I looked through the glass wall and saw the non-operational swimming pool with water the color of moss. The water slide is all dusty and in badly need of a paint job, the walkway was covered with grime, the plants over the trellises looked like they haven’t been tended for so long. The swimming pool, much like the rest of Villa Caridad Hotel is suffering from neglect. I looked around and wondered what happened here. I imagined how it looked like during its heyday, and could only speculate on the circumstances that have led to its current state.
A friend of mine stayed at Villa Caridad and that’s how I knew about the place. I had no other reason for choosing Villa Caridad for our Quirino accommodation other than the fact that it’s cheap. For the dorm room, it’s only PHP 200/head a night. We only needed a place to sleep in and we’d be out most of the time anyway so there’s no need for a first-class accommodation.
Even so, I still wasn’t prepared with the amount of inconveniences that we had for staying here. They put us in a small outbuilding where the dorm rooms are. Our room has a double-deck bed and a double-bed, not the typical dorm-type room that you have in mind. There is only one shared bathroom with a dysfunctional shower-head, a small pail and a dipper that were so grimy I couldn’t imagine myself using them for showering. The building has a creepy vibe to it that it’s easy to imagine that something sinister is lurking in the dark corners. I am not the one who gets easily scared, but somehow the place made me feel uncomfortable.
I approached the male receptionist if there are any other bathrooms in which we could take a shower. He smiled and said that there is none. Note that he said this without even trying to do something about it; he neither asked anyone nor did he check other rooms. This got me frustrated and I had a hard time accepting it given the fact that Villa Caridad is big and there were hardly any guests when we were there.
That morning, while Pancake and I were having breakfast, I overheard two people talking from the other side of the room. From eavesdropping I gathered that they were the owners and just like that I knew what I had to do. This is an old strategy that I have always known to be effective; when the staff says no, go to the person of authority. I approached one of them, a young woman, just before we set out for the day’s tour to inform her of our dilemma. Aside from the shower trouble, our room had a defective lock so I made the request nicely, asking if there is anything they could do about it. The woman nodded and said that she’d take care of it. What a relief!
|When you want something accomplished, it’s better to talk to the supervisor/owner than the staff.|
When we came back to the resort later that day, we were told that we could transfer to another room in their apartelle at no additional cost. This room looks slightly better than the previous one and it has its own bathroom. Just like the previous room, it has a double-bed and a double-deck bed. There is a non-functional air-condition unit, but there’s no electric fan either, so Pancake and I went to the reception to request one. The lady receptionist who replaced the guy from the morning shift is more eager to attend to our needs, which makes me realize that it’s not that Villa Caridad has no means to make their guests comfortable, it’s just that you have to ask the right people. Clearly, the morning shift guy could learn a thing or two from the lady receptionist.
Back to our room, our friend, Silver, who just stepped out of the shower, greeted us with accusations of leaving her behind. Apparently, when she found that she was all alone in the room she got scared and didn’t know whether she should go out or stay in the room. I stood there wondering what got her so riled up until I noticed that the room did look a little bit spooky. Moments later, the electric fan that we requested has been delivered.
Due to exhaustion, I had no trouble finding sleep even when my friends deliberately left the lights on.
If you’re used to high-quality accommodation, there are many things at Villa Caridad that you wouldn’t like. First is the fact that it is poorly maintained, doors that wouldn’t lock, swimming pool that you couldn’t swim on, and the water from the tap smells of rust. There are no toiletries provided, not even a tissue roll. If you look around, you will notice the signs of grandeur that it once had in the dusty decorations, rusty frames, and dilapidated infrastructure.
I wanted to know what happened to this resort, but I couldn’t get myself to ask the owners and the staff. Did they lack the budget for maintenance? Was it struck by a natural calamity that it wasn’t able to recover from? Was there a change in ownership and the current owner doesn’t have the means to return the resort to its former glory? I don’t know. I hope though that they can do something about it because I truly think this place can still be saved. It sits in a nice location with a sizable land area that can still be developed.
Despite its shortcomings, I would still recommend Villa Caridad for the following reasons:
This can be found in Maddela, which is a good starting point to reach the other municipalities of Quirino. This is where you can find the van terminal that can take you to several places in the provinces. I will present a better argument why you have to be close to this terminal in my next article.
Also, the place is quite accessible, in fact, you can just ask the bus driver to drop you off in front of its gates as it is situated by the side of the road.
They have more expensive rooms, but since we didn’t stay in one of those I cannot say for sure if they’re worth the extra penny. If you are on a budget though and you’re going with a group, 200 pesos a night is not a bad deal at all.
