VIGAN AND FAR NORTHERN LUZON

VIGAN

Vigan (northwest Luzon, 400 kilometers north of Manila) is a delightful 450-year-old Spanish town with old churches, houses, horse-drawn carriages, cobblestone streets, and 150 brick-and-hardwood mansions and merchants homes with intricate metal grillwork and capriz windows, with shutters inland with shell. Selected a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, the town contains the best collection of colonial buildings in the Philippines. The coastal road near Vigan is stunning.

The range of structures along the plazas and streets reveals the story of the town. Large and imposing buildings evoke political or religious power. Grand homes speak of wealth, while others speak of more modest means. The architectural ensemble shows that Vigan was the political, economic, religious, and artistic center of the region. The town is a living testament to the Spanish colonial era, a place that exerts a strong cultural influence to the modern Philippine nation. More importantly, the architecture of Vigan relates the story of Filipinos themselves: how their constant exposure to foreign influences endowed them with the ability to adapt foreign ideas and combine them into a style that was uniquely their own. Vigan Survives as a unique representation of the adaptation process that the multi-cultural Filipinos are so good at.

According to UNESCO: Established in the 16th century, Vigan is the best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia. Its architecture reflects the coming together of cultural elements from elsewhere in the Philippines, from China and from Europe, resulting in a culture and townscape that have no parallel anywhere in East and South-East Asia...Vigan represents a unique fusion of Asian building design and construction with European colonial architecture and planning. Vigan is an exceptionally intact and well-preserved example of a European trading town in East and South-East Asia. The architecture is truly reflective of its roots in both materials and design, in its fusion of Asian building design and construction with European colonial architecture and planning.” [Source: UNESCO]

History of Vigan

During the height of the Spanish colonial era in the 18th and 19th centuries, Vigan (more properly Ciudad Fernandina de Vigan) was the third most important city in the Philippines after Manila and Cebu. Situated at the south of the Abra River in Ilocos Sur Province, Vigan was the third city founded by the Spanish after Intramuros (Manila) and Cebu. For three centuries it prospered at the capital and commercial center of northern Luzon. Many of the finest homes were occupied Chinese mestizos who made their fortunes trading tobacco, indigo and textiles. Vigan is also the birthplace of Father Burgos, one of the Philippines’s greatest heros. The houses where he was born is now the home of the Ayala Museum, which contains some Burgos memorabilia and displays on local history and crafts.

According to UNESCO: “Before the arrival of the Spanish, there was a small indigenous settlement on what was at that time an island, consisting wooden or bamboo houses on stilts. In 1572 the conquistador Juan de Salcedo founded a new town, which he named Villa Ferdinandina, on this site, and made it his capital when he was appointed Lieutenant Governor (Encomendero) of the entire Ilocos region. Intended as a trading centre rather than a fortress, it was the northernmost city established in the Philippines by the Spanish. [Source: UNESCO]

“At the end of the 17th century a new form of architecture evolved, which combined the traditional construction with the techniques of building in stone and wood introduced by the Spanish. Brick was introduced by the Augustinian friars for their churches and other buildings. The seat of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia was transferred there in 1758, making it the centre of religious activity in the region. In 1778, as a result of its expansion, it was renamed Ciudad Ferdinandina.

“The Mestizo river was central to the development of the town in the 16th-19th centuries: large sea-going vessels could berth in the delta and small craft communicated with the interior. However, it is now no longer navigable owing to silting, as a result of which the town is no longer an island.

“As the major commercial centre for the region, Vigan traded directly with China. As a stage in the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade that lasted throughout the Spanish colonial period, it supplied goods that were shipped across the Pacific to Mexico, and thence onwards across the Atlantic to Europe. These trading links resulted in constant exchanges of peoples and cultures between the Ilocanos, Filipinos, Chinese, Spanish, and (in the 20th century) North Americans.”

Vigan in 1912

Cornélis De Witt Willcox wrote in “The Head Hunters of Northern Luzon”: “ Our next stop was at Vigan, a well-built town, many of whose houses are of stone. We reached the town in a motor-car, passing through well cultivated fields of maguey. The mountains, rising abruptly from the coastal plain, are here cut by the famous Abra de Vigan, a conspicuous gap serving as a land-mark to the mariner for miles. And it is the custom to take a ride of many hours up the pass, and then come down the rapids in two, on bamboo rafts built for the purpose. This is a most exciting trip; alas! we had to be contented with an account of it! [Source:“The Head Hunters of Northern Luzon” by Cornélis De Witt Willcox, Lieutenant-Colonel U.S. Army, Professor United States Military Academy, 1912 <>]

“But Vigan itself was worth the trouble of going ashore; its churches and monasteries are extensive, dignified of appearance, and far less dilapidated than is unfortunately so frequently the case elsewhere in the Islands. Not the least interesting item of our very short stay was a visit to a new house, built and owned by an Ilokano, and equipped with the most recent American plumbing. The house itself happily was after the old Spanish plan, the only one really suited to this climate and latitude. But then the Ilokanos are the most businesslike and thrifty of all the civilized inhabitants: their migration to other parts, a movement encouraged of long date by the Spanish authorities, is one of the most hopeful present-day signs of the Archipelago, I was sorry to take my leave of Vigan; the place and its environs seemed full of interest.”

“One more stop we made at San Fernando de Unión the following day, a clean-built town, but otherwise of no special characteristics. Here we met an officer of Constabulary that had been recently stationed at Lubuagan, who told us of coming suddenly one day upon a fight between two bodies of Kalingas, numbering twenty or twenty-five men each, and this in Lubuagan itself. According to our ideas, it was no fight at all, the champions of each side engaging in single combat, while the rest looked on and shouted, waiting their turn. One man had already been killed, his headless trunk lying on the ground. On the approach of the officer they all ran. Here, too, we heard from another Constabulary officer, that the insurrectos in 1898–1899 forced the Igorots to carry bells and other loot taken from the conventos and churches, and would shoot the cargadores if they stumbled or fell, or could go no farther under the weights they were carrying.”

