Solemn Caving and Not-so-Good Encounter

Another 4 hour van-ride awaited us in San Vicente. We needed to get back to  Peñablanca to visit the Callao Cave we failed to explore in our first day. After we ate our breakfast in Jotay Resort, we were up for Peñablanca. This was our last day in Cagayan Valley.

Just a quick story about an encounter with Victory Liner, Tuguegarao

When we arrived in Callao Cave, I called Victory Liner, Tuguegarao. We requested if we could move our schedule to a later schedule. I had a hard time talking with the staff which I later found out that it was a security guard. He said they don’t accept change of schedule thru phone that we had to go to the terminal first. It was ridiculous, I thought. I said that the reason we were changing our schedule is because we will come from Peñablanca and there is no way we can arrive in the terminal before our schedule. I was requesting in a very well-mannered way. Then I was told that I should talk to the staff who handles the schedules. When I called again to talk to the appropriate staff, the security guard said that the staff did not want talk to me. “HUH?” I said how can we have a concrete answer without talking. When I called again, I was hanged up after a provocative “Ano? Ano?” (What? What?) from the other line. It was the staff, I concluded after hearing a different voice. Very ethical. Kuya Rolly was pissed off, went to terminal and resolved our change of schedule and their bad ethics in person. Sash! =)


Callao Cave is more popular for its church which is located in the 1st chamber. It has a natural crevice that lets the light in to illuminate the altar.  This was where the setting for John Lloyd and Bea was shot according to our kiddo tour guide. Callao Cave has 7 chambers but the 5th and 6th caves were closed because they were slippery.


Our tour guide was very good (but sad to say, I forgot his name T_T. ) We were so delighted with how he carried out the touring. He explained everything we saw amazing in the cave. He even knew how to use dslr. He kept on changing the settings of my camera and he was word-wrestling with Jay (the one who made our Call Me Maybe video) over the cameras. Hahaha!

We were not yet done with our trip. We bought so many pasalubong in Lighthouse Cooperative along Luna cr. Taft street. We raided the store. They sell chicharabao (chicharon made from carabao), Alcala milk candy (pastillas), frozen tocinos and longganisa, garlic bits and vinegars among others.

We arrived in Kamias Cubao after 12-hour bus ride. All of 17 of us were suddenly dispersed in Metro Manila by 4:30 in the morning because we needed to be at work by 8 am. Hahaha!

So much adventures had just happened.

Endless Trekking and Swimming

The mere idea of being alone in an island woke me up 4:30 in the morning.

Day 3

I think it was my conscious mind that reminded me in my sleep to witness the sunrise. I walked alone for a while along the shore and breathed the fresh air. I uttered my deepest appreciation on the scenery I was witnessing.

We ate our breakfast and packed our rented tents. By 6:30am, Kuya Arnulfo was backed on the shore to pick us up.

Our first stop was in Palaui Island, an island off the northeasternmost point of the island of Luzon. We did a looooooot of trekking in the island.

Cape Engaño

An 18th century lighthouse built by the Spaniards to guide ships entering and leaving the coastal towns of Sta. Ana specially those vessels using Port Irene and San Vicente Port, and those traversing the Babuyan Channel and Philippine Sea. It is the easternmost of the lights on the north coast of Luzon.

It was very old that all we saw was like the walls of Intramuros. We went up into the lighthouse but the top-most was already blocked due to floor’s fragility. But the trek going up to lighthouse and view from it was truly awesome.

We paid P50 per person as an entrance fee. It was cheap, yes. But the price is not yet their standard rate as there was still ongoing discussion on fees in the island. We also had a local guide who was supposedly should have been paid P250 but the supervisor did not asked for it anymore.

Punta Verde, Lagunzad Trail and Leonardo’s Trail

From the shore near Cape Engaño, we walked into a rainforest going to Punta Verde to find a small community of locals. We trekked for around 3 hours. I have never been into a deep forest so I was a little giddy about the idea of exploring the forest. Lagunzad Trail and Leonardo’s Trail were  full of vegetation and tall trees. Long leaves kept on bashing on our arms and our muddy feet avoided huge holes which we thought had snakes in it.