It has its own restaurant with decent food to eat. You have to wait for 30 minutes to an hour though before it can be served.
Sure, the male receptionist could learn a thing or two about customer service, but generally, the staff of Villa Caridad are polite and accommodating. This includes the owners who are down-to-earth and friendly with the guests.
As long as they have room(s) available, you can go for an early check-in, which to me is a pretty big deal because I hate waiting. Reservation is quick and easy too, just give them a ring, leave your name, let them know your day and time of arrival, then you’re good to go.
To make your stay a little bit comfortable, bring your own toiletries and don’t hesitate to ask for assistance.
Villa Caridad Hotel
Brgy. Villa Sur, Maddela, Quirino
Telephone no.: +63 917 5743322
It will take you 10 hours to get there on a bus ride. You’ve Googled for information, but you will feel that it is not enough, and so your level of anticipation will be high. You will wonder how the locals call themselves; Quirinons? Quiriñons? (It’s Quirinians, you will soon find out). You wonder what local cuisine you should try and how far apart each point of interest is from one another. You have a list of must-see spots, but you will find out that you cannot cover everything in your brief stay and should, therefore, choose those that you believe you shouldn’t miss. But in truth, you don’t know which destinations you shouldn’t miss when everything seems to be new and not much has been written about them. You will take note of every expense, log every hour, and in your head plays a number of topics you could write about. Most of all you will fall in love with this place, so much so that you almost want to keep it a secret, but at the same time, you cannot wait to tell the whole world about it. These are my thoughts about Quirino, the landlocked province in Cagayan Region that I picked out of curiosity. And you must go there, you must give it a chance, you must take that long drive. Pack your bag, use this guide, and visit Quirino.
How to get to Quirino
Quirino is one of the 4 major provinces of Cagayan Valley Region. It’s a landlocked area, meaning it is completely surrounded by land and has no direct access to the sea. But what it lacks in beaches it more than made up for with its breathtaking view of the Sierra Madre Range, numerous waterfalls, rivers, and caves.
There are buses that go directly to Quirino from Cubao, Quezon City. Travel time is 10 hours. Take the Five Star bus in Cubao terminal; bus fare is PHP 490 (USD 9.84). For convenience, and this you should consider given the fact that you’d be on the road for 10 hours, book a seat online. Read my article, Quirino Province: A Prelude to an Awesome Long Weekend for more information.
Where to stay in Quirino
There’s a list of recommended inns and hotels in the Quirino Province website. Rates are pretty low, and when I say low it means they go anywhere between PHP 75 (USD 1.51) to PHP 1,500 (USD 30.18). Now the question you should be asking really is, which part of Quirino should you stay in? If you want to be close to the Capitol then go to Cabarroguis. Nagtipunan, on the other hand, is close to many attractions, but I wouldn’t suggest it based on the fact that it is far compared with the other municipalities. What I’d propose is Maddela as it is the perfect jump-off point from all the known tourist destinations in Quirino.
But the biggest reason I recommend this is because of the van terminal that can be found in Maddela. You want to be close to this terminal as much as possible because this is where you can take the van that goes to Santiago. Travel time from Maddela to Santiago is about 2 hours. Why is this information important? Well, you will be going home eventually and Santiago is where you can find the bus terminals with Manila routes.
Sure, the van can pick you up along the way, but trust me when I say that you don’t want that option. This van service is horrible in the sense that they overload it with passengers. Imagine the conductor (yes it has one) standing on the little corner of the van, hovering over the passengers. Imagine sitting on places you shouldn’t even be sitting on (like that elevated area at the back of the driver’s seat that passengers like to use as a footrest. If you are truly unlucky and you happen to be seated by the door, you will have to bear the pain of dealing with passengers entering and alighting from the van. And you will be sitting just a quarter of your ass on a row of seats that is only good for 4 people, but apparently, could take 5 in the eyes of the driver and the conductor. You can only be assured of a decent seat if you take this van from the terminal, hence you should be in Maddela.
Another tip, make sure to go all the way to the back of the van and do not pick the seats closer to the door. This is the only way you can travel without being disturbed by other passengers.
My friends and I stayed in Maddela at Villa Caridad Hotel. The rate for a dorm room is only PHP 200/head (USD 4.02) per day. Yes, that’s how cheap it is. You can read more about it on my article, Villa Caridad Hotel – The neglected resort in Quirino that I’d still recommend, here’s why.