Layout and Founding of Vigan

According to UNESCO: “The town is located in the delta of the Abra River, off the coastal plain of the China Sea, close to the north-east tip of the island of Luzon. The present-day municipality divided into nine urban districts and thirty rural villages. Almost half the total area is still in use for agriculture. The Historic Core Zone is defined on two sides by the Govantes and Mestizo rivers. [Source: UNESCO]

“Before the arrival of the Spanish, there was a small indigenous settlement on what was at that time an island, consisting of wooden or bamboo houses on stilts. In 1572 the conquistador Juan de Salcedo founded a new town, which he named Villa Ferdinandina, and made it his capital when appointed Lieutenant Governor (Encomendero ) of the entire Ilocos region. Intended as a trading centre rather than a fortress, it was the northernmost city established in the Philippines by the Spanish. At the end of the 17th century a new form of architecture evolved, which combined traditional construction with the techniques of building in stone and wood introduced by the Spanish. Brick was introduced by the Augustinians for their churches and other buildings. In 1778, as a result of its expansion, it was renamed Ciudad Ferdinandina. The Mestizo River was central to the development of the town in the 16th-19th centuries: large sea-going vessels could berth in the delta and small craft communicated with the interior. It is no longer navigable owing to silting, and so the town is no longer an island. As the major commercial centre for the region, Vigan traded directly with China. As a stage in the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade in the Spanish colonial period, it supplied goods for shipping to Mexico, and thence onwards to Europe. This trade resulted in constant exchanges of peoples and cultures between the Ilocanos, Filipinos, Chinese, Spanish, and (in the 20th century) North Americans.

“The traditional Spanish chequerboard street plan opens up into a main plaza, in two parts. The Plaza Salcedo is the longer arm of an L-shaped open space, with the Plaza Burgos as the shorter. The former is dominated by the Municipal Hall and the Provincial Capitol and the latter by the cathedral. The urban plan of the town closely conforms to the Renaissance grid plan specified in the Ley de las Indias for all 149 new towns in the Spanish Empire. There is, however, a noticeable difference between Vigan and contemporary Spanish colonial towns in Latin America in the Historic Core (known as the Mestizo district), where the Latin tradition is tempered by strong Chinese, Ilocano and Filipino influences.”

Old Houses and Sights in Vigan

Notable Vigan landmarks and building include the town plaza, Plaza Salcedo; Saint Paul’s Cathedral; The Arzopispado, an excellent example of a priest’s residence in an urban area; Saint Paul’s College; the Provincial Capitol Building; Simbaan a Bassit (Catholic Cemetery Chapel); Calle Crisologo, an impressive row of houses lining each side of a cobbled stone street; Burgos Museum; and the numerous Vigan Houses, undoubtedly Vigan’s treasures.

Many of the old homes are located around pedestrian-only Crisologo Street. Some are empty and bolted closed. Other have been turned into shops, selling local hand-crafted furniture and textiles, and cafes. Unfortunately the restoration work is not as good as it could be. Some of the houses—such as Quema house—allow visitors to go inside and have a look around as long as you can find the caretaker or someone with a key. Other have been turned into guest houses. The nicest of these is Villa Angela Heritage House, a lovely place with hardwood floors and four-poster beds and old furniture with doubles starting at US50. Many of these guest houses have been outfit with modern furniture.

According to UNESCO: The building materials used in Vigan are terracotta, wood, shells, stone and lime, all obtained from the surrounding area. The architecture of the typical Vigan house is derived from the traditional Filipino dwelling, the bahay kubo, a small one-room hut built from light woven materials (wood, bamboo, thatch), raised on stilts for ventilation and as protection against monsoon flooding. Such structures are no longer to be found in Vigan, but their influence is discernible in the much larger bahay na bato (stone house), a much more solid structure, with a stone-built lower storey surmounted by a timber-framed upper storey, and with a steeply pitched tiled roof (reminiscent of traditional Chinese architecture). The exterior walls of the upper storey are enclosed by window panels of kapis shells framed in wood which can be slid back for better ventilation. The Chinese merchants and traders conducted their business from offices and warehouses on the ground floors of their houses, with the living quarters above. This is characteristic of Chinese society. Vigan also possesses a number of significant public buildings, which also show multi-cultural influences. These include the Cathedral of St Paul, the Archbishop's Palace, St Paul's College, the Catholic Cemetery Chapel, and the neoclassical early 20th-century provincial Capitol.”

Nuestra Señora dela Asunción in Santa Maria,I locos Sur

Nuesta Señora De La Asunción (in Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur, one hour south of Vigan) is a church and convent that defies the traditional Spanish urban town plan of situating the church as the focus of the central town plaza. Instead it stands standing alone on the crown of a freestanding hill encircled by a stone retaining wall, making it resemble a citadel. Its appearance evokes a Mediterranean hill town, the only example of such in the Philippines.

Evoking a Chinese pagoda, the squat and massive bell tower of stacked octagonal shapes of decreasing diameter is crowned by a small dome. From any angle, the approach to the Santa Maria ensemble is magnificent. A stairway of 85 stone steps rises form the town to the small courtyard at the top of the citadel. On the opposite side of the courtyard, another equally grand stairway descends to a causeway built up over rice fields leading to a circular cemetery.

Built of brick, the church has a monumental façade. The thick side walls are without ornamentation, but have delicately carved side entrances which are bolstered regularly by huge quadrangular buttresses, these are necessary structural reinforcements for earthquake protection. The power and simplicity of its geometric forms, and its location, make this an outstanding example of Peripheral Baroque architecture.

Baroque Churches of the Philippines

Nuesta Señora De La Asunción is one of the four Baroque churches in the Philippines built by the Spanish in the late 16th to 18th centuries designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013 for their architectural style and a unique reinterpretation of European Baroque by Chinese and Philippine craftsmen. According to UNESCO: “The Baroque Churches of the Philippines is a serial inscription consisting of four Roman Catholic churches constructed between the 16thand the18th centuries in the Spanish period of the Philippines. They are located in separate areas of the Philippine archipelago, two at the northern island of Luzon, one at the heart of Intramuros, Manila, and the other in the central Visayas island of Iloilo.

