Cagayan – A True Spelunker’s Paradise


Cagayan is the Regional Seat of the Cagayan Valley Region.

Tuguegarao City, the capital, is the seat of commerce and trade and center for learning. The province has 73 percent of the region’s potential fishing area.

Known as the spelunker’s, trekker’s, and game fishers paradise rolled into one, Cagayan provides a never-ending adventure with ecotourism in the forefront of its offering. Both foreign and local tourists continue to explore its caves, engage in game fishing expeditions, trek its mighty mountains and retreat to its centuries-old churches.

Present-day chroniclers say that the name was derived from the word “tagay,” a kind of plant that grows abundantly in the northern part of the province. Thus, “Catagayan” which means a place where the tagay grows abundantly was shortened to “Cagayan,” the present name of the province.


Source: Viggatin Tourism

The province is bounded by the Pacific Ocean on the east, on the south is Isabela province, on the west is the Cordillera Mountain, and on the north by the Balintang Channel and the Babuyan Group of Islands. 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 60 nautical miles north of Luzon mainland.

The province comprises an aggregate land area of 9,002.70 square kilometers, which constitutes three percent of the total land area of the country, making it the second-largest province in the region.

Political Subdivision

Cagayan has 28 municipalities and one city divided into three congressional districts. It has 816 barangays. Tuguegarao City (as of December 18, 1999) 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.


Cagayan has a total population of 993,580 as of the year 2000 census of population or 110.36 persons per square kilometer.


Languages in the province 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.


Seasons in the province are not very pronounced. The relatively dry season occurs during the months of March to June and the rainy season from July to October, although it is relatively cold during the months of November to February.


Agricultural products are rice, corn, peanuts, beans, and fruits. Livestock products include cattle, hogs, carabaos, and poultry. Fishing various species of fish from the coastal towns is also undertaken. Woodcraft furniture made of hardwood, rattan, bamboo, and other indigenous materials are also available in the province.

Cagayan History…

 Source: Philippinetravelsite

In 1581, Captain Juan Pablo Careon, native of Vizcaya, a province of Spain, with one hundred soldiers fully equipped with arms and ammunition and other provisions, came to Cagayan with their families by order of Don Gonzalo Ronquillo de Peñalosa, the fourth Spanish Civil Governor, to explore the Cagayan Valley and to convert the natives to Christianity as well as to establish ecclesiastical missions and towns throughout the valley. This was the first batch of Spanish settlers in the Cagayan Valley who introduced Spanish culture and Latin civilization, enriching primitive culture, customs, and traditions.

On June 29, 1583, Don Juan de Salcedo traced the northern coastline of Luzon and set foot on the Massi (Pamplona), Tular, and Aparri areas. The Spanish friars soon established mission posts in Camalaniugan and Lallo, which became the seat of Nueva Segovia established on August 14, 1595. The Spanish influence can still be seen in the massive churches and other buildings that the Spaniards built for the spiritual and social welfare of the people.

With the Treaty of Paris signed in 1898, ending the war between Spain and the United States, America took over the Philippines and enriched the culture, most notably in agriculture and education as well as in public works and communications. At the close of the 18th century, there were 29 municipalities in the province of Cagayan. When the Philippines came under American sovereignty in 1902, 35 municipalities have been founded. Since then, however, on account of the tendency at centralization and shifting of the population as a result of the opening of roads and public agricultural lands, only 29 municipalities now remain. (Source: Cagayan Souvenir Program 1968)

Cagayan Is Famous For…

  1. Iguig Calvary Hills-It showcases the larger-than-life-size 14 Stations of the Cross and is a favorite destination during the Holy Week.

