January 31 to February 2, Tara Let’s Go Asia organised it 5th Random Road Trip. And this time to the beautiful province of Quirino. We had no idea what place had to offer since there was very little written about it. Only 2 blogs mentioned talked about their trips to Quirino. And both were.. I’d say… uninspiring. Sadly, it was not enough to convince me to make me want to visit Quirino province.
BUT, it did not stop my curiosity to explore something new. Besides we wanted to do the something random. So, we took our chances.
And guess what?
QUIRINO PROVINCE is an EXHILIRATING DESTINATION.
The people. The city. The wild nature. The unspoilt landscape. Everything about this unknown place in Northern Luzon exceeded our expectations.
From sliding down waterfalls. To jumping off 2-storey cliff waterfalls. Trekking in middle of hectares of cornfields. To cave explorations. To “Boating-In” in wild rivers. To crawling caves. To discovering a waterfall INSIDE a cave.
Quirino is definitely A MUST DO destination.
Where is Quirino Province?
Quirino Province lies in the southeastern portion of Cagayan Valley (Region II). It is situated within the Upper Cagayan River Basin bounded by Isabela on the north, Aurora on the east and southeast and Nueva Vizcaya on the west and southwest. The Sierra Madre mountain range provides a natural barrier on the eastern and southeastern border and Mamparang range on the western part of the province.
It has six (6) municipalities, namely, Aglipay, Cabarroguis, Diffun, Maddela, Nagtipunan, and Saguday.
We were so fortunate that the Provincial Tourism Office of Quirino helped us sort out an exciting itinerary. I called Ms. Aurea Martinez of the Quirino Tourism Office a few weeks before our scheduled adventure. I explained to her who we are and what we wanted to do. Despite the fact that Ms. Aurea was on leave, she happily help organise our random adventure.
Originally, since we are a big group, she suggested we stay in hotel but we wanted to experience something more local. So, we asked her if we could do a homestay since in the Quirino Province website (www.quirinoprovince.org), there were homestay listings which suited our idea of a Random Road Trip. What better way to know Quirino Province than hearing it from our homestay host, right?
And our homestay was spot on!
Nanay Sun Homestay
For every Random Road Trip, especially overnight stays, we make sure to sort our accommodations first. And since, we will be out most of the day, home stays or hostels are usually our number 1 choice. Ms. Aurea organised us to stay at the Corazon Aertzen Homestay, a tourism office accredited home stay. It is a 4 bedroom house that can easily fit a group of 20 plus people with a huge garden and mini event hall for gatherings and get-togethers. Ms. Corazon or Nanay Sun is a mother of 3 kids who happily hosted all 23 of us in her home. Just a week before we arrived, she said that the famous TV host and actore, Drew Arellano and TV crew of GMA 7 for the show “Biyahe Ni Drew” booked and stayed in her homestay. WOW! Talk about coincidence!
After a hearty breakfast of rice, tinapa (or smoked fish), eggs and vegetable ensalada, we took off to our Random Road Trip Quirino Adventure!
Trekking Cornfields, Sliding Waterfalls, Crawling on Bat Poop and Surviving Bird Attacks
At around 8AM, the Provincial Tourism Office of Quirino, sent Sir Ian Nicolas and Ms. Mikka to help us explore Quirino. Their first itinerary – explore Pensal Falls. Pensal Falls is located in town of San Benigno, Aglipay, Quirino. From our homestay, it took us roughly around 2 hours drive towards the town of San Benigno. It is a town whose primary agricultural produce is corn. Corn fields stretched out as far as your eyes can see. It took us another hour of cornfield trekking to reach this amazing natural wonder.
So what did we do when we saw Pensal Waterfalls?
SLIDE IT, of course! The exciting thrill of sliding down its steep slope cannot be missed out by adventure travel junkies like us. Our reason – we were here to do something random so why dont we just slide it and relish the moment. One by one, each of us took turns sliding down and crashing into the fresh cold water of Pensal Falls. Randomness = EPIC!
For the braver ones, try jumping the 2 storey waterfalls. Four of us surely did. We just could not miss out this rare chance. Just be warned, the waters are extremely cold!
Lunch ensued around half past 1PM with a delicious boodle fight picnic and then we all got ready to hike back up to our next destination - The Aglipay Caves.