We rested and bathed at a waterfall. Super lamig!!!

When we arrived in Punta Verde, we were so exhausted! A small store offered us drinks and breads then suddenly kids were in our midst. They played bubbles-blowing with Sol, Pipo and Charles while I was offered by one kid with a chair when she found me sitting among the bushes. They were really heart-warming.

Jerolynda Beach Resort

We were really lucky that although the owner, Ate Lina (+63915-5161584), was not in the resort when I called her for a sudden request of lunch for 17 people, her staffs was able to prepare immediately.

The resort was, again, solely accommodated by us. It was a very big clean resort. They have a beach volleyball court, big cottages, a garden of huge trees, an ongoing construction of a man-made lake and the well-known long bridge in San Vicente. We rented 3 air-conditioned rooms for P3,800 with additional 2 mattresses.  We also requested them to cook us dinner.


Crocodile Island

Although the island was said to be shaped like a crocodile, I must say that it is named as it is because of the stones it has. It looked like the texture of a crocodile: simply spectacular in macro view.

The island is primarily known for its marine life so we had an hour or two for snorkeling. But what I truly enjoyed is our exploration of the tiny island.

Everyone Has A Version

Call Me Maybe… it’s becoming an overrated hit today.

There is a home version of Selena Gomez, Justin Bieber and friends.

There is also a model version of Georgina, Solenn, Anne and friends.

And then… there is also our version. haha!

But this time, it is Call Me Maybe in Cagayan Valley!!

See all Cagayan Valley beautiful landscapes, caves, mountains, beaches and people in this 3-minute video.

We really do hope you will love it!

Enjoy watching and hope you’ll visit Cagayan Valley soon. (^o^)/

Thank you Jay Icayan for this very well-composed video. Ikaw na!

Long Drive + Virgin Island in Cagayan

Day 2.

June 10, 2012:         5 AM – Wake Up

This is what was indicated in our itinerary. But the spelunking of yesterday’s adventure was already challenging for us so we asked Kuya Rolly to fetch us in Ivory Inn Hotel around 6am. After preparing for another day of adventure – a long drive to Sta. Ana, we shot our first gig for Call Me Maybe music video in the reception area while a number of hotel’s staffs were watching us. *blokblok!

The 5-hour long drive was maximized. We visited landmarks of Cagayan Valley from Tuguegarao to Sta. Ana.

Iguig Calvary Hills – a church that resides along the highway of Cagayan Valley Road. We did not walk into the church but we checked out the huge horizon of Station of the Cross at the back of the church. It was a perfect landscape for picnic, I thought. The Station of the Cross looks like the one in Novaliches but the grassland of the Iguig Calvary Hills was very young and greeny. It was a sunny day but the color combination of the grassland of Station of the Cross and the brick walls of the church were perfect for an afternoon breezy siesta.

Alcala Church – a church that said to be the widest in Cagayan province. The façade was already constructed and it was really beautiful. The golden-brown brick wall of the church was already picturesque but the gold carved frontage of the soaring doors made the church more classy and ancestry. We prayed for few minutes and uttered our little secret wishes in its three-aisled landscape.

Magapit Suspension bridge in Lal-lo – this one I do not know if my officemates were able to recognized as one of the landmarks we visited. Haha. We just passed through in the bridge then made a u-turn at the end. It was like the usual bridge we see in Manila.  =)

Sta. Maria Bell – the oldest bell in Far East that was casted in 1595 is located in Camalaniugan Church. The tower bell was very narrow and steep that I had to watch my steps as I went up to the top. The top level of the bell tower where the Sta. Maria Bell is placed is really small. I and Jessie bent down (almost crawling) through the entrance while avoiding the bell just 3 inches above our head. We did a few photo ops after we found ourselves proud that we finally met the oldest bell in the Far East in its full glory.

*do a Visita Iglesia in the North with this comprehensive information.