  1. Local Delicacies-Longanisa, peanuts, and peanut products, carabao milk candy are some of the favorite pasalubong choices from the province.
  2. Cave Exploration-Caves of different classifications abounds in the province, which makes it a spelunker’s paradise. The Peñablanca Protected Landscape, the northern corridor to the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, is home to some 300 caves, 75 of which have been documented by the National Museum and 30 have been mapped by the British Exploration Club and its local counterpart, the Sierra Madre Outdoor Club. On April 7-13, 2003, SMOC hosted the 24th Mountaineering Federation Philippines, Inc., Congress and Climb which was attended by some 200 outdoor enthusiasts.
  3. Mountains & Forests-The province’s unspoiled mountains and forests are well recommended for outdoor activities like trekking, mountain climbing, and exploration, camping, among others. These activities are also good sources of livelihood for rural communities.
  4. Rivers & Seas-Clean rivers and seas make the province ideal for water sports activities like swimming, boating, fishing, kayaking, and white river rafting. The lower basin of the Cagayan River is found in Aparri, Cagayan where a fluvial parade attended by more than a hundred fishing boats is being conducted every May 10. Also, the Cagayan River is the longest and widest river in the country. It starts from the Province of Nueva Vizcaya and snakes down to Cagayan.
  5. Bridges-Magapit Hanging Bridge, built in the early seventies, is one of the first hanging bridges in Asia. Another bridge, Buntun Bridge, is the longest river bridge in the country. Both bridges span the mighty Cagayan River.
  6. Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat-It is a favorite destination of pilgrims who pray for favors, healing, and other special graces. The image, which came from Macau, is said to be miraculous and is made of papier-mache. Other brick churches constructed during the Spanish times are also a favorite destination by pilgrims. These churches are still unreinforced and are located along national highways. 
  7. Native Furniture-Export quality furniture made of softwood and hardwood and rattan products and furniture are among the popular buys from the province.
  8. Tuguegarao Pancit-Known locally as Batil Patung, the Tuguegarao Pancit is made of local noodles. Tourists are allowed to witness the actual preparation of this local delicacy in some local panciteria in Tuguegarao City.
  9. Peñablanca Caves-Callao Cave, just outside Penablanca, is ideal for the traveler who wants a brief taste of the underground. But the region is packed with dozens of other caves, some partially explored, others still virgin. Sierra, only a 15-minute walk from Callao, has huge chambers filled with white, crystal-studded columns. At Odessa, a cave system with over 8km of known passages and others yet to be explored, spelunkers pass through elephant-sized walkways and narrow, tortuous squeezes. Formations include calcite grottoes and crystalline flowstones. Another cave, Heaven, has a fantastic chamber, which is a highlight of the underground experience. Heaven can be hellish to get to, but those who have been there agreeing that it’s worth the effort. 

Things to Do and see in Cagayan…



Image Source:|Flickr

Known as the home of the “mestizas” in northern Cagayan. The town whose former name was featured in the annals of Philippine history as “Nueva Segovia” was one of the first four cities in the Philippines. It was the seat of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia; the chosen capital of Cagayan Valley in the 16th century; and the capital of Cagayan province until 1839.

Cagayan Provincial Museum & Historical Research Center

Located at the Provincial Capitol Complex, it was conceived by the Provincial Board in 1971 and became operational on its inauguration on August 15, 1973, during the traditional Aggao NAC Cagayan. It is a general museum and houses an extensive collection of artifacts, antiques, ethnographic, trade wares, heirloom pieces and liturgical works of the province, and fossils of animals that once roamed the valley. The center is only five kilometers from Tuguegarao City.

Rev. Fr. Gerry Z. Fillipe Ho, Ofm Memorial Museum (Sta. Ana)

“Constructed in loving memory of the late founder of the Franciscan Apostolate Sisters. Contents of the museum include all the personal belongings of Father Ho, such as prayer books, vestments, missals, and memorabilia like pictures, clothes, and the first vehicle used by the sisters in the apostolate to the barrios. A chapel dedicated to Padre Pio exists in the premises. The museum is about 175 km. from Tuguegarao City. It is owned by the Franciscan Apostolate Sisters. Entrance fee is Php25.00/pax. Tel. no. (0917) 981 7752. Contact persons: Sr. Miluna Ruiz Cielo, FAS, and Mother Agnes H. Cabote, FAS.”

Pannaddamman Museum

“Located inside the Cagayan State University campus at Carig, Tuguegarao City, it showcases the tradition of the native Ibanag and Ilocano from birth to death by using mannequins. The museum also boasts of a shell midden from the archeological site of Lallo, old coins and political history, and home and farm implements, among others.

