One of the newest eco-adventures of Quirino province is river tubing and boating down the Cagayan River. Our down-and-dirty caving adventure at Aglipay Caves warmed the team up for more outdoor adventures, so the following day, we excitedly hopped on (and toploaded) a jeepney to our next eco-adventure. After two hours of driving past hilly corn plantations, we made it to the scenic Ponggo Valley of Nagtipunan, the farthest municipality which surprisingly occupies 52% of the land area of the province. After having our fill of scrumptious pancit cabagan topped with crispy fried pork at MJ Snack and Pancit Cabagan Restaurant upon reaching Nagtipunan town, we were ready to take on the challenges of river tubing and canoeing down a section of the longest river system in the Philippines!
Canoeing from Bimmapor Rock Formation
We started our exploration of the Cagayan River near the Bimmapor Rock Formation, an impressive sandstone outcrop shaped like a bapor or boat, as its name suggests. Splitting into groups of three or four, we boarded native canoes called balasiyan. The small boats are made of lightweight but durable native timber called kalantas (Scientific name: Toona calantas), and manned by boatmen called bugador, who used to transport logs down the river during the heyday of the logging industry in the Cagayan Valley. Our boatman told us that during the summer months the river has a lovely emerald color, and that the water would be so clear that one can see the boulders lying on the riverbed even in deep water.
Our boat ferried us to a sandy riverbank where a trail led us to the entrance to Siitan Gorge. On the far end of the river bank, there was a small inlet of shallow water sheltered by the canyon wall which made for a nice swimming area. While we waited for the others to arrive, we enjoyed wading in the cold river, underneath water trickling down the stone wall.
River Tubing Through Siitan Gorge
The boatmen finally brought the black inner tubes for river tubing. Excited to go river tubing, I clumsily hauled myself onto an inner tube, and the boatman launched it off to the rapids with a strong shove. My tube rumbled on whitewater, and the river carried me towards the canyon wall as it made a sharp bend to the left. I pushed against the wall with both of my feet, and the current carried me along the canyon wall that arched over the river above me. Spring water from high above the gorge flowed down this wall, creating small waterfalls that showered down onto the flowing river. The tube delightfully floated down the river beneath this natural shower, before reaching another bend in the river. Whirlpools sent my tube circling, and I spent some time floating around aimlessly before a surge of water carried me farther downriver where the river finally calmed down to a sleepy pace. I didn’t mind floating very slowly down the last stretch, as I admired the cliffs of limestone and sandstone that flanked the river soaring. I leaned all the way back, gazing at the overcast sky framed by soaring stone walls.
River tubing down the Cagayan River at Siitan Gorge. Photo by Izah Morales of Tripadora.
The boatmen on their canoes finally caught up with me, and they ferried us upriver back to the jumping point where a generous spread was waiting for us famished river tubers for lunch. Having gone river tubing in Maitum, Sarangani before, I enjoyed this tubing down this section of the Cagayan River more, largely because of the gorgeous riverside scenery of Siitan Gorge. Hands down, this was the best river tubing I’ve experienced so far!
This blog post was made possible through #DiscoverTheUndiscovered, a travel blogger tour of Quirino province sponsored by Tourism Board of the Philippines and the Province of Quirino, held from December 12 to 15, 2014. Among the travel bloggers invited were Ferdz of Ironwulf, Christian of Lakad Pilipinas, Julius of Lakwatserong Tsinelas, Marky of Nomadic Experiences, Mica of Senyorita, Kara of Traveling Up, Izah of Tripadora, Sinjin of Libotero and Eric of Byahilo.
The Siitan River Tour Package costs PHP 699 per person, inclusive of boat rental, river tubing, guide and lunch. Transportation to and from Nagtipunan not included. Minimum of four persons in a group. For inquiries, contact the Provincial Tourism Office at Cabarroguis, Tel. +63 9174165945. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, check out my travel guide of Quirino Province.