Aglipay Caves is located at Aglipay Caves and Campiste, Quirino. It is said to be 32 chamber cave connected through a series of caverns of high ceilings to 2 foot ceilings to small openings which you have to crawl in all fours just to reach the next chamber. Only 8 were open to visitors since many of the chamber have not been explored. Of the 8 “allowed” caverns, we only managed to do 4 of them. Depending on how much time you have, you can explore all 8 or just for the easy 1-2 hours spelunking.
Coursing through the labyrinth of caverns, you can immediately notice the distinct smell of guano or bat poop. Guano is apparently one of nature’s best fertiliser. As we trudged through slippery rocks and muddy grounds, birds called Balinsasayaw. Balinsasayaw is a type of bird that is commonly found on the caves. These birds are popular because of their saliva which is valued as an ingredient of the famous Nido soup. Hooray for expensive bird saliva soup! Surprisingly, these birds attack when you are close to their nest. Tough luck for us since only way out is to climb close to their habitat.
Funny Taglines, Vhong Navarro Look-A-Like, and Room Orchestra
At around 7PM, we all got back to Nanay Sun’s home stay. All soaked, cold, tired and super hungry but extremely happy with our first day at Quirino. After dropping off our bags and changing into something dry, we all went to a local carinderia to have a hearty dinner. Dinner took only 15 minutes from the moment we said our prayer before meal. Everyone need to refuel. Luckily, the old lady in the carinderia had enough food for 20 plus hungry happy travelers.
After a nice dinner, everyone decided to have some drinks back at Nanay Sun’s homestay. We all bought a few beers, some brandy and a number of chips to enjoy for the rest of the night recalling the day and having laughs and making funny jokes. By 12MN, one by one, each proceeded to their rooms. After saying goodnight at the boys room, 30 seconds later, I was enjoying the symphony of snores. Epic way to end the night. Haha!
Breakfast with the Governor, Upcoming Wake-boarding Site, River Cruise and Secret Cave Waterfalls
Day 2 of our Random Road Trip started quite early for many people. We all had to wake up at 6AM to get to the Governor Cottage for a breakfast invitation with the Governor Junie Cua. Sadly, Gov. Cua had an emergency meeting in Manila and could not join us, nonetheless, he still hosted our breakfast together with his staff at the Provincial Tourism Office.
We could not express fully our gratitude for the hospitality of the Governor and his team. He did not know me or any of us but he treated us as if we were some old friends visiting his hometown again. I could not help admire the warm hospitality of the people of Quirino. Again, MANY THANKS to Governor Junie Cua, Ms. Aurea, Sir Ian, Ms. Mika and Ms. Glo of the Quirino Tourism Office!
We were lucky to even have first hand tour of the soon to be opened Quirino Wakeboarding Complex. I have been to most of the wakeboarding sites in the Philippines, I believe that this would be the most scenic environment of all the wakeboarding facilities to date. The complex is nested on lush rolling hills and evergreen forests. I am totally excited to go back there just to experience wakeboarding in Quirino. According to the Quirino Tourism Office, it is slated to open late 2014. Wohoo!
After another tummy filling breakfast, we headed out to Bimmapor at Nagtipunan, Quirino for some river rafting adventure. The town’s name was derived from the native word meaning “convergence point,” in reference to several major tributaries of the Cagayan River in Aurora, Nueva Vizcaya and Qurino meeting at points within this area. Drifting along the river, you will see limestone formation carved by years of water flowing from the Cagayan River. My guess is that this place would be ideal for white water rafting during the rainy season. Can’t wait to do that next when I come back to Quirino.
After a half day of coasting through the river and getting mesmerised by it untouched tranquility, we stopped at the Bimmapors picnic site where we had our lunch. After lunch, we surprised the Random Road Trippers with another random activity. Sir Ian asked me if we wanted to explore a cave which is not usually open to the public due to governments efforts to preserve the rock formations inside the cave.
Initially, I thought, “We’ve been to so many caves already. I don’t know if adding another one would make this special“.
Then Sir Ian said, “There is a waterfall inside the cave.”
Cave exploration plus waterfall INSIDE a CAVE. Uh. Doh. No more second thoughts. Cave waterfalls here we go!
We did not tell any of the random road trippers where we are going, most thought that we are heading home. But to our great surprise, it exceeded even my expectations. The adventure going through the cave is hands down crazy but the rewards… totally worth every rock and sand we had to crawl through.
Sadly, we were advised not tell the exact location of the CAVE Waterfalls for fear of vandalism and too many tourists visiting. Since, we had the go signal of the Governor, we had the amazing privilege to experience it ourselves. Again, thank you Gov. Junie Cua!
