Friday, February 26, 2016

Traversing Kalinga, Cagayan and Apayao

The North.

It has always seemed like I get to explore more of the north with every visit, and this time was no different.

Instead of a bus ride, we were lucky enough to book a cheap flight to Tuguegarao. The weather was beautiful during the entire week of our stay - cold and gloomy yet there was enough sun to bathe everything in a soothing light not unlike those we often see in magazine articles or documentaries of the north.

Batil Patung.

Our first meal was a serving of the famous batil patung- a dry noodle dish with an absurd amount of different toppings. Generous portions of sausage, chicharon (pork rind), pork liver and (in my case) carabao (water buffalo) meat were placed upon a helping of noodles. The dish was self-seasoned with onions and black vinegar, and is then served with egg drop soup that one can slurp separately or pour over the entire dish.

Our visit was paticularly busy this time - we managed to get to the fringes of two other provinces this time (apart from Kalinga) along with its sister province of Apayao and the paths through Cagayan that connects them.

Magapit Bridge.

Buntun Bridge was one of the landmarks of the many trips we had through the region. Overlooking the Cagayan River, it's the second longest bridge in the Philippines and is surpassed only by San Juanico Bridge that connects the islands of Samar and Leyte down south.

Nondescript Rice Field.

Rice fields are not an unusual sight in the region, along with groves of many different fruit-bearing trees. In open fields like these, the chill from the cold air is greatly magnified - doubly so for me because I didn't think to bring anything longer than shorts.

Freshly Picked Wood Ear Mushrooms.

It's not uncommon for people to partially live off the land out here - something that isn't really apparent for anyone who grew up in the cities, where every single amenity has a price tag attached to it.

Things like fresh coconuts (which are extremely costly in Manila) and mushrooms (which left me utterly fascinated) seemed to grow just around the corner, ready to pick for anyone who happened to pass by.

The Castle.

The Ramparts.

A Distant View of Buntun Bridge.

Saint Philomene Church, Alcala.

We also passed by Alcala in Cagayan, where the Saint Philomene Church - with its ornate golden doors - are located. Alcala also happens to where TeaƱo Milk Candy originates - a delicacy that's seen practically everywhere around Region II.

The Alternate Route to Cagayan.

Thanks to its geography, the region is rife with winding mountainside roads and bridges that cross flowing rivers. A lot of the places we passed by were incredibly picturesque, owing to the relatively unexploited natural wealth of the land.

Bridge Over Cagayan River.

Park View.

Unfortunately, one of the places we tried to visit - Talama Viewdeck - was closed. We got a few shots of its exterior, which was covered in pine trees like some abandoned outskirt of Baguio (with much less people).

Pines at the Talama Viewdeck.

Old Pasunglao Bridge.

One of the things that this trip reminded me was how much of an imperial mentality the powers-that-be have for Manila. Still, the unpaved backroads and old infrastructure still have a charm that I've always seen from old, forgotten things.

Conifers at the Tabuk Capitol.

We also got to visit Calvary Hills in Iguig, Cagayan - a sprawling hillside adorned with life-sized statues depicting the Stations of the Cross overlooked by an old brick church.

Calvary Church.

I'll have a separate post about this place in a month or so (if I remember to do it). I've never imagined a place like this existing in the Philippines. It's a shame that this isn't something that has been featured in any public tourism campaign I've come across. Still, there's some reason to assume that the place is packed during Holy Week.

Calvary Hill Altar.

Shrine to Our Lady of Piat.

We also stopped by Our Lady of Piat - one of the most venerated Marian images in the country. The Lady carries half a millennium of history with it (and is credited with countless miracles across the centuries), and I can only feel awe mixed with reverence as we walked through the inner recesses of the shrine (which, strangely enough, held a vague scent of roses) along with other pilgrims.

Ringo (the tabby) and Snowball ( the black cat).

Ringo, the pictured cat, has a rather interesting story. He was a feisty stray we rescued over a year ago (and by stray I mean we had to fish him from under a water tank because he has been crying in the same spot for a few days). He mistrusted everyone and tended to be a bit nippy when he didn't get his way. It was a tough decision, but it was decided that he'd be better off in the province where the world was a less terrifying place (for a rescue animal).

A year later, he was the sweetest cat along with his 'mate', Snowball. I don't know if it's because he's aged a little and has thus mellowed out or if it's the weather that prompts them to seek the nearest heat source, but Ringo is a testament to the inevitability of change.

Overall, with the amazing food (because goat meat is my weakness) and beautiful weather, it was a week well spent.

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