Travel North: Cagayan, Tuguegarao, and Ilocos in 4 Days
To Far North and Beyond!
Warning - this trip is not for the faint of heart. It involved traveling via bus from Manila to Sta Ana, Cagayan for 16 hours. Although to us who dared, we were rewarded with beautiful-picture-perfect sights both on land and under the sea.
It was just after the summer season when we decided to embark on an almost instantaneous journey. We were twelve in the group and our destination was Palaui Island in Cagayan Province located at the far Northeast point of Luzon. Afterwards, have a short trip at Tuguegarao which is a four hour bus or van away, then swing by Pagudpud, Ilocos a 6-hour night bus away from Tuguegarao.
Getting to Palaui
We were rushing out of the office as soon as the clock hit 5:30PM, we did not want to be late for our 7:15 Florida Liner bus ride from Sampaloc Manila to Gonzaga, Cagayan and knowing Manila, the state of heavy traffic is unpredictable.
We arrived after an hour and as it turned out, the bus was late, we already left the station almost 8PM. It was also a bad decision to take the Gonzaga bus since it goes straight to Aparri first before it takes a U-turn back towards Sta Ana. As I mentioned, the trip took us 16 hours. By the time we got off Gonzaga for a less than 30 minutes jeep ride to Sta Ana we were exhausted. We paid a little extra for the jeep to take us straight to San Vicente Pier to book the outrigger boat tour for Palaui the next day and to be able to reach our place to stay in for two days - Jerolynda Resort.
Trip Tip: For a shorter trip to Palaui, there is a flight from Manila to Tuguegarao, from there take the bus or van to Sta Ana (this would save around nine hours travel). There is also a Florida Bus that goes directly to Sta Ana (this would save around four hours travel) but only leaves at 3PM.
The dispatcher at San Vicente Pier was a nice guy. He helped us do market before going to Jerolynda Resort since one could not buy food at the resort and yes, there is also no food when touring Palaui. The fish was fresh and there were also live crabs on sale. These crabs were not the typical ones in the restaurant, their meat is color black and had a hard shell. When we ran out of supplies such as coffee and cheap rhum the next day, he also asked the boatman to bring some to us.
After a heavy meal of fish and crabs for lunch, we were off to our first stop in Palaui - the Cape Engaño Lighthouse. If weather permits, the outrigger boat can stop directly at Punta Verde. From there, we had to hike up for less than 20 minutes. It was a good thing that mother nature was kind to us, the waves were not bad. Considering we were experiencing heavy rains in Metro Manila, it was a sun-shiny day in Palaui. Although too sunny - it was a steaming hot way up the lighthouse. Thank goodness for the beautiful view! Everywhere it was full of grass, flowers, and trees at the side of the path. There were stairs for most of the way up. The lighthouse itself was already worn out. It still is beautiful though with some of its old stone walls in-tact.
The way down was a lot easier since the sun was already hidden. Our tour guide suggested that we visit the waterfall which was 10 minutes hike from Punta Verde. This time we passed through a path in a rain forest. The waterfall was comparably smaller then others I have seen, but after the hot climb at Cape Engaño we still bathed quickly in the cool gush of water.
We continued the tour the next day. Our first stop was the white sand beach of Anguib Cove. Most of the time there was spent snorkeling and taking pictures under water. There was not that much to see though - after around 30 minutes of swimming all we saw were a small sea cucumber, small silverfish, a dead sea urchin and lots of sea grass. The place was perfect for beach bumming and a picnic at one of the huts. Lunch was freshly bought fish, canned goods and rice which we asked to be cooked by the beach caretaker for the same price of 50P per meal for the cooking.
After the beach we were off to the Palaui Marine Sanctuary. The place was declared a marine sanctuary since 1994. It's no wonder the corals are alive and at around eight feet there was a clam and colorful fish.
The last stop was Crocodile Island, named as such because of a crocodile shaped pile of white stones in the middle of the island. The stones looked like marble but crumbles easily when touched. We climbed up the stone to have a good view of the island.
- Jerolynda Resort cost is 800P for 2 people, 100P extra bed, 1000P for 4 people. Those rooms are non-a/c, electricity was always fluctuating when we were there and they use salt water for bath. Only thing is there are only two choices for a resort near the port - the other one, Jotay Resort was fully booked.
- Market cost for food was 70P per kilo for fish, 50P per kilo of crab, and 2 kilos for 70P of rice. The personnel at Jerolynda Resort would cook the meal for 50P cooking charge per meal. In our case, we had a serving of Rice (50P), Fish with Soup (50P), and steamed crab (50P). Total cost is 150P for cooking.
- The tour guide for the twelve of us at Cape Engaño was one of the care takers of Palaui Island named Maya. Supposedly it is one guide for every 3 people, but since we arrived late, she was the only one there. Payment is 250P per tour guide.
