I never thought that there are places in the north worth visiting aside from Ilocos Region and the Mountain Province– not until I saw a photo of Palaui Island. It captivated my heart and promised myself that I will go there sometime. I researched online and found out that there is this a very beautiful cave, which just an hour travel from Tuguegarao City. It is the Callao Cave in Peñablanca, Cagayan– it boasts a seven-chamber cave and a chapel within a cave.
It was not long from that time I learned about Palaui Island before Cebu Pacific Air had their seat sale. I immediately grabbed the opportunity and booked three flights in September, 2015. This includes a round-trip airfare to Tuguegarao City. The only drawback about availing promo fares is that you really cannot predict what weather you will have on the dates of your travel. Most promo fares are from July to December, which are the months where rains are prevalent in the country. Although, Cebu Pacific Air also runs promo fares for the months of January to June but these are very rare– especially the flights originating from Manila.
I just realized few days before my flight, that the time of my departure is affected by the DST (Daylight Saving Time) as I work in a contact center. We observed DST as our clients are based in the West. I needed to file for an under time, which my immediate supervisor has approved. He asked me to off-set it by reporting from work earlier from my scheduled shift. Although, it will still be tagged as under time and will affect my absenteeism rate but it is still the best option for me.
I arrived at Tuguegarao Airport at 12:35PM. As with my other travels, I do not usually take transportation within the airport premises to save from being overcharged. Yes, usually fares are much higher inside the airport premises. This is true not just in the country but to any country, I believe. I walked towards the main road and took a tricycle from there to the jeepney terminal of Peñablanca. I initially asked the tricycle driver to drop me to the terminal of tricycles that ply the route to Callao Cave but we could not find it. So he just dropped me at the jeepney terminal.
The passenger jeepney is full of cargoes. This is a typical scene in the Philippines where the destination is a remote location. Usually, the availability of affordable public transportation like the jeepneys are limited. However, you can always hire a tricycle or habal-habal (motorbike) with the right price.
It did not take too long for the jeepney to be full. With just about 10 minutes of waiting, we find ourselves traveling to our destination. The roads leading to Callao Cave in Peñablanca are generally good with few parts that are unpaved. After about 42 minutes, we arrived at the junction for Callao Cave in Barangay Malibabag (Village Malibabag). Unfortunately, the jeepney’s route is to the right while the road to Callao Cave is to the left.
I asked locals where I can ride a tricycle that goes to Callao Cave. I was told that I can wait at that point. They suggested that I should have just chartered a tricycle that will drive me back and forth to Callao Cave and Tuguegarao City. I told them that it was my original plan but the tricycle driver in the city could not locate the terminal so I decided to just take the jeepney–besides it is more adventurous than hiring a tricycle.
As I wait for a tricycle, a local has approached his friend who owns a tricycle. He asked him if he can drive me to Callao Cave. I asked how much but he can barely say the price. I guess this is a typical Filipino attitude of being shy or timid. After repeatedly asking him, he finally utter the words–haha! He said, that the regular fare from the junction to Callao Cave is Php10.00 per head and his tricycle can occupy 7 passengers. He agreed to pay him Php100.00 to drive me to Callao Cave and back to the junction but I realized it will be difficult to find another tricycle that will drive me back to Tuguegarao City. I asked him again if he can drive me back to the city instead for Php250.00, he asked me to make it Php300.00– I agreed. To help him earn more, I asked him to take more passengers along the way and keep the money. On our way back, we were able to get 2 more passengers along the way– which is better than nothing.
When I arrived at the drop-off point for Callao Cave, I paid for the entrance fee. This is exclusive of boat fee that will let you traverse the other side of the river without getting wet and drown. A guide is also required before going to the cave although one can sneak in especially if there are a lot of visitors and guides are limited. You can give whatever amount to the guide as there is no standard rate. The trail is very easy, just take the stair going up that consists of about 200 steps and at the end of it is the magnificent cave. By the way, the reason a guide is required is because the locals wants to preserve the beauty of the cave from trashes and vandalism by closely monitoring all visitors.
It is also very important to rent a life vest before traversing the river. The twin of my guide told me that there were a lot of drowning incidents in the river, mostly tourists. I was surprised to learned about that as the tourist spot is being monitored by the Department of Tourism. From what I know, a life vest is required every time a tourist or visitor needs to travel by any body of water. Well, I just hope that the local government will take a look on this as life is more precious than money. It will also avoid any bad publicity when media pick up any incidents like that.