“This group of churches established a style of building and design that was adapted to the physical conditions in the Philippines and had an important influence on later church architecture in the region. The four churches are outstanding examples of the Philippine interpretation of the Baroque style, and represent the fusion of European church design and construction with local materials and decorative motifs to form a new church-building tradition. [Source: UNESCO]

“The common and specific attributes of the churches are their squat, monumental and massive appearance, which illustrates a fortress/protective-like character in response to pirates, marauders and to the geologic conditions of a country that is prone to seismic activities. The churches are made either of stone (tuff or coralline limestone), or brick, and consolidated with lime. They display specific features such as retablos (altars) of high Baroque style — (particularly seen in San Agustin Church, Intramuros), in the volutes of contrafuertes (buttresses) and in the pyramidal finials of wall facades — (particularly seen in Paoay Church), in wall buttresses separating criptocollateral chapels –(particularly seen in San Agustin Church, Intramuros) and in the iconography of the ornately decorated naïf/folk pediment expressing the local understanding of the life of Christ and demonstrated by the use of local elements (papaya, coconut and palm tree reliefs), and the depiction of Catholic Patron Saints (St. Christopher) dressed in local and traditional clothing (particularly seen in the Miagao Church). The fusion of styles is also seen in the construction of bell towers that are either attached to the main church structure (particularly seen in San Agustin, Intramuros and in Miagao churches) or detached from the main church (particularly seen in Paoay and Sta Maria churches) and lastly, in ceiling paintings in the tromp l’oeil style (particularly seen in San Agustin Church, Intramuros). The Baroque churches reflect excellent site planning principles following the Ley de las Indias (Laws of the Indies) enacted by Philip II in 1563 for all newly-discovered settlements within Spanish colonial territories.”

Ilocos Norte Province

Ilocos Norte Province covers 3,468 square kilometers and is home to about 600,000 people and has a population density of 172 people per square kilometer. Composed of: one city, 22 municipalities and 557 barangays, the province is bounded in the East by Cagayan and Kalinga-Apayao, in the Southeast by Abra, in the South by Ilocos Sur and in the West by the South China Sea. Ilocano (Iloko) is the main language-dialect. English and Tagalog are the media of instruction in schools. Ilocos Norte draws some tourists with it old churches, ancestral houses and scenic spots. There is an international airport in the city of Laoag.

Long before the Spaniards arrived, there the area now occupied by the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra and La Union was known for its gold mines. Merchants from Japan and China visited the area to trade beads, ceramics and silk for gold. The inhabitants of the region believed to be of Malay origin, called their place "samtoy", from "sao mi toy, which literally meant "our language".

In 1571, after the Spanish under the conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi had gained control of the Manila, they began looking for new places to conquer. Legaspi's grandson, Juan de Salcedo, volunteered to lead an expedition to the north. Together with eight armed boats and 45 men, the 22 year old voyager headed to northern Luzon. On June 13, 1572, Salcedo and his men landed in Vigan and then proceeded towards what is now Laoag, Currimao and Badoc. As they sailed along the coast, they were surprised to see numerous sheltered coves ("looc") where the locals lived. As a result, the Spanish named the region "Ylocos" and its people "Ylocanos".

Ilocos Norte Province has two distinct seasons: dry from November to April and wet during the rest of the year. Monthly average rainfall reaches 172.3 millimeters. Temperature averages 26.8 degrees centigrade. Like the other provinces of the Ilocos, Ilocos Norte's economy is mostly agriculturel, producing rice, fruits, vegetables, legumes, garlic and tomato. Among the industries are furniture-making, handicrafts and metalcraft.

Ilocos cuisine is one of the bestl-known types of Filipino food. Ilocanos love bagoong (fish paste) and add it just about anything, using souring agents such as native palm vinegar. They also love bitter vegetables and papaitan. A few of the dishes associated with the region are pinakbet ((stewed vegetables seasoned with fish paste), igado, dinakdakan, and poqui-poqui. They love pork too. Deep-fried pork belly (bagnet) and their native sausages (longganisa) are local delicacies.

Pricing Information: Items Price
Dining — Filipino meal at a restaurant. Ex., Quarter chicken barbeque Php 100 — 200
Dining — Bagnet (crispy pork belly) Php 380 — 430 per kilogram
Accommodations — Hostel bed Php 300 per person
Accommodations — Hotel room Php 800 — 2,000
Accommodations — Family room Php 1,600 to 5,000
Accommodations — Resort cottage Php 1,800 to 3,000
Transportation — Kalesa ride Php 12.00 per head
Transportation — 10 minute tricycle ride Php 10.00 minimum
Transportation — 10 minute jeepney ride Php 8.50 minimum
Souvenir — T-shirt Php 280 to 350

Laoag City

Laoag City (487 kilometers Northwest of Manila) is a gambling center and the capital, largest city and the hub of everything Ilocano. Among the historical sites are the Tobacco Monopoly Monument, constructed at the foot of the Marcos Bridge to commemorate the lifting of the Tobacco Monopoly, which from 1872 to 1881 gave the Ilocos untold miseries. To find out more about the monopoly and other historical events in the region check out the Museo Ilocos Norte.

St. William's Cathedral has an Italian Renaissance design and was built by the Augustinians in 1612. Its unique 2-storey facade is held by four pairs of coupled columns. The deeply recessed niche shows the image of the Patron Saint of Laoag City. Sinking Belltower, about 100 meters from St. William's Cathedral, has sunk to the ground and leans slightly to the north

Tourist Office: Ilocano Heroes Memorial Hall, 2900 Laoag City
Tel. No. (6377) 771-1473
Fax: (6377) 772 0467
E-Mail: dotlaoag@digitelone.com

Beaches and Places of Interest in Ilocos Norte

Ilocos Norte is a coastal province with different colors of sand — the blackest of black in Laoag, brown in Currimao, and white sands in Pagudpud. Some parts in Pagudpud are lined with a rocky shores. But overall, Pagudpud’s beaches are stretches of white sand lined with coconut trees and crystal-blue water. Another that’s nice about is that it not overrun by tourists yet, but is starting to be discovered. Saud Beach is more developed. Many of the newer and more posh accommodations are here. If you want a more secluded beach, try Blue Lagoon. A good place to stay there is Kapuluan Vista Resort.

You can reach Pagudpud on the Maharlika Highway, which winds along coast with rolling tropical hills on one side and the blue water on the other. It’s a good place to rent a car and drive yourself. There is little traffic here, so if you can kick back and enjoy driving for a change. You can stop in the charming towns and enjoy the vistas along the way. The terrain is relatively flat and dry, but gets hillier the farther north you go. They are some an interesting hikes in the n4s amd through verdant valleys and forests and along rivers.

Pagudpud and world-famous sights such as Paoay and Vigan are less than an hour’s drive from Laog City. There are fifteen towering windmills lined up the shore of Bangui. Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, built in 1892, stands on a promontory in Burgos, 45 kilometers north of Laoag City. It still sends out signals to ships passing by the Cape facing the northern portion of the South China Sea. It is the highest lighthouse in the Philippines.

