It took me three visits to Tawi-tawi before I finally set foot on the famed Panampangan Island. It’s not an easy island to reach like most of the islands in the region. Hiring boats have a hefty cost especially for independent travelers. An invitation to cover the Kamahardikaan 2017 festivity includes a visit to the island. It was an opportunity that’s hard to pass. Panampangan Island is considered the longest sandbar in the country.
“San ka galing? (Where did you come from?)”
“Sa malayo! Sa merloquet! (Somewhere far! At Merloquet)”
For Zamboangueños, ‘merloquet’ used to be a fabled place pertaining to somewhere far far away when used in colloquial conversation. Nowadays, it pertains to Merloquet Falls that has gained popularity in the recents years due to its wide pour and lovely wall of cascades. It is still far far away in Zamboanga City but I managed to visit the place as a side trip while in the region.
I like non-commercial festivals like the Agal-agal Festival in Tawi-tawi. They are refreshing and different. Unlike popular festivals that honors the Sto Niño, Agal-Agal Festival celebrates the way of life of the Sama people. From harvesting agal-agal (seaweeds), courtships, and even the supernatural. I was excited to see the Agal-Agal Festival 2017 since I enjoyed witnessing it the first time three years ago in Bongao. This year, the 44th Kamahardikaan Festival is hosted by the municipality of Languyan.
It was one of those national landmarks in the country most people are familiar with. Having grown up reading about it on text books, Magat Dam is known one of the largest dams in the country. The water is mainly used for irrigation, flood control and electric source through the Magat Hydroelectric Power Plant. We took a drive to the municipality of Ramon from Echague to visit this popular dam for an afternoon sightseeing.
We came with rain the last time we were in Maddela, Quirino. The waters at Governor’s Rapids were murky and flow erratic like the weather. The recent visit this year was a side-trip from Echague, Isabela, a neighboring municipality across the provincial border. It was a smooth over an hour drive on paved roads. Friends from Isabela tourism seems to be chummy with the people here in Maddela. They knew each other. This time the sun shown bright, the waters a healthy pale green and the rapids inviting. Finally we get to experience this river adventure.
“Who’s bag is this?” I wondered when I entered the igloo-inspired round-house lodging with a cogon roof dome by the Sabtang Lighthouse . I remembered reserving this space when I got in Sabtang Island and before I left for Chavayan. Then Nanay Adela came, one of the owners of the property. “Me dumating na babae nakiusap kung pwede maki stay din dito. Okay lang ba sayo? Birthday naman nya (There’s this lone girl who arrived and pleaded to stay here. Is it okay with me? It’s her birthday)” I guess it would be additional income for her. I really don’t mind staying with strangers since I had been to hostels before. She would be a welcome companion for this leg of the trip.
I was supposed to go to Itbayat but the weather have other plans. Boat trips to the island was suspended for the next few days due to inclement weather and erratic waves. Since I had a flexible itinerary, I decided to take a detour to Sabtang Island instead. The smallest island of Batanes municipality is popular to day trippers from Batan Island. Personally, I would rather spend a night here. No matter how familiar I am with this island, I know I can find something new to do. For one, I haven’t stayed in Chavayan village yet. Or better, try the Old Procession Trail from Chavayan to Sumnanga. I have always been fascinated with that trail. I guess it’s about time I explore it.