Exploring Luna, Apayao: Cordillera’s Last Frontier

LUNA, APAYAO, PHILIPPINES — Long gone was the time that when you hear about Apayao province, Kalinga will be the first to pop into your mind. Apayao, once part of the sole province of Kalinga-Apayao (now defunct), is making a name for itself. The local government of Apayao has been active during the past few years in promoting and exploring its hidden gems. According to the local dialect of the Isneg tribe, “apayao” means “negotiable river”. Branded as “Cordillera’s Last Frontier of Nature’s Richness,” you’ll discover that Apayao isn’t all just rivers.

 

Instead of partying at #LaBoracay, we spent a laidback but adventure-filled long weekend at #LaborApayao. We explored the town of Luna in Apayao and several nearby municipalities.

 

Apayao

 

LUSSOK CAVE

Located at Brgy. Dagupan in Luna, Lussok Cave hides 4 large chambers and 27 smaller ones. One needs to swim through the river or ride a boat/raft to get to the entrance of the cave. Once inside, prepare your limbs and eyes for the challenging sight to behold. Three of the large chambers are available for spelunking to tourists. Make sure not to touch the “live” speleothems of Lussok Cave.

 

Lussok Cave
Lussok Cave

Lussok Cave

Lussok Cave

 

 

BAYUGAO FALLS

Bayugao Falls is a three-layered waterfalls located in Brgy. Turod in Luna, just a few kilometers away from the Poblacion. The waterfalls is composed of six cascades and three decks of natural pools rising about 12 meters from each other. A fallen tree trunk in the second pool adds an accidental but a distinct character to Bayugao Falls. The second pool is the most apt for swimming at 10-meters deep.

 

Bayugao Falls

Bayugao Falls

Bayugao Falls

 

 

APAYAO SPORTS COMPLEX

The Payanan Eco-Tourism & Sports Complex, or simply Apayao Sports Complex, has an olympic-size swimming pool, a 400-meter track oval, a football  field, among others.

 

Apayao

Apayao

 

 

MANACOTA CAVE & UNDERGROUND RIVER

Manacota Cave & Subterranean River is one of the recent discoveries in Apayao. River trekking in Manacota River is required to reach Manacota Cave. At the cave entrance, the boat/raft needs to get through a very narrow passage – so narrow that you might topple. Good thing our guides (you’ll be needing many guides, by the way) are coordinated in making the ends meet. Upon reaching one of the largest chamber, you’ll need to climb up to do the spelunking part of the trip. Be extra careful not to disturb the still “growing” speleothems of Manacota Cave. Being a recently discovered one, you’ll encounter lots of these formations. The underground river is supposedly clear but since it rained the night before our visit, the water is a little muddy in these pictures.

Manacota Cave

Manacota Cave

Manacota Cave

Manacota Cave

Manacota Cave

Manacota Cave

Manacota Cave

Manacota Cave

Manacota Cave

Manacota Cave

 

Upon exit to Manacota Cave, a few minutes of river trek will reach the source of the water: a hidden mini falls. Not sure if it has been named yet, but for the meantime let’s call it Manacota Falls.

 

Manacota Cave

Manacota Cave

Manacota Cave

Manacota Cave

Manacota Cave

 

 

MARAG ROCK FORMATIONS

There were two major rock formations in Brgy. Marag. One is the Dupag rock formation, also referred to as Mother Rocks. While the other is Baby Rocks. We haven’t had the chance to visit the Mother Rock as it was crowded during our visit. But we had the Baby Rock all to ourselves. You may encounter blood leeches (limatik) in the area, especially during the rainy season (I personally got the privilege to become a blood bag for a wandering leech).

 

Marag Rock

Marag Rock

Marag Rock

Marag Rock

 

After our visit to the rock formations, we took a moment to appreciate the view of the Marag River through the hanging bridge.

 

Marag Valley Apayao

Marag Valley Apayao

Marag Valley Apayao

Marag Valley Apayao

 

 

APAYAO PROVINCIAL CAPITOL

Although the capital of Apayao is Kabugao, its provincial capitol is located at Luna. Not sure why though.

