It was still dark when we left Hotel Kimikarlai hopped in our Lakbay Norte Bus at St Peters and St Paul Cathedral grounds. We’re on our way up threading the north-west route of Luzon to Ilocos Norte. Our bus rolled on and I could hear sirens right in front of us. At first I didn’t mind hearing the repeated “weng-weng” sound but realized sooner that we have a police escort with us. Our first stop was the house of Region 2 Director of Tourism, Bless Diwa for our much needed breakfast.
Bless’ house was a big and beautiful two-story white house with lots of glass windows. Inside was airy with elegant furnishings and fixtures that paint a picture of a well-to-do family in its dwellings. We had our breakfast of Cagayan native fares on the second floor with an open view of verdant misty hills that morning. The local food was definitely a treat. Their hot cocoa is becoming one of my favourite hot tsokolate. The Cagayan Langonisa, the carioca looking Pinnakuffu, Nanna and Sinanta made me go for seconds. Their special Diwa Juice, made up their special concoction added some zest to the meal.
We said our formal good bye and started our day 2 of Lakbay Norte on a good note. We rushed through the streets as our police escort vehicle in front paved the way. I could see the look of the people on the street as we pass by. They might be wondering what the buzz was all about. We reach one of the oldest churches in Cagayan Valley which is the Iguig Church. It continues with the red brick but having the flying buttresses behind the church is one of its features.
It’s also on the back of this church where one can find the Calvary Hills. Set on a huge expanse of land are life size figures depicting the Stations of the Cross. It’s a very scenic area and worth a walk at the stations. But time has us on a leash and so we had to move on to our next church stop.
We soon found ourselves staring at the widest church in Cagayan Valley, the Saint Philomene Church in Alcala. I actually like the red bricked facade of this church measuring about 30 meters in width. There were renovations done inside, but behind the newly added altar remains the wall with original paintings still intact from the original structure of the church. We left the place soon but not without a bag of their Carabao Milk Candies which the place is known for. It’s good as they say it is.
Camalaniugan was another interesting stop since they got the oldest church bell in the Far East. We climbed up the belfry near the church and found the bell. On it inscribed (Sancta Maria, 1595). The original church near the banks of Cagayan River is now in ruins.
Red bricks stones make most of the churches here in Cagayan and Camalaniugan has one the remaining Hornos in the the region. Horno is a Brick Kiln where able Filipinos aged 18-40 work for free as part of their 40 day service to the church. I don’t really like the idea of going inside an giant oven even if bricks were mainly baked here but this horno is still in good condition.
We had a festive welcome at the municipality of Lal-lo formerly known as the City of Nueva Segovia with their famous street dancers giving an entertaining performance. Lal-lo was one of the first four cities in the country along with Manila, Cebu and Naga. It used to be the capital of Cagayan until 1839 when it was moved to Tuguegarao.
As soon as the performance ended, we rushed towards the church across the street. On a small park facing the church is a wooden cross encased in glass. It was believed to be more than 300 years old and is known as the Cross of Evangelization. It was installed there to celebrate the 400 years anniversary of the arrival of Our Lady of Piat from Macau, China in 1604. Before moving the image of Our Lady of Piat, Lal-lo used to be her home.
The next and last church stop was a longer drive since it’s near to the vicinity of Ilocos Norte. The Pamplona Church is the oldest church in Cagayan Valley having finished construction in 1617. Some parts of its original walls and facade were still there after it was rededicated. The church has a nice crimson facade, darker than the other churches in Cagayan and has that unique arch design at the entrance.
Being our last stop in Cagayan Valley we can’t leave without having a taste of the region’s special delicacies. We had Tinubong a rice delicacy cooked inside a bamboo. There was also this little puto and tasty coco jam to dip it in. To end is a warm cup of the Cagayan Cocoa. We just felt so pampered here in Cagayan Valley with all these food, warm greetings, festive welcomes and nice people that it’s not that easy to leave the region. In fact were running a few hours late already on our next stop at Illocos Norte.
Last Few Slots for Backpack Photography Banaue on March 19-21 with registration deadline on Feb 19, 2010. Last Call for Batanes Outdoor Workshop for April 9-12, 2010 with deadline of registration on Feb 15, 2010. Backpack Photography Palawan Wildlife April 23-26, 2010 still open.
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.