Saturday, March 7, 2015

QUIRINO PROVINCE: #DiscoverTheUndiscovered

The BACKPACKERS for #DiscoverTheUndiscovered
By Nickson Garcia

What comes out of your mind when you hear someone says "Quirino"? Some would ask "Is Quirino and Quezon Province the same?" Some would say "Ito yung lugar na laging binabagyo." Some would even ask "Are you referring to the Quirino Grandstand?" And perhaps the least wanted response, but we do hear is - "Quirino? Where is that?"

For some travelers, Quirino is at the bottom of their "List of Places to Visit". Maybe the reason is its very limited presence everywhere - online, prints, news on TV and on the radio. I must admit, before this adventure, I would say "There is nothing to see and experience in Quirino."

This trip we had in the Quirino Province gave a concrete answer to those question. For me and for the people who were with me in this adventure, we found a peaceful and a beautiful province. We discovered the undiscovered! And, we wanted to be among the firsts to put this name on the map - QUIRINO. 

Last month, February, The BACKPACKERS (BP) deviated from the usual type of activity it holds. In the past years, it was either to climb the mountain or to rush to the beach. This time, the BP went to an unknown journey for some nature trip and sight seeing. Unbeknownst of what we were about to experience, eight (8) BPs and seven (7) guests traveled for almost nine (9) hours to the north via a rented van discover an "unknown province". Kuya Joni (09234456539), our service driver, endured the long drive so we could safely reach our destination.

In our rented van
Originally, Quirino was part of Nueva Viscaya until it was separate years ago. It was named after the sixth President of the Philippines, the late Elpidio Quirino though he was not a native of the said province.

It was a Friday when we left Manila at ten in the evening. We arrived at the municipality of Diffun at seven in the morning, already Saturday, and we decided to go straight to Diffun Lodge (09174401555). After fixing and doing some final preparation for our unknown activities for that day, I texted Mika, my contact at the Quirino Province Tourism Office. We were all ready and pumped for all the activities Mika had in store for us.

Breakfast at a carinderia
Days prior to this trip, Mika and I were contacting each other to plan on how we would go about exploring the province. We maintained constant communication and updates to ensure engagement and to share changes in the plan. 

We met Mika at the Tourism Office, which is beside Landbank and is located in Cabarroquis, the capital of the province. Mika appeared to be completely the opposite of what I was expecting to see. To be honest, I was expecting a motherly figure but I was so wrong. Mika is just in her early 20's. I guess her phone voice makes her sound more mature than her real age (sorry Mika, I know you might read this). 

In the Tourism Office, different pictures of Quirino's tourist destinations can be seen. I did not actually expect Quirino to have that many tourist destinations... so the more I wondered why there are only few blogs and write ups about this haven. 

The Tourism Office of the Quirino Provincial Capitol offers tour packages that are ideal for groups or company outings. But as backpackers, we chose the "Do It Your Own" way which is much cheaper. It means, we just have to choose our destination and we will go there no complications. 

Going back to our adventure, allow me to enumerate the places that were part of our itinerary on day one.

1. Quirino Provincial Capitol

First in our itinerary was a place that is just a few minutes away from the Tourism Office. We had a view of the Wakeboarding Site for which construction is ongoing. For Wakeboarding enthusiasts, the location and the structure of the site is actually promising. Hopefully, they can finish it before this year ends.

Inspecting the wakeboarding site.
A Wakeboarding Site: Construction is ongoing
The Governor's Cottage is guesthouse overlooking the wakeboarding site. It used to house former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo whenever she was on a vacation in this part of Luzon.

The Governor's Cottage

The Governor's Cottage: A home overlooking the wakeboarding site
Fascinatingly, Mts. Susong Dalaga can be seen immediately right in front of Governor's Cottage. For obvious reasons, it is called that name because of its perfectly contoured built which looks exactly like a woman's breasts.

2. Maddela Falls

Located at Brgy. Dumabato in the Municipality of Maddela, and less than an hour drive from the Tourism Office is Maddela Falls. This seven (7) tiered waterfalls is arguably the most popular in the entire province. During Holy Week, locals and tourists alike visit this place along with their their families and friends to unwind and relax. Its cold, clean, and massaging falls makes Maddela a favorite place.

Guests Rommel, Jen and Marianne with BPs Heinz and Nick
Madella Falls (the lowest tier)
Madella Falls (the highest tier)
BP Isabel and her signature pose
BP Des after two (2) years of absences
BP Kenji returns after a year of absences
BP President Heinz
Guest Ann
Picnic tables and restrooms are available which make this place semi-commercialize. To reach the falls itself, we hiked for about 5 to 10 minutes. Entrance fee is at P25.00 (receipt is issued).