Apayao Capitol

 

 

PUDTOL CHURCH RUINS

The old Spanish church is located near the town center of Pudtol, at the back of the municipal hall and beside the new church. The ruins, comprised of the side walls and the main altar section, now serves as a garden chapel with an altar dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. According to the guides, its original bell was one of the largest in Luzon, but was never recovered. There are also other church ruins such as the one in Mataguisi.

 

Pudtol Apayao

Pudtol Apayao

 

 

KULIGLIG

Kuliglig is one of the common transport vehicles in Apayao. Having the chance to rent one, we took the opportunity to tour the poblacion of Luna and its neighboring town, Abulug in the province of Cagayan. Lucban Bridge connects these two towns across the Abulug River.
Kuliglig Apayao

Kuliglig Apayao

 

 

 


TRAVEL GUIDE/TIPS (LUNA, APAYAO)

  1. HOW TO GET THERE. Take a Florida Bus Liner or RCJ Bus going to Luna Junction in Abulug, Cagayan. The bus terminals are located in Sampaloc, Manila. Travel time is about 12-14 hours for PhP 700-750. At Junction terminal, take a tricycle going to Luna Poblacion, P30/pax.
  2. WHERE TO STAY. We stayed at Borromeo Residence (Tourist Inn) located at San Isidro Sur, Luna, Apayao. An air-conditioned room, single-bed (twin sharing) with CR costs P600/night. They also do tour guiding services, inclusive of van rental. Contact Joeffrey Borromeo at 09057593779 for more info.
  3. The best cooked rice I have ever tasted was in Apayao.
  4. Landbank is the only commercial bank and ATM in Luna.

 

 


SAMPLE ITINERARY

Day 0 – April 30 (Thurs)
8:00 PM – ETD Sampaloc Florida Bus (Lacson Ave in front of UST)

 

Day 1 – May 1 (Fri)
8:00am – ETA Luna, Apayao
8:30am – breakfast
9:30am – Check-in
10:00am – meet driver and proceed to Marag Valley
11:00am – Explore Marag Valley and its noticeable rock formations
12:00nn – Lunch
1:00pm – Proceed to Manacota Cave & Underground River, Spelunking and Swimming
4:00pm – Head back to Accommodation
6:00pm – Dinner
7:00pm – Socials
8:00pm – Sleep

 

Day 2 – May 2 (Sat)
5:30am – wake-up call
6:00am – Breakfast
7:00am – Proceed to Lussok Crystal Cave & Lagoon, Spelunking, Swimming
10:00am – After caving, proceed to Bayugao Falls in Luna
12:00nn – Lunch
1:00pm – Proceed to Pudtol, Apayao (30 minutes away from Luna)
1:30pm – ETA Pudtol Church/ Mataguisi Church Ruins
2:00pm – Proceed to Nagan & Maton rivers, swimming
3:00 pm – Proceed to Santa Marcela, Apayao
3:20pm – ETA Bacut Lake (Photo-op) (Optional: Boat ride crossing the lake)
4:00pm – Buy pasalubong at Apayao’s Souvenir Shop at Luna Town Proper
5:00pm – Head back to Accommodation
6:00pm – Dinner
7:00pm – Socials
8:00pm – Rest

 

Day 3 – May 3 (Sun)
5:30am – wake-up call
6:00am – breakfast
7:00am – Check-out at hotel, proceed to Luna Junction
7:30am – Ride vans going to Tuguegarao
10:00am – ETA Tuguegarao
10:30am – Proceed to Sts. Peter & Paul Cathedral
11:00am – Rent tricycle and visit Buntun Bridge
12:00nn – Head to Jomar’s Pansiteria for their famous Pansit Batil Patung
1:00pm – Buy Pasalubong at Candice Megamart
3:00pm – Head to Victory Liner
4:00pm – ETD Tuguegarao

 


Credits to Gene, Jep, Louie, and Borromeo Tourist Inn for most of the grabbed photos. The #LaborApayao happened on May 1-3, 2015, organized by Cris.

Powell Abogado

On weekdays, I wear a lab gown. On weekends, I hoist a backpack.

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