I could see the cellular tower standing like a centrepiece of the town. Despite its signal lights on, it’s just a static display as my phone shows no signal even if I’m just a few hundred meters away. I fan myself up as I wipe-off beads of sweat trickling from my forehead caused by the mid-afternoon heat. There are no electric fans around as there are no electricity to power them yet. That is part of the story of this town Maconacon Isabela, somewhat cut-off from the rest of Luzon but roughing it out in this region does yield some memorable travel.
Recovering from Devastation
In October 2010, the town of Maconacon Isabela was put on the map and on the headline of most news because it was the worst hit area when Super Typhoon Juan (Typhoon Megi) devastated Cagayan. No house was left standing and the landscape drastically changed by the force of this storm. Almost 2 years later, we see a town slowly recovering but the ghost of Typhoon Juan still haunts them till this day.
Maconacon, along with Isabela’s Tourism Coastline towns of Divilacan, Dinapigue and Palanan are cut-off from the rest of Isabela by the long and mighty Sierra Madre Mountain Range. Right now, the easiest way is by a plane. From Manila, we took a 12-hour bus ride to Tuguegarao. We then took the air on a morning flight via SkyPasada. During the 30-minutes low altitude flight, our eyes feasted on the on the magnificent landscape of Sierra Madre, both stunning and scary.
Getting in, is also possible by sea. One can ride the cargo ships from Sta Ana, Cagayan following the coastline for at least 15 hours to reach Maconacon Port. Brave adventurers can also travel by land crossing the Sierra Madre Mountain Range for at least 3-days.
Maconacon is far from ready for tourism, they don’t have any lodging facilities aside from the Government Dorm Rooms with shared communal bathrooms. We even have to borrow an electric fan from outside for those times when there is electricity which only comes in the evening from 5pm to 12 midnight. The town doesn’t really have a designated Tourism Officer, only foresters who can guide people around. And like I sited earlier, mobile phone signal is not reliable. Those who come here must really be ready to rough it out.
What I do like here is how cheap food comes. The seafood are fresh and tasty. Our usual dining stop is Leda’s Snackhouse by the town market is where we had fares of humongous servings of shrimps, crabs and squids starting from 100-200 pesos that’s good for two. Certainly something to look after what the friendly ladies there would whip out.
There are no public transportation in the area. The most popular means of transportation here is the “Kuliglig“, a multi-purpose two-wheeled trailer pulled by a powerful tractor engine fueled by diesel or gas. It’s ideal on the rough road condition of the province. A dump-truck is also used for large groups. Motorbikes and bicycles are also pretty popular.
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.