If they call this revenge travel then let me say it out loud… I AM LOVING IT! The past months have been a series of riding planes that made me realize how much I missed it. I jumped into the raging waters in Cebu and I was able to cover most of Eastern Visayas, thanks to plane tickets that were going to expire. Capping off my “revenge travel”, I decided to take it a bit slower by joining a group tour to one Philippine destination that’s been elusive to me for years. So if you’re G… let’s all see… the province of Quirino!
Quirino is a landlocked province north of Metro Manila. It has a total land area of more than 3,300 square kilometers, along the upper portion of the Cagayan River, where a large part of its area is within the Quirino Protected Landscape. The province is an off-beat travel destination and exploring the province can be a challenge because of the distance and transportation between attractions. So for this particular trip, I joined a group tour organized by the FB travel organizer, Bernation, for a weekend of a rugged Quirino exploration.
Quirino Capital (Cabarogguis)
What better way to start the weekend adventure with a quick stop at the the provincial capitol of the province in Cabarogguis. The province was originally a sub-province of Nueva Vizcaya, whose name was in honor of former President Elpidio Quirino. It was granted full provincial autonomy in 1972.
The provincial capitol serves as the center of provincial governance. The sprawling capitol grounds houses the capitol building, the provincial library and museum, and sport facilities. This is where you will also find the “Quirino” marker that stands at the entrance of the library and museum.
Siitan Nature Park (Nagtipunan)
The Siitan Nature Park is a camping destination in Nagtipunan. It is popular for two attractions - the Siitan River and the Bimmapor Rock Formation. Apart from camping, the park also offers boating and tubing activities while you get to enjoy the views of lush forest covers and rock formations.
Siitan comes from the Ilocano word “siit” which means “thorns”. The river banks of Siitan was once populated by thorny plants hence its name. The river connects with the Cagayan River and cruising can be done via wooden boats called “balasyan” or by water tubes. The river cruise will give you amazing views of limestone rock formations and the forest covers in the area.
Our group went for a boat ride along Siitan River. The river cruise gave us a cool mix of the rush, as we rode through its rapids, and chill, as we glided along its still waters. The towering limestone formations was an amazing sight. It was like I was in a “Jurassic Park” set. There were areas where we had to disembark and cross the dry strip because some parts of the river was to shallow for a balasyan, full of guests, to cross. There are parts of the river where you get to swim and/or cliff jump.
Bimmapor Rock Formation (Nagtipunan)
Another attraction at Siitan Nature Park is the Bimmapor Rock Formation. The nature park has a collection of rock formations along its banks but the most popular and most accessible is this rock formation. The best vantage point is about a 10-minute walk from the campsite.
The rock formation is said to have derived its name from the local word “bapor” which means ship as the rock is shaped like a huge ship’s hull. It towers along the banks of the Siitan River and you will be amazed at the details of the layers of rocks that surround it. It is best to capture the Bimmapor Rock Formation from a distance to capture the details and the dramatic landscape of the the nature park.
Diamond Cave and Forest Park (Nagtipunan)
Since Quirino is a landlocked province with mountainous terrains, spelunking is an activity that you would get to enjoy in the province. Diamond Cave is a popular spot for that thrill of getting into the bosom of its rugged landscape. The cave system got its name from the sparkle that its rock surfaces emits when hit by light, it looks like the sparkle of a diamond. The cave traverse roughly takes about an hour which will have you wet and muddied as you exit the cave.
Our cave exploration started with a safety orientation with our guide before making our way inside the park to the mouth of the cave. It takes roughly about an hour of traverse from entrance to exit. You will be treated with an amazing collection of stalactite and stalagmite rock formations that glisten when light strikes its surface giving it that “shine like a diamond” spark. The experience had us walking, crouching, and scrambling over rocks while we enjoyed nature’s artworks. There were stops along the way where you get to catch your breath and enjoy the beauty below the ground.
Spelunking is one activity that has got me curious over the past months and I think Diamond Cave is a good start for beginners. It was a relaxed traverse inside the cave that had us comfortably making our way while getting wet and muddy. It was not as challenging as my previous cave adventures but it definitely had the thrill and excitement of being under.
Landingan View Point (Nagtipunan)
After enjoying exploring what’s under Quirino, we then made our way to the Landingan View Point for a top view of Quirino’s rugged landscape. The view point sits atop one of the hills of Quirino that gives a 360-degree panoramic view of the surrounding mountain ranges and the Cagayan River. The view from the top is simply captivating.
The Landingan View Point was developed as an attraction from an unattended hill to a flower garden. The best view is from the top where you get to see the flower gardens against the backdrop of the mountains and the river. There are two ways of exploring Landingan. The first is by starting from the gardens and you move up to the view deck. This, however, is going to be physically challenging as you would have to navigate thru the steep ascend to the top. Then you would have to walk back down.
