Earlier this year, I joined the second leg of Lakbay Norte 2, a media tour around provinces in the North. The six-day tour, organized by the North Philippines Visitors Bureau (NPVB) took us to the provinces of Cagayan and Ilocos. I’ve written about the whole trip for Sunday Inquirer Magazine titled 10 Things to do in Cagayan and Ilocos so now I’ll be posting a series of blogs and more photos from the trip.
Day 1: Cagayan food-trip
A delay in our morning flight to Tuguegarao from Manila caused what was supposed to be a leisurely morning snack, lunch and dinner spread out during the day to be jam-packed into a series of meals after our mid-afternoon arrival.
Our first stop at the Provincial Capitol of Tuguegarao, was a snack of Pancit batil patong, hot chocolate and kakanin. The pancit was delicious but very filling that most of us barely finished half of the plate knowing we had several meals ahead of us. Pancit batil patong is made with miki noodles and sautéed meat (either pork, beef or carabeef) and is a specialty of Tuguegarao. It’s served with a sauce of fresh onions, vinegar, toyo and calamansi. The rich and sweet hot chocolate and kakanin balanced out the savory meal.
After a brief tour around the Cagayan Museum, we made our way to our next destination – Gonzaga.
It was dark when we got to the rough road going down to Matara Coral Reef and White sand Beach in San Jose, Gonzaga, where a seafood buffet was waiting for us. The area, which is about 1.7 km from the highway has no electricity, but locals set up lights from a generator and attached bulbs to a canopy covering a long table filled with dishes of steamed crabs, shrimps, matara fish, talakitok and soup, which had been ready and waiting since lunch time.
During the meal, the Mayor of Gonzaga told us that the 3-km white sand beach we were on is actually a marine protected area “overflowing with fish.” He said that by day one could see various fish species, sea urchins and lobsters swimming in the clear waters. They’re actually planning to develop this into a tourist spot, but right now the area is not viable for electricity because of its distance and the fact that there are only 21 households in the community.
We were humbled by the hospitality of the community who had prepared so much food for us, gathered to meet us and gave us packages of pasalubong as we left. There was a faint twinkling of fireflies above the trees as we made our way back to the bus and to our first pit stop for the trip.
Night 1: The Luxurious Sun City Resort
After our festive meal in Gonzaga, we traveled some more to a town at the very tip of Luzon: Sta. Ana, Cagayan where we checked in at the luxurious Sun City Resort, also known as Cagayan Holiday and Leisure Resort.
Though we were still extremely full from the seafood dinner, another gourmet buffet meal was waiting for us there. As expected, the food was excellent, especially the fresh mushroom soup and dessert.
After walking in the dark from a municipality with no electricity, it seemed almost surreal to be dining in such a refined resort and being served by uniformed waiters the same night.
After the long day of travel, we finally checked into the classy Asian-inspired villas which had two bedrooms, its own sala and two bathrooms. My roommates Astra of Expat Magazine and Sheryl of Space Magazine agreed to leave our bags outside first to take pictures of the classy interiors before we messed it up. We found the place very cozy and relaxing and proceeded to try and fit in the goodies from the first day in our luggage before going to sleep.
The next day, we woke up to pouring rain that did not bode well for our island-hopping trip. While waiting for the rain to ease a bit, I explored and took some photos of the lobby and other amenities.
A courtyard at the back of the restaurant led to the area with an infinity pool, gym and a small lounge area. A small shed housed ATVs, jet skis and kayaks for rent as well. Too bad we didn’t get to try them out, but I wouldn’t mind staying longer here again with friends or family. For Sun City resort rates check out this earlier post.
Next up: Island hopping in Palaui