It’s a shame it took us a delayed flight to visit this gem of a place. “Of all the places we’ve mapped in the coastal towns, Divilacan Isabela is the most beautiful and is our favourite!” said one of the NSO Mappers we met at the flight check-in counters in Maconacon. The working duo has been mapping Eastern Isabela for months already and are ready to go home. But the fickle status of our flights had other plans in mind. Our flight was cancelled and had to stay here for another day which is not unusual for this region. But wonders never cease as we met the cheerful Tourism officer of Divilacan, Natalie, who was also waiting for the flight. In no time she quickly whipped up an endorsement letter and then found ourselves riding a motorcycle to Divilacan.
We traveled for about 25 minutes on a rough road as the weather changed from a squall to sunny. We crossed a small river through a narrow wooden bridge enough for a bike, a motorcycle or people to cross through. Now we know why motorcycles are ideal when traveling to Divilacan. Kuliglig is also an option as it could cross the river below.
I was filled with excitement as soon as I saw this coastal town. It has wide open spaces, the town layout is organised with the town municipal hall sitting on top of a hill overlooking the whole town and the bay. Divilacan is said to have a population of 4700+ and a household close to 700. It doesn’t have electricity like Maconacon but they thrive using fuel-powered generators on some places. But unlike Maconacon, I find Divilacan more developed in terms of infrastructure. I was even surprised that the Municipal Hall uses a biometric time-in/out attendance system for its employees. Generally it is much more ready to attend to visitors with a dedicated tourism office. I was just amazed on the many attractions posted with photos on a board at their office like the many waterfalls, beautiful beaches and stunning mangrove forest.
Dicatian Mangrove Forest and Crocodile Sanctuary
We only have the afternoon to explore and Jane, the tourism staff in charge while Natalie was away was quick to help us. She not only suggested some places to visit but also accompanied us to some nearby sites. She found us a kuliglig service and soon we were driving to the coast.
First stop was the Dicatian Mangrove Forest. I’ve been to several mangrove forest and most of the time my first concern are the sand mites or insects inhabiting the area, so I have to slap in some bug-off-lotion just to make sure I don’t get bitten by them as a bite could take weeks to wear off. But surprisingly I didn’t have to worry about that for Dicatian Mangrove Forest. I’m not really sure why. Is it the quality of water or the surroundings? It just made me concentrate more on this eerily beautiful mangrove forest. The low tide enabled us to walk through several mangrove clusters and marvel the scenery amidst the grey sky.
Nearby, on the road back we also stopped by Dicatian Lake also known as a Crocodile Sanctuary where the Mabuwaya Organisation releases young crocodiles. I wouldn’t think those crocodiles would be young anymore after a few years living in this placid lake. We had an urge to visit the tree house where researchers and observers station themselves but we found no paddle on the boat docked there. Besides, the afternoon rain suddenly poured heavily.
The original plan was to stay at the guest lodge at Mayor Bulan’s house but with a large group of a rescue team in training occupying, we ended up staying at Jane’s Father’s house. A large but humble home of the town’s treasury officer, Mang Tony Singueo. He also happens to be the grandson of the original settlers here coming from Pampanga. His Lolo (grandfather) Sergeant Ceferino Singueo was the head of a patrol hunting for a fugitive many decades ago. They ended up at this land and decided to settle here, develop the land and eventually pushing Divilacan to be a municipality.
It was an interesting evening of stories until their power generators are turned off by 10pm. While their neighbours flock at their living room with the rest of the family to watch the evening telenovelas (and some to charge their mobile phones), Mang Tony told us more stories about Divilacan over dinner.
It was too bad we had to leave the next day. Our flight finally pushed through but we regret not having to explore Divilacan sooner. But one way or another, I’m sure I will find my way back there.
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.