Up North: Cagayan

Why Cagayan?

PAL Express’ seat sale frequented last year thus being impulsive led me to purchase a MNL – TUG round trip tickets. Yes, even though I didn’t have any idea what to see there. Feeling ko ang adventurous ng peg kapag ganon. Hahaha. So I Googled after booking.

Boarding Pass

My first choice was Palaui Island. Then I forgot why and how I changed my mind. I fell in love with the photos and blogs about Calayan Island. I didn’t even know how I came to know Babuyanes can be traveled to. Uy, aminin, hindi rin naisip na pwede palang mapuntahan ang mga isla na ito! I booked the tickets sometime June 2014 and totally decided to go to Calayan Island by October 2014. As early as October, tinawagan ko na si Ms. Tessie at nagconfirm na pupunta ako ng February 19 – 22, 2015. Okay, go!

Cagayan’s capital is Tuguegarao, which is my gateway to explore the province. Who was I with? Total strangers! You know what happens when you kept on asking your friends to come along but no one confirms because they are busy (and tell you ‘you should have invited me’ after you posted pretty photos) and other reasons? You meet new friends who share same passion, same interest, same adrenaline to just go anywhere.

Tricycle ride from Tuguegarao Airport

It was my first time flying on a Bombardier Q400. It’s small but has the same feels just like any aircraft. I got a free Skyflakes Condensada and thank God for that snack because I was so hungry I didn’t have breakfast and lunch yet (ayoko namang bumili ng cup noodles, ang mahal mahal)! My flight was at 2:00 PM! There were no delays and arrived at Tuguegarao 26 minutes earlier than scheduled. Sweet.

Upon arriving, I asked Kuya tricycle driver to drop me off at the van terminal. He did drop me off at the nearest terminal. It was not even more than 10 minutes of transport and it cost P70! I guess if the Lady Officer from the airport didn’t tell me how much it should cost, Kuya will charge me more than P70. Kasi nung tinanong ko siya, ako na rin sumagot na, “Sabi kasi nung Pulis, seventy daw po.” Hahaha. Edi, sabi niya, “Osige, seventy. Malapit lang naman.” I didn’t expect it was that near!!!

So I met with Albert and Rayn on February 18 at the van terminal. They were the travel buds I met online. Medyo kinakabahan talaga ako before meeting them. Syempre first time ko kaya to meet total strangers for a travel. Thoughts like, “Magnanakaw ba sila? Baka magkakilala sila, tapos patayin nila ako” and so much more were running on my mind. Then they arrived from the city proper to see a church. Surprisingly, Rayn is beki so napanatag naman loob ko na may girl at heart akong kasama.

Me, Rayn, Kuya Medi (Tour Guide) and Albert at Tapwakan having lunch

We waited for some time for the van to arrive and off we were to Claveria at 3:30PM, our entry point to Calayan Island. Claveria is 4 hours travel from Tuguegarao City. It’s the second to the last town of Cagayan before reaching Ilocos Norte.

Claveria Arch from Sta. Praxedes

Our driver was really nice to drive us around Claveria even it was dark and raining. Dapat bumaba na kami and tricycle na lang eh. Inikot niya kami ng Lagoon and Fishlanding to ask kung meron bang ba-byahe the following day to Calayan. Pero wala talaga eh. Ah, yes! I forgot to mention, Tuesday night, Ms. Tessie informed me that weather will be bad for the next few days. Still we pushed through because why not.

Kuya driver finally dropped us off at El Dia Beach Resort. We were offered a rate of P1200/room/night. Expensive! Especially we already knew we may be staying for a couple of days. Good thing, they were fully booked for the next  few days since they will host a conference. Kuya was kind enough to refer Nikita Beach House which was just beside them.

Nikita Beach House shot from their cottage area

Nikita’s gate was closed already but thank God, they still accommodated us! We were offered a rate of P800/night. Ito yung part na nagiinarte pa ako. I asked Ate Eden, person-in-charge that night if they have another room for 1 person and how much would that cost… It’s P500/night. The bigger room she can offer at P500/night for two, too! So dahil alam kong walang mararating ang pagiinarte ko, sige na nga. Sama sama na kami sa isang room. Our room has four beds, one is double deck bed. I got the double deck. It also has its own comfort room, a balcony, small cable tv,  lamp, fan, aircon, chairs and table.

