If you’d see the itinerary I prepared for the last leg of my Cagayan trip, you’ll see a big blank space next to Sta. Ana. I had nothing planned. No plans = no expectations = no disappointments. But in the case of Sta. Ana, no expectations led to awesome surprises.
After touring Palui Island for a day, we went back to Sta. Ana to explore this lively fishing village – which is actually one of the things I loved about it. Most fishing villages I’ve been to usually are sleepy, empty and quiet; Sta. Ana bustles with life, anytime of the day. (Probably because of the Cagayan Special Economic Zone a.k.a. casinos!)
Thanks to our foster family, we were given a rundown on how to live like a local Cagayanon in Sta. Ana:
1.Pitch out in the beaches
Being a coastal town, Sta. Ana has numerous beaches. We were able to check out local favorites such as the scenic Nangaramoan Beach with its majestic rock formations.
After spending the night in Nangaramoan, we crossed a secret trail that led us to the isolated Anguib Beach, more popularly known as the “Boracay of the North.”
Coming down the trail, we saw this small hut where we decided to stop and ask for water (we had no supply left). The kind old couple Uncle Asyong and Aunty Nita welcomed us, along with their dogs (and their adorable, unnamed puppies). They allowed us to pitch our kulambo, use their poso (manual water pump) and toilet, and even cooked meals for us!
That night, I fell asleep in disbelief. I couldn’t believe I was actually living a fantasy I’ve only daydreamed about for years. With an old scrap of wood as my pillow; the soft, powdery sand as my bed; the sea breeze as my air conditioning and the millions of stars as my night light, I whispered a prayer of thanks to God. It felt unreal just lying there under the stars, and it still feels unreal, even now that I am writing about it.
a. Uncle Asyong and Aunty Nita are the original owners of the ENTIRE Anguib Beach. Uncle Asyong shared stories of growing up by the beach and how they were able to support their 3 children with fishing.
b. Anguib Beach was a “prize” destination for SURVIVOR. The toilet/shower they are still using now was part of a prize for one of the challenges.
c. A politician turned the beach into a private resort, and gave Uncle Asyong and Aunty Nita a small piece of land so they have a “place to stay” – neglecting the fact that the island is rightfully THEIRS in the first place!
The next day, we went back to Nangaramoan, this time crossing the beach during low tide. We hitched a tricycle ride and headed back to our home base.
2. Party like the locals do!
We were invited to celebrate Tita Shelley’s birthday Sta. Ana Style: by the beach, with lots of food and of course VIDEOKE!
3.Watch a basketball game and play at the PERYA (local fair)
Back at our home base, Ate Teng invited us to watch a local basketball league her husband was playing in. We spent a good 5 minutes watching the game, before being distracted by balut, isaw, hotdog and the lights and screams from the ferris wheel.
4. Fish! (Or atleast, help them get the fish out of the net!)
In my travels, I’ve met people who have tried living in Manila, only to end up going back to the provinces. After experiencing the chaos of Manila, all of them prefer the quiet and simple life. In the province, you can live a comfortable life as long as you are kind and hardworking.
In a community like Sta. Ana, barter system is very much alive. People offer services and goods in exchange of other services and goods in return.
The morning of our last day, Ate Teng took us to the fish port to wait for returning boats with the day’s catch. We joined in the fun activity of untangling the catch from the net. I went home with five pieces of tulingan (tuna) for a job well done!
5. Eat. A LOT.
After helping out at the fish port, we went straight to the local market.Tita Shelley and Tita Esther were determined to let us try all kinds of seashells and seaweeds available in the market as our going-away meal.
The market was humongous! There were fruits, vegetables, sea food and other kinds of produce I have never seen before.
We went back home and the ladies started working in the kitchen. They promised a full spread of seaweeds and seashells. Lo and behold:
After the wonderful meal, we prepped up to catch the 3pm bus bound for Manila. But not before we had the taste of the best halo-halo in Sta. Ana: an unassuming stand located near a hardware shop. I forgot the name of the lady owner, but hers was definitely one of the best halo-halo I’ve tasted (Peñablanca’s halo-halo is a close second)!
Our stomachs full, our hearts bursting with happiness, we said our thanks and hugged our foster family goodbye.
The 11 days we spent in Cagayan has got to be most memorable trip I’ve ever done. Four months after, and I still catch myself reminiscing about this trip. I love the north and I really look forward to going back up in December.
But maybe I should try going down South next time, yes?
Ingat and see you on the road!
How to get there:
From Manila, take the Florida bus going straight to Sta. Ana. Terminal is near UST. Fare: about 750php, one way.
Where to stay:
The Inggans are willing to take in solo to trio backpackers for a minimum fee. Hit me up so I can hook you up!
There are limited ATMs in the area. To be sure, bring enough cash and change.
There are hotels in the area, but to save on lodging, I suggest to bring tents and pitch in beaches. Locals may or may not ask for pitch fees, but if they do, it should be minimal.
Going back home to Cavite took me nearly 24 hours. Allot ample time going home.
Know a place I should discover? Or want to travel together? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org