Let us travel up north!

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - Billboard -

ILOILO CITY — If you wish to ex­plore the myr­iad of nat­u­ral at­trac­tions that re­main undis­cov­ered by many, North­ern Lu­zon is your des­ti­na­tion – what with its moun­tain ranges, val­leys, white sand beaches, and cap­ti­vat­ing sights, not to men­tion the rich cul­ture of its lo­cals.

Is­abela

This prov­ince is not just the rice and corn gra­nary of the Philip­pines. Is­abela is also a good stop for tourists who would like to seek peace and tran­quil­ity in his­tor­i­cal Ro­man Catholic churches.

Take the Our Lady of Pil­lar Par­ish Church in Cauayan City, for in­stance. Its tower has been de­stroyed by vi­o­lent earthquakes years ago, but the Church has main­tained its colo­nial Baroque look, with its gal­va­nized roof­ing and bricks stand­ing the test of time. Its in­te­ri­ors would leave you in awe the mo­ment you set foot at the en­trance of the cen­tu­ry­old place of wor­ship, and the si­lence in­side would make you sink to your knees in prayer.

About an hour-and-ahalf away by bus is the St. Matthias Church in Ta­mauini town. Built in 1707, it is one of the coun­try’s five Baroque churches sub­mit­ted by the Na­tional Com­mis­sion for Cul­ture and the Arts to the United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­ga­ni­za­tion (UNESCO) and the World Her­itage Cen­tre.

If you long for some quiet time and fancy spend­ing time with indige­nous peo­ple, the moun­tain vil­lage of Patik­ing, Tabuk City in Kalinga prov­ince is the place to visit. There to give you a warm wel­come are lo­cal folks wear­ing their tra­di­tional cos­tume – the ba­hag – which is made from a uniquely wo­ven fabric that fea­tures de­signs in­spired by na­ture.

Walk­ing up to an ecov­il­lage, you would pass by spring-fed pools that make you want to take a quick dip.

Froilan Al­bert, owner of the eco-vil­lage, is al­ways ex­cited to let vis­i­tors ex­pe­ri­ence their ex­otic cui­sine. Al­bert in­tro­duces guests to the ‘Sin­ur­suran’, a spicy dish of pork liver sea­soned with unique or­ganic spices, and served with ‘Li­n­undag’ or rice. Both are tra­di­tion­ally cooked in bam­boo, with the dish and the rice sep­a­rately wrapped in banana leaves. And no trip to Kalinga is com­plete with­out you tast­ing the ‘Basi’, a fer­mented al­co­holic drink made from sug­ar­cane.

Ca­gayan

Two hours away from Kalinga is the town of Piat in Ca­gayan prov­ince. Piat is home to another his­tor­i­cal church, the Basil­ica of Our Lady of Piat. Sculpted in Ma­cau, the Lady of Piat is one of the old­est Mar­ian images in the coun­try.

The climb to the town’s hill­top to reach the red brick Ro­manesque church is all worth it be­cause the im­age of the Lady is be­lieved to be mirac­u­lous, heal­ing many devo­tees since its ar­rival in 1610.

Tugue­garao City

About an hour from Piat is the Bun­tun Bridge, the gate­way to the coun­try’s “hottest” city, Tugue­garao. This bridge is the sec­ond long­est in the Philip­pines and be­neath runs the peace­ful Ca­gayan River.

Pi­nacanauan River

The name is a real tongue twis­ter but this river de­serves to be on your bucket list.

The Pi­nacanauan River in Peñablanca town, about 30 min­utes from Tugue­garao, is one of the ma­jor trib­u­taries of the Ca­gayan River. From here, your eyes can feast on the beauty of the ma­jes­tic Sierra Madre, the long­est moun­tain range in the coun­try, as you cruise in the river’s crys­tal clear wa­ters.

Guests can go boat­ing from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. to see the skies darken, as colonies of bats fly out of the mouth of a cave on top of a moun­tain.

Cal­lao cave

184 steps — that is the num­ber of step you need to climb to reach this fa­mous lime­stone cave, just a stone’s throw away from the Pi­nacanauan River.

In 2007, this cave was put un­der the spot­light af­ter a team of ar­chae­ol­o­gists from the Uni­ver­sity of the Philip­pines and Na­tional Mu­seum un­earthed a 67,000-year-old fos­sil.

But the sight to be­hold here is one of the cave’s seven cham­bers, which has a nar­row open­ing where rays of light stream down on the al­tar of the chapel in­side, mak­ing it a must-see nat­u­ral at­trac­tion. A solemn but mag­i­cal wed­ding, any­one?

The cave’s tour guide, Gerry Bie An­doy, pop­u­larly known as “An­doy, ang Batang Tour Guide”, has also been fea­tured in var­i­ous na­tional tele­vi­sion net­works. An­doy be­gan as a vol­un­teer tour guide at an early age. Now 22 years old, he pas­sion­ately pro­vides vis­i­tors rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion about the cave and even sug­gests ways to take pho­to­graphs to make the cave ap­pear unique. In 2015, An­doy was among the re­cip­i­ents of the Tourism Star Philip­pines award of the Depart­ment of Tourism (DOT).

Another ex­cit­ing site in Ca­gayan is the San Jose Marine Re­serve and Fish Sanc­tu­ary in Si­tio Matara, San Jose, Gon­zaga town, a three-hour ride from the city proper. The marine pro­tected area cov­ers 286.413 hectares, 214.134 hectares of which has been de­clared a marine re­serve and 72.279 hectares, a marine sanc­tu­ary. The coastal com­mu­nity, sci­en­tists and tech­ni­cal experts have joined hands

to en­sure the area’s sus­tain­abil­ity.

Gon­zaga’s white sand beach and crys­tal blue wa­ters are per­fect for snor­kel­ing and boat­ing. You could even climb var­i­ous rock for­ma­tions to en­joy the breeze and an ex­cit­ing view of the wa­ters.

Fa­mil­iar­iza­tion Tour

Tour operators and tourism of­fi­cers took mem­bers of the me­dia from var­i­ous parts of the coun­try to a five-day Fa­mil­iar­iza­tion Tour last Nov. 13-16 as the DOT 2 (Ca­gayan Val­ley) strength­ens its pro­mo­tion of the “gems of the north” to bring in more tourists.

Vir­gilio Maguigad, DOT-2 di­rec­tor, stressed the need to ex­pand the North­ern Philip­pines’ tourism mar­kets and in­tro­duce emerg­ing des­ti­na­tions to peo­ple in the Visayas and Min­danao. “The big­gest mar­ket for tourism in our coun­try are still the lo­cal tourists.We would like to have a closer re­la­tion with the source mar­kets be­cause Visayas and Min­danao are ur­ban­ized and they have easy ac­cess to our re­gion through the in­creased air­line com­pa­nies con­nect­ing us,” he said.

Ac­cord­ing to Maguigad, the Ca­gayan Val­ley and Cordillera re­gions are ideal for ad­ven­tur­ers and the cul­ture con­scious.

“This is re­ally a good op­por­tu­nity for our tour operators to ex­change clients and ex­plore pos­si­bil­i­ties to ex­pand tourism of­fer­ings in the whole coun­try,” he said.

With the new route of­fered by Philip­pine Air­lines from CIark In­ter­na­tional Air­port to Cauayan Air­port in Cauayan City, Is­abela, Maguidad said tourists now have a new option in go­ing north.

Pre­vi­ously, PAL only flies to Tugue­garao City.

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