Paoay Lake National Park contains a landlocked lake located three kilometers away from the sea. Located in Suba, Paoay, the park has an area of 470 hectares. And is a place where people enjoy watersports. Abang Falls are accessible by jeepney from the Bangui townproper. Sta. Monica Church faces the river in Sarrat, approximately seven kilometers east of Laoag. The century-old Neo-classical and Baroque church sits next to the a ruin of an older church and a museum.

Aglipay Shrine, in Pinili, memorializes Fr. Gregorio Aglipay, a colorful revolutionary figure that stood up for oppressed people in the region and founded the Protestant sect known as the Filipino Independent Church. The Juan Luna Shrine, in a the restored house in Badoc, is a repository of the memorabilia of the famous Luna family, including paintings by Juan Luna which include a reproduction of his masterpiece, the Spolarium.

Loom weaving is an age-old industry in Paoay produces quality towels, blankets, table runners and clothing materials with ethnic Ilocano designs. Spelunking is done at Pasuquin Cave, 45 minutes from Laoag City on a dirt road. A special permit has to be secured from the Mayor's Office. Kayaking is enjoyed on Bulu River, Adams and Paoay Lake National Park. Four-Wheel-Drive rides are offered on the sand dunes in Suba, Paoay and Calayab, Laoag City. Adams is a starting point for treks and mountain biking. Getting to Laoag City and Ilocos Norte

By Air: The easiest way to access Ilocos Norte is by a 45-minute Manila-Laoag daily flight via the Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific. Laoag International Airport, located in Laoag City, welcomes scheduled international flights to and from Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Taiwan, and South Korea. Domestic flights are also available via the national carrier Philippines Airlines.

By Land: Several bus companies such as Partas Trans, Fariñas Trans, Florida, Maria de Leon, Autobus and RCJ serve the Manila-Laoag route. These air-conditioned public buses leav from stations and offices found along Cubao or Pasay in Manila. The trip takes to 8-10 hours. There are also buses from places like Baguio and Vigan .Going from town to town is generally done using a bus, a minibus, or jeepney. Once you’re there, Ilocos Norte is best explored on foot or riding the kalesa, the traditional horse-drawn carriage. Tricycles abound for traveling short distances.

By Sea: Various sea going vessels are docked at the ports of San Fernando and Currimao and are used for interisland transport bu t there is not really an service that tourists can easily use. .

Church of San Agustin in Paoay, Ilocos Norte

The San Agustin Church in Paoay (15 kilometers south of Laoag City) is constructed from coral blocks and stucco-plastered bricks. It unique architecture combines Gothic, Baroque and Oriental elements. Construction of the church was started in 1704 and completed in 1894. The church is very solid looking, almost like an ancient Romanesque church A few meters away is the coralstone belltower which served as observation post of the Katipunero during the Philippine Revolution, Paoay Church is included in the UNESCO's World Heritage List under Baroque Churches of the Philippines (See Below)

The San Agustin Church in Paoay is one of the most outstanding “earthquake baroque” structure in the Philippines where the primary concern was to design the church for earthquake protection. The coral stone bell tower, for example, was built some distance from the church so that if it fell down during an earthquake it wouldn’t damage the church. The bell tower was finished in the second half of the 18th century. Several Philippine bell towers were constructed at a distance from the main church structure to avoid its falling on the church during earthquakes.

The most outstanding feature of the church is the phalanx of buttresses that jut out perpendicularly from the sides to strengthen the walls against earthquake damage. San Agustin Church has the most massive buttressing in any church in the Philippines. Fourteen S-shaped buttresses rise in rhythmic cadence from the ground reaching almost to the roof line. A pyramidal finial triumphantly tops each buttress. The visual impact of the San Agustin church in Paoay is striking.

Baroque Churches of the Philippines

Four Baroque churches in the Philippines built by the Spanish in the late 16th to 18th centuries — located in Manila, Santa Maria, Paoay and Miag-ao — were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013 for their architectural style, a unique reinterpretation of European Baroque by Chinese and Philippine craftsmen. According to UNESCO: “The Baroque Churches of the Philippines is a serial inscription consisting of four Roman Catholic churches constructed between the 16thand the18th centuries in the Spanish period of the Philippines. They are located in separate areas of the Philippine archipelago, two at the northern island of Luzon, one at the heart of Intramuros, Manila, and the other in the central Visayas island of Iloilo.

“This group of churches established a style of building and design that was adapted to the physical conditions in the Philippines and had an important influence on later church architecture in the region. The four churches are outstanding examples of the Philippine interpretation of the Baroque style, and represent the fusion of European church design and construction with local materials and decorative motifs to form a new church-building tradition. [Source: UNESCO]

“The common and specific attributes of the churches are their squat, monumental and massive appearance, which illustrates a fortress/protective-like character in response to pirates, marauders and to the geologic conditions of a country that is prone to seismic activities. The churches are made either of stone (tuff or coralline limestone), or brick, and consolidated with lime. They display specific features such as retablos (altars) of high Baroque style — (particularly seen in San Agustin Church, Intramuros), in the volutes of contrafuertes (buttresses) and in the pyramidal finials of wall facades — (particularly seen in Paoay Church), in wall buttresses separating criptocollateral chapels –(particularly seen in San Agustin Church, Intramuros) and in the iconography of the ornately decorated naïf/folk pediment expressing the local understanding of the life of Christ and demonstrated by the use of local elements (papaya, coconut and palm tree reliefs), and the depiction of Catholic Patron Saints (St. Christopher) dressed in local and traditional clothing (particularly seen in the Miagao Church). The fusion of styles is also seen in the construction of bell towers that are either attached to the main church structure (particularly seen in San Agustin, Intramuros and in Miagao churches) or detached from the main church (particularly seen in Paoay and Sta Maria churches) and lastly, in ceiling paintings in the tromp l’oeil style (particularly seen in San Agustin Church, Intramuros). The Baroque churches reflect excellent site planning principles following the Ley de las Indias (Laws of the Indies) enacted by Philip II in 1563 for all newly-discovered settlements within Spanish colonial territories.”

Batac and Places Associated with Ferdinand Marcos in North Luzon

Batac (471 kilometers north of Manila in Ilocos Norte province) is the hometown of Ferdinand Marcos. His embalmed body was sealed in an air-conditioned crypt inside the Marcos Mausoleum until November 2016, when he was buried in the Heroes' Cemetery in Taguig, Metro Manila, after Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte order the burial take place, something the Marcos family had desired for decades. When Marcos’s body was in Batac it drew a steady stream of visitors, who were allowed to view the body but not take any pictures. The corpse reportedly was so waxy-looking that many people claimed it was a fake and the former dictator was really alive somewhere, living off of his billions.

