Tuguegarao City and Some Churches in Nearby Towns
The city of Tuguegarao is the capital of the province of Cagayan and serves as the center of business, economy and tourism of the area. Though Tuguegarao City is an important provincial center, the city itself isn’t much established yet in terms of tourism. There are several hotels and lodgings in the city but there are only limited spots to see and happenings to do there because most visited tourist sites are actually situated in surrounding towns and municipalities. That’s also why I got a little frustrated when our trip to Kalinga didn’t take place because I couldn’t think of place to sightsee anymore or activity to do within the city.
Because my buddy and I didn’t push through with our trip to Kalinga anymore, we had just agreed to spend our time in Tuguegarao City and explore its different tourist attractions and visit some nearby towns.
Tuguegarao is essentially just small when it comes to land size that one can do a tour to its churches, museums and some landmarks in one day. On our first day, my buddy and I had able to get to two interesting places – Tuguegarao Cathedral and the Buntun Bridge.
Saints Peter and Paul Metropolitan Cathedral
The Saints Peter and Paul Metropolitan Cathedral, which is also known as the Tuguegarao Cathedral, is an 18th-century Baroque church. The church is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tuguegarao. It is considered as one of the largest churches in the region of Cagayan Valley.
The church’s facade is made of red bricks highlighted with white columns. We went inside and I got stunned of how beautiful the church’s ceiling was. The interior made it appear that the church was so airy and immense. It was glorious! I must say it’s one of the nicest churches that I’ve been to.
We rode a tricycle from the city plaza and went to Buntun Bridge to catch the sunset. We paid PHP 50 for the ride because it was a little far from the city plaza. I’ve learned that the sunset can be viewed best from the area but too bad it was gloomy during our visit.
Buntun Bridge was said to be the longest river bridge in the country. It connects Tuguegarao City to Northern Cagayan Valley and to the provinces of Isabela and Kalinga via the town of Enrile. The bridge offers an unhindered view of the Cagayan River.
My buddy and I walked through the bridge, which is 1.098 kilometer long.
Pancit Batil Patung and Some of Tuguegarao’s Local Restaurants
It was just our first day but I was already yearning to taste this city’s famous delicacy, the Pancit Batil Patung. We’ve found numerous panciteria situated every corner but I was told that the best one to try is at Jomar’s Panciteria.
It was our second day when we were able to have the delectable pancit in Jomar’s Panciteria. We went to their original branch in Macapagal Avenue. I ordered the Super Special that costs PHP 80.
The noodle reminds of me Thailand’s Pad Thai. But then this one is made out of pancit miki, minced carabao meat, bean sprouts and other vegetables topped with egg and chicharon. The word Batil Patung if translated means to “beat the egg” for Batil and “placed on top” for Patung.
The noodle was so appetizing. The serving was so huge that I didn’t able to consume all because I’ve got full instantly. The noodle is best to be eaten with egg soup, a squeeze of citrus and some condiments.
Other restaurants that we’ve tried in Tuguegarao City for lunch and dinner were Koby Kubo, Pan de Cagayan and Lorie’s Restaurant and Café.
Koby Kubo is an eatery that offers affordable Filipino dish. A meal can costs about PHP 80 with rice. Because it was easy on the pocket, we had most of our lunch here. During dinner, I’ve then tried Pan de Cagayan and Lorie’s Restaurant and Café.
Pan de Cagayan is a small ancestral house that was altered into a cozy café. Their new branch is located at Arellano Street corner Del Rosario Street. Doctors Rico and Luz Babaran own the restaurant. The restaurant specializes in baguettes and pizza of various toppings. All their breads and pizzas are cooked in a special brick oven, with quality ingredients that make their breads and pizza exceptional and appetizing!
When I dined in at the said restaurant, I’ve ordered the restaurant’s specialty pizza and a single serving of Carbonara – and it was undeniably good!
Aside from their outstanding food, what also makes people go here was because of the place’s coziness, and its casual and homey interior. The restaurant is a very relaxing place to dine in with family and friends.
Another restaurant to try is the Lorie’s Restaurant and Café. The restaurant is located at Hotel Lorita. They offer affordable Filipino food that is good for sharing. They also have rice meals that serve one, which I’ve found very affordable. I’ve had the grilled pork chop meal that comes with a free iced tea. For the price of PHP 120, it was already good.
Where to Stay in Tuguegarao City?
My buddy and I stayed in Lodgers Inn on our first night. Our initial plan was just to stay overnight and get up early to catch the first van to our next destination. The inn is just situated a little across the bus terminal of Victory Liner and few distances away from Brickstone Mall. Room rates are on hour basis. The minimum stay is 3 hours, which costs about PHP 200. Since we’d stayed for over 12 hours, our stay costs PHP 400.
