguegarao – horno (oven) or kiln is widely used during the Spanish era, this is where they baked (to harden) the clay to make bricks. Heritage churches, ruins and walls are often made from brick formation.
Carabao milk candy from Alcala and Lal-lo – pastillas made from fresh carabao milk
Tuguegarao longganisa – small sausages filled with ground pork meat and garlic.
Iffun from Aparri
Chicharabao of Tuguegarao City
Banana chips from Amulung and Gattaran
Pancit batil patong/patun
Bulalo – soup from and with beef shanks and marrow bones until the collagen and fat has melted into a clear broth. Carabao meat is also used in their bulalo, locals called it as Laoya.
Wine and beverages – lambanog from Pamplona, lubeg from Lal-lo, bugnay from Sta. Praxedes, and kalamansi from Sanchez Mira, and nipa from Abulug.
Native delicacies such as: Paua or Pawa from Piat – steamed buns made of ground sticky rice and filled with sweetened ground peanuts. Special bibingka with cheese in top.
Nueva Vizcaya Foodies. Nueva Vizcaya is a part of the Cagayan Valley, foodies you can buy are: from G&B Pasalubong shops – pies, pasties, and sweet desserts. The have the best tupig which is sold on the road. They are also known for the citrus fruit (bugger than dalanghita or dalandan) but sweet in taste.
One Town, One Product (OTOP) Store in Sta. Fe. A short stop-over along the highway of Sta. Fe. In 2017, the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Santa Fe in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry- Nueva Vizcaya operated the Santa Fe OTOP Store in Forest Park, Santa Fe, Nueva Vizcaya.
The shop sells various Nueva Vizcaya bottled food preserves, memorabilia trinkets, local soft broom, and other indigenous products. The forest park also sell different kinds of orchids and succulent plants.
Bought a Benguet-woven “tapis” or a wraparound garment, women uses it as skirt for P500 ($10).
Other attractions of Cagayan province. Side trip in Tabuk, Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya, and beaches and falls, and other agri-tourism farms.
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