The second is by going up the top of the hill by car via its “back” entrance. We made our way through a short flight of stone trails before enjoying the awesome view from the top. There are rest huts at the top where you can relax and enjoy the view and the breeze. Stone fortifications are being built to get around easier and for better aesthetics at the top of the hill. You also get to appreciate the beauty of the flower farm as you hike down the steep slope.
Ganano Falls (Diffun)
Baguio Village is a small community that lies within the Quirino Protected Landscape. The village is the jump-off point to one of the popular attractions in the province Ganano Falls. I stayed close to one of our guides, Kuya Fernando, who gave a glimpse of their life as guides as we hiked to Ganano Falls and the other 3 downstream cascades.
It takes an hour of hike from the jump-off point to the base of Ganano Falls. The trail was already established and their were initial plans of a concrete road for easier access to the falls bit it was later on shelved for environmental reasons. It was an easy traverses through the forested area of Diffun where you get to enjoy the cooler weather and shade of its trees, not to
mention getting cooled down by a couple of river crossing.
Ganano Falls was an amazing sight once you get to its base. The water of the falls cascades at a height of 100 feet onto boulders before running downstream. The boulders serve as a good vantage points to see the full beauty of the waterfall and platforms for IG-worthy shots. You could find your own spot at the base of Ganano that would suit the perspective of the falls that you want to capture.
From Ganano Falls, we made our along the river banks. There are three other cascades along the downstream river. Sinipit Falls is a multi-cascade waterfall. It has a wide rock face where you find three cascades. This is where I enjoyed our stop because I was able to cool down as I enjoyed a dip in its basin. We also found a spot where we enjoyed a soft massage from its cascade.
We moved further downstream towards the Nantugaw Rock Formation. It has a wide and single cascade but its biggest draw is a large boulder that sits near the edge of its cascade. The water running over is not as strong as the others that you can actually sit along its rock face. A few more minutes down the trail is the Sabangaran Falls. It is a single cascade that is roughly about 8-10 meters in height. Water cascades into a catch basin where one can also take a dip.
Chasing waterfalls in Diffun was relatively a chill and easy adventure. In more or less two hours, you get to see the beauty of Ganano Falls and the other attractions as you hike back to the village. The best part of our experience was we got to enjoy the place without the crowd which made communing with nature a more pleasant experience.
Governor’s Rapids Nature Park (Maddela)
Governor’s Rapids is another popular attraction in Quirino for a range of activities that it offers that will get your adrenaline rushing at the start and gets you chilling by the end. The river is part of a tributary of the Cagayan River and has been awarded as one of the cleanest inland body of water in Cagayan Valley. It is believed that it got its name after the river claimed the life of a Japanese Governor during World War 2.
Just like the other attractions in Quirino, the nature park has a lot of interesting points along the river and activities that will get you either wet, tossed, or both. At the top of this activity is the river tubing along the Bisangal Rapids. The river of the nature park is ideal for white water rafting and tubing, especially during the rainy season. Although the river tubing was a bit short that had us wanting for more, it tossed us wildly enough to give us the adrenaline rush.
We then enjoyed a chill river ride where we got to see the amazing limestone rock formations along the river. The cruise will take you to different interesting spots of the park. The limestone formations of Siminublan, Stage 1, and Stage 2 was beautifully crafted by nature through thousand of years. There are spots in the area where you can actually cliff jump from
these limestone shelves.
One of the highlights of the cruise was a quick stop at the Tinyente Cave. The cave is a through and through cave which can be traversed by guests. An interesting feature of the cave is a waterfall inside one of its chambers. The traverse was relatively short but challenging physically since you need to clamber up on slippery rock faces. Best part of it was having to rappel down the exit. Tiring but definitely worth it.
Most of us decided to just chill out by taking a quick and refreshing dip before heading back. We enjoyed the views of the bat cave and rock formations while enjoying a laidback afternoon swim in one of the cleanest inland body of water. A quick cool down by the river with new found friends after exploring an off-beat destination was a perfect way to end the weekend adventure.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
The mountain ranges that surround the province of Quirino is like a fortress protecting the land from devastating typhoons. It is the same fortress that has kept the province an off-beat tourist destination. It is a province that will challenge your DIY skills because the distance and transportation between spots can be time and financially consuming. But once you have experienced Quirino, you would be smiling and you would be #QuirinoYourBasketOfHappiness back home.
Traveling has been my kind of break from all the stress of my daily run. It helps me breath and regain my strength and energies to head back to my usual grind. It keeps my mind and body young as I discover new destinations and learn something new. My revenge travel was exactly that! It was my factory reset after two years of controlled movement.
Getting there: Going DIY to Quirino can be quite a challenge as there are no direct trips to the province and transportation within are also limited. You can take a bus to Santiago where you can take a jeep to specific barangays in Quirino. If you plan to go DIY, thorough planning is needed. You can also opt for a hassle-free weekend trip with FB Travel Group – Bernation. They have regular weekend trips to Quirino where they facilitate everything for you. You can check out their Facebook page here.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.