Sunday, April 24, 2011

Claveria, Cagayan: Heading north for an early Lenten break

Claveria - Taggat Lagoon Dusk Blue Zen
Blue Zen dusk at the pier ruins of Taggat
Call it an internal body compass but I seem to have an inclination for heading north for summer getaways.  In years past, it was either Sagada, Ilocos or Banaue.  This summer, I gave in to a long-time curiosity -- Claveria.  The place hardly registers a blip in tourist guidebooks but it's right up my alley: no wall-to-wall tourists, less of the tourist-savvy locals.  There's not much hype or info about Claveria so I, along with my travel buddies, will have to wing it half the time but I guess that's the thrill of spontaneity.

12 hours and over 600 kilometers after.  We took the deluxe Florida bus going here, taking the Manila-Laoag-Sanchez Mira route (P750, one way).  The last time I went to Cagayan, it took 12 hours just to get to Tuguegarao so this all-nighter (more precisely, 8pm-8am) trip came as a welcome surprise.  Pretty fast trip considering the many stopovers for meals and loading/unloading passengers.  The bus was comfortable but as with any overnight trip, it's wise to bring a jacket (or a malong) as it turns really cold in the wee hours of the morning.
Claveria - Casa Grand Inn Room
Casa Grand Inn room
Still more pleasant surprises.   Finding our inn, Casa Grand, was a cinch. Our room is so spacious, it could've fit in at least three to four more people easily but we're not complaining.  There's hot shower and very clean toilet plus cable TV service so the price isn't that bad (P1,700/day).  The location is right smack along the boulevard facing the bay so checking out the sunset or the weather is as easy as opening the door.  Looking for lunch, we took a tricycle to the market.  While there are no fancy eating places, the meals at Chillax/Flores were good and cheap (Pansit/spaghetti at P35, sizzling chicken/pork at P74).  Ditto the really tasty breads.
Claveria - Taggat Lagoon Preparing the Nets for Tomorrow
Preparing for tomorrow's fishing trip
A  most-hospitable welcome at Taggat.  Not wanting to waste our first afternoon in Claveria, we set out for Taggat, 15-20 minutes away by tricycle (fare: P70), to see Lakay-Lakay and the blue lagoon.  The shore of this fishing village was filled with boats parked prow-to-bow and outrigger-to-outrigger.  As it turned out, the fishermen were preparing for their maiden fishing trip of the season which happens the next day.  As tradition would have it, food was served abundantly to everyone in attendance, strangers like us included.  The practice is part-hospitality, part-ritual so as to ensure abundant catches. 
Carla, RayAnne and Carlo, a giggly trio of friendly kids in Taggat
We befriended several amiable kids who, judging by the looks on their faces, were fascinated by our gear as well as our interest in shooting around their place.  True, there were a few other visitors when we visited but most were from the surrounding municipalities.   Our plan to stay just a few hours stretched to well after sunset when we obliged to an offer of dinner from Ma'am Helen Eva and Mang Bong, the owners of the local fish buying station.  And what a meal it was -- fresh dilis (anchovies) and small curacha (red frog crabs) served with red rice which must cost an arm and a leg in Manila. We went home with full tummies and thought the gesture was a nice indication of the hospitality of the locals.  I guess we're off to a good start.
Claveria - Taggat Lagoon Drying Out Fishes on the Boat
Fishes drying out on a boat's prow
Info:  Claveria is located at the northwestern portion of Cagayan.  It is over 185 kilometers away from the region's capital, Tuguegarao and 612 kilometers away from Metro Manila.  Alternative ways of getting there: fly to Tuguegarao and ride a van/bus bound for Laoag; or fly to Laoag and ride a van/bus bound for Sanchez-Mira or Tuguegarao. • Important tips: bring enough cash as there are no ATMs • Standard tricycle fare is P10 for short trips; double for trips to outlying areas; haggle if you have to hire the tricycle for the day


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