This was my second time traveling to Tuguegarao City. My first one was in December 2015 where I missed going to Palaui Island due to a bad weather and cancelled tour by a travel agency. You know the feeling of getting something that seems to be within reach but it is not? Yes, that was the feeling I felt the last time. Nevertheless, I tried enjoying most out of that trip. I promised myself that I will go back to Cagayan Valley the soonest possible time when Cebu Pacific Air will have their seat sale promo.
It was not long when Cebu Pacific Air had their GetGo Seat Sale in March 2016. I just spent PhP551.24 for a round trip ticket for Manila-Tuguegarao. It was originally a 5-day adventure but since there was a change of schedule initiated by the airline company, I was able to re-book it and made it to a 3-day adventure. My main goal for the trip is to be able to see the beauty of Palaui Island.
Knowing that accommodation in San Vicente, Santa Ana, Cagayan is expensive, I opted to stay in Tuguegarao City. I remember I saw a road ad in the past offering about PhP300.00 per night. What I did is I walked my way to the city proper to find the cheapest accommodation in town. About 1 kilometer from the airport, I saw a road ad of Bedspacers Hometel Inn. It is located in Mercedes Village, Leonarda, Tuguegarao City. The nearest landmark is the parking lot for Victory Liner. This parking lot is different from the Victory Liner Bus Terminal itself.
It did not fail me as it was like a heaven sent. The cheapest accommodation they have is a fan room that is good for 2 persons. It only costs PhP270 per night. This is way cheaper than Hotel Vico with a cheapest room of PhP500.00 per night. The only drawback of Bedspacers Hometel Inn is that it is about 3 kilometers away from the city proper. If you do not have to leave the accommodation in the wee hours, it is still the best option for budget traveler like me. It is about 400 meters away from the Maharlika Hiway, the national road and it is about 1 kilometer away from the airport.
They also own the Airport Hotel located just beside the Divine Mercy Church, also along Maharlika Hiway. I was told that they have similar rates. This is the preferred accommodation of backpackers and the other one is the preferred accommodation by locals who want “peaceful” ambiance.
Prior to my trip to Tuguegarao City, I availed the day tour package of W3GO Tours and Travel. I thought they have the cheapest package. Their Palaui Island Day Tour only costs PhP1,250.00 per head. They require PhP500.00 to reserve and minimum of eight (8) pax to proceed with the tour. Otherwise, the deposit is non-refundable but can be used for re-booking.
Dealing with them did not turn out well as the owner and her family was out of the country. She entrusted the business to her associate, who do not share the same culture and vision of the company. Communicating with her associate was a pain in the #$%–literally! I was only contacted once when I was informed that they already have 6 confirmed guests for the date that I wish to go. I paid the reservation right away and did not hear from him ever since. I contacted the company through their official email address and I got a message from Ms. Evelyn who owns the business. This is the time that I learned that she and her family are out of the country.
I texted her associate the day of my flight to Tuguegarao City but I did not receive any reply. When I was already in Tuguegarao City, I texted him several times and even made phone calls. I was surprised that he even turned his cellphone off. I tried contacting the other number posted on their Facebook Page. I was able to reached a certain lady who was no longer connected to their company. This lady is very accommodating and ensure me that she will do her best to contact the owner and will get back to me. She gave me the number of Ms. Evelyn when she failed to contact her as well.
I was still expecting that the tour will push through even though I do not have any concrete information about it. I woke up at 2AM on 22nd of January, Sunday. I left the accommodation by 3AM. It was a freaky early morning in an unfamiliar place. I braved the 400 meters street road to reach the national road. I waited for a tricycle for about 20 minutes and I was not lucky to find one. I decided to walk the almost 3 kilometers city proper. When I reached the junction, I took a breakfast at Jollibee. I spent about 30 minutes there and began looking for the office of W3GO Tours and Travel. Though there were street lights, the road is relatively dark. I missed their office because of this. I did not notice it as their signage outside their office was not lit up. It turns out that it was somehow an abandoned office and the owner herself told me that they are looking for some other place to relocate.
Based on the map posted on their Facebook Page, their office is located near the junction of Mango Suites. Knowing that I have a lot of time, I decided to buy myself a PhP5.00 coffee at the nearest Pandesal Bakery. Few minutes after, I decided to locate their office. I really could not find it. Nobody that I asked about Editha’s building knows about it. There were street sweepers whom I asked and I was pointed to the direction of their “Plaza”. I literally checked every building in the area to look for W3GO Tours and Travel to no avail. I went back to Balzain Hiway and double checked every building along the road.
Anyone cruising the road will miss their office. They do not have a street signage and their office signage is not lit up. After an almost two (2) hour searched, I found their office and I was there at 5:10AM. It was just above Metrobank – Balzain Hiway branch. No one was there. There was no van, there were no people waiting. I tried calling the three (3) numbers I got, multiple times but they were unanswered.
At around 6:36AM, I decided to email Ms. Evelyn. Out of anger and frustration, I threatened to file a formal complain to the local government and the department of tourism. I also demanded for reimbursement of all the expenses I incurred for the trip and for the damages.
I decided to go back to my accommodation and set my mind that I have a failed trip this time. At around 8:30AM, I got a text message from Ms. Evelyn apologizing for unanswered calls. She tried to convinced me to push for the tour and offered to drive all the way to San Vicente, Santa Ana, Cagayan to catch the last boat tour for Palaui Island. Weighing things out, I decided to take the offer.
She, her daughter and her husband arrived at my accommodation few minutes after. Before we headed to our destination, we took our brunch at D’ Kambal’s Panciteria. We spent about 30 minutes finishing our order of Pancit Cabagan. They paid for my share.
At around 12NN, we reached San Vicente Port where we rent a motor vanca. The cheapest rental for a motor vanca is PhP1,800.00. On our way to this port, I have the feeling that I will shoulder the whole rental fee for the boat but I was still trying to convince myself that Ms. Evelyn will stick with the quoted price for the tour to make it up to me for the troubles I had experienced dealing with their company.
The tour goes directly to Cape Engaño exclusive of PhP300.00 guide fee. A guide is required and is good for up to 4 pax. I thought they made it this way to provide livelihood to the locals living in the island. My guide told me that they reside in Punta Verde and they hike to and from Cape Engaño everyday.
I probably spent about an hour in the island before we decided to go back to San Vicente Port. The weather was not very favorable but according to our boat men, it is manageable. We took the other route to avoid big waves along the way. Ms. Evelyn’s daughter and I enjoyed the boat ride. It was very exciting and a heart pumping experience.
When we get back to Tuguegarao City, we stop over at the town of Gonzaga and bought some snacks at Tropical FoodHouse and Delicacies. I was not really interested with what they were selling until I tasted their Cassava Cake. I thought it is a must-try delicacy along the way to Palaui Island and it is worth writing about it. Again, they paid for my share for the snacks.
Generally, I enjoyed my day tour to Palaui Island. It would have been more fun without the hassle that I went through early that morning and without the extra money that I paid for the tour.
If you are traveling alone, it is much cheaper to avail the day tour package being offered by W3GO Tours and Travel and stay in Bedspacers Hometel Inn in Tuguegarao City. However, if you are a group of 4, you can DIY and stay in San Vicente, Santa Ana, Cagayan. You will spend around the same rate offered by W3GO Tours and Travel but you will be spared to deal with other people joining the tour.
The weather nowadays is unpredictable. In past years, dry season begins December and rarely it rains in January. To increase the chance of traveling with a favorable weather, schedule your tour in March or April.