On The (Long) Road to Palaui Island | Cagayan

Our long Bonifacio weekend trip to Palaui Island was far from easy. It's difficult for my buttocks, which became numb 5 hours into our bus ride from Cubao to Tuguegarao, and that's only the first half of the 10-hour journey. We left the Victory Liner terminal in Cubao around 10 p.m. and arrived in Tuguegarao around 9 a.m., with brief stops in Tumauini and San Pablo, Isabela to visit two Spanish colonial churches.

Alyanna Bromeo

We spent the day in Tuguegarao, visiting Callao Cave and taking a leisurely boat ride along the scenic Pinacanauan River to witness the circadian flights of over a million bats –a sight which left me in awe. The next day we woke up early to prepare for another 3 hour trip to Sta. Ana, Cagayan by buying some things needed for camping out at Palaui Island. We passed by the Metropolitan Cathedral of Tuguegarao and rode the Sta. Ana bound van by 9:30 am.

Alyanna Bromeo

The sun was shining brightly, and I was wide awake for the majority of the journey. We passed through charming little towns that I'd love to visit if we had more time. Out the window, I see endless rice fields dotted with ducks, cows, and carabaos. I also paid attention to the kilometer markings on the side of the road because the final kilometer marker of "642 KM" is located in Sta. Ana.

Lauren Denoga and Sharlyn Del Rosario

I enjoy the sensation of long rides when my butt becomes numb and my mind races to something, such as plotting a bloodless revolution, and what better way to do so than by passing through God's painted creation? Another thing I noticed were the bridges; I lost count of how many we passed through, probably because the Cagayan River is a complex river system that branches out in all directions, including the aforementioned  Pinacanauan river.

Alyanna Bromeo

I also saw Port Irene, a place where car enthusiasts can buy imported automobiles at a much lower price; however, given Cagayan's political ties, I can only speculate on the legality of those imported cars. We arrived in Sta around 1:00 p.m. Vicente Port is located in Sta Ana, Cagayan. Following a brief rest, we rented a boat for 800 pesos two way (good for 6-8 people), a reasonable fee given our group of six.

Mujee Gonzales and Gretchen Filart

Palaui Island is home to approximately 500 people, the majority of whom are fishermen's families. A Navy detachment is also stationed on the island, where we registered our names. There are always fishing boats coming and going from Palaui to Sta Vicente port, so you won't be stranded on the island.

We were accompanied by two guides wearing shirts that said "Turismo Solusyon sa Kahirapan". Accordingly, it is the slogan of a tourism program that allow visitors on the island help local residents earn extra money. I don't consider paying for a guide as a "tourist trap" unless the location is easily accessible. These trained guides also help bring awareness on how to become a responsible traveler. We must all remember the importance of being responsible by refraining from bastardizing or vandalizing the places we visit. What I saw inside Callao Cave, where people etched their names on the rock formation, disgusted me.

Along with Benoit and Franco, our guides together with Franco's dog "Lambert", we took a hike that would take us another two hours to reach the other side of the island which is more ideal for camping. 

During the summer, the boat can take you directly there, but because we went at the end of the monsoon season and the beginning of the cold season in December, the waves aren't ideal for small boats to navigate, so we were only dropped on the part of Palaui facing Sta. Cagayan, Ana.

The hike requires a brisk pace but is not too strenuous because the terrain is almost straight throughout with little elevation change, but we took our time navigating the muddy section of the trail because your feet can get sucked by the mud up to a foot below your knee.

Lauren Denoga and Sharlyn Del Rosario

We arrived at the beach where we were camping for the night around 4 p.m., giving us plenty of time to set up camp, cook our late lunch and dinner, and go for a quick swim. We purchased crabs from Ate Simone, a local whose family makes a living by fishing around Palaui island.

Eileen Campos

Lauren prepared bacon and sausage, and Belle and her two other friends contributed hotdogs and corned beef. I also got to use the first tent I bought for myself for the first time. Yeah, having a "home on my back - wherever and whenever" is quite an accomplishment for me.

Eileen Campos

We drank alcohol and waited for stars to appear to illuminate the pitch black darkness around us. It briefly rained before the stars appeared. We attempted to sleep around 10 p.m., catching a few snatches of sleep before deciding to start the new day around 3 a.m., when we began cooking our breakfast.

Palaui Island

After sunrise we went atop the hill where the Cape Engano Lighthouse is located. Its a hike upward of about more than a hundred steps that affords you a magnificent view of the blue waters and other islets around the island breaking the waves while a strong wind tries to erase your face and attempts to blow you off your feet.

Palaui Travel Guide

It takes a long journey to Palaui Island when doing it by land; you could cut travel time by flying from Manila to Tuguegarao, but who would want to do that? We all wanted to take the expanded route so we took the bus from Manila to Tuguegarao for 10 hours, then another 3 hours to Sta Ana before hiking for another 2 hours for a total of 15 hours.

Alyanna Bromeo

Not bad spending the Bonifacio long weekend with a pilgrimage up north that also gave us an additional day when we passed by Ilocos on the way home to Manila by having a stop-over in Vigan.

I'm glad I was able to fulfill a year-long dream of visiting Palaui; I've been fascinated and intrigued with the place since seeing it on TV one boring Sunday, and what a great way to fill another supposedly boring weekend by living it up, packing my bags, camping gears and all, and dragging a few friends for the long, arduous but very memorable trip to this northernmost part of Luzon.

Shout out to my new friends, Carrie aka Lauren (her real name), who used to model for well-known photographers before quitting because "it has become a bastardized practice," she tells me, and Sharlyn, who wakes up late but goes to the bathroom half-asleep and of course, to the  Deuter brand, who gave me a 50% discount on my backpack "Deuter Futura Vario 50+10," a sturdy backpack ideal for long weekend camping trips.