We were given time to settle and Ate Eden asked us if we want something to eat. She ordered us Miki for P35/order. So for P105, we were already full. Kaso lasang butter talaga yung luto eh. Hahahahaha. Pero tamang panawid gutom na!

Called it a night after around 9 or 10 PM.

Expenses: February 18 – Tuguegarao – Claveria

Tricycle (Airport – Van Terminal) – P70
Van (Tuguegarao – Claveria) = P180
Dinner (Miki) – P35
Accommodation (Nikita) – P267/night (shared P800 for 3 persons)
Total = P552

El Nido: Day Two (Tour B)

Visiting El Nido is not complete without island hopping (based on me). There are variety of tours available from A to D.

P1,200 Tour A: Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Simizu Island, Secret Lagoon and 7 Commandos Beach

P1,300 Tour B: Entalula Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Snake Island, Cudugnon Cave and Cathedral Cave

P1,400 Tour C: Hidden Beach, Helicopter Island, Secret Beach, Matinloc Shrine and Star Beach

P1,200 Tour D: Bukal Island, Ipil Beach, Nat-Nat Beach, Cadlao Lagoon and Paradise Beach

I guess if you want that perfect El Nido shot, go for Tour A. If you want that total adventure, go for Tour C as most of the blogs I’ve read, going through hidden and secret beach will require a lot of effort. (Kaya nga sikret at tago, dapat hinahanap pa!) No idead with Tour D though.

JP and I availed Tour B. I know I had a reason (one would be that I don’t like Tour C) but I forgot why I chose it over the other three. We could have done two tours but I really wanted to go to Nacpan/Calitang. (Combination tours can be done through private tours.)

To start the day, we woke up very early as in 5am early. We looked for a place to eat breakfast. Most of the restaurants open at 6am. One of the ladies from Bulskamp Inn suggested a nearby 24/7 diner but reading from online reviews, nah, pass!

Browse, browse, browse. I remembered we passed by Silog Republic the other day and looked it up on the web. Aha, good reviews from TripAdvisor. It was even at the third spot of El Nido’s bests. We rode a tricycle because I thought it was far but no way. It could have been at least 5-7 minutes walk (pasensya, first day pa lang).

Silog

Upon arriving, we immediately checked their menu. Opted for -silog meals as these were the only available dishes that time. I’ve had longganisa and JP had corned beef.

LongsilogJudging from this plate, nothing is extraordinary. Just props for being open 24/7, having okay customer service and ‘affordable’ meals. We paid P165 for two meals plus soda and 3in1 coffee.

Right after breakfast, we went to the shore to just check out the beach. Though hindi ako sure kung pwedeng maligo doon eh. Medyo maraming kalat plus doon nakadaong yung mga bangka.

We headed back to Bulskamp minutes before 7am to prepare for our tour. We confirmed from Northern Hope that we’ll be picked up at 8:30am. We were outside earlier than our call time but no signs of anyone yet. We went to the sari-sari store to buy a cheap waterproof bag but the store was still closed.

We returned to Bulskamp Inn to wait for our tour guide and called our coordinator from Northern Hope. The lady said pick up will be between 8:30am – 9:00am. HUH? Patience, patience.

While waiting, we had a nice chat with Ms. Virgie, the owner of Bulskamp Inn. We knew that she was originally from Bulacan and has relatives in Puerto Princesa, permanently staying in Europe where she met her husband. When they (Virgie and Eddie) visited the municipality of El Nido, they fall in love with it quickly and purchased a house and lot at Osmeña St.. They had the place renovated. They do not permanently stay in El Nido, they fly back and forth to Europe and have her brother manage the place.

Amid our conversation, Kuya Dexter arrived. We walked to the kiosk of Northern Hope Tours to get the rented underwater camera. Supposedly we were to settle our account but because we were pressed for time, Ate said we can do it later after the tour.DSC_6619-1

We were 8 tourists in the boat, 6 of them were foreigners. From what I heard, 2 were from South Africa, and the other 4 were from Sweden. Without so much arte, JP and I sat on the endmost of the boat. Neither we knew that that was the bad spot.

Tour B boat travel was rough. Water was throwing left and right, back and front… the bad spot. Not wanting to spoil the moment, I just enjoyed every water thrown at me by the sea. And oh boy, the waves (kept asking myself, was it practice for my Calayan trip this Feb?) and the wind. Just crazy.

