Palaui, Cagayan, PH: Spontaneous Adventure To The North

Cagayan Philippines Lighthouse

Who would have thought that the combination of  a low pressure are cancelling our Virac flight and a hand held lonely planet book would result to one of the most memorable journey of our lives.

I guess one must learn how to improvise, when you are standing in front of a dead end.

Our situation was far from what can be considered ideal for it looked like that the adventure we have been looking forward to in months would not happen.

With nowhere to go, it was certain that the weekend would be spent boringly at home because of the stormy weather.

Virac Catanduanes flight canceled (

Our Virac, Catanduanes flight cancelled due to bad weather)

That was until I had this crazy idea.

I don’t know what dawned upon me, but when I saw my lonely planet book I had the inkling to just open it and travel to whatever location randomly appears in its pages.

“Sta. Ana Cagayan”

Where ???

Who knew such a place exists?  We certainly didn’t.

Consequently the only useful information I found in my Lonely Planet book were:

1. Found in the northernmost tip of Luzon

2. Can be accessed by riding a 13 hour bus

These were enough to sell me the idea of randomly going to Cagayan with absolutely no clue what we were getting ourselves into. Fortunately my friends were also crazy enough to agree.

If going to the northern most tip of Luzon was not enough adventure for anyone, we believed going  on the spur of the moment was.

With South Luzon forecasted to be heavily affected by the low pressure area, it was logical to go to Cagayan and as further north as possible. What was supposed to be a gloomy weekend has turned into an impulsive adventure in pursuit of brighter skies.

But before we are able to experience fairer weather we had to brace for the long ride. While on the nearest bus station we discovered that we would have to wait 3 hours for a direct bus to Cagayan.

Virac Catanduanes flight canceled (

Camilla and Thera on a Manila bus station)

Itchy to be on the move and not wanting to waste precious hours waiting, we again decided to improvise and ride a total of 3 buses on route to Cagayan instead. First a bus to Santiago City, then another to Tuguegarao City and a final one to Sta. Ana.

We figured that 13 hours wouldn’t be too long of a bus ride anyways. In hindsight we were so wrong. We probably slept and woke up a total of more than ten times on the way to Santiago and Tuguegarao, each time wishing that upon opening our eyes that we would miraculously find ourselves finally on our destination.

Rest turned into torture the more we overslept as the resulting headache became worse each time we woke up.

We might have discovered a new yoga discipline after contorting our bodies to every possible position in an effort to get comfortable on our cramped bus seats.

As far as we can remember it took 10 hours to arrive in Tuguegarao and to our surprise rain was pouring hard upon our arrival. We also discovered that the Sta.Ana bus was stuck in the same traffic we passed earlier and had to wait 3 hours.

Our rush was all for nothing.

Left with no choice but wait, we just made ourselves comfortable in the bus station. Probably a little too comfortable.

Tuguegarao Cagayan Bus Station Transportation (I slept on the floor while Thera slept on the table)

Tuguegarao Cagayan Bus Station Transportation (Camilla found the ticket booth ledge most comfortable of all places)

When the bus to Sta. Ana arrived, we were confused if we were supposed to be relieved to be on the move again, or depressed because we still had more sleeping  ahead of us.

But cliché as it may sound, Sta. Ana was worth the 17 hours oversleeping journey. The weather was absolutely great as we predicted (only on the first day).

Palaui Island Santa Ana Cagayan Beach (Finally arriving at Palaui Island Cagayan)

Palaui Island Santa Ana Cagayan White Sand Beach (Santa Ana’s unspoiled beach)

But what lifted our spirits were the Cagayanon people who made our stay fantastic.

Tricycle drivers gave genuine advice on which place to stay, absolutely leading us to the affordable yet wonderful and cozy Jotay Resort.

The boatmen we hired were endearing on transporting us to Palaui Island’s top where the Cape Engano Lighthouse and the magnificent view of the Luzon strait can be seen.

Cape Engano Lighthouse Palaui Island Cagayan (Approaching Palaui Island Cape Engano Lighthouse)

Cape Engano Lighthouse Palaui Island Cagayan (Thera inside the Cape Engano Lighthouse)

Palaui Island Cagayan Marine Sanctuary Diving (View from Cape Engano Lighthouse)

Our ranger guides gladly accompanied us to the marine sanctuary to skin dive even with the rough the seas caused by the low pressure gust. They made sure that our lives were not endangered by swimming really close to us if anything happens.  They risked their own lives in the process so our long journey wouldn’t be wasted.  It was so kind of them indeed.

Palaui Island Cagayan Marine Sanctuary Diving Tiered Table Coral (Tiered Table Coral – Palaui Island Cagayan Marine Sanctuary)

Palaui Island Cagayan Marine Sanctuary Diving Common Lionfish (Common Lionfish – Palaui Island Cagayan Marine Sanctuary)

Palaui Island Cagayan Marine Sanctuary Diving (Shortfin Lionfishes – Palaui Island Cagayan Marine Sanctuary)

The young kids openly demonstrated their own local version of tennis.

Even the guy I met was nice enough to demonstrate to me firsthand how to conduct cyanide fishing WITHOUT ME KNOWING. His destructive actions accidentally led me into meeting a wild turtle dazed by cyanide.

Cagayan Palaui Island Cape Diving Turtle

(Hawksbill Turtle – Palaui Island Cagayan)

The people for sharing stories about how Cagayan was once plagued by dynamite fishing and presently cyanide fishing.

And of course, simple as it may seem, Christopher Palarca smiling each time he approaches us.

Besides the people, Cagayan allowed us to experience a feeling we never felt before.

Cagayan Santa Ana Guides (Friendly Faces of Cagayan)

We felt a different kind of high from knowing that we were on the edge of Luzon. Standing by the edge brought the realization that what lies beyond the horizon is a world different from what we have been accustomed with all of our life.

Such a realization definitely brought the feeling that we belong and the land we were standing on is indeed our home. Moreover, although we naturally felt the urge to venture beyond the horizon to know what’s out there, we confirmed to ourselves that we would always comeback no matter how far we go.

Looking beyond we realized that there still so much we didn’t know about our own homeland and there are places that are still foreign to us.

Besides, wasn’t Cagayan foreign to us when we it randomly appeared on the pages of my lonely planet book?

We have more exploring ahead of us still.

Cagayan Palaui Island Cape Engano Lighthouse

(At the edge of Luzon, Philippines)

(Nicco Lampa visited Palaui, Cagayan, Philippines on November 4, 2011 until November 7,2011)


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