Quirino Province Is Not In My Long Wanderlist.
As a then-gradeschooler, I know that the province of Quirino is part of Region 2. As a slave in the legislative branch of government, I know that it is a lone congressional district represented by (then-eligible bachelor) Cong. Dakila Carlo Cua. As a traveler, I know nothing about the province (shame on me!) except that I would have to pass through it, if I wanted to reach its northern neighbor by land. Honestly, Quirino Province is not in my looong wanderlist.
A few days back, those are the only things I know about the province named after the sixth President of the Philippines. But that changed when Random Road Trip #5 (RRT) gave me an opportunity to explore the little-known, non-touristy province of Quirino, and discover its tourism splendor in all its rawness and unspoilt charm.
Quirino – A Tourism Splendor Charming and Raw
A six-hour travel brought us to Quirino a few minutes past 5A.M. We checked-in with our homestay host, Nanay Son, in Diffun. (We were thrilled to know that just a few days before, the crew of a local travel show stayed there as well.) We began our exploration soon after breakfast. I, together with a few stubborn souls, cramped at the back of a pick up truck and braved the morning cold and the scorching afternoon heat for the best vantage point in exploring the province. We felt like we had the best seats in the theatre as we watch the landscape of Quirino with a bonus view of the Sierra Madre mountain range.
Our first stop is Pensal Falls in San Benigno, Aglipay. We had to trek down vast corn fields under the crying sky to be able to see the three-tier waterfall. The first tier is perfect for cliff diving. To reach the top, it’s a choice between a tough rock climb and a steep hike. The second tier is perfect for water sliding. (Wohoo!) Whatever fancies your adventurous heart would be rewarded by an exhilarating freefall and the embrace of cold water.
After our rainy and muddy encounter in Pensal Falls, we proceeded to Aglipay Caves and Campsite for spelunking. The Aglipay Caves is composed of eight caverns. We were lucky enough to have explored four of these limestone chambers: Chamber 1, 2, 3, and 8.
As with any two-day RRT, the first day ended with a night of music and fun with the gang.
Quirino For Adventure Junkies
The following day, cold morning fog greeted us. We had our breakfast at the Governor’s Cottage In the municipality of Cabarroguis, overlooking a government project (read more below) that will surely attract more adventure junkies to this part of north Luzon.
After our first meal of the day, we were welcomed by the rocky terrain and the erratic waters (still waters and rapids) of Cagayan River. The river cruise started at Siitan Boating Area in Ponggo, Nagtipunan, where Quirino’s own Titanic, the ship-shaped stone Bimmapor can be seen. As we traversed the river in small boats (capacity of 4-6 people), we were vicariously transported to the setting of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Several rock formations can be seen along the river. The river cruise is in itself an adventure as boats “volt in” in some instances to allow the motorized boats to assist the non-motorized, paddle-powered boats in crossing strong current areas. The river cruise stopped at a picnic area in Sangbay, Nagtipunan.
From there, we headed to Governor’s Rapid in the town of Maddela to discover a hidden cave. Following a 10-minute (or so) duck walk and crawl from the mouth of the cave is a stunning surprise: Bisangal Falls, a waterfall inside the cave! Talk about instant gratification. The water is ice cold with water pressure that could rival that of a spa offering hydrotherapy massage. To go out the cave, there are two options: to go back the way you went in (which is rocky and which involves lots of crawling) or another trail (which involves a little bit of rock climbing). Achievement unlocked: I was able to make it out alive through the cave’s narrow exit, thanks to my travel companions.
Before heading back to Metro Manila, we grabbed the opportunity to eat one of their delicacies, Pancit Batil Patong in San Marcos, Cabarroguis. The noodle they use is Pancit Cabagan and is served with egg and soup.
Reasons To Go Back To Quirino Province
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One weekend is not enough to discover everything this landlocked province has to offer. If we had more time, we would have climbed the dome-shaped Mount Nagbukel in the town of Diffun. We would have visited the makers of fossilized flowers in San Marcos, Cabarroguis (Hello, pasalubong!). We would have enjoyed wakeboarding. Yes, you’ve read that right. Wakeboarding! I’ll let you in on a secret: The local government of Quirino is developing a wakeboarding facility in Cabarroguis which is expected to be operational by next year. Huzzah! Another reason to go back to Quirino.
RRT5 is definitely one for the books and Quirino gave me one of the best weekends thus far. The 6-hour, more than 350-kilometer land trip is worth every waking second, every awkward sleeping position. It’s unfortunate that many visitors merely pass through Quirino on their way to its more prominent neighbors without really exploring it. Quirino is definitely a haven for travelers who are looking for adventure and a chance to commune with nature.
We would like to extend our gratitude to Governor Junie Cua, the Provincial Tourism Office team, to Nanay Corazon Eartsen, and to all the warm people of Quirino. Thank you very much for helping us discover the hidden treasures of Quirino, and for helping us gain greater appreciation for this non-touristy province.