Tucked away in the far northeast of the Philippine archipelago is a paradise waiting to be discovered. Only a few adventurous souls have actually ventured to this part of the country not because it is far or unknown but because you will have to cross the Sierra Madre mountains to witness the breathtaking scenery of this beautiful province.
May 30 to April 4, Tara Let’s Go Asia organised it 7th Random Road Trip. And this time to the province of Isabela, an adventurers paradise. We would have never thought of going to this place had it not for the intriguing adventure stories of 2 week treks to the Sierra Madre Mountains, cans of sardines being exchange for kilos of lobsters, meeting the oldest tribe in the Philippines based on the worldwide anthropological research.
Few words came to mind, ADVENTURE, EPIC, DANGEROUS, VIRGIN, NEW, UNEXPLORED, FUN.
And guess what?
ISABELA PROVINCE is AN ADVENTURE DESTINATION.
The people. The city. The wild nature. The unspoilt landscape. Everything about this unknown place in Northern Luzon exceeded our expectations.
Our adventure led us to witness floating houses, baby crocodiles, cave explorations, theme parks, pebble beaches, wild waves, unspoilt rivers, rustic white sand beaches, enchanting lagoons all discovered in various forms of transport – from buses to coasters to Cessna planes to tricycles, ATVs, speed boats, normal boats, and jet ski’s.
Isabela is definitely A MUST DO adventure destination.
Where is Isabela Province?
Isabela is a province of the Philippines, the second largest province in the country next to Palawan. It is located in the Cagayan Valley region in the island of Luzon. Its capital is Ilagan and borders, clockwise from the south, Aurora, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, Ifugao, Mountain Province, Kalinga, and Cagayan. This primarily agricultural province is the rice and corn granary of Luzon due to its plain and rolling terrain. In 2012, the province was declared as country’s top producer in corn with 1,209,524 production.
It is named as the 10th richest province in the Philippines.
The province is the home to one of the world’s largest remaining low-altitude rain forests, with numerous unknown endemic species of flora and fauna and exceptional biological diversity.
We were so lucky that the Tourism Office of Isabela through the assistance of Echague Barangay Captain, Francisco “Kiko” Dy, helped us sort an exciting itinerary. Do you want to know more about Isabela Province, check their website – www.provinceofisabela.ph
LET’S TAKE THE BUS
For Random Road Trip #7, we decided to take a local bus to venture to Isabela Province. We asked all the Random Road Trippers participants to meet at Victory Liner Bus Terminal Kamias-EDSA station for the 8PM departure. We were met with both familiar and new faces who are as excited as we are in taking this epic adventure.
Of Special Transport, Floating Villages, Baby Dinosaurs and Pancit Cabagan
After 8 hours of traveling, we arrived in Cauayan, Isabela at around 6AM. Jonathan Edica of the Isabela Tourism Office picked us up in Isabela’s provincial coaster. Sweet ride! (Thank you Gov. Bogie Dy and Bgy. Captain Kiko Dy for helping us with our ride).
Our first itinerary was to see the famous Magat Dam, one of the largest dam in the Philippines, and go around the floating village of Magat Dam. Afterwards, we visited the Mabuwaya Foundation or Crocodile Farm in San Mariano, Isabela, to witness the conservation efforts of the Isabela government to protect the endangered crocodiles and one of the few crocodile sanctuary in the country. Before the group started its conservation efforts, only around 100 mature Philippine crocodiles were left in the country, especially in the wilds of Isabela and Liguasan Marsh in Maguindanao, making the species among the world’s most endangered reptiles.
We were lucky enough to see the nursery where baby crocodiles are hatched and kept until they are ready to be brought to their natural habitat.
After a long day of travel, we decided to have one of food pride of Isabela, the Pancit Cabagan. Pancit Cabagan is one hell of a delicious noodle dish that originated from the Isabela province, like any other noodle dishes in the Philippines its roots are of Chinese origin. This dish for me looks like a cross between the Pancit Canton and Pancit Palabok, sometimes it nearly looks similar to Hokkien Mee but had more sauce.
A Road Trip That Takes It to the Skies
For the past 6 Random Road Trips, we’ve been surprising our road trippers with various forms of transports. Random Road Trip #7 is no different. This time we took it to the skies. We chartered a 19 seater plane of Sky Pasada to bring us to the coastal area of Isabela.
On the second day of our Random Road Trip – Isabela Province, we went to the coastal islands of Isabela. Our first destination is the Municipality of Maconacon. Maconacon, along with Isabela’s other coastal towns of Divalacan, Dinapigue and Palanan are cut-off from the rest of Isabela by the Sierra Madre Mountain.
If you plan to visit these coastal towns, you must be prepared to rough it out since there are no formal lodgings, limited cellular signal, and limited public transport. However, what makes up for it is the cheap seafood. From fresh fishes to succulent lobsters. Yes, you got it right! Lobsters are so very affordable that you will probably eat so much till you drop.