Wet and tired, we got back to our vehicles extremely happy, amazed and privileged. Who would have thought that Quirino Province, a province often out of the radar of many foreign and local travellers, have so much adrenaline pumping activities?
And, we only saw half of them. There were so much more too see and experience but I guess that mean we only have to come back to Quirino and experience ALL OF THEM.
What do you think Sir Ian and Ms. Aurea?
What Our Itinerary Looked Like?
DAY 1 – FEBRUARY 01, 2014 (Saturday)
5:00AM - ETA DIFFUN
Meet with Tourism Staff for further instructions and assistance. Check in at Homestay c/o CORAZONAERTZEN HOMESTAY @ Diffun, Quirino
6:00 AM - Breakfast @ HOMESTAY (CORAZONAERTZEN HOMESTAY)
6:30 AM - Meet with guide and short briefing (Ian)
7:00 AM - Proceed to Nagbukel Cave
8:00 AM – Leave Nagbukel Cave and proceed to Pensal Falls at San Benigno, Aglipay
10:00AM - ETA San Benigno, Aglipay. Trek to Pensal Falls, Commune with Nature
12:00NN – Packed Lunch
2:00PM - Leave Pensal Falls
2:30PM - ETD San Benigno and Proceed to Aglipay Caves and Campsite
3:30PM - ETA to ACC (Exploring the Cave)
5:00PM - Leave ACC and Proceed to Cabarroguis/ Diffun
7:00PM – DINNER
DAY 2 – FEBRUARY 02, 2014 (Sunday)
6:00 AM - Leave HOMESTAY and proceed to Palm Restaurant for breakfast. Courtesy call to the Provincial Governor or to the Prov’l Administrator, picture taking, sightseeing to Governors Cottage, Susong Dalaga and to the on- going Watersports Complex.
8:00AM - Leave Cabarroguis and proceed to Bimmapor at Nagtipunan.
9:30AM - ETA at Bimmapor at Nagtipunan
12:00AM - Leave Dipantan and proceed to Governors Rapid
1:00PM – ETA Governors Rapid at Maddela. Boating, Caving and Photography
2:30PM - ETD Governors Rapid to Cabarroguis
5:00PM - Merienda and prepare for Manila Departure
Useful Information That You Might Need
- Quirino is 335 kilometers away from Metro Manila with a lot of zig-zag roads. Our trip took 7 hours with 2 stop overs.
- If you got motion sickness, bring motion sickness medicine for it. The zig-zag road will torture you.
- Before you leave Manila. Call the tourism office. Quirino has many attractions and many of the places need to be booked and arranged. In our experience. The Tourism Office of Quirino are super duper friendly, accommodating and easy to talk to. I was so surprised that they even got set a proposed itinerary and took time to make arrangements for us. We felt really special.
- For most your concerns, contact Ms. Aurea Martinez, the supervising tourism operations officer at 0917-500-0162.
- Or you can call Sir Ian Nicolas who was our designated tour guide for our stay. Aside from amazing humour, his knowledge of Quirino is outstanding. His mobile number is 0917-733-6720. Tell him about Tara Let’s Go Experience and I am sure he will entertain you guys like crazy. Plus he know the best place to eat Batil Patong, a local delicacy. Super yummy!
The Adventure Goes On
I have said it time and again, these Random Road Trips became successful not only of the places we visit but of the crazy people who believed in us and shared our vision to explore the Philippines in a unique kind of way.
So, THANK YOU to the 21 amazing people who traveled with us on this wild adventure! This Random Road Trip would not have been such great experience if not for you guys. Maraming Salamat!
Many thanks to Jaytee R. Macaraniag, Aireen Keith, Cris Ysabel, Herge Miltom, Monica Narisma, Maria Del Cielo Gamboa, Miguel Marley, Fiel John Meria, Alexies Racca, Shey Malindog, Mary Ph, Haze Facundo,Russ Danga, Michael John Daus, Richelle Baraero, Mimsie Alconcel,Genesis Mendoza, Alvin Patron, Gin Nie, Embry Ying, & Sheena Pena.
Many thanks to Governor Junie Cua, Ms. Aurea Martinez and Sir Ian Nicolas. Your hospitality made us love Quirino Province even more.
We had so much fun exploring Quirino with all of you guys! Until the next Random Road Trip!
— in Quirino, Philippines.
Interested to join our Random Road Trips?
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Random Road #6 is brewing soon! Watch for it! Our clue… we are leaving our rides behind.
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