Kuya Dexter told us Tour B was a good choice since there were very few tourists who avail this package. Was it too bad? Nah. There are two beaches to see and feel~, short hike experience, two snorkeling area and two caves. What else to ask for? I didn’t want to tire myself too much anyway.

DSC_6673-1We had our lunch on the boat at Snake Island. It was the best lunch ever. JP and I seated at the sides of the boat (or whatever you call that part), it was perfect.

DSC_6721-1

Everyone was raving about the lunch of Norther Hope or how the guide prepares the food. But nothing really is extraordinary. Sorry, I was not just a fan. Plus they were using aluminum cups that tasted rust (uy, rustic feels~). But overall, I was satisfied. Lunch sa boat, ano pa gusto ko?

After lunch, we went to Cudognon Cave. I wish though I didn’t come along because it was the most challenging activity I’ve done in my whole life. Everyone has to go through a hole, good thing there were mats… kung hindi, sugat sugat tuhod. Hahaha. Inaalala ko ngayon, sumasakit ulo ko.

Then we passed by the Cathedral cave. Buti na lang there were no holes to go through. The photo below was taken from the underwater camera. ;)

After passing by the last cave, we went to Pinagbuyutan Island where we spent more than 30 minutes. Our boat couldn’t reach near the sand so if we want to go to the shore, we have to swim. But since it would be a challenge for me (because I don’t know how to swim), I didn’t dare to. Another activity that can be done is snorkeling, which you may guess, I opted to do. However, I wasn’t pleased because there were too many sea grass!!! I panicked twice so ending naka-inom ako ng tubig dagat twice!!! Panic galore e naka-vest naman, say mo? Medyo mataas pa naman yung sea grass, akala ako may humahawak sa paa ko. ):

Inggit ako sa mga kasabay namin sa boat na foreigners. Ang gagaling nila mag swim!!!

When the other 3 foreigners came from the shore, we started our journey back to the port. We finished the tour shortly after 3:00 PM. I headed back to Bulskamp Inn to take a bath and that was when I felt very sick.

Ended the day in the room, sleeping and had JP buy dinner alone.

El Nido, Palawan: Going There

Shortly after the plane landed in Puerto Princesa International Airport, I met with JP and waited for the van we booked. The van was booked through Northern Hope Tours and was set to leave at 9:30 in the morning. We were picked up around 9:00 but the driver said we have to wait for another group to arrive. Since I have not eaten my breakfast, we first ate at the nearest carinderia inside the airport. I just ordered cup dry noodles and that already cost P40.

We headed back to the van after I ate and waited few more minutes for the other group. They were a family of 3, foreign husband, Filipina mother and a cute boy. Off we go to pick up another group somewhere in the city. It was past 10 when we arrived at the New Market Terminal where the driver told us he’ll just pick up 3 more passengers. After more than an hour waiting, there were two groups who rode the van. The Filipina mother was raging mad because we were supposed to leave Puerto Princesa at 9:30 and it was almost 12 noon. She even called someone from Northern Hope and said they will contact the driver (because he was nowhere to be found while at the terminal, he just showed up when the van was already full) but nothing really happened. Plus, there were seven more people in the van. I, too, felt deceived.

After the long wait, we started our journey and boy the road was no joke. Zigzag every where! Since I barely had sleep from Christmas day until my flight, I was able to take naps. We arrived at Roxas and ate lunch at Bacuit Grill and Restaurant. We ordered three viands, and each costs P80 with rice. I find it very expensive especially with the very small serving.

After dropping off one of the groups before Taytay, in what they said was an alternate route, we had no choice but to drive along a very very long rough road. When we reached the terminal, one of the passengers (who seemed to be a local) asked the driver if he will drop off all the guests and if he can also drop her off her place because of the firecrackers she bought from the city (one of the reasons of our delay, too). The driver seemed displeased of her request and talked to someone from the terminal who assisted him pointing where the hotels and inns where.

Then we reached Bulskamp Inn minutes before 5 in the afternoon.

Meet Mikay, Bulskamp Inn’s cat

Cost: P600/person/way – Puerto Princesa to El Nido

Tip: If you have time and would want to save some money, just go to the new market terminal. You may either ride Cherry or RoRo buses and van ride costs only P400!

If you booked the van ahead, ask your travel agent if the van will leave exactly the time you had it arranged.