Happiness in a Basket
Quirino Province, the frontier of the Cagayan Valley Region, recently celebrated its belated golden founding anniversary through its annual Panagdadapun Festival to formally announce the reopening of its tourism industry.
Literally meaning “gathering” in the Ilocano language, the weeklong celebration gathered the municipal festivals of the province’s six towns with a display of their rich cultures through music, song, dance, art, cuisine, and everything in between.
But while the merry-making has died in town, Quirino’s natural wonders bundled as a “Basket of Happiness Circuit” are beckoning travelers who want to discover something more than the usual go-to places. Below are the “goodies” inside the tell-tale basket, which will surely bring happy moments and fond memories.
Ganano Falls (Diffun).
Perhaps the most Instagrammable waterfalls in the province, it boasts of a voluminous 100-foot drop and passes through the three minor cascades of Sabangaran, Nantugao, and Sinipit, which have wide and deep cool basins. Situated at Diffun Eco Park, the trek commences at Baguio Village, where visitors pass through Bagnes Nature Park for a taste of authentic Kankanaey tribal specialties such as tinumbo (rice cooked in bamboo) and kiniing (smoked meat) after the tour.
Provincial Capitol Complex (Cabarroguis).
A sprawling 110-hectare is among the cleanest and greenest in the archipelago, with plenty of spaces for environment-friendly development. For a glimpse of local history, walk into the Provincial Museum and Library, or fill your basket with souvenirs and native snacks at the adjacent One Town, One Product (OTOP) Center. Better yet, swing by the main dome-shaped Capitol Building, where sunlight pierces through the bust relief monument of former President Elpidio Quirino. At the enclave’s upper portion is the spring water-fed Quirino Watersports Complex, north Luzon’s only full course world-class and tournament-grade wake park. It comes with cozy accommodations and a pavilion overlooking an infinity pool.
Nature lovers can bask in the greeneries of the Orchidarium, Tree for Legacy Park, Bamboo Eco-Park, plant nurseries, and the tree-lined lake for a boating nirvana.
Aglipay Caves (Aglipay).
Spelunking is a must-do at the 101-hectare Aglipay Caves and Campsite, which has hollow and fragile draws, amazing drapers, and stunning stalactites attesting to the rich biodiversity of the watershed and Forrestal land. Eight chambers have been mapped and are ideal even for neophytes because of their moderate difficulty. For a complete adventure, cavers can sleep under the stars at the campsite with a gazebo, toilets, and a cooking area.
Quirino Experiment Station (Aglipay).
A farm of the Department of Agriculture, QES produces and sells great-tasting organic food items, most notably its dragon fruit homemade ice cream and dairy products. This is punctuated by an iconic huge cow monument on the provincial road.
Governor’s Rapids (Maddela).
The province’s poster image is because of its amazing rockscape and whitewater for an adrenaline-pumping two-hour canoe cruise at a river that has been named several times as among the region’s cleanest inland bodies of water. Its natural features are majestic jagged limestone formations and a 30-foot rock platform for diving. Inside one of the crevices is a chest-deep natural pool which serves as a pit stop in the river tour.
An alternative or supplementary recreation is whitewater tubing which is as exciting as the boat ride along the Cagayan River tributary. Kayaking was recently an aqua sport for those who wish to navigate the waterway manually.
Siitan River Park (Nagtipunan).
Located on the far end of Quirino, tourists can cruise along the river aboard a dugout canoe and marvel at the geological wonders along the way. A picturesque rock formation is the “Bimmapor,” which got its name from “bapor” because it resembled a ship’s steel hull. The River Park is a superb venue for live band performances, special events, motor camping, and other off-the-grid adventures.
Its twin attraction is Landingan Viewpoint, the highest point in the town with a commanding view of the river, Sierra Madre mountain ranges, and neighboring Aurora province.
Outside the basket, you can still enjoy happy moments in the other exciting spots, such as the Diamond Cave in Nagtipunan, filled with glittering stones, and the fossilized flower makers of Saguday, which are unique home and office furnishings. For an adventure overload, you chase the seven waterfalls around Maddela town. And while touring, find time to sample the dishes, snack items, native wines, and concoctions to taste Quirino’s brand of happiness.
Aircon buses from GV Florida in Sampaloc and Five Star in Cubao ply the Quirino route up to Maddela town every evening. UV Express vans leave from other parts of northern Luzon around the clock from Santiago City’s transport hub. By air, it can be reached via the Cauayan City airport in Isabela with regular flights from Cebu Pacific. Land transfer is about 90 minutes to Cabarroguis.
Where to Stay
The ideal place to stay is in Cabarroguis town, Quirino’s provincial capital and commercial hub. Among the best places to stay are the government-owned Capitol Plaza Resort Hotel, Quirino Watersports Complex, MGT Hotel, Abrasa MPC Hotel, and JC Suites. In Maddela town is the resort-like Villa Caridad Hotel.
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Read: A Beginner’s Guide To Quirino: Your Basket Of Happiness