When our plan to Kalinga didn’t push through because of some misadventures, my buddy and I went back to Tuguegarao and decided to just spend the rest of our travel by staying in the city. We then stayed in Hotel Joselina and Traveller’s Inn, which is located in Caggay. The hotel offers high quality hotel accommodation at very practical rates.
Spelunking in Callao Cave
Before Tuguegarao Cathedral, Buntun Bridge and Pancit Batil Patung, what I only knew about Tuguegarao was Callao Cave. It was in fact the first thing that made me interested to visit the city.
Callao Cave is a limestone cave situated in the town of Peñablanca. The cave system is composed of seven chambers. It is one of the best-known natural tourist attractions in the province most especially because of the chapel lit by a stream of light coming from a rooftop opening.
It was on our third day of our trip when we traveled to Peñablanca and visited the Callao Cave. Going to the town of Peñablanca from the city of Tuguegarao takes about 45 minutes to an hour ride. One can rent a van or a tricycle to get straight to the Callao Cave but for tourists on a budget like me, one can go to the tricycle terminal that has trips to Peñablanca. Fare costs about PHP 40 per person. The downside however is the tricycle waits to be filled up with passengers before it takes off.
Our tricycle driver dropped us at the bank of Pinacanuan River. From there, we registered and paid the entrance fee of PHP 20 per person. We then rode a boat that brought us across the river, where the entrance to Callao Cave is located. The boat ride costs PHP 20 round-trip per person.
Going inside the cave needs to have an authorized guide. There’s no standard rate for them as it depends on how much tip visitors will give.
Before reaching the cave, one has to climb 184 concrete steps.
Exploring the cave was easy as there are established paths. However, please still be cautious because it sometimes gets slippery during rains.
The first chamber of the cave was said to be the largest room among all the chambers. It has the famous chapel that most people rave about. A rock formation serves as the altar of the chapel. In previous images that I’ve seen online, that area was being lit by a stream of light coming from a natural crevice above, but unfortunately, the sky was overcast that day.
We explored the rest of the chambers. The chambers were truly massive. Our guide told us of some facts about the cave. She also showed us some rock formations. It was nice to see some speleothems and several formations inside the cave like flowstones, glittering dripstones, cave curtains, crystal helicities and columns.
But it was so dismaying that vandalism was abundant inside. There are plenty of them that made me really felt annoyed about it. I hope the local tourism managing the cave could have some actions to stop people from vandalizing and also movements to preserve the cave’s natural state. I also hope for tourists to be responsible enough and avoid littering and vandalizing the cave.
After an hour spending inside the cave, we went back to the other side of Pinacanuan River. From there, we waited for a tricycle to arrive that can take us back to Tuguegarao. We were told that tricycles are scarce in the area so just in case we couldn’t catch any, I asked for the mobile number of the tricycle driver that brought us there. But after few minutes, good thing a tricycle had arrived. We asked the driver if he could take us to the tricycle terminal at the town proper. He then just told us to hop in and he’ll just roam around the town to fill up the vehicle with other passengers.
San Matias Parish Church in Tumauini
The San Matias Parish Church, which is also known as Tumauini Church, is a Roman Catholic Church in the municipality of Tumauini, Isabela. The church is within the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ilagan. It was declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines.
The church is known for its brick Baroque-style architecture, which is also one of the reasons why I got fascinated to visit it despite of the time-consuming travel to reach the place.
From Tuguegarao City, we rode a van that goes to Santiago. Fare is PHP 60 per person. It took us an hour to reach Tumauini. From the main road, we then walked for a few meters to reach the church.
The church is known for its extensive use of red bricks on its exterior and interior garnishing. The church building is made completely of ornately designed red bricks in its frontage and its interior walls. It was said that brick was used due to lack of good quality stones in the area.
Attached to the church’s façade is a unique cylindrical belfry. It was built in 1805.
We went inside through the side entrance of the church. There was no on-going mass so after offering a prayer, we took the chance to take photos. There’s a spiral staircase leading to the belfry. We went up but didn’t continue entering the main belfry, as it was dark and stinking.
Our Lady of Piat and My Last Day in Tuguegarao City
It was my last day in Tuguegarao. My buddy went home a day ahead of me. I planned to wake up as early as 5:00 AM to get to Five Star Bus Terminal and buy a bus ticket to Manila but I had failed to do so. It was already 7:00 AM when I got awake. Seeing what time it was already, I quickly went out of my bed and hurriedly went to the bus terminal. Tickets were already sold out when I reached the station. All Five Star buses were already full so I went to the nearby Victory Liner and took my chance there.
As expected, the lines were long. It was all chaos. We were told that the buses bound to Manila were all fully booked and passengers were advised to just line up at the chance passenger lane. I still did line up at the ticket booth but after an hour I went out of the queue and decided to go to Florida Bus Terminal instead and placed my chance there.
Again as predicted there was also a queue. They were selling the remaining slots for a special bus trip that afternoon. I was one person away for getting a bus ticket to Manila when suddenly the ticket seller told us that there were no more seats available. Failed!