- Boat ride for the following locations is 3500P as of June 2012 - Cape Engaño, Anguib Beach, Crocodile Island, and Punta Verde. Contact dispatcher Nanding at 09359966744 or 09476340986
- There is also another option to just choose one location at a time from San Vicente Port - Cape Engaño (45mins travel, 1800P), Anguib (25mins travel, 1500P), Siwangag (30mins travel, 1500P), Puzorubio (1hr travel, 1800P), Jerolynda Resort (ours was free since we stayed there, but if not staying there it is 10mins travel, 300P), Crocodile Island (5mins travel, 500P), Punta Verde (15mins travel, 750P), and Pugo Moro (5mins travel, 500P).
We rented a van to bring us from San Vicente Pier to Tuguegarao for 4000P. Along the way we passed by Kilometer 642, which is the last kilometer marker of Luzon. We reached Tuguegarao around four hours later.
One of the must-do's when there is to try their Pansit Batil Patung. We got a taste of this noodle treat at Jomar's. The super special plate was good enough for two people at only 70P. After the heavy meal we went to Callao Cave in Tuguegarao, Peñablanca which is known for its seven chambers. There were 183 steps up to the cave. The caves still had the stalactite and stalagmite formations but they were no longer sparkling. According to our tour guide Callao Cave was already declared as a dead cave, nevertheless we got beautiful shots inside the cave. My favorite chamber was the Cathedral - the tourism of Cagayan made a church inside the cave. I can almost imagine a solemn wedding inside.
We stopped by the Central Mall to buy souvenirs then passed by Tuguegarao Cathedral built in 1761. We caught the bus for Ilocos at 7pm which turned out to be a longer trip than expected...
- Operating Hours of Callao Cave - 8am to 6pm
- Entrance fees to the Cave - 20P (12yrs old and older), 15P (Senior Citizen with ID), 10P (students with valid ID), 10P (below 12 years old)
- Other things to to do in Peñablanca Tuguegarao we were supposed to do but was not able to :( 1) Sierra Cave - according to our tour guide in Callao Cave, Sierra Cave is still alive but to be able to have a tour there, a schedule must be done with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Also, he told us we needed to have rugged clothes on since we would get wet. 2) Pinacunauan River Boating for the Circadian flight of Bats but it rained in the afternoon and we were told that we would not be seeing the flight of bats with rain.
- Souvenirs from Cagayan: 1) Alcala Candy - candy made from Carabao's milk 40P (15pcs each pack), 2) Cagayan shirt near GMW bus station 180P, 3) Chicharon or crispy Carabao Meat also from the same place as the shirt 30P
The bus was late for 30 minutes. And if that was not bad enough, halfway thru the trip they were making a bridge and we were asked to get down the bus and walk for 10 minutes before getting to the next bus. However for some reason, we arrived at Pagudpud at 1:15am which was just 15 minutes later than the time of arrival we had expected. Half of us got down the Pagudpud bus station and the other half went to Laoag since they have not yet been there. Our half was planning a beach bum in the morning, while those going to Laoag will have a city tour. We were to meet in the afternoon for the Pagudpud South Bound Tour.
It was a bit scary waiting at the bus stop of Pagudpud, there were no lights, a gecko was making loud sounds, and once in a while we get a swoosh of air; really like a horror movie. We contacted our previous tricycle driver from our last Ilocos trip, Nat. When he came to our aid he was driving a lowered car with blue lights inside instead of our expected tricycle, turns out his mother-in-law was visiting and he borrowed the car to pick us up. We were lucky that his mom also owns a home stay at Saud since we did not have any place to stay before sunrise.
We were off to our beach bumming schedule by 8am. We first passed by the souvenir shop at Saud and got ourselves Pagudpud shirts then we went straight to Kapuluan Vista Resort for brunch. When Nat dropped us off at the resort he was so nice he did not even want us to pay for the room. We paid the agreed 300P for the tricycle pick-up and gave him an additional 300P tip for all his worries.
The brunch at Kapuluan was quite expensive but considering that the payment was as good as a day trip it was worth every cent. We were able to leave our bags, snorkel in front of the resort, shower, and hang-out in front of the beach with fruit shake in hand... perfect beach bum and rest day.
By late afternoon we were picked up by a van we contacted online and we were off to the South Bound Tour of Pagudpud - The Bangui Windmills, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, and Kapupurawan Rock Formation. We were able to go to two out of the three places during our last trip but we missed the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation because of the bad weather.
The Kapurpurawan Rock Formation was beautiful. There were lots of smooth white large rocks with the view of the beach. There were some areas which were roped, hopefully no part of it will fall apart.
- Bus from Tuguegarao to Pagudpud 355P
- Bus from Tuguegarao to Laoag 455P for those planning to do a Laoag tour
- Brunch at Kapuluan Vista Resort: Bagnet (crispy pork specialty of Ilocos) 350P, Vigan Longganisa Breakfast Meal 200P (longganisa is Filipino sausage. The breakfast meal comes with free coffee), Banana Crumble 50P, Orange or Mango Fruitshake 60P, Coffee 40P
- 2500P van around pagudpud for South Bound Tour
- 800P a/c bus from Pagudpud back to Manila
- Ilocos Souvenir: 250P shirts, 35P Batac Empanada (fried pastry with meat, vegetables, and egg inside), 100P Sylvia's Empanadita (I got this from the bus station stopover, smaller version of empanada that can be brought home)