Monday, May 19, 2014

Magnificent Nature and Awesome Adventure: Epilogue of 5- Day Family Vacation in Cagayan

Magnificent Nature and Awesome Adventure
Epilogue of 5- Day Family Vacation in Cagayan
Tuguegarao, Cagayan Series 10

Tuguegarao, Cagayan is the third destination  
that we visited for the last three years, after
Ilolio City and Guimaras two years ago,

and Bukidnon about a year ago.

Although we have been traveling  
abroad two to three times a year ,

…we decided to cut off our travel outside
 the Philippines to once to twice a year
 to give way to one local destination.

We only started seriously traveling locally,
which we tremendously enjoyed and we
started routinely included it in our calendar
every year before or after the holy week frenzy.

It was our first time to be in Cagayan which we heard nothing 
about except for the being the hottest province and having recorded
 the highest scorching summer temperatures in the Philippines.
We rely mostly on travel books before we travel to a certain 
place, and our library was teeming with numerous books 
of places we have visited and those we intend to visit,
but travel books about the province are a rarity.


The province has never been extensively promoted as a tourist 
destination so it was difficult to get  information for tourists  
traveling as a family with young kids.Most of the travel blogs on 
Tugeuerao are more of the backpackers review.

…the ever reliable Lonely Planet
was not of help either as the popular
travel book only dedicated a page
or two about Tuguegrao, Cagayan.

…most people would even react with
disbelief whenever they learn that we are
having a summer vacation in Tuguegarao.

But believe it or not- we had one
of the best vacations of our lives.

Day 1.

We arrived late afternoon in Tuguegarao
from Naga City after a stop- over in Manila,

...and we were happy to see
a tourist booth at the airport,

…and had informative brochures about
the tourist destinations of the province.

Tuguegarao City is one of the very
few  cities in the Philippines that
had tourist information  brochures

We were picked by a Pulsar Hotel
service van from the airport

and took us for a very short drive,

…to the hotel that is located in
Penablanca, a town located in
the periphery of Tuguegarao.

Stay, Play and Feast
^^Click the link  for more

We had planned the trip as early as December
and we initially booked at Valley Hotel as
it was getting good reviews on the web.

But most of the travel agents are endorsing
Pulsar Hotel, as it is apparently the newest
hotel in the city, we decided to book here.

There was nothing fancy on hotel lobby.

It had basic furnishings of comfy sofas,
coffee tables with rattan chairs, and a
grand piano at the far end of the lobby.

Pulsar staff was very helpful courteous and 
the front desk staff was efficient and friendly.
We stayed in an Executive Twin Room,
the biggest and apparently the best they have.


Just like the lobby, there was nothing fancy 
on the room. It has two queen sized bed that
could comfortably fit two adults and two kids,

It also had a huge sofa that could serve as an extra bed 
and where one could lounge while watching a TV.
 The hotel had a rather slow free internet connection,

…a balcony with a very limited view
and could not be used at it is where
the aircon vent and exhaust are located.


The room had a very spacious bathroom,
with a nice bathtub, that compensated
for the absence of a swimming pool.

The hotel is connected to Convenience Store
that closes very early at about 7 in the evening,

…and this may be a big turn off to some guests
as it is located right next to a Total Gas Station.

They have a superb in- house restaurant
called  Café Asuncion the offers a decent
choices of good food in their menu.

...and had varied choices of delicious dishes 
 for their in room dining, and yummy  Pinoy
set breakfasts to start your day.

Pulzar Hotel is what I can say an 'a- okay' hotel 
as it may  not have family friendly amenities 
for those traveling with with young children,

but it could provide a family of four with a spacious, 
comfortable and affordable basic accommodation

^^Click the link  for more

After a resting for a while and having our very first
 taste of Pancit Batil Patong in our hotel room, we
decided to have an early evening city tour of Tuguegrao.

The hotel staff got us a tricycle as
there are no taxis in Tuguegarao yet, and
the kids were excited as it would be their first 
 tricycle ride, while it has been almost two  
decades for me and my wife’s last tricycle ride.

It was a noisy and bumpy ride and
our friendly driver, took us around
the city  and its major attractions.

We visited beautiful St. Peter Cathedral.
which was already closed when we arrive,

…but the darkness could not hide the grandeur
and beauty of the ancient and historic church.

The trike driver also took us to
Tugeugarao City center where we
were treated to the sights and sounds,

 the fascinating chaos, the bustle
and hustle of a rapidly developing city.

We also visited St. Paul University as
my wife wanted to see it, being an alumna
of its sister school in St. Paul, Goa, CamSur.

We returned to the hotel and had a dinner
at Café  Asuncion before retiring to bed.

Day 2.

Historic Road to Paradise
^^Click the link  for more

After an early breakfast in the hotel,  we were on our way 
to  Sta. Ana, located two to three hours away from the 
city, where we have booked for an overnight stay 
in Cagayan Holiday and Leisure Resort.