The ancestral house of the Marcoses in Batac showcases the memorabilia of the late president and was where his body could be viewed. In the Marcos Museum you can see the fake medals that Marcos awarded himself, ghost-written books on his theory of democracy, and other Marcos memorabilia. The President Ferdinand E. Marcos Monument — a life-size metal statue on a pile of stones — lies in Batac Mini Park. Batac is located in a beautiful area of Ilocos North Province with nice beaches, rice fields and old Spanish churches. Not surprising it has some of the best paved roads in the Philippines (Marcos always took care of his own), which makes visiting these places easy.

The Malacañang of the North is a presidential museum in Paoay, Ilocos Norte was the residence of the family of Ferdinand Marcos when he was the President of the Philippines. This imposing structure overlooks the Paoay Lake and is now a museum (a small entrance fee is collected). The two-story mansion contains seven (supposedly a lucky number for Marcos) rooms, with each room having a theme of historical events from the Marcos era: Study, Agriculture, Diplomacy, OFW (overseas Filipino workers), Culture, Nation Building and Family.

Marcos Monument (in Tuba, west of Baguio, 200 kilometers south of Batac) is a 30-meter-high (98-foot-high) Mount-Rushmore-like bust of Ferdinand Marcos made of concrete that juts out from a slope in the Cordillera Mountains. The monument was built on the orders of Marcos in a park that he named after himself. using government funds. The monument was controversial as the land used was grabbed from the indigenous Ibaloi people, who were against the Marcos dictatorship. After the Revolution that ousted Marcos in 1986 local tribal people wanted to blow it up but it was spared like Malacanang Palace as a symbol of the extravagances of the Marcos Regime. In December 2002, the giant concrete bust of Marcos was severely damaged by explosives by treasure hunters looking for Marcos gold. The destroyed bust is considered "a monument to evil, warning people never to become what this man was. The Marcos Monument is a half hour drive from the Marcos Highway.

Batanes Islands: Between the Philippines and Taiwan

Batanes Province (860 kilometers, 525 miles north of Manila) lies at the northernmost tip of the Philippines, where the Pacific Ocean merges with the South China Sea. It is composed of three major islands, namely: Batan which contains the capital town of Basco, Sabtang, and Itbayat. Close by are seven islets including Amianan, which is the closest to Formosa. Thus, Batanes has been identified as the country’s potential gateway to East China.

The Batanes were islands created by a series of volcanic activities and other geologic forces millions of years ago. They are 160 kilometers north of Luzon and Philippines mainland and about 190 kilometers south of Taiwan. This island province is situated in a 4,500-square-kilometer expanse of Philippine territorial waters, in the Luzon Strait and Balintang Channel, where the Pacific Ocean merges with the South China Sea, near important sea lanes between the Philippines and the southern parts of Japan, China, Hongkong, and Taiwan.

Batanes Province is bounded on the north by the Bashi Channel, on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the west by the South China Sea, and on the south by the Balintang Channel. It is characterized by gently rolling hills, cliffs, and black and white sand beaches. Basco, the capital of the province, is about 280 kilometers north of Aparri. The province has six municipalities, 29 barangays, and one congressional district. The six municipalities are Ivana, Uyugan, Mahatao, Basco (the capital), and the island municipalities of Sabtang and Itbayat.

Batanes was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993. According to UNESCO: “Characterized by a complex of terrestrial, wetland and marine ecosystem, the Batanes group of islands consist of 10 small islands bounded by the Eashi Channel on the north, by the Pacific Ocean on the east, by the South China Sea on the west and the Balintang Channel on the south. It is one of the last remaining areas in the Philippines having unique natural physiographic features (wave-cut cliffs, cave-like outcrops, secluded white sand beaches) resulting from its position where strong winds and fast currents have etched out its distinct morphology. It is an important flyaway for many migratory bird species, and the deper portions of the marine environment are the few remaining sites where pink and red corals (Corallum sp.) are found. The site is the only area in the Philippines where traditional architecture is of stone in response to the wind and monsoon stresses rather than of the more typical, tropical, impermanent materials (wood, bamboo, thatch) cxommonly used in village architecture. Due to its isolation from the rest of the country, the traditional culture of the area has likewise remained intact.” [Source: UNESCO]

The province is home to the famous Ivatans who are nationally acclaimed as the “True Insulares.” The Ivatans are of Malay stock, tracing their roots to early immigrants from Formosa, Taiwan as well as Spaniards who came to the island in the 16th century. Being an insular people, the Ivatans have kept the purity of their gene pool through time. The mother tongue of Batanes is Ivatan, spoken by 93.94 percent of all households. The Ilocano dialect is also spoken while Filipino and English are generally spoken and understood.

The Batanes weather is rather pleasant. Compared to the rest of the country, Batanes is blessed with a cooler, balmier climate. It enjoys practically four seasons, the best one being summer which is from March to June. Average monthly rainfall is 450 mm. The province has a total agricultural land area of 5,438 hectares and has a wide area open for agricultural expansion. Due to its terrain, it is a major livestock producer with cattle as its main stock. Carabaos and goats are raised. Another major industry is fishing which reaches its peak during the summer months, from March to June, when the seawater is relatively calm.

Cagayan Province

Cagayan Province (northeastern corner of Luzon, 12 hours by bus from Manila) covers a land area of 9,295 square kilometers, which constitutes three percent of the total land area of the country and makes it the 5th largest province in the Philippines. Home to about 1.2 million people, with a population density of 130 people per square kilometer, Cagayan province has 28 municipalities, 816 barangays and one city and is divided into three congressional districts. Tuguegarao City is the provincial capital, regional seat, and center of business, trade, and education. It has a land area of 144.80 square kilometers and a population of 120,645 as of 2000.

Caayan Province is bounded by the Pacific Ocean on the east, Isabela province to on the south, the Cordillera Mountains to the west, and the Balintang Channel and the Babuyan Group of Islands to the north. About two kilometers from the northeastern tip of the province is the island of Palaui, a few kilometers to the west is Fuga Island. The Babuyan Group of Islands, which includes Calayan, Dalupiri, Camiguin, and Babuyan Claro, is about 100 kilometers north of Luzon mainland.

