Lakbay Norte Series Day 1
Day 1: After four bus stops and almost 11 hours of land travel, we finally reached the City of Tuguegarao in Cagayan Valley. It may take forever before you reach this northern province. Still, I really don’t mind since it is one of my favorite destinations among all the provinces in the entire archipelago. For the unfamiliar, Tuguegarao is the center of trade, education, culture, and tourism in the province of Cagayan Valley.
Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral is the seat of the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao.
It was almost 6:30 when we arrived in the City. Upon arrival, we were warmly welcomed by the local tourism officials, including one of the most accommodating DOT Regional Director Blesilda Diwa of DOT Region 3.
Before heading to our next stop, we had our breakfast and tour briefing at the Parish Pastoral Center in Tuguegarao. Everyone enjoyed the local breakfast, CNCVP made sure that everyone will taste the local fares like my favorite Pancit Batil Patong and the Cagayan Longanisa.
After having breakfast, we then headed to the Our Lady of Piat Basilica Minore Church – a popular pilgrimage site in Cagayan Valley, which is 41 kilometers away from the City of Tuguegarao. This is my third visit to the Basilica, but this time, I had a chance to visit and explore their museum that houses some religious artifacts kept and preserved by the parish pastoral office.
Several souvenirs and “kakanin” shops are available outside the miraculous church if you want to sample local delicacies. I finally got the chance to try out their popular “Paua” – a sticky rice cake with ground peanut and brown sugar filling, much like our favorite chocnut.
The local tourism officials realized that we enjoyed Paua too much, so they gave us several plates to munch while heading to our next stop – the popular Callao Caves of Penablanca.
It was my 5th time to visit this popular spelunking site, but each trip brings new excitement and exhilarating fun. The cave is pretty much the same as before but experiencing it with new friends is totally different. The whole group was subdivided into three, one of which decided to visit the challenging Sierra Cave… How Challenging? Well, this cave can be slippery most of the time.
Having that in mind, I decided to go for the familiar and easy since I’m not really prepared enough to brave the slippery trail. I have never tried counting the number of steps to reach the huge cave entrance, but according to the local guides, It will take exactly 184 steps to reach the entrance. Reaching halfway of the trail will give a bird’s eye view of the Pinacanauan River.
I must commend the local guide who gave us a tour of the cave’s six chambers. He always made sure to describe some of the most interesting stalactites and stalagmites formation inside the cave on each stop. Apart from the massive rock formations, two skylights, and an interesting chapel inside the cave, the local tour guides are now offering another way to enjoy the Callao Cave by introducing a short rappelling adventure.
It’s almost lunchtime when we left the cave to cross the Pinacanauan River for some refreshments and lunch. Upon arrival in the riverbanks, we were welcomed by Penablanca Festival Street dancers wearing colorful costumes while performing in the riverbanks to honor the beloved Virgin Mary.
We were supposed to wait for local bats’ daily circadian flights from a huge bat cave located in a limestone wall within the Pinacanauan river. Still, the weather was a bit uncooperative, so we finally decided to go back to the put-in area.
We reached the city proper in just about 30 minutes, and we finally met our hosts. We were distributed in different hotels within the City, and I’m currently staying here in Candice Hotel, a few steps away from Paseo Real and Peter & Paul Metropolitan Cathedral.
I’m now preparing for our dinner, which will be right across the street:)