Little did we know that we were in for one of
the most scenic and historic road trips of our lives.

We passed by scenic towns located along  
the banks of  the mighty Cagayan River
on its way north to the Aparri Delta.

We passed by Iguig, the town
closest to Tuguegarao City
known for its Calvary Hills,

…then passed by Amulung,

…and Alcala, where the sight of the beautiful
St. Phelomene Church caught our attention.

We enjoyed the beautiful  
countryside of Gattaran,

…that my family likened to the toporgraphy 
of Czech Republic’s Carlovy Vary,

…with the European landscape replaced
with an oriental and more rustic character.

The road from Gattaran to Lallo gave 
us a pleasant surprise when we saw
a beautiful castle by the roadside that
happened to be a hotel and a souvenir shop.

Also near by was a suspension  bridge that
looked like a miniature version of San Francisco’s 
Golden Gate Bridge, that apparently links 
the highway that leads to the Ilocos Region.

It is in Lallo where the  historic St. Dominic Church, 
the former seat of the Nueva Segovia,  one of  the five
original Archdioceses created by Spain, is located.

We took the  Lallo diversion road,
where  we caught  a glimpse of 
the Lallo International  Airport 
that  was undergoing construction,

…that led us  to the town of Gonzaga where we enjoyed 
 the sight of  what seemed to be hundreds and hundreds 
of verdant  mounds dotting the roadside and the  horizon,

…that looked like a greener version of 
Bohol’s very popular Chocolate Hills.

Gonzaga is the penultimate town to Sta. Ana,   
our final  destination which  is a part of the 
Cagayan Special Economic Zone,

…and where Sun City’s  Cagayan Holiday Leisure
Resort, is located, where we would be staying overnight.

Stay, Stray, Play and Feast.

is a picturesque seaside resort in Sta. Ana, Cagayan
located in one of the most northern part of Luzon.


It is a huge resort complex and one would be
overwhelmed of its grandiosity of its entrance
façade and posh lobby upon checking in.

Guests are brought to their villas
with electric cars as they are located
a little bit far from the entrance.



We were booked in a 2 bedroom villa,
and we were delighted to see how 
big and beautiful it was

It has a spacious living room,

a full dining room with kitchen, and
the unit was so impeccably designed

It had two bedrooms, the first one with a
Queen sized bed and its own toilet and bath,

...and the other one with two single beds.
Both rooms were tastefully decorated.

There were three, rather old, box type
flat screen TVs, one each in the two
bedrooms and another in the living room.

The second toilet and bath is located
near the kitchen and dining areas.

Some villas even have a private
pool on their backyards.

Play and Feast

Guests would never run out
of things to do in the resort.

They have a beautiful beachfront where
one could just laze around and relax
while watching the beautiful sunset,



…while the kids couldn’t get enough of
the various waters sports facilities being
offered by the resort, day in and day out.

They have a gorgeous infinity pool, and
we had a great time bonding there.

They also have an excellent
spa and a well equipped gym.

The resort also had a quaint seaside dining
area but the service was rather slow that it took
us forever to wait for out orders to come,


that we decided to have then delivered to
our room, which came packed in disgusting
styros without any eating utensils at all.

The food tasted great though, and I would
recommend dining in their Chinese Restaurant
located near the Casino to avoid any inconvenience.

Although the hotel had a very poor costumer
service, we still enjoyed our stay in this resort
as it is beautiful, well maintained and affordable.

Day 3
Stray and Feast
Cagayan’s Magnificent Historic Churches: 
An Astounding Journey Back in Time  
^^Click the link  for more

We checked out from Cagayan Holiday
Leisure Resort after a heavy breakfast,
which again was served in styrofoam boxes.

We hopped on a rented van and instructed the driver
that we intend to visit some historic churches and
important sites along our way to Tuguegarao.

First on our list was
Lallo’s  St. Dominic Church.

Formerly known as the old Archdiocese of Neuva Segovia
we really wanted to visit this church as it is one of the five
original Archdioceses established by the Spaniards together
with our very own Archdiocese of Nueva Caceres in Naga City.

The church was preserved well and
maintained it’s grand old glory.

it gave us an awe inspiring feeling
of getting face to face with our past.

We then dropped by the beautiful
Castle in the Sky Hotel and
Restaurant to take some photos,

..and try the nearby Tinupig stores.

The area is an ideal tourist stop as there
are also restaurants serving local specialty
dishes and souvenir shops located nearby.

We then visited Alacala town’s St. Phelomene Church.
It is an all red brick church with a  charming courtyard 
that would make one feel that he is in a European piazza.

The massive church door had intricate
grape vine  design trimmed with gold.

The church interior was undergoing renovation
so there was not much to see from the inside.