Places to see in Quirino
Now the exciting part, Quirino’s points of interest and I’m happy to report that there are many of them. Not only are they all beautiful, but they are also not tourist infested! If you have been dreaming about that perfect Instagram photo without all other people blocking your view then Quirino is the place for you. And because it is not yet popular with travelers, these places are generally clean and not commercialized. Imagine finding a beautiful spot where you don’t have to wait for other tourists to finish their picture-taking, oh what a joy!
Begin your Quirino exploration in Cabarroguis where you can find the Provincial Capitol, Quirino Province Musem & Library, Motocross Mountain Track, and the Quirino Tourism Office.
Aglipay is a third-class municipality in Quirino, which main attraction is an eco-tourism site with over 37 caves called, Aglipay Caves. This can be found in Barangay Villa Ventura. You may read about our experience inside this cave on this article, Caver or Spelunker? There is Something for you in Quirino Province.
Nagtipunan is a first-class municipality in Quirino, with a land area so large it covers nearly half of the province. Driving through its road is enough to spike your excitement with the impressive views of mountain chains, cornfields, and green landscapes. It’s also home to 3 of the best attractions in Quirino, Landingan, Diamond Cave, and Siitan River.
Landingan Viewpoint is an off-the-beaten-track that offers an unobstructed view of Quirino. Get a glimpse of what you can see from this viewing site on this article, Landingan Viewpoint – A Dose of Magnificent Views in Nagtipunan, Quirino.
Diamond Cave is arguably the most recommended tourist spot by the Quirinians and for good reason. You will be dazzled by the rock formation and the diamonds-like water droplets inside the cave. Read more about it on this link, Caver or Spelunker? There is Something for you in Quirino Province.
Tall and impressive limestone formations; a long and wide river, a visit in Nagtipunan wouldn’t be complete without taking a boat tour along Siitan River. Read the story here, Siitan River – The River you should add to your Bucket List.
The commercial hub of Quirino, Maddela has its own hidden beauties for you to discover and we found two.
Governor’s Rapids, just like Siitan River is part of the Cagayan River. It is equally beautiful and just as fascinating as Siitan. Somewhere along the river, there is a path that leads to a cave, which you can explore by taking a riverboat tour. Read more about this river here, Governor’s Rapids: A Piece of Cagayan River in Quirino.
As a side trip, ask your guide to take you to Maddela Falls. It can be found in a forest resort, hence the path going there is established and easy to traverse.
It’s a 7-tier falls, but we only stopped at the first waterfalls. It has man-made swimming by its foot and we spotted some kids enjoying a dip. I had the greatest urge to strip down to my swimsuit and take a swim, but we were supposed to go to another falls then so I didn’t do it. Had I known we wouldn’t push through with the last falls, I would have gone swimming here.
Food to try in Quirino
Our time in Quirino was spent more on doing photoshoots than eating; nevertheless, I do have food recommendations for you.
Cabagan and Batil Patong
I forgot the name of the restaurant that we went to in the Capitol, but we loved their local pancit dishes, Cabagan, and Batil Patong. They don’t really have much difference, hell they even look similar, the only way you can differentiate them from one another is that Batil Patong has a sauce. Both tasted amazing, although I remembered liking Batil Patong more than Cabagan. Maybe it has something to do with the sauce, I don’t know. And would you believe they are only PHP 70 (USD 1.41) a plate? Uh-huh, cheap!
Yema Cake and Egg Pie at EKS
This food did not exactly originate in Quirino, but these are the best yema cake and egg pie that I have ever tasted so I felt the need to tell you about it. Not only are they delicious, they only cost PHP 20 (USD 0.40) a slice, that’s right, 20 pesos for a piece of heaven. You can get them from EKS Bakeshop and Restaurant. Their other dishes are also equally delicious especially their pork sisig.
Contact Information in Quirino
I have tried calling the phone numbers of the Tourism Office from the contact information that I found on blog sites, but nobody picked up my calls. Talking with the Tourism Office staff in Quirino is recommended because you can ask them to make an itinerary for you or arrange your tour. But let me make this a bit easier for you, here’s the mobile number of our contact person from the Tourism Office, Susan, +63 935-289-9053. She’s the one who took care of our van tour. When dealing with Susan, make sure that you understood the terms first. It’s funny that my friend, Silver, talked with her, repeated the information so many times, yet we still managed to misunderstand everything. I’m not even sure if this is due to the language barrier. The only reason we’re still recommending her tour services is because of her son, John is an excellent tour guide/companion. You may also contact John directly through this number, +63 905-736-4351.