Undeveloped by tourism but known as good place for caving, trekking in the mountains and fishing, Cagayan is a center for adventure and ecotourism with some ancient cultures, wild, picturesque beaches, volcanic islands and centuries-old churches thrown into the mix. The name Cagayan is derived from the word “tagay,” a kind of plant that grows abundantly in the northern part of the province. “Catagayan” which means a place where the tagay grows abundantly, was shortened to “Cagayan.” The main languages of the province — each associated with a different ethnic group — are Ybanag, Ytawit, Malaweg, and Ilocano. Other ethnic groups that migrated to the province speak their own dialects. People in places where literacy is high speak and understand English and Pilipino.

The wet and dry seasons in the province are not very pronounced. The relatively dry season occurs from March to June and the relatively rainy season is from July to October. It is relatively cold during the months of November to February. The main agricultural products are rice, corn, peanut, beans, and fruits. Livestock products include cattle, hogs, carabaos, and poultry. Fishing various species of fish is an important income earner in coastal towns. Woodcraft furniture made of hardwood, rattan, bamboo, and other indigenous materials is also produced in the province. The waters off province has 73 percent of the region’s potential fishing area.

PRICING INFORMATION Items Price Accommodations — Hostel bed Php 600
Accommodations — Hotel room Php 1,500
Accommodations — Family room Php 2,000
Accommodations — Resort cottage Php 2,000
Dining — Seafood meal Php 100 — 250
Dining — Chicken BBQ meal Php 150
Dining — Longganisa Meal or Pancit Batil Php 100 — 250
Transportation — 10 minute tricycle ride Php 10 & up per person
Transportation — Jeepney ride Php 20 & up per person
Transportation — boat ride starts at Php 500
Transportation — Van rental Php 5,000 a day
Shopping — souvenir t-shirt Php 280
Activity — 1 day hike & spelunking with guide Php 750

Tourism Office: Regional Office Ii, Ms. Blessida G. Diwa, Regional Director, 29 Rizal Street, Tuguegarao City, 3500 Cagayan, Tel: (6378) 844 1621 / 844 1530, Fax: (6378) 846 2435. E-Mail: dotr2@yahoo.com, Website: www.dotregion2.com.ph, www.visitmyphilippines.com

Getting There: By Air: Tuguegarao City is entry if you arrive by plane. There are daily flights from Manila, weekly flights from Cebu.By Land: Tuguegarao City is accessible by provincial bus. There are daily or overnight buses from Caloocan or Cubao in Metro Manila. The trip will take 12 hours. Buses to Claveria will pass through Tuguegarao as well.

Sights in Cagayan Province

Claveria at the top of Cagayan’s northeastern shoulder is known for its pastoral grassland, windswept islands, emerald mountains, rugged coastline and verdant jungles. Callao Cave has an amazing seven chambers, one of which sometimes holds Catholic mass. The Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape features a scenic boat rides on Pinacanauan River at dusk when thousands of bats emerge from the wilderness and begin their nightime feeding.

The Callao cave system is also home to the Callao Man, the oldest human remains excavated in the Philippines, dated to about 67,000 years ago. Shell middens dating back to the Neolithic Period have been found on the banks of the Cagayan River in the towns of Lal-lo and Gattaran. at Cagayan Provincial Museum and Historical Research Center in Tuguegarao City check out the ancient artifacts, fossils of animals that once roamed the valley, and liturgical works gathered from around the province.

Tuguegarao City is the home of the brick-walled Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul, the biggest church in the area built during the Spanish era. The Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat is a popular pilgrimage site. The Old Bell in the Far East is tucked in the municipality of Camalaniugan. In Lal-lo, Cagayan you’ll find another archaic church — St. Dominic de Guzman Parish. St. Philomene Church on the other hand is located just along the highway in the town of Alcala.

Nestled on a hill in the quiet town of Iguig is the Church of San Antonio de Galicia, the only church in the province with traditional flying buttresses. Walk towards the side to meditate within the serene and scenic Iguig Calvary Hills. This area is well known for its massive life-size statues of the 14 Stations of the Cross, strung along sprawling hills overlooking the Cagayan River or Rio Grande de Cagayan — the longest and widest river in the Philippines.

Paleolithic Archaeological Sites in Cagayan Valley

Paleolithic Archaeological Sites in Cagayan Valley was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2006. According to UNESCO: Paleolithic sites are located within the Cagayan Valley Basin which is bordered by the Sierra Mountain range on the East; the Caraballo on the South; the Cordillera Central on the west; and the Babuyan Channel on the north. Found in two municipalities of the province, namely, Solana and Penablanca, Paleolithic sites yielded the earliest stone tools and remains of extinct and extant species of animals.[Source: UNESCO]

Archaeological excavations undertaken in Solana and vicinities resulted in the discovery of more than 68 Paleolithic sites in the Awidon Mesa formation. These sites yielded stone tools and fossils of extinct animals that include stegodons, elephants, rhinoceros, and large tortoise. The sites tended to confirm previous reports by prominent paleontologists and archaeologists from Europe that both Pleistocene mega-fauna fossils and chopper-chopping stone tools were present in the valley, suggesting mid-Pleistocene date for tool technology in the area at the earliest and later periods.

The frontiers of prehistory is thus being broadened and pushed back. Tentative results of radio-metric reading in the valley have yielded at tektite date of approximately .92 — 1.7 m.y. The Mid-Pleistocene dating of the presence of man in the Philippines has been established.

On the eastern flank of the valley in the Municipality of Penablanca, archaeological exploration specifically in the Callao Limestone formation revealed the presence of 93 archaeological sites that yielded stone tools of Paleolithic industry and bones and shells of animals still living in the vicinities. Of these sites, 78 are caves and rock shelters. The archaeological study of the caves in the Callao limestone formation suggests post-Pleistocene sites where a Paleolithic type of technology persisted. The materials recovered indicate that the people were hunters and gatherers who exploited forest and riverine environments.

