Cagayan Province

When my friend Lloyds and I were planning a road trip in 2017, our friend Martin eagerly suggested Cagayan Province where he comes from. He offered to be our guide so he can also visit relatives he hasn’t seen for a long time.

My friend Martin from Cagayan Province

And with Cagayan Province so far from Manila, we planned for a big Northeastern Luzon Road Trip to include pitstops in other provinces of greater Cagayan Valley as well as those in nearby Cordillera Mountains.


Four of us ventured one night in July 2017, driving straight through Central Luzon, arriving at dawn to explore the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Isabela before continuing on later in the day to Martin’s semi-rural hometown of Enrile in Cagayan Province.

My friend Romwell trying a horse-drawn ‘kalesa’ still commonly used in the region.

We found Martin’s ancestral home but since he hasn’t been back for almost 20 years, his aunt took a long time to recognize him. We had a little laugh coz she had to quiz Martin to ascertain his identity.

IMG_20170723_134420184 (1)
Martin knocked at the front gate for a while before his aunt came out to quiz his identity.

Laughter, however, turned immediately to shock as his aunt told him his Mama passed away almost 5 years ago. Martin was devastated. His other relatives we visited in nearby Tuguegarao City said they wanted to let him know but they’ve lost his contact details in Manila.

Inside the home of Martin’s uncle, Dr Borja (seated), who warmly welcomed us

They were nevertheless very happy to see him. They were apparently told all sorts of things about his whereabouts including being in Saudi Arabia. Martin has thanked me numerous times for helping him reconnect with his relatives.

Barangay Caritan Sur Welcome Arch
Borja Clan
Outside the home of Dr Borja in Caritan Sur with Martin’s cousin Earl and another uncle

We spent a couple of days in Cagayan Province staying at Hotel Joselina in the bustling capital of Tuguegarao City. It was a boutique hotel with exotic Filipiniana decor.


We visited the centuries-old St. Peter Tuguegarao Metropolitan Cathedral



…and the Cagayan Provincial Capitol

Fantastic Four (Coach Conto, Lloyds, Romwell and Martin)

We also trekked further north to visit Aparri… famous for its mention in the theme song of the noontime Philippine TV show Eat Bulaga.

Fantastic adventure to Aparri

Here is Lloyds at the furthest kilometre post marker in Northeastern Luzon. Aparri is more than 580km north of Manila…


Aparri beach itself has black sand rich in magnetite as a source of iron. There’s been plenty of opposition about environmental damage caused by black sand mining. But for us, it was all about fun in both sand and water.


We also did a quick trip to Apayao Province in the afternoon before heading back to Joselina Hotel. We capped off each night with drinks at Dingkoy’s Bar and Restaurant with a small but really good live music.



And our last activity before leaving this province was to visit the 16th-century Catholic icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary enshrined for pilgrimage at the Basilica of Our Lady of Piat in the town of Piat, Cagayan Province.


I was so glad to have done my own pilgrim here. It was not on my radar of destinations but all three of my companions were keen to go.

Our Lady of Piat enshrined at the centre of the altar

Here are some of the beautiful images on stained-glass windows depicting the history of Our Lady of Piat. The icon was brought to Manila from Macau, then transferred to Piat for the evangelisation of the local Itawes people.


And look at this sculpture on the roof of one of the other buildings…

Mother Mary crowned Queen of heaven and earth by the Lord Jesus and St. Joseph

It was a prayerful morning before we continued our road trip back to Manila which included a venture up the Cordillera Mountains visiting the provinces of Kalinga and Ifugao.

Our Lady of Piat – Pray for us

It was indeed a meaningful and memorable journey throughout Cagayan Province as part of our Northeastern Luzon Road Trip. My next visit will focus on the islands off the coast under the jurisdiction of Cagayan Province.

CoachConto – Athlete, Warrior, Statesman, Spirit

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