And because I love you, I created an itinerary including the list of expenses. You may view or download it by clicking the photo below ↓ .
I remember asking a Quirinian what siitan means and he said it’s a place with thorny plants. Siit is an Ilocano word for thorn, he explained. Once upon a time, the riverbanks of Siitan River used to be thorny that they call the place “siitan.” I read from another blog though that siit means fish bone and that’s where the river got its name. Whether the word refers to thorny plants or fish bone, I cannot tell for sure. What I do know for a fact though is that Siitan River is beautiful with giant limestone formations that would rival those in Coron.
Siitan River, just like the Governor’s Rapids is section of Cagayan River. While Governor’s Rapids can be found in Maddela, Siitan River is in Nagtipunan. They share physical similarities, most especially the giant limestone cliffs on the side of the river. The river’s most famous feature is the Bimmapor Rock Formation, which we only saw from afar.
Just as you can do a boat-ride tour and river tubing at Governor’s Rapids, the tourism organizers of Siitan River offer the same activities. Because we were more concerned about taking OOTD shots, we skipped river tubing again and made do with the boat tour.
Even when the place shared similarities with the other river, my sense of wonderment wasn’t in any way, diluted. I said wow many times and I couldn’t stop from taking photos. Everywhere I looked, there’s beauty to be appreciated. The view is too lovely for words so I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.
If you want to go swimming, the boatmen will take you to this secluded area. We rode a twin boat with the other tourists to get there. No one in our group felt compelled to go swimming because we still had somewhere to go that day.
If you want to go swimming here, you should wear you life vest at all times, even if you know how to swim. The boatmen are strict about this; it’s part of their protocol to ensure the safety of the visitors.
I am left smitten and convinced that this river should be added into anyone’s bucket list.
Entrance fee: Php 10
Boat ride: Php 80/pax
I was in an SUV with 6 other girls on our way to Subic. It was a Friday and I used one of my leave credits to join this trip. We were on our way to a destination festival called Summer Siren, a 3-day art and fitness, and musical event. It’s already in its 4th year and the venue is the Subic Bay Waterfront. I prepared for this, went on a diet, bought a new off-shoulder black blouse, and even dyed my hair from orangey brown to black. If my friend, Silver‘s reaction with my overall look is any indication, I think I did a pretty good job prepping myself.
We share the love of 3 things: traveling, writing, and Trisha Velarmino. There is a limitation to my knowledge of her, I admit, but following her on social media allowed me a peek of what this woman is about. She writes (and does it well), she goes to places I haven’t been, and she has one of the most beautiful candid smiles I have ever seen. I was naturally curious as I always do when I see women living a life of adventure. Today, you and I are going to get to know her a little better. Her name is Mikee Pascual, and she is the 20th feature of our Travel Bug series.
Tell us some things about you
I’m Mikee Pascual, a Filipino traveler and writer. I was born and raised in Paranaque City where I taught hearing the engines of the airplane atop our roof every now and then was normal. I grew up wishing I could ride on one someday, and that someday happened in 2012; the same year when my second-year college professor awakened the writer in me. From then on, I quit my childhood dream of becoming a flight attendant and focused on writing and seeing the world.
When did you catch the travel bug?
It was in early 2016 when I caught the travel bug. I was still a full-time employee then, but I booked seat sales every month without considering money and seeking permission from my boss and my family. I just woke up one day and realized that I should get the best out of my time and my life while I’m here.
Where are you now and what is your travel plan?
I am currently in Manila, but mentally in South Cebu. All of my May weekends are dedicated to beach trips. Also, I am planning to move and work in South Cebu for a few months starting June.
Out of all the places you’ve been to, which one is your favorite and why?
I have four favorites: Zamboanga, Batanes, Baguio, and South Cebu, but the latter tops the chart right now. I’ve been to South Cebu thrice and I spent my third visit there in the last two weeks of April where I learned how to free dive, became 70 percent confident under the sea, and operated a scooter for the first time.
I just can’t stop thinking about it, its people, its dialect, its coastal roads fenced with coconut trees, its underwater world, its smooth traffic flow, how happy I am every time I’m in South Cebu, and how everything about it makes me feel at home. I want to settle down and build a family and a hostel there someday.
Here’s a quote from Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier to further explain how I feel towards South Cebu: “We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place. We stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can only find again only by going back there.”
Can you share with us a bad experience while traveling?