We continued our long drive to San Vicente port in Sta. Ana. I put my left arm on the opened window with dark brown shades on my puffy eyes. For about another 2 hours, we were all dozed off in the van. I felt the torch of the sun on my left arm and decided to stay it that way. It was only in Tuguegarao that I enjoyed long drive with the window opened and not mind that the air I breathed is polluted. I was both in my dream and conscious of the road trip.

I had sudden unconscious kicks in Gattaran, Lal-lo and Camalaniugan. And every time I had a kick, I was immediately reminded by the juggled itinerary we had and worried on what more could happen. By the time we arrived in Sta. Ana, it felt like I already compensated my lack of sleep. It was still 1 hour until we reach the port but it was already 1pm. We have not had our lunch and we were late for our meet-up with our boatman.

(Sidetrip: Kuya Rolly had a few stops that made me wondered. Then one time, he went back to the van and told everyone that Pacquio lose his competition. We woke up to our senses! WHAT HAPPENED?!)

Our 2nd night should be in Jerolynda Beach Resort but had to be moved to 3rd night because of jurisdiction issues in Palaui Island. The new rules in Palaui Island kept everyone confused that in the end, our camping in Palaui Island had to be in Anguib Beach. There were conflicting political viewpoints in Palaui Island but these need not to be disclosed in my blog. Hehe. But still, for everyone’s sake, please make sure you know any updates on rules in Palaui Island before you finalize your schedule. It was a challenge to search for a boatman who knows well this kind of situation and how to adjust your itinerary accordingly. We were lucky to know Kuya Arnulfo, our boatman. =)

We arrived in San Vicente at 2pm. We met Kuya Arnulfo who personally owns the boat we used. We needed to have lunch and buy foods for our camping so we headed up to J&J Resto in Sta. Ana. Oh yes, we went back to Sta. Ana! There were no restaurants in San Vicente (as much as I was informed). I, Joyce, Cathz and Ann ordered squid adobo and octopus in spicy garlic sauce (see the octopus below)

We bought our dinner and breakfast foods in Sta. Ana Commercial Center. We were told that we can cook in Anguib Beach and were also reminded that there were no electricity in the beach. We bought hotdogs, marshmallows, bread, mangoes, bananas, canned goods, uling, 10 gallons of distilled water and more headlights. We split up and were able to buy everything we need.

As we went back to San Vicente, we stopped at the last Luzon KM Post – 642km. This is the last km post from Luneta Park in Manila. We were intrigued by this simple fact so we had few photos taken. Hehehe.

All 17 of us hopped in Kuya Arnulfo’s 2-motor boat in San Vicente port by 4pm. HAHAHA. We were super late for island tour! (Contact him at +63949-6492037/+63915-4670964. The boat rental was very cheap!)

We arrived in Anguib Beach after 20 minutes boat ride. The island is a real virgin. (I have not been to Boracay so I can not attest if Anguib really is like Boracay.) The horizon of the Philippine Sea from our view in Anguib Beach is like a perpetuation to the sky. It felt like we were enclosed in an independent island with just the Philippines Sea accompanying us. The island’s virginity felt endless. We were walking on millions of pale-colored sand and sea shells.

We headed to Kuya Ben family’s premise, the only local family who lives in Anguib Beach that welcomed us warmly. See, the Anguib Beach is divided into two: one that is privatized and another one that publicly welcomes campers. There was an ongoing issue on the boundaries of this beach but I will not still disclose anything. Hehe. It was pretty controversial and dangerous to those involved. But when one wants to swim in the sea in front of this privatized resort, you have to pay P500 for your entrance, meals and I think, a cottage.

We spent the beach bumming in the Golden Beach of Anguib, the one that welcomes adventurers, most of the time. A man was guarding the privatized resort and was insanely strict and had a very serious tone of voice and face. He was very unwelcoming. Honestly speaking, the resort was not well-structured yet, the very reason why we did not bought into the P500 fee. And although the sea in the resort is, well, fairly speaking, very gorgeous, we headed away from their “boundaries” after we were told by him that we were “not allowed” to at least swim in their “sea”. (Is the sea or any body of water can be legally owned? I was told that it is not. So, I kept it in my weird-things-I-encountered list of places) Very much accommodating eh?

