North Philippines Visitors Bureau (NPVB) gathered around a number of people from different publications like Inquirer, Manila Bulletin, Mabuhay, Cebu Smile, Seair, Seair Inflight, Zest Air, Asian Traveler, Sidetrip then mix in a good number of bloggers in one Victory Liner Bus. While everyone doesn’t really know everybody at first except for the names on the media list which we may or may not have googled on, we all have one thing in common – Travel. And for 7 days on the road in one bus this could be one heck of an adventure. Lakbay Norte NPVB Media Tour starts.
Of course I gravitated first at familiar faces I know on the onset of the trip. Chatting and then later shivering as our bus turned into a rolling freezer just a few hours from our departure. Dang. Why did I remove that malong last minute when I packed my bags? Even my ever favorite Columbia Jacket was not able to keep me warm throughout. But I was able to snatch in some zzz’s here and there until I realized we were already in Tuguegarao. It was 530am, slightly earlier than expected. It was still dark outside with the view of St Paul and Peter Cathedral looming over from my window.
Like some sleepy herd of sheep we were led to the area where the breakfast and presentation would be held. I think I was still spacing out from a few hours of interrupted sleep. I shouldn’t have stayed up late until the wee hours of the morning from a reunion. I lack sleep. Now I lack clarity. That is until breakfast came in. There’s nothing better to revive a sleepy head than a nice steaming cup of Ybanag Hot Choco. Fill in a plate of Cagayan goodies like a Batil Patung which is a type of pansit from the region and the garlicky taste of their langonisa. A hearty meal to start the day.
This also gave us a chance to get acquainted with the Cagayan North Convention and Visitors Bureau and also representatives of the different member hotels we would be staying that evening. There’s no rest for the sleepy of course as we get ourselves ready to tour Cagayan Valley as soon as our tummies are filled. I’m no stranger from Cagayan as I had an assignment here for a magazine before. Looking at the Itinerary, it seems we’ll be doing basically the same thing. I’m keeping an open mind though and see what has changed since then.
The familiar sight of the rice fields on the road seemed to have hypnotized me to drift to sleep until someone tapped me less than an hour later that we’re already in Piat Basilica. I gathered myself and soon found my bus-mates already headed down to the Basilica.
The Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat is home to the venerated Black Virgin Mary which was brought from Macau in 1604 to the Philippines. The image was used to evangelize the people in the region. Its first home was Lal-lo just north of Tuguegarao before it was moved to Piat where it is now housed in a Basilica.
Nothing much has changed since my last visit though which is good. Not too many people at that time except for a few vendors selling candles and souvenir images from Our Lady of Piat. But I heard during June 23 to 30, the site comes to life for the Piat Sumbali Festival. Reenactment of war dances of tribes until they were converted to Christianity.
There’s a small museum just beside the church that holds several artifacts. I don’t remember visiting it before so I had to check it out. Its two-story structure was enough to hold items related to the Basilica and Our Lady of Piat. Burnt wood, old text, adorned robes makes and various replica images in different shapes and sizes can be found inside. It’s an interesting tour if you’re really into church history.
Of Course we got out of the museum soon and headed for the bus, but not before we have a taste of their local delicacy the Paua. It’s a rice cake with ground peanut and brown sugar inside. It’s a real treat enough to satisfy our hunger for another hour long bus ride en route to Penablanca.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.