Yes, I have experienced a number of it, but the worst was when my flight from Tuguegarao to Manila on October 16, 2016 got canceled the night before due to an incoming typhoon in Northern Luzon. I was terribly rushing home so I opted to join my two friends on a four-hour van ride from Sta. Ana, Cagayan to Tuguegarao, a 15-hour bus ride from Tuguegarao to Cubao, and a two-hour bus and Grab car ride from Cubao to Paranaque. My supposed five-hour travel time from Cagayan to Paranaque became 21-hour long. I got home on October 17, 2016, at 2 AM. That was the first time I spent my birthday on the road, away from my family. I still get sad every time I remember.
I notice you travel solo a lot, is this a personal preference?
Yes. I prefer solo traveling because it brings out the best in me. I smile to strangers, I make friends, I become practical, I set fear aside, I see things differently, I take hold of my time, and I get to hear what my mind and heart says clearly, among others. You know, I can’t do those when I’m bounded by the familiars.
However, I have to admit that solo traveling can get tiring. Many times, I wish my family and my closest friends were beside me when I learn something new, when I watch how the blue sky turns into gold, and when I catch the dancing rays of light under the sea.
Solo traveling is goddamn fulfilling, but I agree when a friend said, “I want someone to be there when I see something beautiful.”
As a woman who travels alone, what is the most common thing you hear from people?
The most common thing I hear from people when I travel alone is, well, “Bakit ka mag-isa? [Why are you alone?]” It gets frustrating sometimes because most people can’t understand the beauty in solitude.
What is your non-negotiable term when traveling?
Clean water—potable and bathing, at that. I can endure brownouts and hunger when traveling, but not without clean water. I was once on an underdeveloped island in the northernmost tip of Iloilo back in September 2016 where both potable and bathing water are quite a problem.
“Most people can’t understand the beauty in solitude.”
My stomach got upset with their spring drinking water, and the distribution of their bathing water (and electricity) is limited. Meaning, we have to use sea or spring water when the last pail of fresh water supply depletes. I have never appreciated water until that three-day trip happened.
What is the first thing that you look for in each place that you visit?
I always look for the sea. I like how it makes me feel alive by terrifying and comforting me all at once.
What is the best adventure you’ve done so far?
The best adventure I’ve done so far was my three-week backpacking trip in the Visayas back in April. It was the longest and the shortest trip I’ve ever had. Instead of going to new provinces in the Philippines, I decided to go back to the provinces I’ve been to and stay longer on each. I spent four days in Bacolod, one week in Siquijor, and two weeks in South Cebu. Going back is and will never be the same as going for the first time.
Tell us something about your blog
My blog, World In My Words, is at its infancy stage. It is basically where I document places and faces that lead me to beautiful phases. I only produce travel stories because I am not good with travel guides, costs, and road directions.
What is the best advice you can give to women who may want to start traveling alone?
The best advice I can give to all women out there who want to start traveling alone is this: don’t do it. Don’t do it unless you enjoy your own company. Don’t do it unless you fully trust yourself, your capabilities. Don’t do it unless you’re ready to get emotionally hurt. Don’t do it unless you’re fine with being a ‘cowboy.’ Don’t do it unless you can put your whole heart on it. Traveling—may it be solo or not—is too full of life to be half loved.
Save for my friends and I, there were no other tourists in the area when we went there. Atop a small hill on the side of the road stood a small shelter with a roof where they say, you could get a good vantage point of Quirino. This place is called, Landingan Viewpoint in Nagtipunan and we drove for an hour from Maddela to get there.
I don’t mind the sun.
I never thought I’d ever say that. I was standing right under the sun taking photos, taking in the view. Up on the viewpoint, you can you see a long stretch of river right in the middle of the greens. The beautiful sights inducing a dreamy sigh from our group; there goes the rolling hills, there goes the rows of mountains, there goes the great expanse of land as far as the eyes can see.
Some people compare the view here with those in Batanes. I haven’t been to Batanes, but based from photos I can see why they made such a reference.
Landingan viewpoint is open to public, no registration fee, no person manning the place, and not a single establishment in sight. The roof made of dried leaves on top of the site offered small relief from the heat. I suggest to schedule your visit in the morning or late afternoon. In our case, we were there at around 9:00 a.m. and already the weather was sweltering. We spent a good 30 minutes relishing the view and indulging in picture taking.