Kuya Ben was very warm and hospitable. He is a man who naturally shows his care for the island. He and his family prepared our cutesy patutesy 2 simple cottages and made 2 very mad smoke of logs to keep the insects away for the whole night. He even let us used his poso and toilet to wash our body. His huge bahay kubo is located inside a forest-like lot where we needed to always have our own flashlight at hand.

In one of the moments when I was exploring the seashore of the island, I reached out to the back of my shoulder to scratch off an itchy feeling. When I scratched again, I looked at my shoulder and found a number of black squared thingy sticking on my skin. I wondered if they were insects so I pressed on one of them and it bled. It was an insect but I barely can see the head or even the legs. It was really weird and scary… After this trip, we had a serious insect bites on our bodies. Please wait for that post, it will really be an informative one.

We had a bonfire and cooked our hotdogs and marshmallows on it. I loved the marshmallow. I never thought that the marshmallow will get crispy on its coat and really sweet and soft inside. We told a lot of horror stories and played Who-What-How-When  game (Tama ba name, guys?haha). While we stayed for few hours around the only light we had that night, a number of men had passed us. I felt little scared because of the stories and warnings I was told about.

Around 10pm, we went to our tents (rental from Kuya Arnulfo is P300 each for a tent of 3 pax). I wore my jacket and bundled myself into my shawl. Cold breeze was no where near us. Giant trees were all silent. We had to uncover our tents with its outer layer so the wind can pass through us but still be able to sleep soundly with the inner net. Before we slept on our individual shawls, we took a few photo shots inside the tent and talked about the day we just had.

It was a very interesting beautiful day.

For Day 1, click here.

Chocolatey Spelunking

My friend, Carla, told us about this so-called Boracay of the North which she happened to watched in Jessica Soho tv show. It has not been mugged by tourists yet, she said. We looked it up in internet and found that it is gorgeous in its own virginity rights. Because of my intense love for exploring new found places, I asked my office peeps to go there before it get ramped by tourists.

For about a month, we did several researches and contact those we found to be trustworthy to ask for van and boat rental. We did have a number of difficulties for Mr. Google is very much stingy on information about this beach. Plus, Ann, a super adventurous mountaineer officemate, wanted to check out the Capital of Caves, Tuguegarao. The plan was really simple…

Spelunking in Tuguegarao…then ride a 4 hour-ride to Sta. Ana to finally explore this virgin island of Anguib.

Then I saw in Philippine map that Palaui Island is just across of Anguib. If you would look it up in Google Map, it will only give a name and no other information. So, we included it in our itinerary. Hehe.

So from this point forward, I will flood everyone’s dashboard about our trip. We were 17 people who dared to explore this unforgiving trip.

Day 1.

Let’s start with our bus ride in Victory Liner, Kamias Cubao. For P604 (Kamias Terminal 920-7396), each of us spent the next 12 hours juggling all position we can give ourselves in our seats. We were struggling…or rather somehow excited, but can’t do anything about it, for we should wait for half a day. There were 2 stopovers: One in Bulacan and another in Santiago. Oh yeah, there was a wifi in the bus but I was saving my battery for Google Map and Kuya Rolly, our van driver. (contact Kuya Rolly at 0905-7418525, he’s very well accommodating driver and knows everything in the city)

We arrived in Tuguegarao around 8 in the morning of June 9. I was somehow disappointed that the two vans we rented are not air-conditioned to think that we are in the most hottest city of Philippines. We hopped on then look for a hotel. Hotels in Tuguegarao are not the same as those in Manila. They look and feel comfortable and simple. Just that. Don’t look for luxury. But most hotels in Tuguegarao have wifi, this would probably the farthest you can get for luxury per se. After hopping on Hotel Carmelita and Meynard’s Resort (this one is my favorite but there are no available rooms), Kuya Rolly suggested the Ivory Inn. This hotel is 15min far from the city proper, but if you have a car, that won’t be a problem.  We paid P4,850 for 5 rooms (2 rooms for 4 pax, 1 room for 3pax and 1 room for 2 pax). The room is pretty much beyond what we expected. At a range of comfortability, it is above the average. The receptionist initiated to give us the 5 rooms because we told her our budget is only P300/px. True enough, we were able to save.

