Saturday, May 24, 2014

Finding What is Hot in Cagayan Valley

Cagayan Valley River as viewed from Calvary Hills
I entered Callao Caves five years ago. I was amazed of the wonders of nature. I was somewhat afraid of enchanted places especially the boating we did in order to see millions of bats coming out from top of the cave. I am again back in Cagayan - to explore more and know more about it.

Cagayan Provincial Capitol
In my short stay in Tugegarao amid the sizzling hot temperature, I cannot simply leave without sneaking to nearby tourist sites. Although, my stay was never enough; I am glad that I can go back again to explore for more.

Cagayan, caving capital of the Philippines
Cagayan Valley is known for the Cagayan Valley River. It is the largest river basin the the Philippines. The river is so visible from the plane, it is very long and stretches from one province to another.

First provincial museum in the Philippines
The province of Cagayan is known as the caving capital of the Philippines. Visitors and locals who drop by the Provincial Capitol is greeted by two mini-caves in front of the tourism office. The tourism office also houses the first provincial museum in the Philippines, Cagayan Museum. Established in August 15, 1973; the museum houses an extensive collection of fossils, artifacts and ethnographic items. Tourists can visit the museum for free or may have group schedules on weekends upon request. Phone: (078) 846-7337. 

What is so significant about the caves and the museum is that Cagayan is the location of the excavation for the Philippines' oldest human bones. Until now, the bones are still in the possession of the archaeologist, as I learned from my recent visit. Hopefully I can see them one day in a government museum.

St. Peter Cathedral
Scientific, historical and religious - that's my description of Cagayan. Whenever I visit a Philippine city, I always look for the old churches. Provinces may not all have caves like that in Cagayan but surely they have old churches. 

The Tugegarao Cathedral forms part of the rich Spanish history of the country. It is the longest church in Cagayan Valley measuring 1,850 sqm in length. Dominican priests arrived in Cagayan Valley in 1600s and started their mission in Tugegarao on May 9, 1604. The church was built from 1761 to 1767 as the largest church in Cagayan. The diocese was founded by Pope Pio X in April 10, 1910. The church got destroyed during the Liberation Period in 1945 but the parishioners helped to rebuild the church. Nowadays, the church, which is St. Peter Cathedral, is under renovation. It is not yet to late to share for its restoration.

Calvary Hills in Iguig
In the nearby town of Iguig is the famed Calvary Hills. It is a site for Lenten season religious activities. With an area of 11 hectares, it makes home to the more-than-life-statues of the Stations of the Cross depicting the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. A signage says about the Jubilee Cross Chapel: "enshrined, authenticated true relic of the cross of Christ." In the hill is the Iguig Church. With the town of Iguig founded on December 28, 1607; the church and the convent were built from 1765 to 1787. Calvary Hills remain as a real landmark in Iguig, Cagayan.

Next time, I will be glad to be back to explore the north more - visit more of its churches and ruins, see more caves and hopefully, the islands. What made my mobility easier is the price of tricycle rental. Special trips range from 20 pesos to 60 pesos within Tugegarao City. Drivers reply with "you're welcome" and are more tourist-friendly than those I have encountered in one city in southern Philippines. It was just fine as I enjoyed the fun of enduring literal heat in the north.

With references from the Provincial Tourism Office of Cagayan and National Historical Institute

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Malabrigo Lighthouse and more: Lobo, Batangas

So refreshing view after 300 steps from the shore.
If you have never been to Baguio City, then going to Lobo, Batangas is a must-try just to have an idea of long, hanging and winding roads. For me, who have familiarity with the bitukang manok and the Atimonan road, I think I have a bit of idea. Bitukang manok, by the way, refers to the crooked way to Daet, Camarines Norte (from Naga City) which is like bitukang manok (chicken intestine) while the Atimonan road  that goes to the national park of Quezon have so steep parts. In totally, it's quite fun that I have never been to Baguio City. My feet have already reached as far as Sapporo, Japan but not yet in Baguio City, the summer capital city of the Philippines.

After about three hours of land travel from Quezon City, we reached the town of Lobo in Batangas province. We exited via Batangas City; that's the end of a very long highway, and dropped by Batangas City Fire Station as call of courtesy before heading to Lobo. It was late afternoon but then I wondered why there are lots of bystanders in the downtown. At that time, I expect people to be rushing to go home, finishing some last minute grocery shopping and filling the tricycles or jeepneys soon. However, why are they there? I had a few meters walk outside the municipio (municipal hall) and figured out what's going on. Well, Anne Curtis, the famed actress in the Dyesebel (mermaid) soap, is coming to Lobo for a regular taping. 

Early morning in Lobo beach town
The town of Lobo can be described in some words like beaches, atis and Malabrigo. The rest, I still have to know. There is a long stretch of beaches in Lobo. Some famous showbiz personalities even own resorts in Lobo. As a beach area, I could say, Lobo is worth to discover. I saw an area designated for the banca's (boat) of locals. There is an area for swimming where sand is abundant while there is an area with more stones, good for snorkeling perhaps. Bantay Dagat is active in Lobo. Tourists travelling by boat to hop from one beach to another or to reach Malabrigo are expected to wear life vests. Bantay Dagat follows boats with tourists whom they see aren't in life vests. Not only that because Malabrigo is a reason for having a vigilant Bantay Dagat. Malabrigo is a sanctuary, where no fishing is allowed. For me, who hails from a town in Albay with a vast protected sea area, I see the importance of vigilance in protecting our environment.
Malabrigo Lighthouse, a historical landmark of the Spanish colonial period.
More of Malabrigo, Lobo is known for the historical Malabrigo Lighthouse. Now being powered by solar panels, the Malabrigo Lighthouse is still operational and has served as beacon to sea vessels at the Verde Island passage. Known as Faro de Punta, it was designed by Guillermo Brockman in 1891 as a cylindrical tower with metal staircase, adjacent pavilion and machine room. The lighthouse was built by the Chinese contractor Jose Garcia in 1896. It is an outstanding work of architecture from the Spanish colonial period making it one of the country's historical landmarks. 

From the newly-opened resort where we stayed, a motorized boat brought us to the Malabrigo Lighthouse for 30 minutes. It takes 300 steps from the shore in order for one to reach the tower's base. At the top, the view is breathtaking. I viewed the boat we boarded; it looks so tiny already. The view of the neighboring islands of Verde, Mindoro province will make a big "wow!"
What can be seen only in magazines is a real view from the window of guesthouse.
We stayed in Barangay Olo-Olo, where one will literally see mangroves. The area is known for pawikan nestling. There about ten more identified sites to see such as Jaybanga rice terraces, Malagundi point, simbahang bato and others. I did not make it to see them all. It is noteworthy to mention that Lobo is said to be the atis (a tropical fruit) capital of the Philippines. It was not season for atis when I visited so I only got to see atis landmark in the town plaza. From the daily hassle of living in Metro Manila, visiting nearby towns like that in Lobo is indeed a rewarding activity.