I must admit, spelunking does nothing to trigger excitement in me. For me, there is nothing thrilling about fumbling through the darkness, crawling through small spaces, smelling the odor of moist bat guano (or touching ’em albeit accidentally), and worrying about where you should step on so you don’t slip and break your neck, or worse, fall into a pit. I know there are people who find a sense of exhilaration in exploring these hallowed grounds; they wear proper clothing, are fully equipped, and they like to call themselves cavers instead of spelunkers—the latter term being associated with the uncultivated crowd who go to caves for Instagram purposes (if you know what I mean). Of the two, I categorize myself as a spelunker in a sense that when I go to a cave it’s because it’s part of the itinerary. Whether you are a spelunker or a caver, it might interest you to know that in Quirino province, there are caves you can explore. And I was able to visit two of them; Aglipay Caves and Diamond Cave.
In the village of Villa Ventura in Aglipay lies an eco-tourism site that protects a series of caves called Aglipay Caves. There are over 37 caverns in the area but only 8 are opened for tourism purposes. There are only 6 guides available to lead the tourists inside the caves; we were accompanied by two, Vergel and Jun. Given the fact that they aren’t many tour guides available, we had to join another group.
As soon as we reached the jump-off point, Vergel started his guide duties in which he explained how we would go about exploring the caves. His voice laced with thick Ilocano accent told us to never touch the stalactites and the stalagmites, a standard caving protocol.
He said we’d enter Cave 1, go through a forest, enter Cave 8, which is linked with Caves 2 and 3. Yes, in that order. Our adventure began a little after 1:00 in the afternoon. As mentioned, not all caves can be explored and there are those that you can enter upon request.
If you’ve survived Sumaguing Cave in Sagada, Aglipay should be easy for you. The only challenging part of exploring this cave is when you have to squeeze through some narrow tiny holes.
As we walked through the forest, I noticed the look of extreme displeasure on my friend’s (Silver) face. I came up and asked what was wrong; apparently, the guy from the other group touched the stalagmite formation right after our guide reminded us not to do so. I shook my head in disappointment, frustrated why some people are incapable of following the rules. If you are going on a cave, don’t be this kind of douche.
Pressed with time, we no longer requested to be shown the other caves.
I have lost count of the locals who recommended that we visit Diamond Cave. This is one the attractions that you can see in the municipality of Nagtipunan. Again, I wasn’t too keen on going, thinking that we already did enough caving on this trip. But our tour guide, John, included this in the itinerary anyway so I just went along with it. We met John after we took her mother’s offer for a van tour around Quirino. After visiting, I now know why they are so proud of it. Diamond Cave is quite fascinating.
Going there, we pass through a creek, a man-made fall and swimming pool. I was so taken by the view I made sure to take pictures.
We saw a few men hanging out right in front of this stone stairwell that leads to the cave. Their mouth and teeth were all red from chewing betel nut. They said that all the guides were inside so we had to wait. Moments later, they decided that one of them would serve as our guide. Now I didn’t bother getting the name of this guide because we were very displeased with his service. More on that later.
So we climbed up the stairs, to the mouth of the cave. John acted as our second caving guide. He proved to be more useful than the clueless guide; from now on let’s refer to him as CG.
The trail was fairly easy in the beginning; the pathways are wide and relatively dry. I found myself enjoying the trek in spite of myself. The guides did not let on why it’s called Diamond Cave and have us figure it out for ourselves. We reached an area with rocks that gleamed under the light. Upon closer inspection, I realized it’s caused by water dew. From a distance, these water dew looked like diamonds. It was a sight to behold; no wonder the Quirinians are so proud of this cave.
Further on, the trail became wet and slippery. We had to walk through pools of water that sometimes go as high as above my knees. There’s a waterfall inside this cave, but we didn’t bother visiting it. The reason being CG’s inefficiency.
First of all, he was only lighting his way. He would walk ahead of us, not bothering to direct the flashlight to where we were walking. He was also quiet, never told us anything about the cave and he could barely speak in Filipino.
We reached a section of the cave that looked like a tunnel. Up ahead there was nothing but darkness and for some reason, it sent chills right up my spine. My friends seem to share the feeling when I read anxiety on their faces. CG and John debated whether we should go ahead and take that path or go back to where we came from. We walked for over an hour, I didn’t want to go back, but at the same time, the thought of going to that tunnel worried the shiz out of me. We decided to continue and I tried my best to control my fear. The path turned out to be a dead-end. CG finally admitted he wasn’t one of the authorized guides and the last time he went inside this cave was when he was in grade school.
We were shocked. Did he just seriously say that the last time he went there was when he was just a kid? I chewed the inside of my cheeks to stop myself from summoning my inner Hulk. Silver noticed that I was unusually quiet, sensing the stress that I had been feeling. To relieve my anxiety, she took it upon herself to guide me through the rest of the trek and to be honest, she’s a lot better than it than CG. Our other friend, Pancake was assisted by John, who acted how a guide should; reliable.