We checked in then ask Kuya Rolly to fetch us at 11:30am. We dined in resto of Ivory Inn. I ordered Tapa breakfast with atchara and scrambled egg.

The day should went like this: Sierra Madre Cave, Callao Cave and Bat watching in Pinacauan River. But this went wrong.

Although we already knew about the shooting of John Lloyd and Bea in Callao Cave, we were not able to visit Callao Cave. Why? Because apparently, they rented out the whole cave.

Sierra Cave is also within the premise of Callao Cave. We did not have a choice after unending plead with the Provincial Tourism officer to let us in. We asked another Provincial Tourism officer what he would propose us to do. After so much huggling, he said that they know a cave near Callao Cave and we can explore it. But for one condition, we should go with the Councilor. Mr. Councilor knows that cave. He has explored it and some other locals. No other people outside the locals had explored it.

That was very intriguing…and dangerous.

I asked the Provincial Tourism officer if he could also help us out with the permit needed for the Sierra Madre. But, it’s Saturday. And permit should be acquired two days from the visit date. What we planned then is to come back on Tuesday to visit Callao Cave and Sierra Madre Cave. And for that to happen, the officer can help us out by contacting the DENR in city center of Peñablanca. But this did not happen. Why? Because of Abukay Cave – the unchartered cave.

We stopped by a house of another local who also knows the in and out of Abukay Cave. Armed with only around 6 headlights and bottles of water, we walked down a really huge rice fields surrounded by green mountains and a forest that has no walkpath. Sharp plants were patting our arms and ankles as we walked thru the forest. Mud were starting to get into our trek shoes. This cannot be compared to Sumaging Cave of Sagada. This will be a different experience, I thought, after seeing the dark muddy entrance of Abukay Cave. We left our trek shoes at the entrance for we would experience a very muddy and slippery spelunking inside.

Tuguegarao is indeed a Capital of Caves. They have around 300 caves but only 70+ were explored. And only Callao Cave was publicly open for tourists. Sierra Madre Cave, for one, need a DENR permit and tour guide because some of its stalamites are being robbed off by spelunkers.

Some caves are too risky and dangerous to explore, like the San Carlos Cave. And some are still unknown to many.

If Sagada gives certificates to I-Survive-Sagada tourists, Abukay Cave, well I thought, should also have one. But seriously talking, if you would ask me, the certificate is a little too touristy and common. Just saying. =P

We explored the Abukay Cave without other people inside aside from a Provincial Tourism officer, Councilor and a local spelunker. And the mud…my goodness. When you step on them, your feet will dig in more and will sound like a sticky chocolate when you pull your feet up.

It was almost 6pm that we realized we were a little late for the cicada bats watching in Pinacauan River which is also located in Callao Cave. We hoped that this river is not also close for shooting.

We dozed off hurriedly to the river of Callao Cave and whistled out to a boatman to tour us around the river for some bat watching. I thought then that this will only be a simple bat watching. But I was wrong. It was millions of bats flying in the midst of bluish sunset just above the series of mountain of Peñablanca caves. It was a 10 minute bat watching and per second of it is like madness. They were really loud as they exit a dark hole of a cave and fly over to the forest to eat some meaty plants and insects. (Boat ride is P700 for 17 pax)

Below is a photo from one of my companions, Jerome.

After so much spelunking, mud and bat watching, we head off to KobyKubo Restaurant. We finally made it for our pancit with sabaw. Haha. That’s a first!

So much for the 1st day in Tuguegarao!