The St. James the Apostle Church,
in the town of Iguig,  surprised us.

We came to visit their poplar Calvary Hills
as it was only a week before the holy week,

…but we found out that the church was a treasure 
throve of priceless bits a pieces of history.

Inside the ancient church is a relic from the
original cross where Jesus was crucified,
displayed in a glass- encased cavity of a cross.

The church also had an ancient obelisk at the
courtyard that was still intact and seemed  to
have been left untouched since it was built in 1700.

There was also a remnant f an ancient brick
Spanish staircase that used to lead to the
river banks  of the  mighty Cagayan River

The river has since receded and  the staircase
is now located far away from the river bank . 

Also nearby is well preserved ancient
well  that said to supply  water for the
town of Iguig  in the 17th century.

It was late in the afternoon when we arrived in Tuguegarao
and we requested our driver to take us to what he believes
as the best Pancit Batil Patong restaurant in the city.

He then took us to this Long Life Panciteria
that was located in a convoluted maze of  minor
city roads to some secluded and narrow ‘eskinitas’.

Where the chef was kind enough to let me observe
and took photos on how they cook the noodles,
Which was topped with almost everything on it,

…and served piping hot on the table.
The driver was right after all.

The Long Life Panciteria tasted divine, and  I could  
confidently say, despite the fact that  I was not able to  
try other panciterias versions in the city  this must be 
Tuguegarao’s Best Pancit Batil Patong

It was our third day in Cagayan
and we were having a lot of fun.
^^Click the link  for more

It was our fourth and penultimate day in Cagayan,
and this would be our busiest day, as I would speak
for the first plenary session in a medical convention.

My talk ended shortly before 10 AM,

…and we were off for a whole day
tour on a rented van thereafter.

We are headed for the town of Piat to visit the  
Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat, where
we passed by the Buntun Bridge, considered
as  the longest river bridge in the Philippines.

It is a 1.098 km- long bridge that links Tuguegarao
to the second and third district towns of Cagayan and
Apayao and offers a sweeping view of Cagayan River.

we then passed by the town of Solana that had
a Hollywood- like signage perched up on the hill.

We then traveled thru the scenic and rustic
countryside on our way to the town of Piat.

We arrived after more than an hour at the 
Basilica Minore  of Our Lady of Piat,

…and we marveled at the church which was
specially built to house the miraculous image 
considered as the patroness of the region.


We returned to Tuguegarao City, and
shopped at the Lighthouse Cooperative,
for some pasalubong that we could take home.


We then requested our driver to take us to a
Chinese restaurant and interestingly, he took 
us to Chow King right at the heart of the city.

We were amused as we didn’t mean to go 
to a fast food and what we wanted to try was
an authentic Tuguegrao based Chinese resto,
but it was okay as it was perfect time to enjoy
Chow King Halo- halo as it was a very hot day.

We dropped by the Cagayan Provincial Capitol,
to see the Cagayan Museum and  Historical
Research Center, but it was closed as it was a
Saturday, so we decided just take photos of the place.

When we drove to Penablaca to see Callao Cave
and the Insect Bat nocturnal migration- little
did we know that we would be experiencing one
of the most awesome shows of the natural world.

Callao Cave is an unforgettable experience
for me and my family, and we were awed by
the immensity of the  breathtaking caverns 
and majestic stalactite and stalagmite formations, 

stunningly beautiful chambers,
and a cacophony of beautiful spleothems
including glittering crystal helictites.


After visiting the Callao caves, 
we took a river cruise in a boat 
at the pristine Pinacuanan River.

The river snakes thru a scenic wall  of
limestone mountains on both sides, and it
is on these rocky virgin mountains  where
the the town of Penablanca was named,

We docked at the shore
just below the bat cave,

When a deluge of millions and millions
of insect bats rushed out of the cave opening,

...that it appeared like a living 
and breathing volcano crater, 
it was so amazingly spectacular
and took our breaths away.

What nature had to offer in this beautiful 
less traveled place-is something that
should never be missed in one’s lifetime.

Day 5  

The world stood still on  our last day in Tuguegarao, 
as it would be the day of Pacquiao and Bradley’s fight
in Las Vegas, we had nothing to do after breakfast.

Our flight to Manila would still be at 3 PM, 
and the boxing match would be beamed live 
to our rooms for free on a pay per view channel.


 It was also beamed on a widescreen at Café Asuncion  
that  temporarily held the hotel’s employees attention.

 My son wanted to swim, and he did on the bathtub 
 as the hotel does not have a swimming pool,

 …while we enjoyed PacMan’s victory over 
Cagayan’s native snacks and finger foods.

 We checked out of a little after lunch and the  
hotel’s service van took us back to the airport.

 We felt really good while waiting for our flight 
not just because Manny Pacquaio won, but for 
the reason that we had one of the most enjoyable

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