The caving lasted for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
There’s still a lot to improve on to make the caving experience less stressful than it should be. But despite some setbacks, I’d still encourage you to not miss caving when you visit Quirino. Now that we’re at it, let me put out some helpful tips:
- Thou shall bring your own flashlight – especially if you are with a group. Caves are generally devoid of light, chances are you would only rely on the flashlight that the guides would bring. In a group, the most number of guides who can join you is two. Remember that Quirino is not yet a popular tourist destination, hence the tours are not as organized and the guides not as many. And if you happen to have a guide as clueless as the one that we had in Diamond Cave, then you’re better off to have your own flashlight to light your way.
- Thou shall not touch or steal the stalactites and stalagmites – It took decades and centuries for these rock formation to form, don’t ruin it by getting your hands on it. And most especially, do not friggin’ steal them! We were shocked to find that some stalagmites and stalactites were cut off. According to the guides, some tourists stole them. What a horrible horrible thing to do! Some people are plain shameless and I don’t even what they get out of it. So if you are going, I beg you to be a respectful and a responsible tourist and encourage others to do the same thing.
- Thou shall ensure you are going to be led by an authorized guide – Believe me you don’t want to be lost inside the cave; it’s nerve-wracking and stressful. If you have to wait for the authorized guides to return then so be it. We were just lucky that we emerged without a scratch, but if we could do it over again, we wouldn’t let an ill-prepared person take us inside the cave.
|Cave||Environmental Fee||Guide Fee||Caving Duration|
|Aglipay Caves||PHP 25 (USD 0.50)||PHP 125 (USD 2.50)||Approx. 1 hour & 40 minutes|
|Diamond Cave||PHP 50 (USD 1.01)||PHP 125 (USD 2.50)||Approx. 1 hour & 30 minutes|
“A governor drowned in the rapids,” the old woman explained, “So that’s where it got its name.”
I nodded in understanding as I sipped my ube shake that did nothing to quench my thirst. I didn’t bother Googling the meaning behind its name and thought that the river is called, Governor’s Rapids. A local clarified that it only pertains to a section of the river in which a Japanese governor-general met his demise in World War II. The river is in fact, a piece of Rio Grande de Cagayan (Cagayan River), the longest river in the Philippines. For easy reference, let’s stick with Governor’s Rapids in this article.
Governor’s Rapids can be found in the municipality of Maddela, Quirino in a village called, Divisoria Sur. Here, you can go on a boat tour or river-tubing adventure. Passing through the rapids is best enjoyed by the river tubing. We spotted some tourists free floating on top of the tubes. We passed on this activity because we were carrying our gadgets. Nevertheless, the boat ride proved to be just as enjoyable.
After the trip, I realized that we overpaid for the river tour. We paid a total of Php 450, when it should have been only Php 270 for 3 pax, including the entrance fee. Note that we only had a boat ride and didn’t include river tubing in our activity. I cannot for the life of me figure out why we had to pay more. So before you commit to anything, make sure that all terms are clear.
The river is wide, the water a color of moss, and it is surrounded by towering limestone cliffs with jagged edges. We were in awe; who would have thought that there is such beauty hiding in this landlocked province.
Aside from river tubing and boat tour, the river is deep enough for some serious cliff jumping. You can do this specifically from this limestone formation they call, The Stage, which according to our boatman, is where TV personality, Drew Arellano, took the plunge during his Quirino visit.
The boat was steered by a father-and-son tandem. My friends called the young boy “kuya” whenever they ask him to take our photos. I found it extremely weird that they would call a kid the title that we use for a big brother.
The boat docked on the rocky shore; we alighted to take some photos.
The activity will take you on a 2-kilometer boat ride, which includes a tour inside Tenyente Cave. We decided against the cave exploration because we just visited the Aglipay Caves prior to going to the Governor’s Rapids.
Having traveled in the most touristy places in the Philippines, it was a bit disconcerting to be somewhere where I didn’t have to wait in long queue or fight anyone for a good spot for a photo op. The weather was kind, rolls of clouds covered the sky, allowing for a dry day yet safe from the fierce heat of the sun. All in all, the experience was rather pleasurable, peaceful even.
The Governor’s Rapids is arguably the most popular destination in Quirino and one you shouldn’t miss.
