Saturday, February 21, 2015

Kabugao : A Travel Tale from a Former Capital

Kabugao Municipal Complex
I have always wanted to visit all the capitals of Cordillera provinces since I started travelling in 2012 because of curiosity. I would want to see how would a mountain town capital looks like then so I made it an objective to visit Bangued (Abra), Bontoc (Mountain Province), Tabuk (Kalinga), Lagawe (Ifugao), La Trinidad (Benguet), and Kabugao (Apayao). As of the end of 2014, I have visited all, save Kabugao.

I had 3 attempts of visiting Kabugao (2012, 2013 and 2014) but each time, it fails because of time constraint and the difficulty to catch a ride to the town. I learned that in order to be able to visit it, I have to allot at least two days, and visit the town as the main destination and not just a side trip. I have already been to Apayao Province though it was Pudtol I visited then, a town north of Kabugao (the latter, ironically, is not accessible from the former, given that they are part of a single province). 

Kabugao Welcome Landmark
After 3 failed attempts, I successfully visited Kabugao in January 2015. I have managed to endure almost 5 hours of travel from Tuguegarao to the town amidst long stretch of road – some parts concrete, many parts rough and passing through thick forest and vegetation. One who doesn’t know Kabugao exists would wonder whether there is still a town beyond those long and winding forest road. 

Road on the way to Kabugao
It was raining when I reached Kabugao and finally saw the town for the first time. I was actually expecting a very busy and lively town for it was, after all, a provincial capital, but when I arrived, it was neither. The place was very quiet, sleepy and devoid of the usual busy vibe of a capital. But at least, it was very clean and welcoming.

Poblacion Barangay Hall in Kabugao
The driver of the van I was riding, Mr. Ronilo Lacar, offered me a room in their house to spend the night and I readily accepted. I waited for the rain to stop before I go out of their house to roam around the town center. When I started my tour, the first place I visited was the municipal hall to ask what places I could go see in Kabugao.

Kabugao Municipal Hall
After a short talk with the municipal employees, I learned that there’s not much to see yet in Kabugao. They are still in the process of mapping out a tourism plan for the town. They have many natural tourism spots such as falls and the great Apayao river but they are not developed yet, and at that time, difficult to reach (the falls) because of the weather. I also learned from them that Kabugao is now Apayao’s capital just in name.

Actually, I already know before coming to the town that Kabugao is not the sole capital of Apayao despite the fact that Republic Act No. 7878, the law creating the provinces of Apayao and Kalinga as provinces in 1995, specifically designates Kabugao as Apayao’s capital. But even though that law has not been repealed or amended yet, Kabugao has ceased to function as Apayao's capital and all provincial offices has already been transferred to Luna, another town in Upper (northern) Apayao. I thought at first that there are still provincial offices existing in Kabugao and it still functions as capital side by side with the new one. But when I saw Kabugao, it dawned on me that the once capital is now just a sleepy provincial town. 

A Church in Cabugao
The rain hasn’t really stopped but that didn’t deter me from touring the town. After my short talk with the municipal employees, I continued walking around the small town center. The town hall is beautiful and one wouldn’t think that the complex (of which the town hall is a part) is part of the town. It stood out from the rest of the town and you can definitely notice it. 

Kabugao Catholic Town Church
The Kabugao Catholic Mission Church can be found at the town center near the intersection where the Poblacion Welcome Landmark is located. The church is very simple but what makes it beautiful is the serenity that exudes in its surrounding: the cleanliness, the quietness, the greeneries...

An old house in Kabugao
I also found a lone old house at the back of the municipal complex but wasn’t able to gather any information about it. The house is in derelict condition but still retains some of its beauty. It must have been one of the stand out house in the place before but obviously had its better days.

Old Capitol Building of Apayao in Kabugao
I also visited the former Apayao Provincial Capitol, about 2 kms from the town center. It can be found in an elevated place, overlooking the lower parts of the town. The building is now in an abandoned state but still is fit for use, for example, a satellite campus of a local university. 

Apayao River passing in Kabugao
Apayao River with the view of mountains
The best part of the town is where the great Apayao River can be seen. The turquoise water of the river is very cool to the eyes and gives a calming effect. Add to that the outline of the many mountains serving as the backdrop of the magnificent river and you will have a very very pleasant view. I would want to navigate at least a short distance of the river riding a banca but unfortunately, it was still raining and it was already getting late. That was the last place I visited and I came back to Lacar's house to retire for the night. 

I was up very early the next day for the very early trip back to Tuguegarao. At 3:30AM, Mr. Lacar's van and many of the contracted passengers, including me, are already on our way to Tuguegarao. 


Tips on Trips:

1. Vans and Buses going to Kabugao are available in Tuguegarao. Vans can be found in Pengue Terminal and the first trip is approximately 8:00 AM though sometimes it stretches to 9:30 AM because the van doesn't leave until it is full... literally full. Fare is 180.00.

2. Buses can be found in Magno Terminal though it leaves approximately at noon.

3. There is no other choice but to spend the night in Kabugao because there is no afternoon trips leaving Kabugao to Tuguegarao.

4. Accommodations are available like Ukkong Lodging House (150.00 per night) but you can also ask some people whether they accept lodgers (just like Mr. Lacar). Most accommodations are basic.

Special thanks to Lacar Family for adopting me for the night. Also, thanks for the very tasty nilaga... :)
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. Hi! May contact details ba yung Ukkong Lodging House o madali lang sya mahanap pagdating sa Kabugao? Is there anyway I can contact you?

    1. I am very sorry for the late reply sir. I don't have any contact details of the Ukkong Lodging House but it is easy to find. You can just ask around the Poblacion. My number? 09255103204.

      Thanks for the visit!

  2. Trip to kabugao apayao.. A warning note for future visitors , as the apayao festival is being held in kabugao...
    The usual price (i stayed before) at ukkong lodging house was p150, which is about right for the rooms there. Last week i visited and whilst initially told it was P150 was later told it would be P500, more than 3 times the price for the same room previously used.
    With no alternative that i was aware of at that time of night and no more vans or buses that evening i was forced to pay the new price demanded. I asked for an oficial receipt (see pic below) so i guess its an official price hike as BIR will be in the loop now.
    Anyway, the next day i found a much better place to stay, in a beautifully restored ancestral home, with a friendly, helpful family who gave good service and good value at P300 per night for spacious, clean, well decorated room. The lady who runs it is called Liezel and the cp is 0936-488-9970 if ever you visit Kabugao that would be my recommendation from now on.

  3. Link to receipt..

    1. Thanks for the heads up sir! This will be a big help to someone who also wants to visit Kabugao...