What Is and What's Not in Calaguas

Here's a little guide to help you manage your expectations on the island. Knowing what to expect, and not, will help you make the most of your trip to this paradise!

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Beauty Born Out of Destruction

As soon as I emerged from the trail, a magnificent beauty greeted me. Exhausted after a 1-hour-45-minute trek, the view was a pleasant reward. Who would have thought that this beautiful landscape was ironically created by destruction? It was simply beautiful.

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What is BRATpacking?

Everyone's familiar with the life of a backpacker -- those who live on a backpack to travel the world for long months, even years. They have the reputation of being grungy, spontaneous, friendly.

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Picking Our Way to Pico de Loro

I am not (yet!) a climbing enthusiast. In fact, this is my first real climb, as I consider my first two experiences of mountains as "treks" (Taal Volcano in 2005 and Sagada to Bomod-ok Falls in 2007). This is also my first camping trip as an adult, and I was worried that I wouldn't like it because of the absence of a toilet, shower, soft bed, nice linens, and all the other things that make life comfortable.

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Home Is Where The Heart Is

It was love at first sight. That kind of love that makes you feel lost, and yet you know you're home. That kind of love that overwhelms you with emotions, and yet you feel serene. That kind of love that makes you feel like a fool, and yet you don't care. This is my favorite spot on earth, where the place is enchanting and the people are endearing.

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Join The BRATpacker


Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Travel Date: April 15-17, 2011

Tranquil blue-green waters on a rocky landscape dramatically lit by the afternoon sun -- this is the view that I can't get off my mind. It's calm disposition is disturbed by soft ripples created by passing small boats, it's silence occasionally interrupted by echoing chirps of birds and rhythmic swaying of trees. If serenity can be photographed, then Pinacanauan River fits the picture perfectly.

The river is just a few steps away from Callao Cave. We planned on having late lunch by the river, and after choosing our boat, we took a 20-minute boat ride to the secluded part of Pinacanauan. While cruising, our guide pointed to a cave above the rocks, where the locals gather birds' nests for the famous bird's nest soup.  This is also where hordes of bats come out at dusk. We side tripped to a "small falls," which really is just drops of water from way above -- a mockery of a real waterfall, if you may say.

The secluded area has a few tables and benches from where we had our packed lunch. It was beautiful -- the fact that we had the place all to ourselves adds to the calm it brings the spirit. A few of us took a dip in the river after our meal, and it was refreshing especially after getting down and dirty in Callao Cave. You just have to keep your sandals/slippers on, as the river has a rocky bottom.

If there's one place I'd go back to in Cagayan, it would be this river. I'd bring food for a day, find a spot and read a book, write or contemplate about my life. It's just so peaceful and so close to nature, you'll forget about your worries in the city jungle.

See Also:

Isabela-Cagayan: Road Trip, Food Trip, Laugh Trip
Isabela-Cagayan: CHURCHES
Isabela-Cagayan: CALLAO CAVE

Isabela-Cagayan: CALLAO CAVE

Travel Date: April 15-17, 2011

I love getting down and dirty. Outdoor adventure is my thing, so visiting the famous Callao Cave in Peñablanca, Cagayan is a must.

Caves are natural wonders that create scenes of eerie wilderness for the creative imagination, or an exotic adventure for the active explorer. There are over 300 caves in Cagayan, but only a handful are open to public. Callao Cave, with its majestic size, dramatic skylight and unique rock formations, feed the interest of both the experienced spelunker and casual cave visitor. What's good about Callao Cave is that it can be explored with no difficulty. You trek from one chamber to another, completing all of the seven chambers with ease.

Pinacanauan River as seen from the view deck, halfway to Callao Cave
Callao Cave opening
chapel inside the cave, used for weddings -- only four have been married here so far
one of the skylights that give natural illumination to the cave

The natural beam of light makes for a dramatic photo!

Although the cave can be explored by yourself, it would be good to get a guide on your first visit. The guide is adept with trivia and historical information about the cave, and can even inject some humor into the unique rock formations. There is no fixed service fee for the guide, as they only ask for donation. Actually, I prefer that they only allow visitors to enter with a guide to protect and preserve the cave. I've seen graffiti on the cave walls! It was heartbreaking to see this natural beauty being vandalized by heartless humans.

We were told not to touch this rock because it is biologically alive, and the dirt/oil on our hands may contaminate its composition. But if you look closer...
...you see graffiti! :(

See Also:

Monday, April 25, 2011

Isabela-Cagayan: CHURCHES

Travel Date: April 15-17, 2011

There are a lot of beautiful churches in Isabela and Cagayan provinces. We went to a few, and here they are:

San Pablo Church
Cabagan, Isabela

bell tower

As soon as I saw the facade of this church, I was in awe. It is said to be the oldest church in Isabela, being built in 1624. The beautiful architecture and structure of its facade is well preserved. It was disappointing, however, that once you step in, you see a modern-built church inside the compound, hiding behind the century-old facade and bell tower. I couldn't bring myself to take a photo of the actual church inside, as it creates a very different feel from what you see in front.

St. James the Great Church / Calvary Hills
Iguig, Isabela

Popular to churchgoers especially during Holy Week, the main attraction of this church is what's outside -- the Calvary Hills where life-sized Stations of the Cross are placed on rolling hills. It makes for a very contemplative setting -- communing with nature while praying.

rolling hills
Calvary Hills overlooking Cagayan River (in the background)
Station 1: Jesus is Condemned to Death
Station 2: Jesus Receives the Cross
Station 3: Jesus Falls the First Time
Station 4: Jesus Meets His Mother
Station 5: Simon of Cyrene Carries the Cross

Station 6: Veronica Wipes Jesus' Face With Her Veil
Station 7: Jesus Falls the Second Time
Station 8: Jesus Meets the Daughters of Jerusalem
Station 9: Jesus Falls the Third Time
Station 10: Jesus Stripped of His Garments
Station 11: Crucifixion
Station 12: Jesus Dies on the Cross
Station 13: Jesus' Body is Removed from the Cross
Station 14: Resurrection

Our Lady of Piat Church
Piat, Cagayan

Palm Sunday at Our Lady of Piat
Covered in red brick, Our Lady of Piat Church is an important church for the locals of Cagayan Valley and pilgrims alike. As I looked around the stained glass walls, I saw the illustrations of how Our Lady of Piat saved the people from different natural and fortuitous events throughout history.

Shrine of Our Lady of the Visitation
Gamu, Isabela

beautiful dome near the altar
Popular to pilgrims in the month of July during its feast day, the shrine houses the Miraculous Lady of the Visitation who grants prayers of its devotees.

There are still a lot of other beautiful churches in the north that are worth visiting next time. These are architectural marvels that are centuries-old, surviving wars, calamities and disasters.

See Also:

Isabela-Cagayan: Road Trip, Food Trip, Laugh Trip

Isabela-Cagayan: CALLAO CAVE

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