Entrance fee: Php 10
Boat ride: Php 80/pax
River tubing: Php 80/pax
Quirino is where my former boss from the Presidential Security Group (PSG) originated; he speaks Ilocano. For many years, that’s pretty much the only thing that I knew of this province. I’d been thinking of taking a solo trip and I found a window last weekend in time for the holidays. I told myself, This is it, I’m going to Quirino. I was supposed to do it alone, but ended up going with two of my friends. One kept inviting me for an out-of-town trip (Pancake), which I couldn’t join. Feeling somewhat guilty that I kept turning her down, I invited her to join this trip. The other friend (Silver) I invited after she told me we’d be going to her church last Sunday (she’s a Christian, and yes I am agnostic, but it’s not like keeping her company is gonna kill me so why not). It coincided with my trip so I invited her instead; interestingly, she decided to come with. So from being alone, there were now three of us. I told them I had no set plans; no itinerary, no set budget, all I had is a list of places that I wanted to see based on the blog articles that I read. And this is the beginning of a long weekend to a province that is so beautiful, makes me wonder why it’s not so popular with tourists.
Quirino is a landlocked area in the Cagayan Valley region named after the 6th president of the Philippines, Elpidio Quirino. In its borders are three other provinces; Aurora, Nueva Vizcaya, and Isabela. It used to be a part of Nueva Vizcaya until the enactment of Republic Act 4734 that made Quirino an independent province. The province is divided into 6 municipalities; Aglipay, Cabarroguis, Diffun, Maddela, Nagtipunan, and Saguday. The people here are called Quirinians and majority of them speak either in Ilocano or Ifugao dialects.
Traveling to Quirino
From Manila, it takes 10 to 11 hours of land travel. Two known bus lines that ply between Manila to Quirino are Victory Liner and Five Star. I highly recommend you reserve a seat via PinoyTravel especially if you are going on a holiday. For Five Star, the original ticket rate is PHP 490 (USD 9.80), but if you buy online it’s PHP 530 (USD 10.60). I booked two tickets for Pancake and I; we weren’t able to buy Silver hers because it was already 3 days before the trip.
We convened at Five Star bus terminal in Cubao for the 8pm trip. All seats have been reserved and so one of us could only go as a chance passenger. Chance passengers can take the seats of the booked passengers who didn’t show up, or they can sit on the aisle of the bus. There are other buses that have middle seats; unfortunately, not this one. They did provide small plastic stools to sit on, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t going to be comfortable. Pancake was kind enough to offer her seat to Silver, reasoning that she is of small frame and can fit on the stool more than Silver could. Silver was so grateful she promised to take care of Pancake’s meal the next day and she made good of that promise.
The travel is so long I wished we were on a sleeper bus. If there’s a sleeper bus that goes to Quirino, I wasn’t informed.
|Book your ticket online at Pinoy Travel at least 5 days before the trip. There’s an extra payment of PHP 40 (USD 0.80) on top of the original rate, but it’s worth it. There are only a few buses that go to Quirino and the seats are almost always taken by the time you reach the terminal. Trust me when I say that you don’t want to be a chance passenger in a 10-hour trip.|
|Remember that this is going to be a very long trip so bring 2 pillows. Yes, two pillows; one to support your head, the other for your lower back. It’s going to make your trip a bit comfortable.|
|Always have loose change in your pocket. You will need them to pay for the use of restrooms during the stopovers.|
I took the window seat, beside me sat Silver who never seems to run out of stories. I’d offer my opinion when it’s required or when I felt like it. Otherwise, I kept my participation to nodding and “uh-huhs.” When we got a little bit excited, we’d hear a shush from other passengers to keep us quiet.
On how many hours I slept, I wasn’t able to keep track, but I tried my best to adjust my sleep cycle. This is what happens when you work at night, you have to modify your sleep pattern during trips. I have to be awake for our tour the next day. In the remaining hours of our trip, Silver started to doze off. I, on the other hand, was awake and regaled myself by looking out of the window, to the views of fields that stretched out as far as the eye can see, brown-colored rivers, and towering trees on the side of the road.
Save for my traveling companions and a few people from work, I didn’t tell anyone about this trip. I wanted a little drama by surprising people that I was already there (yes, I’m weird ).
We left Manila at around 8:00 in the evening and reached Maddela, Quirino at around 7:00 in the morning. The bus stopped in front of Villa Caridad Resort and Restaurant (stay tuned for my review), our place of accommodation. As soon as we got ourselves settled, we were ready for the day ahead.
With no set itinerary, I was beyond excited to see the rest of Quirino.