For many tourists, Cagayan province in northwest Luzon is distant and hard to reach. And if a traveler persisted to visit, it may be in Tuguegarao, the provincial capital, to see the cathedral or eat pansit batil patung.. And for the adventurer, a quick stop in Penablanca for the caves. But my travels over the years to this fascinating province has made me realize that there are more untamed places to visit in Cagayan. This listing is in no way complete but gives you an idea of where to go and what to see when the itch for adventure strikes.
1 Palaui Island
Perhaps Palaui Island encapsulates more the phrase untamed place. It’s a protected island teeming with soaring cliffs, forested mountains, a waterfall, some interesting flora and fauna and sweeping seascapes. It’s also very remote that only few visitors come here every year. At Cape Engano, the ruins of a spanish colonial era lighthouse sits at the low hill with views of the Dos Hermanos islands.
2 The mangroves of San Vicente
Although not extensive as those in other areas like in Mindanao, the mangrove forest in San Vicente, municipality of Santa Ana is a visual treat as your banca makes its way, passing the narrow water passage. There are lots of birds, like herons and egrets perched or flying around, gnarled roots peeking above the water and greenery with the mountains at the background. Its usually a trip included when coming from Anguib Beach.
3 Anguib Beach
Another worthy place to visit in Cagayan, distant Anguib Beach never disappoints. Although the boat trip here can be scary during the amihan months, its actually part of the adventure. Pristine and cool waters, white sandy shores, beautiful view of the distant reef breaks, a tongue of land jutting from afar and verdant hills at the back makes for a Robinson Crusoesque location. But just as you want to linger, your visiting party calls to go back. This place is better experienced when you stay a few more days and go offline.
4 Callao and Sierra Caves
When it comes to adventure in Cagayan province, the municipality of Penablanca tops the list. Mainly for spelunking in either Callao Cave, where remains of the oldest human in the Philippines was unearthed, and Sierra Cave which is considered more pristine compared to the former. The caverns of Callao are massive, dwarfing visitors while Sierra Cave is more wet and muddy. Both can be explored and guides are a must.
5 Circadian bat flight
Cruising the Pinacanauan River that flows through Penablanca and just below Callao Cave is one of the ways to enjoy this protected area. But its the circadian bat flight, a very much awaited activity of these crepuscular animals that you really need to see. It takes a short river trip from the jump off point to the area below a cave, more of a hole on the rock wall. Here, at dusk, millions of insect eating bats fly out of the hole, forming a dark line in the sky and then flying to their feeding areas around the park. Its really, and eerily, a sight to behold.
6 Taggat Lagoon
Claveria is located at the north coast and one of her interesting places to visit in Cagayan is the beautiful Taggat Lagoon. It’s pristine, have two interesting rock formations, Lakay Lakay and Baket Baket which are said to be enchanted. But what I love about this place is visiting it in the afternoon, when the fishermen’s boats line the placid shoreline. You hike up to near the edge of the sea where stunning rock forms come into view.
7 Shoreline fishing during the amihan
The amihan, northeast monsoon from October to March makes it difficult for fishermen in the northern coast of Cagayan as the sea is very rough. With no other choice, many fishermen wait at the shore, netting fish and other marine products pushed to the coast by the strong waves. From a distance, its a dramatic but dangerous dance as you see the sea in turmoil with the fishermen pushing their hand held nets into the coming wave then hurriedly backtrack as the wave recedes.
8 Raking for gacca shells
Like those in Claveria, another northern town, Buguey, fishermen take advantage of the amihan when so called gacca shells become abundant by raking the shoreline with their unique contraptions. Gacca shells are small, triangular and fingernail sized bivalves that are popular for cooking either as a delicious soup or a finger food just similar to eating dried and salted pumpkin seeds. The latter is sold in many areas of northern Cagayan.
9 Bagsang Falls
A little farther from the town of Gonzaga, up the trails going to the mountains at the interior is a little but charming waterfall. Bagsang Falls has cool and clean waters perfect for bathing. It is reached after a short hike at the edge of a cornfield bordered with forest. Although not so popular because of its distance, its a beautiful reward when you do get to visit this natural wonder.
10 Shoreline rock caverns and formations
The municipality of Gonzaga has never been under travelers’s radars but it does have its own charms and natural beauty. One of the unexpected places that we visited is this beach near the town center. The shoreline is actually teeming with magnetic sand which have been mined in some sections of the town and other north Luzon beaches, to the detriment of the environment. But at the end of the beach is a series of hills when explored yields a cavern that has openings at the beach and into the sea. Near it is a natural layered sea wall. When you do go up, you have a beautiful seascape.
Some of these trips were part of Lakbay Norte, made possible by North Philippines Visitors Bureau (NPVB) which promotes travel and destinations in North Luzon. Images were taken in between 2011 and 2017.