Modern Humans in Callao Cave 63,000-73,000 Years Ago

Earliest evidence of modern humans in Philippines —67,000 years before present — Callao Cave: Here, archaeologists, Dr. Armand Mijares with Dr. Phil Piper found bones in a cave near Peñablanca, Cagayan in 2010 have been dated as ca. 67,000 years old. It's the earliest human fossil ever found in Asia-Pacific [Source: Wikipedia ]

Colin Barras wrote in New Scientist: “In 2007, researchers found a 67,000-year-old human foot bone on the island of Luzon. It was provisionally suggested that it belonged to an unusually early Homo sapiens to the east of the Wallace line. But there are also unpublished reports that more human fossils were found on Luzon in 2014 — and that these additional finds suggest that the Luzon hominin may have been a more primitive species. [Source: Colin Barras, New Scientist, 13 January 2016]

In 2010, The Philippines Star reported: “A team of archaeologists has confirmed that a foot bone they discovered in Callao Cave in Cagayan province is at least 67,000 years old, older than the so-called Tabon Man of Palawan, which has long been thought to be the archipelago's earliest human remains at 50,000 years old, a report on GMANews.TV said. “So far this could be the earliest human fossil found in the Asia-Pacific region. The presence of humans in Luzon shows these early humans already possessed knowledge of seacraft-making in this early period," Dr. Armand Mijares, of the University of the Philippines-Diliman who led the team of archeologists, told GMANews.TV. The actual discovery of the bone occurred in 2007 but it was not clear then just how old the fossil was. Mijares said they were able to approximate the fossil's age through a method called “uranium-series dating." [Source: Philippines Star, August 3, 2010 ><]

The primary theory is that Callao Man, or his ancestors, reached Luzon from what is now Indonesia by raft at a time when experts did not think human beings were capable of traveling long distances by sea. Some signs found by the scientists also indicated that Callao Man might not have been fully human, but only a species akin to modern humans. Dr. Victor Paz, a UP colleague of Mijares who was not part of the excavation, told GMANEWS.TV that the bone could be evidence of human “speciation" or the evolutionary process by which new biological species arise, taking place in Luzon. “If speciation did take place in the region and more evidence comes out of older modern human remains, it may seriously challenge current conventions on the spread of modern humans to our region," Paz said. ><

“Based on the single bone, it is not clear that Callao Man was male. But they do know that its physical size was similar to the modern Negrito, or Aytas of Luzon. The bone was the third metatarsal of the foot, thus is referred to scientifically as Callao MT3. The human bone was found in the town of Peñablanca, Cagayan in an excavation site where Mijares had started digging four years before. “We were initially frustrated that during the excavation we were only finding animal remains. But when my colleague Dr. Phil Piper, our team's zoo-archaeologist, was looking at the finds, he said to me, 'Mandy, this is a human bone,'" Mijares said. “When we verified that it is a human bone, I knew that we discovered something very important." ><

“The presence of the remains of butchered animals in the same layer of sediment, but no stone tools, has raised interesting questions about how Callao Man killed them. “We can only speculate that they were using different tools. From our initial analysis of the cut marks on the animal bones, they could have used organic tools such as bamboo which is ubiquitous in the region," Mijares told GMANEWS.TV." ><

According to one academic journal: “In the Philippines, a hominin fossil from Callao Cave in Luzon has not yet been identified to species. It was referred to Homo species ( Mijares et al. 2010) and favorably compared with small-bodied Homo species, such as Homo habilis and H. floresiensis (Larick and Ciochon 2015), although provisionally attributed to H. sapiens by Mijares et al. (2010). It has a minimum age of around 50,000 years old. ( Gr?n et al. 2014) and is found in association with several large taxa: the native brown deer (Cervus mariannus), the Philippine warty pig (Sus philippen- sis), and an extinct bovid (Piper and Mijares 2007).

Prehistoric Man in the Cagayan Valley

According to UNESCO: Cagayan is undoubtedly one of the richest archaeological sites in the Philippines. Excavations by the National Museum and field research by the Cagayan Museum have yielded vast archeological findings including artifacts dating back to: the Paleolithic Age; the Neolithic Age, a time when man started to produce his own food through domestication of plants and animals; Iron Age which covers the transition from 2000 B.C. to 1000 A.D. Culture has progressed to a point where there is already knowledge of smelting and forging iron, the use of more advanced agricultural techniques, and weaving. Cagayan Valley, like many other provinces in the Philippines, was never isolated from foreign influence as was earlier believed. It was once a part of the long prehistoric international trade with neighboring countries. The Historic Age likewise chronicled the date when Juan Salcedo visited the valley. Such discoveries give a diachronic view of the technological and cultural evolution of Cagayan. [Source: UNESCO]

“The National Museum archaeologists and experts at the University of the Philippines and research institutions in several countries have been engaged in significant archaeological researches in Cagayan Valley. Their findings revealed the earliest trace of the emergence of man in the Philippines projected back in time to the middle of the Pleistocene Epoch at about 800,000 years before the present. These evidences came in the form of stone tools identified as man made. Man probably in the form of Home erectus roamed the valley at that time.

“Archaeological work covering the Pleistocene and Post Pleistocene time frames in the Philippines has been intensified and is now marked with growing precision and systematics. At the present, a project entitled "The Litho-, Bio-, and Chronostratigraphy of the Fossil Mammal Bearing Deposits in the Philippines" is being implemented in close collaboration with paleontologists from the National Museum of Natural History at Leiden, the Netherlands. So far, explorations and excavations undertaken have provided evidences needed in the reconstruction of the chrono-stratigraphic framework of the fossil bearing deposits in the Philippines. Furthermore, re-excavations in the Post-Pleistocene sites associated with stone tools of Paleolithic industry have been conducted by NM archaeologists.

“Considerable data have been gathered on the distribution of extinct fauna and paleo-environment in Southeast Asia, such as Sulawesi, Java, Timor and Flores and the Philippines (Aziz, 1988; Fox 1971; Glover 188; Hooijer 1948, 1975; Koenigswald 1958; Shutler 1988, Sondaar 1988; de Vos 1988, Bautista 1988). The discovery of earliest evidence of the presence of mega-fauna in the Philippines has widened the knowledge of distribution of these extinct animals in Southeast Asia. Through these findings, the reconstitution of the local faunal evolution and the position of the Philippines in relation to a large scale migration pattern of vertebrates including man in Southeast Asia are known.”

