By Paulina Corpuz

In 23 days, 7 churches, 4 cemeteries, 3 caves and more than 10 islands (excluding restaurants and shopp]ing malls) by plane and privately rented van, we toured Northern Luzon plus Coron.

The Mission

What compelled me to go back to the Philippines, after 15 years, was to reunite our father and mother. When my mother died in 2002, there was no room in my father’s family burial site so my mom was buried in a separate site. With the population of the Philippines being greater than its physical size, cemeteries get full fast. After many years of wishing and planning, my siblings and I finally decided to go home.

Isabela Province

Mission first before pleasure. After an overnight stay in Manila, our first destination was Ilagan (Isabela) to pay respect to our parents. Our “hopping” trip, as my son described it, began.

The Japanese War Tunnel, a new tourist spot, offered a brief glimpse of the Japanese occupation in Ilagan. Victoria Caves, located in Ilagan Sanctuary, was remarkable, with its adventurous caves, swan rides, and trails.

Cagayan Province

Visiting Our Lady of Piat Basilica was a family gettogether occasion. It is one of the twelve minor basilicas in the country. She is the patroness of the Cagayan Valley. Callao Caves, located in Penablanca, Cagayan, is a seven chambered cave. At the time of our visit, chambers 6 and 7 were not open for tourists due to the recent typhoon that ravaged the province.

Coron , Palawan

Coron’s attraction is its rustic and relatively untarnished nature. We went island hopping this time. We visited the Twin Lagoon, Kayangan Lake, Banana Island, Coral Reefs Garden, Sunken Japanese Wrecks, Malcapuya, and a few more. I snorkelled for the first time and viewed the awesome beauty of the coral reefs and the wrecks. The firefly tour is an enchanting experience.

Cruising down a river at night and slowly approaching the mangrove trees, waving our hands in the water to watch the lights from the planktons. A sight to behold.

Mountain Provinces

Via Nueva Viscaya we reached Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao to Sagada with a stop at Bay-yo Rice Terraces Viewpoint. In Banaue, my son witnessed the indigenuous delivery method up in the mountainscable delivery-moving baggages through a cable wire. We had fun in Bayyo taking pictures with “Tatang” who was in full tribal gear. Tatang even directed the photoshoot.

Sumaguing Cave is like descending to “middle” earth: crawling, slowly creeping barefoot through  slippery wet rocks and holding on rocks (sometimes covered with bat poop) for balance. It is quite an adventure. With a lantern and flashlight, rock formations were pointed to us: the chocolate cake, the King’s curtain, etc.

To complete our Sagada trip, we visited Ganduyan Museum, a rich source of information about Sagada and the Mountain Province history; the Hanging coffins, an Igorot tribe custom of burying their dead; Sagada Pottery, and St. Mary’s Cathedral. We missed Sagada weaving. My son made his first pottery.

Ilocos Region

Pagudpud is a few hours from Claveria through the Patapat Bridge. Hannah’s beach, a well-known destination in Pagudpud, is great for families with children.

We dropped by the old Paoay church on our way to Vigan. In Vigan, we watched the Dancing Water Fountain Lights, visited Crisologo Museum, watched pottery making at Pagburnayan and walked the famous Calle Crisologo. We bought more souvenirs and my son explored rock formations.

Sta . Ignacia , Tarlac

The journey to Sta. Ignacia took us along the beautiful lakeshores of Pangasinan. We stopped at a roadside market to buy dried danggit, dilis and pusit for pasalubong. We had a different kind of fun here. We woke up at dawn to the chorus of roosters’ crowing, dogs’ barking and church bells’ tolling. We enjoyed shopping at the local mall and sitting on the “duyan”; and, visiting the rice farm, fighting cocks’ farm, bamboo forest and my husband’s school.

Family , friends and relatives

People are more important than places. Family get-togethers, dinner meetings, the warm hugs and welcoming smiles are most precious to me. The Filipino people make the Philippines much more fun. I just hope that they enjoy the beauty of the Philippines that is in their midst.

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