April 19, 2017

Butt-hurting tour to the North of the Philippines

Last Holy Week, I and a set of bloggers took ourselves unknowing of a very long travel to Cagayan Province. We were supposed to participate in the Ropali-Shell Partakan Festival -- "Partakan" meaning speed in the Ilocano dialect. Almost like an Amazing Race for motorcyclists to the endpoint in Sta. Ana municipality in Cagayan.

It was an estimated 13 hours from Manila but we arrived after 21 painful hours to our accommodation in Cagayan. Passing through different provinces north of Manila. Any wrong turn will take you to another province - might be a good thing as I was longing to go to Baguio which is just at the Western side of Nueva Vizcaya. We all felt that our butts nearly deflated in the long travel. It could have been easier and comfortable if plane tickets were booked for us. Below was an honest story and expect a few rants.

Good thing we managed ourselves along the way with road chats a enjoyed the view of the mountains and valleys of Bulacan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela and finally Cagayan. Let me share with you a few stops that you will pass by on the road to the North part of the Philippines.

You can drop by at Malolos, Bulacan where a religious and historical landmark called Barasoain Church sits. We didn't make it here because there were no instructions from the organizer that we have to check in different spots along the way.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel of Barasoain Church, Malolos, Bulacan (c) Pamana.ph

A long 1.5 hours (almost from home to Makati on a regular basis) via MacArthur Highway, we arrived at Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija for the next Ropali Stop. There we learned about the real itinerary from start to finish. Apparently, many of the Ropali and Shell stops didn't comply for the requirements of the Partakan Festival promo. And since we were media outfits who were just invited to cover, we think that we should also do the challenges in the nearby stops. Instead, we just went on and had breakfast on the first okay stop along the way until we found Five Mamas.

It's a battery-saving tour when I didn't open my mobile data along the way. Vivo Y55 is efficient for that not to mention that it takes the photos that I want, how the way I like it. The Professiona Camera feature works best for my still-life photos.

The zigzag and elevating road in Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya gave ear pops which I barely noticed because I was light sleeping along the way. We had a few stops for stretching, lunch and number 1 (for Php5) and number 2 (for Php10). And before we enter Isabela province, we stopped at Lower Magat Eco Tourism Park as it is also included in the tour. It's the spot for a new photoshoot while we are looking for tupig.

I almost forgot that many establishments are closed since Thursday because it was Holy Week and normal operations resume Easter Sunday so we found it hard to locate dining areas.

We continued the drive, thanks to our very reliable driver, Lito, who remained as cheerfully and patient with us when we are getting grumpy due to the long travel time. Imagine nobody was able to freshen up or had taken a bath that time. We're still on the road at sundown and we're again driving where our headlights is just the source of light. Looking out the window and up is seeing the Milky Way on the ceiling. And your imagination will just invite some stories that you might not want to hear but tolerating it just to keep you awake and support those who have been awake for a while. It's been a past time activity until 10:30pm.

Around 5 arches or so and around 637 km traveled, we arrived at Sta Ana, Cagayan. We're about to meet the Partakan Festival people, but was also a hard time to know where they are. The GPS isn't much of a help but mobile signal is good. Finally we can stretch our bodies which are excruciating with pain. We had our dinner at Nassim Hotel & Restaurant where it also took hours before they served us food. I was told that they do it first come, first serve. So when there are a few people ahead of us, they will partake of it first. They just prepared the meals when we arrived when the order was made 3 hours in advance. The main person who invited us wasn't even too accommodating and she's been enjoying Cagayan more than a day already.

I understand that somehow they want to promote tourism in the area. The place is peaceful, no question, and you'll love the view of the mountains and sea. But in cases that Holy Week is a travel escape for many of us, the hotels in Cagayan (there's a few of them) should have anticipated the number of people coming in so that they have stocks to serve. Displaying good hospitality for tourists is a good business for countries like the Philippines.

Related links:
Earth's VLOG
Ruth's Road Trip to Cagayan
Rhea and Jeff's Summer Vid and Photo Shoot

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