Open during weekdays. On weekends call (078) 844 1949 for an appointment. Entrance fee is Php10.00/pax.”


The Cagayan Robina Sugar Milling Corporation is built amidst thousands of hectares of sugarcane plantation. The building stands along the highway of Sto. Domingo, Piat which is about 30 kilometers from Tuguegarao on the way to the Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat.


Callao Caves Tourist Zone

“Located within the Peñablanca Protected Landscape; 24 kilometers from Tuguegarao. The seven-chambered Callao Caves boast of massive limestone and other rock formations, skylights, and a chapel. Other pristine and undisturbed caves with living rock formations in the area include Sierra Cave, Quibal Cave, Odessa-Tumbali Cave System, Jackpot Cave, Roc and San Carlos Caves, among others. These caves can be explored with guides from Sierra Madre Outdoor Club (SMOC), Adventures and Expedition Philippines, Inc. (AEPI), and North Adventures.

More than 300 caves dot the area, 75 of which have been documented by the National Museum since 1977. Within the area is the Pinacanauan River conducive for river rafting or boating, kayaking, fishing, and swimming while the mountains are perfect for trekking and mountaineering. Daily circadian flight of bats from a bat cave occur at dusk.”

Jackpot Cave

Located at Sitio Tumallo, Barangay Quibal in Peñablanca. At 115 meters, it is the second deepest cave in the Philippines. The cave has a walking-size passage, shafts, and drops of varying depths that provide for a lot of rope work. Meandering streams and gour pools of varying sizes abound. A sump of undetermined depth backs up on wet season flooding the lower section of the cave to the roof as evidenced by large logs jammed in the roof of the cave.

Odessa-Tumbali Cave System

Source:Travel notes

Located at Sitio Abbenditan, Barangay Quibal in Peñablanca. At 12.60 kilometers, it is the third-longest cave in the Philippines. Known locally as Abbenditan Cave, it is active, flood-prone, and provides excellent wet sport caving. It has superb formations and passage shapes, canals and lakes for swimming, photography, and cave diving opportunities, and varied fauna. Acknowledged to be a perfect cave system, it has five known entrances with potential to exceed its length to 15 kilometers.


San Carlos Cave

Probably one of the toughest caves the Philippines could offer. When inside the cave, spelunkers will learn the art of cave crawling. A chamber called “Ice Cream Parlor” contains a cluster of white stalagmites that resemble scooped ice cream. The “John the Baptist” chamber is a very deep underwater sump that one has to take a deep breath and swim to the other side of the chamber. Sharp and rough stones could scratch the skin and tear clothing. San Carlos requires a lot of swimming because more than half of the cave is covered by cold running subterranean water.

San Vicente, Sta. Ana & the Palaui Island

Ideal water and sports fishing destinations. Sta. Ana, Philippine Sailfish Capital, is famous worldwide for its abundant marine life and is the site of national and international game fishing competitions. The Cape Engaño Lighthouse in Palaui Island dates back to the Spanish Regime and is the only operational lighthouse in the northeastern coast. The island boasts of rich marine resources and uncontaminated environs have been declared under Coastal Environmental Protection by the DENR and are very ideal for ecotourism activities. The island is 30 minutes from the mainland by “lampitao” and is very ideal for all types of water sports. Picnic areas include Navidad Islet and Mapurao Beach at the east of the mainland.

Also in Sta. Ana is Port Irene which is being developed as an international port of call by Cagayan Economic Zone Authority and Free Port. The town of Sta. Ana is about 158 kilometers from Tuguegarao City.

Black & Fine Sand Beaches

There is a wide expanse of these beaches sprawling along with the coastal towns of Sanchez Mira, Sta. Praxedes, Claveria, Buguey, Buguey, Aparri, Ballesteros, Abulug, and the islands of Palaui, Fuga, and island municipality of Calayan. Sanchez Mira, Claveria, and Sta. Praxedes have facilities for homestay while Fuga Island is being developed as a world-class recreation and tourism center. The airstrip at Claveria could be used as a jump-off point to Fuga Island.