Neolithic Shell Midden Sites in Lal-lo and Gattaran Municipalities

The Neolithic Shell Midden Sites in Lal-lo and Gattaran Municipalities has been nominated to was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2006 According to UNESCO: “Neolithic shell midden sites are located along the banks of the Cagayan River in the Municipalities of Lal-lo and Gattaran, about 500 kilometers northeast of Manila. The shell middens are in varying sizes and extent; and made up mostly of one type of freshwater clams, Batissa childreni. The biggest deposits of shells are found in Magapit and Bangag in Lal-lo. The thickest is more than six feet. Associated with these shell middens are polished stone tools, chert flakes, bones and teeth, and red slipped earthenware with incised and impressed designs. Most of stone tools are ground, polished with a trapezoidal cross-section; and made of sandstone, claystone and shale. [Source: UNESCO]

“In Magapit, Lal-lo, the shell middens are centrally or strategically located on tope of the highest hill, panoramic views down stream on the north and up stream on the south can be seen. In some areas, burial grounds are found associated with earthenware in varying forms and designs. Carbon dating indicates first and second millennium B.C. for limestone shell midden and ca. 100 AD in the river banks shell midden.

“The size and intensity of the shell deposit yielded valuable information as to the nature of Neolithic in Cagayan Valley. The Neolithic Period is known as the period when man first started to domesticate plants and animals and to make pottery at the end of the Pleistocene. Studies on the shell middens of Lal-lo and Gattaran revealed that the ancient people who exploited their environment gathering shells as well as hunting animals like deer and pig. Pottery shards were decorated not only at the exterior surface but also at the exposed interior surface of the vessel. Most of the shards could be reconstructed into forms resembling shallow platters. Incising and impressing of the shards give their distinctive character.

“Archaeological activities have resulted in the discovery of significant archaeological sites in the Municipalities of Lal-lo and Gattaran. These sites range from Neolithic into the Contact period. In these areas, the discovery of 21 shell midden sites associated with earthenware, stone tools and bones provide the opportunity to apply an interdisciplinary approach involving several fields of endeavor to solve archaeological problems including paleo-environmental reconstructions. Experts from Japan, Taiwan, Australia and the Philippines have gathered in the study area to discuss these archaeological problems and the most recent results of significant findings.

“These sites are very unique and crucial for the understanding of the emergence of agriculture and the links which we have with Island Southeast Asia and South China during the Neolithic. Furthermore, the shell midden sites along the Cagayan River can be considered one of the most extensive middens in the region being found along both banks of the Cagayan River extending through at least two municipalities, and through to some extent further into the interior. The amount of art factual materials found with the discarded shells evidenced the presence of extensive communities along the areas covered.”

Church of San Mattias in Tumauini, Isabela

The Church of San Mattias in Tumauini, Isabela was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2006. According to UNESCO: “The church walls are made entirely of brick. The façade is a magnificent display of the use ornamented brick laid out in characteristic design. Customized bricks were numbered, and placed customized to fit the walls. The interior of the church, similar to the façade is veneered with ornamented bricks. The upper half of the interior wall is laid with ornately designed brick blocks.[Source: UNESCO]

The bell tower of the church is cylindrical. The complex is fenced with brick walls, which is also ornamented like the rest of the church. The convent, located at the Gospel side of the church is now in ruins.”

Though damaged in the Second World War, the church retained and preserved most of the undamaged walls. The damaged part of the church was repaired. The church is reflective of Philippine 19th century architecture, Baroque style. Philippine adaptation of Western Style with no similarities in the Orient. The excessive use of ornamented bricks; stamped and embossed which is unique to the country.

Palanan Wilderness: the Philippines Largest Undisturbed Rain Forest

Palanan Wilderness Area (east side of northern Luzon, due east of Banaue, not near any roads) is a large tract of undisturbed forest which forms a large part of the combined nature preserve of the Northern Sierra Madre National Park and Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape. It contains the most extensive area of preserved rainforest in the Philippines (3,594.86 square kilometers). The larger of two remaining areas of intact primeval forest in Luzon (the other being a much smaller wooded area in the Cordilleras); the area is considered one of the most diverse forests in the world. Known as the Palanan Complex, Palanan Rainforest, or Palanan Wilderness Area, it was designated a wilderness area in 1979. In 1997, it was designated a national park also known as the Northern Sierra Madre National Park. In 2003 this conservation area was combined with the neighboring Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape. [Source: Kheem Caparas, Vigattin Tourism, June 22, 2012 vigattintourism.com

According to UNESCO: “Palanan Wilderness, Northeast Luzon- encompasses 200,000 ha. of prime virgin forest, revealing 10 percent of the country's protected wooodlands. The area shelters more than 200 species of birds including a small gathering of the Philippine Eagle. Along the coast of Sierra Madre, a small community of the Dumagat tribe resides with logging as their prime source of livelihood. Another group settling in the area are Negritos.”

The park consists of land and marine areas. Its landscape is hilly to mountainous, with the Sierra Madre Mountain Range running through it. There are several peaks in the north to south mountain range area rising higher than 1,000 meters. These include Mt. Divilican, Mt. Cresta, and Mt. Palanan. The Palanan River is the major river which runs through this area.

The Palanan Wilderness Area mainly attracts trekkers and mountaineers. Its coastal waters are good for snorkeling and scuba diving. Attractions that may be explored within the national park are the Fuyot Springs National Park, which includes the Isabela Sanctuary, where the Santa Victoria Caves, a zoo, and a botanical park.

The park has 12 major types of forests and marine habitats. It is home to a large number of endangered and protected animal and plant species which are indigenous to the Philippines. As much as 45 % of all plant species native to the Philippines and more than 50 % of threatened local wildlife may be found in these forests. The lowland areas are covered by lush undisturbed dipterocarp rainforest while higher altitude areas are covered by montane forest. Along its coastline are estuaries, mangrove and beach forests, beds of sea-grass, and coral reefs which serve as important ecosystems as well. Wildlife that can be found in the area Philippine eagle and Rufous-bellied eagle cloud rat, Philippine sail-fin water lizard, the estuarine crocodile, and Gray’s monitor lizard, Twelve new species of reptiles and 15 new species of amphibians that are unique to the country are found here.

Consisting of forests in the northern half of the 1.7-million-hectare Sierra Madre mountain range, the park lies in the east of the province of Isabela. To its north is the Diktayan River while Disabunga River forms its southern border. To the west is the Cagayan Valley. To the east, it reaches the coast of the Philippine Sea.

Getting There: The remote wilderness is accessible only by light aircraft or by sea. A light aircraft to the area is available from Cauayan Airport or from Tuguegarao Airport through CHEMTRAD. It is accessible by pumpboat from Sta. Ana in Cagayan and Baler in Aurora Province. One can also hike to the park from from San Mariano, Cauayan or Ilagan, Isabela. The nearest places to stay are in Tuguegarao, Cagayan Valley and Isabela.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

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p>Text Sources: Philippines Tourism websites, Philippines government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.


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