BP Wilson, guest Rommel and I managed to reach the highest tier of the falls. I noticed that the water above was much clearer compared with that in the lower basins. 

3. Governor's Rapids

Moving on with our next destination that we visited on day one was an exciting place that is also found in Madella - the Governor's Rapids.

Exactly situated at Brgy. Divisoria Sur, Governor's Rapids is famous for its gigantic limestone formations and scenic view of the Cagayan River. This destination is suited for people who want to experience kayaking, boating or simply setting up a picnic with family or friends.  

The first word my mouth uttered when we were approaching Governor's Rapids was "Wooooooooooooowww!" And here's why...

Our van got stuck in the mud and we had no choice but to walk a few meters under the sun in order to see and reach the rapids. 

BP Nickson supervising his people (lol)
Walking in the middle of corn fields somehow gave me a feeling that we were in a movie wherein a group of young people are slowly walking amidst the fields. Then, out of nowhere someone or something will grabs our feet and drags us down. Creepy imagination. LOL

The truth is the view of those corn fields are very pleasing to the eye. It is a scenic view, and I am already convinced that Quirino is worth visiting.

The corn fields
BP Ivan
We were stuck at the corn fields
The Governor's Rapids
BP Nickson
Another BP Nickson moment
And another BP Nickson moment
We had an ideal lunch while in an ideal place - a boodle fight courtesy of BP Wilson! Yey!

While we were enjoy our food, Mika told us that we can go to a secret cave with a waterfalls inside it. Without any second thought, everybody rode the boats in twos and threes to see what Mika had just told us.  

Ready to eat!
Boodle fight!
The cave's mouth and passage to the inside part was horizontally low. We needed to crawl for about 90% of the time. But don't worry because after a few minutes you will realize that what's waiting inside is definitely worth actually crawling for! Mika was telling a truth - there is a falls inside the cave and it is not just a small falls but a gushing and a magnificent falls!

We relaxed and laid down in the cold water for some good minutes. There was fear in some of us with the thought we might get trapped inside and drown so we did not stay that long inside that small cave. And I realized that it's part of caving - there is the fear being in the dark, having difficulty in breathing and getting stuck... something that one needs to conquer... in order to experience what caves have to offer.

BP Nickson and Wilson on their way to the "Hidden Cave"
BPs Wilson, Nickson, Ivan and April at the entrance
Guest Alvin
BP Isabel
Guest Ann
Guest Rommel
BP April
BP Nickson
Friend Maylette (Guest) and BP Des
Guest friends Marianne and Jen
BP Ivan
BP Heinz
Group shot
We all safely returned to our picnic area and decided to carry on for another destination before calling it a day. 

4. Aglipay Caves

Located at Barangay Villa Ventura in the Municipality of Aglipay, is another destination that one should not miss when in Quirino. Rich in stalagmites, stalactites, columns and different stone formations, these caves is worth exploring.

We had some duck walking, climbing, and squeezing our bodies into small holes just to move from chamber to another. Here, we entered a total of 4 caves. As per our caving guide, there's still a lot.

At the entrance of the 1st cave
BP Ivan
BP Kenji
Guest Rommel
BP Heinz
BP Des at ease
Us exploring the cave
BP April (in a hole)

Exit to cave 1
Entrance to another cave
Guest Marianne 
Guest Maylette
We had a tiring but fun-filled day one. 

The official socials happened when we got back at the Diffun Lodge and that was when we got to know more about each other. What surprised us the most during the socials was knowing that Guests Marianne and Jen, were actually in Mt. Pico de Loro as well when The BACKPACKERS climbed it two years ago. On the other hand, Guest Rommel shared that it was BP Founding Lead Ivan's write up about Mt. Pico de Loro traverse that helped him and his fellow climbers found the right direction when they were already lost on their way down the said mountain. Coincidence or destiny? Whatever. It only meant BPs and these Guests were meant to meet and to be closer as friends somewhere.

Coming up next...
  • A crazy and funny tour guide
  • The waterfalls that received the most number of "the best!"
  • One brave guest conquers his fear of waters
  • Adventure filled, adrenaline loads rushing, heart pumping activities in one of the beautiful rivers we have seen
All of these on Part 2 of QUIRINO PROVINCE: The BACKPACKERS FOR #DiscoverTheUndiscovered, an installment by Ivan Laurence.

Photo credits to the BP Founding Lead 
Ivan Laurence

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