Of Beautiful Seascapes
What attracted us the most in the coastal areas of Isabela is its amazing seascape. In my frequent travels around the Philippine archipelago, I’ve never witnessed seascapes so wild, unspoiled, and awe inspiring. No tourist. No trash. No random beach peddlers. Just pure bliss.
What made Random Road Trip #7 the most epic of our Random adventures is the crazy transports we had to take to experience the coastal towns of Isabela. You will be introduced to small 3 seater boats that is used to carry motorcycles across the river. You will feel like Indian Jones when you ride the 3 to 6 seater Cessna planes of Cyclone Air. You will rough and rugged by riding the local kuliglig. Or if you are really old school, some of us even took the reliable carabao for a ride.
Which of these rides will you choose?
What Our Itinerary Looked Like
DAY 01: May 01 (Thursday)
- Camp Vizcarra Ecology Park in Gen. Aguinaldo, Ramon – Entrance Fee: PhP 5.00/person
- Magat Dam in Ramon
- Crocodile Sanctuary in San Mariano
- Santa Victoria Sanctuary in Ilagan City
- San Victoria Cave – Main Cave, Moon Cave, Altar Cave
- Animal Kingdom
DAY 02: May 02 (Friday)
- Tuguegarao City Airport
- Municipal Hall of Maconacon
- Santiago Beach in Brgy. Diana, Maconacon
- Blos River in Brgy. Reyna Mercedes, Maconacon
- Romualdes Beach in Brgy. Sumadag, Maconacon
- Pantalan in Brgy. Sumadag, Maconacon (Diving 101)
DAY 03: May 03 (Friday)
- Pavilion in Divilacan
- Municipal Hall of Divilacan
- Stagno Island (a.k.a Honeymoon Island) in Divilacan
- Culasi, Palanan
DAY 04: May 04 (Saturday)
- Pinacanauan River in Palanan
- Blue Lagoon in Palanan
- Aguinaldo Shrine in Palanan
- River of No Return in Palanan
- Dicotcotan Beach in Palanan
DAY 05: May 05 (Monday)
- Cauyan Airpor
- Back to Manila
Useful Information That You Might Need
- Isabela is 380 kilometers away from Metro Manila with a lot of zig-zag roads. Our trip took 7 hours with 2 stop overs via Victory Bus Liner.
- If you got motion sickness, bring motion sickness medicine for it. The zig-zag road will torture you.
- Before you leave Manila. Call the tourism office. Isabela has many attractions and many of the places need to be booked and arranged. In our experience, the Tourism Office of Isabela are super duper friendly, accommodating and easy to talk to. I was so surprised that they even got set a proposed itinerary and took time to make arrangements for us. We felt really special.
- For most your concerns, contact Mr Jonathan Edica of the Provincial Tourism Office at 0905 390 1255. He was our designated tour guide for our stay. Aside from amazing humour, his knowledge of the coastal area Isabela is outstanding. Tell him about Tara Let’s Go Experience and I am sure he will entertain you guys like crazy.
Our Adventure Goes On With Experience Philippines
Random Road Trip #7 takes the cake, the icing, and everything else! A province which very few know off and even a lot fewer who brave this undiscovered paradise.
All we can say, we really had an adventure of a lifetime! A truly EPIC JOURNEY that concludes the Random Road Trips of Tara Let’s Go Asia! It was a crazy wild adventure that we all wished it would never end. As much as we had fun in our wild discoveries. It was the HOSPITALITY and KINDNESS of the people of Isabela that made our trip an adventure to remember.
Our heartfelt thanks goes to Governor Faustino “Bojie” Dy III, Echague Brgy. Captain Francis Faustino “Kiko” Dy, and their amazing staff in the Provincial Office – Jonathan Edica, Bobby Abay and Joey Tejada for making the trip exciting and memorable. We cannot thank you enough for your Hospitality. A big shout out goes to Maconacon Mayor Ma. Lucelle Kate Vicente and Vice-Mayor Jolly Taberner, fortaking time to show us around. And most especially to Palanan Mayor Angelo “Bimbo” Bernardo and Mrs. Eden Bernardo for taking care of us when we stayed in Palanan, Isabela.
However, this Random Road Trip would not have been as fun and wild if not for 12 crazy people who trusted us in joining this road trip without any idea of where to go and what to expect. YOU GUYS ROCK!!!
Thank you Evie Go, LadyAnn Tuazon Canlas,Tristan Samson,John Garcia, Lorraine Fonseca, Sam Santiago,Patricia Esmaquel, Roz Carmen, Pao Go, CeciLia Ayubo, Eunice Enriquez, Maria Del Cielo Gamboa and Tristan’s Bag for making this as the MOST EPIC RANDOM ROAD TRIP we ever had!!!
You can view our Isabela Adventure here – Random Road Trip #7 Photo Gallery