Portabaga Falls

Located in Sta. Praxedes, it is one of the tallest falls in Cagayan. Approximately 15 meters in height, it has three drops off points and a big man-made catch basin for swimming. Sta. Praxedes is 194 kilometers from Tuguegarao and the falls is about 100 meters from the highway.

Cagayan River / Rio Grande de Cagayan

The Philippines’ mightiest watercourse – the longest and widest river in the country. Small streams originating from Balete Pass, Cordillera, Caraballo, and Sierra Madre Mountains meet other streams and rivers and flow to the Cagayan River. The famous “lurung” fish abound in this river during the rainy season when the river is murky and the fish swim upstream from the delta of Aparri to spawn.

Aparri Delta

An impressive expanse of land where one can see the Cagayan River meet with the China Sea. Walk into the jetty at the juncture of the river and the sea to find the awesome mouth of the vast Cagayan River. Stand windblown, experience the beauty and power of the place.


Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat

Image Source:|Foursquare

The Lady of the Visitation was originally called the Lady of the Holy Rosary, perhaps because it was supposedly brought from Macau to the Philippines in 1604 by devotees of the Rosary, the Dominican friars. This almost four-centuries old image of Mary was first enshrined in Nueva Segovia of Lallo but was brought to Piat to convert the Itawes people to Christianity. On June 20, 1954, the Church was declared a National Shrine for Catholic Philippines. The image is famous in the country and abroad as the Black Mary, thus making Piat the pilgrimage center of the Northeast. Pilgrims are drawn to the shrine every year, especially on the Lady’s feast day on July 2.

Iguig Calvary Hills & Parish of St. James the Greater (San Antonio de Galicia)

Located about 16 kilometers from Tuguegarao City. In the 11-hectare rolling hills are the larger-than-life-size concrete 14 Stations of the Cross depicting Jesus Christ’s suffering before his death at Mount Calvary. The statues were completed in 1982. The place also features a three centuries-old well, Dominican convent ruins, and the prosaic view of the Cagayan River which resembles that of the River Jordan. Built of concentric bricks, the church has buttresses, one of the very few left in the country.

Sts. Peter and Paul Metropolitan Cathedral

The seat of the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao. The church with belfry is the biggest Spanish-built church in Cagayan Valley, constructed under the supervision of Fr. Antonio Lobato, OP on June 17, 1761, to 1767 (Cagayan Souvenir Program, 1968). The cathedral suffered massive destruction in WWII and was rebuilt by Msgr. Bishop Constance Jurgens. It is considered as one of the most beautiful works of art in the country and the world today. Its picture appears at Rome Basilica.

St. Hyacinth Church or San Jacinto Chapel

An elevated chapel whose construction dates back from 1604. It was reconstructed after the war and was dedicated on August 16, 1724. It was used as headquarters by American soldiers during the Filipino-American War in 1899. It is 100 years older than Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral.


Alcala’s St. Philomene Church

Located along the Maharlika Highway. Built-in 1881, it stands as a mute witness to the several regimes that have enriched the province’s cultural heritage. Alcala town is also famous for its carabao milk candy.

The Oldest Bell in the Far East

Found in Camalaniugan’s San Jacinto de Polonia Parish. Forged in 1595, it was brought to Manila in 1937 as part of the attractions during the 33rd International Eucharistic Congress. The Quadricentennial Anniversary of the evangelization of Camalaniugan town was celebrated on June 15, 1996. Camalaniugan is 93.6 kilometers from Tuguegarao.


Buntun Bridge

Source:Dangerous Road

Situated 2.5 kilometers from Tuguegarao City proper. Its length of 1.124 kilometers makes it the longest river bridge in the country. It offers an unobstructed view of the Cagayan River.

Magapit Suspension Bridge


One ofthe first of its kind in Asia, it spans the Cagayan River at Lallo and is 0.76 kilometers long. The hanging bridge links the first and second districts of Cagayan going towards the Ilocos Region via the scenic Patapat Road on the Ilocos Norte-Cagayan Inter-Provincial national highway. Travelers can have a good view of the hanging bridge on their way to Aparri. Barangay Magapit in the town of Lallo is about 74 kilometers from Tuguegarao City, or a one hour travel.