With no food intake yet that day, I’ve decided to just go to the nearest fast food restaurant and have my meal first before planning on possible ways to get to Manila.
I then checked out from my hotel and went back to Victory Liner to purchase a ticket for the earliest possible bus trip going to Manila. The only destination that they were allowing to be reserved was going to Sampaloc, Manila, which I didn’t bother anymore just for me to get back home immediately. So I lined up again and I was able to purchase a bus ticket. The schedule though was 6:00 AM the next day, but it didn’t matter anymore as what I had wanted was to go home, the soonest and the most convenient.
I still have a half-day to spend in the city so I’ve decided to push through with my plan of going to Piat. But before going to Piat, I first went to Lodgers Inn and inquired for available room. I asked the lady receptionist if it was possible to leave my bag and to just check in when I get back so the room usage will be locked in to 10 hours when I check in and I check out the next day. The lady, agreed – and I paid for my room just to guarantee the reservation.
Outside the inn, I hailed a tricycle and asked the driver to take me to the van terminal that goes to Piat. I was initially charged PHP 50 for the ride because it was too distant. I was told that the terminal is situated along Buntun Highway. I haggled, the driver and I agreed to PHP 40 fare.
Piat is a municipality in the province of Cagayan. It is located in the southwest part of Cagayan Province, which can be reached in an hour drive. There are available vans and jeepneys that go to Piat, with fare that costs about PHP 60 per person.
I was able to reach Piat at around 3:30 PM. I went straight to the basilica, where the home of Our Lady of Piat is. Our Lady of Piat remains to be the source of inspiration and object of devotion of many catholics in the region. The town is currently dubbed as the “Pilgrimage Center of Cagayan Valley” due to the thousands of devotees and tourists who visit the place to pay homage.
The site is believed to show miracles.
I went inside the church and offered a prayer. Because of the chaos and some mishaps I’ve encountered from the previous days, I silently asked Our Lady of Piat for the welfare of my travel. I wished that I could get back to Manila at the most possible time – and no further misfortunes to come across on the course of my trip.
After the short prayer, I walked around and took some photos in and out of the church.
The interiors of the church are curved ceiling made of wood with historic imageries and accounts at the top of the walls. On the altar lies the Blessed Virgin Mary enclosed with a glass. The church also has verandas inside which makes the shrine to look more elegant. At the back of the church is a staircase leading to a window exactly positioned at the back of the Virgin Mary in which devotees can touch the clothing of Our Lady of Piat.
I left the church after about an hour. I would want to attend the mass but it was already getting late. I have to get back to Tuguegarao before evening. When I reached the van terminal, unfortunately there weren’t available vans anymore. I was advised by the locals to go to the Tuao Junction. From there, there are already vans and jeepneys that pass by that goes to Tuguegarao. I then rode a tricycle to get to the junction. As the tricycle navigated the road going to the junction, I noticed a half emptied Victory Liner bus that has a Cubao signboard that passed by our way. The passenger beside me inside the tricycle told me that, that was the last bus trip from Piat to Cubao. I didn’t know that they have such trip. She told me that I should’ve gotten to that bus if I was planning to get to Manila. In addition, she told me that there was no ticket reservation for that. If I only knew, then I should’ve already brought my bag with me but I left it in the lodge in Tuguegarao. That was an opportunity for me already to go back home early but I missed it.
After having my dinner at Lorie’s Restaurant and Café, I’ve thought of dropping by the Victory Liner Terminal first before going back to the lodge to check if there’s a chance to get on an earlier bus. When I arrived at the terminal, the area seems pretty manageable already compared to the morning when I went there. I asked one of the terminal personnel if there are still buses available that can accommodate chance passengers like me. I was told that there are still three buses, which will be departing within an hour. That time, I’ve thought of taking a chance, so I went to the lodge, got my bag and asked for refund of the room that I paid. I said sorry to the lady receptionist and told her that I was hoping to get home already. She then did give my payment back. I then rushed in back to the terminal, just in time for a bus that was already about to depart. I used my reservation ticket that is good for tomorrow as payment and just added few pesos for the penalty.
I was in gladness when I got in to the bus and able to secure a seat. It was the hope and miracle that I was seeking for. Then I thought that my prayer to Our Lady of Piat had worked.
That moment, I then just realized that whatever bad things happen, at the end of the day everything will be fine. We just have to believe and keep the positivity alive on us.
My trip to Tuguegarao City might not have been in accordance in some aspects. I’ve had some failed attempts to get to our desired destination, experience some chaos, encountered some arguments and conflicts but then again, those were all part of the adventure. Not all experiences were desirable, but it depends to us on how we perceive it. Those misfortunes happened to my trip, those were all lessons and part of learning not only as a traveler but as a person as well. I still wanted to accomplish a trip to Kalinga. By then, I hope everything will be desirable, as I wanted it to be.