After a very short visit with the cave, I headed back to Tuguegarao City to catch the passenger van going to Sta. Ana, Cagayan. I texted Kuya, the dispatcher for the passenger vans, to let him know that I am on my way to the van terminal. Although I have more than enough time for the last trip at 5:30PM, I do not want to be the last person to arrived and end up without a seat.
The passenger van terminal is located at the right side of the airport main road when facing the main road or at the right side of the Victory Liner bus terminal. Please check the photo below for your reference. Alternatively, you can also catch a van going to Sta. Ana, Cagayan in Tuguegarao City proper. Just ask the tricycle driver to drop you off at the van terminal.
I arrived at Petron gas station in San Vicente, Sta. Ana, Cagayan at around 7:51PM and it was raining that time. I bought myself a cheeseburger, a hotdog sandwich and a chocolate drink for my dinner. I check-in at around 8:15PM in E.F. Costales Lodge, the cheapest accommodation I could find in the area. Their rate is as low as Php450.00 per night per person for a fan room. Unfortunately, I did not confirm to Ms. Ela my reservation for a fan room so I end up taking their air-conditioned room, which costs me Php800.00 for a night. Not bad considering of short notice and the amount of time Ms. Ela had spent on answering my emails, inquiries and text messages. I mean, if you are looking for way beyond customer service, E.F. Costales Lodge’s staffs are the people that you can count on.
I was expecting a wet weather as I have checked the forecast few days before my travel. What I did not anticipate is the weather the next day. Based on the forecast, days before my travel, it will be partly sunny to cloudy Sunday. To my surprised, it was raining hard early in the morning and will shift to cloudy every couple of hours the whole day. I do not want to take a risk going to Palaui Island and end up with disappointment. Besides, Cagayan Valley Traventures, my contact to join a group on that day did not reply to my text message. They did reply to my text message, however, the night before Sunday and I was told that they will still have to check if the tour will push through or not. I texted them few minutes before 7:00AM on Sunday but I did not receive any reply. I decided to just cancel my Palaui Island trip and just do it in the summer next year.
After taking photos at the docking port, I took a tricycle to drop me at the van terminal bound to Tuguegarao City, which is located in Centro, Sta. Ana, Cagayan. We left at 10:02AM and reached Tuguegarao City at 1:20PM. I navigate my way to Hotel Vico using Google maps. They offer affordable accommodation for their single ordinary fan room with TV. I must say that the hotel is well maintained and it is definitely worth my money. Before I went to Hotel Vico, I inquired at Hotel Roma. The cheapest room rate in Hotel Roma is Php1,000.00 per night, which is way beyond my budget.
I check-in at 2:01PM in Hotel Vico and then went out for a whole body scrub and massage. I then took my dinner at LUNA STREAT Food Park along Luna Street which is just a walking distance from Hotel Vico. Of course, I ordered the famous pancit batil patong at Fely’s Kambingan food stall. After taking my dinner, I bought a bottled water and brought it back to the hotel. I am a bit tired, sleepy and have a slight headache due to the a-little-more-than-3-hour travel from Sta. Ana, Cagayan to Tuguegarao City so I decided to call it a night.
The next morning, I get up at 5:50AM to prepare for breakfast, Buntun Bridge side trip and going to the airport. I took my breakfast in Jollibee and took some photos of the streets. The roads are still not busy and very few tricycles can be seen. Passenger jeepneys are rarely seen on the street and tricycles seem to be the preferred transportation in the city.
I check-out in Hotel Vico at around 8:00AM. I walked towards the Rizal Park and took some photos in the area. In Google maps, what I thought is the Buntun Bridge turns out to be something else. I checked the other bridge in Google maps and it shows that the distance from where I currently located is 5 kilometers away. I decided to hire a tricycle to drive me to Buntun Bridge and to the airport.
I was at the airport at 9:11AM and my flight is not until 12:55pm. I killed time by staying at the passenger lounge within the airport compound. The airport is small and it cannot accommodate passengers before the check-in time. The aircraft did arrive before our departure time but there was air traffic back in NAIA (Manila) so our flight was moved to 2:00PM. We arrived in NAIA at around 2:55PM.
Here is a video clip of myself while traversing the other side of Pinacanauan River by boat. It was taken using my SJCAM SJ5000+ Ambarella. I find it tedious to change settings for taking pictures so I decided to just film it and later on take a snapshot using VLC Player. That explains why I poses several times in the video–laughs!