St. Paul University

Founded on May 10, 1907 by the sisters of St. Paul de Chartres, four French, and one Chinese nun, the school now boasts of being the only university of St. Paul in the 39 St. Paul Colleges in the country. It was formerly called Colegio de San Pablo in 1907 and started with three classes only, then the name was changed to Sagrado Corazon de Jesus. The last World War heavily damaged the buildings and equipment but the college trudged on bravely, changing its name to Sacred Heart of Jesus Institution, and transferred to where it stands today, then to St. Paul College of Tuguegarao to St. Paul University in 1983. It is a co-educational institution


Semana Santa at Iguig Calvary Hills

Observance of the passion and death of Jesus Christ through larger-than-life-size concrete 14 Stations of the Cross spread on an 11-hectare rolling terrain. Iguig town is about 16 kilometers from Tuguegarao.

 Fluvial Parade (Aparri, Cagayan; May 10)

A local festival featuring a fluvial procession of about a hundred boats of different sizes and shapes in thanksgiving to their Patron, St. Peter Thelmo. Aparri town is about 102 kilometers from Tuguegarao City.

Piat Sambali Festival & Feast of Nuestra Señora de Piat (June 23-30)

Sambali is a war dance of tribes that were united and converted to Christianity through the intercession of the Lady of Piat. The Feast Day of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Piat follows the festival on July 1-2. Piat Basilica Minore, the fourth in the country, houses the image of Mary. Piat town is about 41 kilometers from Tuguegarao City.

 Aggao nac Cagayan (June 24-29)

It is in commemoration of the establishment of the civil government of Cagayan which took place on June 29, 1583.

Pavvurulun Festival (August 13-17)

A local festival featuring a fluvial procession of about a hundred boats of different sizes and shapes in thanksgiving to their Patron, St. Peter Thelmo. Aparri town is about 102 kilometers from Tuguegarao City. 

Special Interest

Scuba Diving, snorkeling and Game Fishing at Palaui Island in Sta. Ana 

Surfing at Claveria and Sanchez Mira

Mountaineering & Trekking

Town of Peñablanca and Palaui Island 


at the Caves of Peñablanca and Baggao

Bird Watching and Bonsai exploration

at Peñablanca

Whale Watching

at Calayan Islands

How to get there…

By Air

The province is serviced by Air Philippines three times a week with the following schedules: MNL-TUG 11:20 am – 12:10 pm; TUG-MNL 12:40pm – 1:30 pm. Fare is Php2,388.00 one way plus Php250.00 Insurance Fee and Php15.00 Aviation Security Fee. Students, senior citizens, children, and military personnel are entitled to discounts. 

For reservations: 

Air Philippines Tuguegarao City Office 

Tel. No. (078) 844-1201 / 846-7199 

24-hour Reservations: 

Tel. No. (02) 855-9000 


The following companies provide the transport requirements for the Cagayan Valley Region: Air Philippines; CHEMTRAD Aviation Corporation (TUG); SEAIR; MV Ivatan Princess; GV Florida Transport Inc.; Royal Eagle; DANGWA Transport; Baliwag Transit; Victory Liner; EMC Bus Corporation; Auto Bus Corporation; Aladdin Bus Company; Dagupan Bus Company; Deltra Bus Company; and Nelbusco.  

By Land

Image Source:|

Tuguegarao is about 485 kilometers north of Metro Manila and can be reached by air-conditioned bus. Independent motorists may take the North Diversion Road and exit at Sta. Rosa Exit

Cagayan Emergency Services…

Medical Facilities

Cagayan Valley Medical Center

People’s Emergency Hospital

Health Centers are available in all municipalities of the province.

Holy Infant Clinic

De Leon Clinic

St. Paul University Hospital 

Lyceum of Aparri Hospital

 St. Joseph Clinic


PNP Stations are found in all municipalities and are located in very conspicuous places. In Tuguegarao.

(078) 844-0166 

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