Saturday, January 4, 2014

Isabela : A Tour on the Queen's Province of the North

It was a realization of a childhood dream. The dream to just ride a bus and let it bring me to places far from where I grew up, and savor the changing sceneries seen through the bus's window.

And yes, it was one of my very first long bus rides alone... and I did enjoy it. 

Ilagan City, Isabela
It happened in a flash. One night (3rd week of August, 2012), I just decided to visit Isabela and Cagayan provinces. After 2 days, I boarded a bus bound to Santiago City, and from there started my 2 day adventure.

The first day was a very interesting van-tryk-bus ride around the province named after a famous and influential Queen during the time when discovering new lands is in vogue : Isabela.


One factor which led me to visit Isabela province is to have a glimpse of Santiago City (this city is actually an independent city but is almost always lumped with Isabela Province as it was once part of the latter) and Cauayan City, 2 Northern Luzon cities supposedly vying to be Isabela and environ's top city.  But as of this writing, not only these two but another one joined the race for Ilagan, the province's capital, has also been elevated to the city status. 

Another factor is the province's historicity and old churches, particularly the famous Tumauini Church.

Balay na Santiago. Santiago City

The bus reached Santiago City 6AM in the morning of August 20.  The city I only read on books and saw on maps before is the same city I was in that time. The city I am imagining before is very far from what I am seeing then (what I imagine about Santiago City before seeing it will be related on my individual post about the city later). I started my tour with the town church then hopped onto a tricycle to Dariuk Hills, the city's beautiful park. I was also able to visit Balay na Santiago (the city's museum) and the Santiago City Hall (where I was toured by a local and a friend I met online, Sir William Cardenas.

Cauayan City, Isabela.
The heritage church of the next city I visited is what I consider that city's tourism crowning glory.  One can really see that Cauayan Church is really old but is well preserved and still has its beautiful allure to travelers and heritage buffs. The city hall is a commanding structure which no one won't be able to notice whenever s/he is in the city proper. 

The capital, Ilagan, was my next destination and I was in awe upon seeing the largest butaka (rocking chair) in the whole world. Ilagan Rotunda (where the largest butaka is located) was quite a view. I also visited Ilagan City Hall and the town's old church.

Tumauini Church. Tumauini, Isabela.
I was planning then that after visiting Ilagan, I would have to visit the town of Cabagan and eat the famous pancit Cabagan in the very place where it originated but alas! I was running out of time so I headed to the next destination : Tumauini. All I was able to visit in Tumauini was it's century old church, but I didn't have any regret despite that. :)

San Pablo Church Ruins. San Pablo, Isabela.
From Tumauini, I rode a bus going to Tuguegarao already but it must be fate which brought me to the next destination... which is definitely not Tuguegarao. It just so happen that I was staring outside the bus window when I caught sight of a tall, old looking bell-tower. Being a history/heritage buff I am, I decided to check it out. It turned out that I almost missed visiting one of Cagayan Valley's oldest and grandest century-old church : The San Pablo Church.

Because of the discovery, I decided I have to check-out other parts of the town proper too so I was able to see some casa real ruins, San Pablo's Spanish era-streets and also the present town hall.

After that unexpected detour, I continued my travel to Tuguegarao thus, ending my Isabela Province tour.


*This is part of my Isabela-Cagayan tour last August 20-21, 2012. For more on Isabela, you may also visit:

Santiago : A City of Unity
Ilagan City : Butaka and other Tales
The Treasure that is Tumauini
Cauayan : Isabela's Emerging City
San Pablo : A Window to a Glorious Past

author image

About the Author

I am ROMEL RAFOR JAIME, the man behind San Josenyong Gala. My travel blogger name came about because I am a proud resident of the City of San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. In real life, I am a licensed librarian who works in a college in Gapan, Nueva Ecija as a librarian and teaches general education subjects from time to time. My goal is to visit all the 81 provinces of the Philippines before visiting other countries. As of 2017, I have already visited 73... :)


  1. A realization of a childhood dream..................... :-) hart hart..kakaiba yung feeling..