text | Carla Ocampo
photography | Wing Larase and Lester Valle
Nothing will stop a real wanderer. Not even the thought of butt-bruising, sleep-depriving, day-long rides just to get to the best places of these islands.
For the knighted ones, who’ve been to several summits, crossed a dozen seas, and endured century bike tours at least five times over, a twelve-hour bus saga is kindergarten.
But for the rest of the populace who’d want to live the traveler’s life, but have yet to pack in the guts— and experiences— to realize it, this 12-hour land trip is a fair enough baptism of fire. And if you’re at all considering this sort of initiation, you might as well choose a destination that’s entirely worth the butt cramps. The KT Prescription: try Claveria, Cagayan: way up north in the Philippine island of Luzon, and twelve hours away— by bus— from Manila.
Claveria is a handsome seaside territory— handsome, because the heady nuances of pretty, carefree, coconut-tree laden white-sand beaches are not quite the norm out here.
The town is not intoxicated with lazy tropical downtime. Instead, it brims with understated power, evident in the vigor of its fisherfolk and farmers… and in the way the kinetic sea has sculpted Claveria’s coastal hills into toothed rockfaces and well-defined coves.
Claveria is the quiet battlefield of nature’s yins and yangs. Along its length, the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet head on. These waters, in turn, collide with the equally powerful flow of the Cabicungan River. And in a classic case of Man versus Nature, the common folk contend with sun, sea and storm year in and year out; calling benevolent spirits to their rescue, for bountiful hauls of fish, or a good harvest of palay.
Perhaps the town’s virile nature is lent by the presence of two iconic rock formations in the village of Taggat Norte, west of the Main Claveria Cove: Lakay-Lakay (or, Old Man) wearing a “hat”… and his wife, the smaller one, Baket-Baket (or, Old Lady).
Both rugged, imposing, and similarly triangular in shape, the pair is steeped in legend. Fishermen and sailors passing near the two landmarks toss gifts into the sea: money, food, cigars, buyo or betel nut… in order to appease Lakay-Lakay— who has dominion over Claveria’s seas and winds— and merit a safe voyage. The spirit of the Old Man also controls the growth of seaweeds on rocks, and directs schools of fish into cast nets. That is why, people of this coast would do well to remain under Lakay-Lakay’s favor.
Alluding to this age-old reverence for Apo Lakay-Lakay and Apo Baket-Baket (Apo being a title of respect), the municipal seal of Claveria features these pair of natural monuments, with the sun setting beside them, and billowing clouds offsetting Baket-Baket’s silhouette.
A short drive away from the Lakay-Lakay Beach Resort are several other charmers that evidence a blessed landscape.
Marine Protected Areas are situated within the Taggat Lagoon; richly hued coral reefs lie underwater. And along with the everyday sight of fisherboats dutifully skimming the open waters— wherever they are permitted to fish— this cove also has a picture-perfect wooden platform with a view of Claveria’s water-carved rocks. Meditate or click away, your call.
The town’s third cove sits east of the Main Claveria Beach, and it is called Sentinela.
If you could imagine mermaids sunning themselves and sitting on rocks, they may as well be sitting on Sentinela’s rock formations. Continuously battered by Pacific waves, these coastal boulders are enchanting and treacherous at the same time.
East of Sentinela rises Bantay Kalbo (“Bald Mountain”— or hill— in the local Iloko language). An extremely easy hike, it would take even a totally inexperienced hiker only seven minutes to get to its peak, and five minutes back down, for a beach frolic. This hill boasts the best 360-degree view of Sentinela, and is a very pleasant campsite for beginners.
A rusty, abandoned telecom tower, though, obstructs an otherwise clean view atop Bantay Kalbo. The Local Government has been on its toes to resolve this problem. The verdict: either rehabilitation, or total demolition. Allegedly, they are currently negotiating with the company that owns the tower.
Should you wish to take a break away from all the sea spray and salt, you could still do this well within Claveria’s embrace. The serene Cabicungan River and the multi-level Mabnang Falls are a short drive away from the town center. Hike, dip, or kayak your way to refresh both mind and body. And for cycle-touring maniacs, it could be welcome to know that Claveria is a scenic jump-off point to the uphills of Calanasan, Apayao.
There are several ways to get to Claveria fom Manila. A 45-minute plane ride to either Laoag or Tuguegarao preps you for a three-hour land cruise to this coastal town.
The aforementioned twelve-hour bus ride, meanwhile, is possible through the RCJ Bus Lines (with its terminal at España, Manila) and the Florida Bus Lines (with terminals at España, Manila, and Cubao, Quezon City). Especially look out for trips going to Junction Luna via Laoag, or Sanchez Mira via Laoag. As of this writing, bus fare plays around PhP700, plus-minus.
Inns and resorts are concentrated at Belado Avenue just a tumble away from the sea itself. Rates range from PhP300 to PhP600 per head, and you could expect the cozy rooms and spotless floors Ilokano homes are known for. (A list of Claveria’s inns and resorts can be found in this link)
Western Union and other courier outlets are present within the poblacion. Automated Teller Machines, though, are in Sanchez Mira, Claveria’s twin municipality, some 20 kilometers from the latter’s town center.
THE NORTHERN ESCAPE
No Jollibees, no malls, no cinemas (although they had one some years back) and barely out of the days of yore, Claveria is a breezy chance to immerse yourself into the rural lifestyle, and is a beauteously windswept hideaway to start you love affair with the Great Outdoors.
In the next two photo-essays, Team KT proudly brings you several definitive portraits of the people and places of Claveria, Cagayan.
© 2011 The Kayumanggi Trails | All Rights Reserved