Coming from a 12-hr overnight travel from Manila, the bus halted to its final stop at their terminal near Tanza Junction. It was mid morning when I traversed the length of the Diversion Road towards the junction where it intersects Balzain Highway. The tourism slogan “WOW Tuguegarao” greeted me as I crossed the highway for a fast food brekky. I smiled and got a little excited, thinking of what the city could show me. It’s my first time to step foot in the province of Cagayan and I could not wait to explore its capital city.
I do not have a proper itinerary for this visit to the regional and institutional center of the Cagayan Valley Region. I decided to just explore Tuguegarao on foot and try to appreciate everything it has to offer for tourists and travelers.
How to get there?
You can reach Tuguegarao by plane or by bus. This city has regular flights from Manila serviced by Cebu Pacific and Philippines Airlines. Flights usually take a little over an hour. The most popular mode of transport though is by bus. Several bus lines like Baliwag Transit, GV Florida Bus, Five Star and Victory Liner ply the Manila-Tuguegarao route. I took the Five Star Bus ride from their terminal in Cubao, Quezon City at 9pm (bus fare: P934). There are also bus lines from Vigan City and Baguio City which have regular trips to Tuguegarao.
My hotel is strategically located near the city public market and the metropolitan cathedral but it’s a kilometer and a half away from Tanza Junction. Tuguegarao has one of the biggest number of registered tricycles in the country. It is the main mode of transportation and the fare does not necessarily come cheap. Depending on the distance and destination, fares sometimes start at P40.
I walk my way down to the city center, towards my hotel. Check-in time at Holiday Plaza Hotel (Blumentritt cor. Arellano Sts) was 2pm so I just left my bags there and decided to return in the afternoon after a quick exploration of city center.
Quite noticeable in the city are the tartanilyas or the karitelas (horse-drawn carriages). The sound of hooves tip-tapping on the narrow streets of Tuguegarao vis-a-vis with the sound of engines from the tricy and the cars, provide a unique music for this city. I could only remember a few cities in the Philippines who still have tartanilyas as mode of transport (Vigan, Iligan, Cebu and Intramuros). But most of these are geared for tourism. Still I opted to explore the city on foot.
St. Peter Metropolitan Cathedral
A block away from Holiday Plaza Hotel is the St. Peter Metropolitan Cathedral. Also known as Tuguegarao Cathedral, it is one of the biggest Baroque-style churches in the region. Remarkable elements from this 18th-century church are its facade, its brick material, the heavily decorated ceiling and arches of the nave portion and the five-story bell tower.
St. Hycinth’s Church (San Jacinto Church)
At the far corner of the city, several blocks away from Tuguegarao Cathedral is the St. Hyacinth’s (San Jacinto) Church. It is an elevated brick church located on a block formed by Mabini and Legazpi Streets. It was midday when I got there and the gates were closed but not locked so I managed to sneak into the front yard which has two rows of pews. No one was around, a perfect time to take some shot of the lovely brick church.
Our Lady of Chartres Church
Just across the St. Hyacinth’s Church is the vast campus of St. Paul University Philippines. If you walk along Mabini Street you can see the big church of Our Lady of Chartres. It is not to be missed because of it sheer size and blue-gray color. The church has elements of a french gothic architecture with its pair of nonidentical gothic spires, the rose glass window, tall but thin pointed arches and all.
In a span of 2 hours, I managed to visit 3 churches on foot. Tuguegarao is a university town and is flanked with Roman Catholic churches. On a busy time of the day, the streets are filled with tricycles and tartanilyas – a picture frame of the old-new mix which is but rarely seen in other places.
Pancit Batil Patung
Tuguegarao is known for its panciterias (noodles shops) which can be found basically in almost all corners of the city. They have a unique type of stir-fried noodles which they called Pancit Batil Patung.
The dish has two parts: the stir fried noodles and the side soup. The noodles part is a mix of miki noodles topped with poached or fried eggs, minced beef or bagnet-fried pork and vegetables. The side soup, which acts a sauce is poured onto the noodles. The soup is a broth of carabao (buffalo) beef with egg stirred to resemble an egg drop soup.
I tried Pancit Batil Patung at Jerry’s Panciteria along Taft Street. For only P70, it was a surprise treat, a bit on the heavy type of meal but it is truly an amazing dish.
Tuguegarao is known to have a very hot weather. I am not quite sure though if its people are proud of the fact that the highest temperature in the Philippines (42.2 deg C / 108 deg F) was recorded in Tugue in 1912 and in 1969. Tuguegarao also has one of the country’s highest average temperature which is at 38 deg C.
After I treated myself of Pancit Batil Patung, I returned to the hotel and hid from the afternoon sun. It was a needed rest in a form of siesta. I needed to catch some sleep as well.
Tuguegarao is an old settlement at the junction of Pinacanauan River and the mighty Cagayan River. Before sundown, I went out of the hotel to visit Buntun Bridge. I hailed a tricy from SM Center Tuguegarao Downtown to St. Paul Hospital along Luna Street. From there, I opted to walk towards Buntun, roughly more than a kilometer away.
Luna Street is connected to the Cagayan-Apayao Road at the junction near Jasmine’s Panciteria – Pancit Batil Patung and from there, Buntun Bridge is visible.
Started in 1959 and opened to the public traffic 10 years after, Buntun Bridge became the longest river bridge and the second longest in the country after the San Juanico Bridge. Buntun Bridge spans the mighty Cagayan River and connects Tuguegarao City with the town of Solana, Cagayan.
The bridge is currently painted in brick red. It provides a marvelous photo frame especially during golden hour. They said that the bridge is really long enough for one to completely sing the entire Philippine national anthem. The bridge length of 1.369km has 10 steel trusses and a pair of I-beams on both ends. Buntun Bridge is an important gem of a structure for Tuguegarao.
Other places to visit
When in Tuguegarao, you could visit nearby spots like the following:
- Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat – a pilgrim site located 41 kms north of Tuguegarao. It houses the 407-year old Black Virgin Mary
- Callao Caves – an hour away from Tuguegarao in the town of Peñablanca. Callao Cave has a chapel in one of its chambers
- Cagayan Provincial Museum and Historical Research Center – this is found within the Provincial Capitol Complex of Cagayan, 5 km away from the city center. It has an extensive collection of artifacts and items related to heritage and culture of Cagayan Valley.
- Iguig Church and Calvary Hill – Iguig’s church, the San Antonio de Galicia Church is also a brick structure that has flying buttresses. It sits on Calvary Hill which has life-size Via Crucis characters. Best to visit on a holy week.
- Palaui Island – a protected landscape and seascape at the northern part of Cagayan, off the coast of Sta. Ana.
Here’s hoping for Cagayan to push for a sustainable tourism. CAGANDA 2025 is a local initiative to promote Cagayan’s heritage and culture. Let us support Tuguegarao and the entire province in their tourism campaigns. WOW Tuguegarao is a start.