Cauayan Travel Guide and Itinerary

The countryside in Cagayan (Photo: Samuel de Leon)

Load up on carbs as well as some culture in the country’s corn capital. Get tips on where to stay, where to eat, and what to see and do in Cauayan.

About Cauayan 

Vast tracts of land greet you as you arrive in Cauayan, a city in one of the country’s top rice- and corn-producing provinces. Depending on the season, the fields are awash in either emerald or gold a picture of rural bliss. But this agricultural city is also surprisingly modern, at once known as the Corn Capital of the Philippines and the First Smarter City in the country. 

Cauayan City is located 375km northeast of Manila, in the province of Isabela, Cagayan Valley (Region II) in Luzon. The city sits along the Cagayan River, the Philippines’ longest and largest river, which irrigates Cauayan’s sprawling fields and is confluent with the Magat River where the massive Magat Dam is located. 

The area’s first pre-colonial settlers were said to be dark-skinned, kinky-haired pygmies — relatives of the first Aeta settlers of northeast Luzon — who arrived some 26,000 years ago. They were followed by the Gaddang people, an Indo-Malay race. They, in turn, were followed by Spanish colonizers.  

 

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Over the years, Cauayan grew from being a town to a municipal district to a city, and was transferred both administratively — from Nueva Vizcaya to Isabela — and physically — from the right bank of the Magat River to its present location to the left of the Cagayan River. During the Spanish occupation, its cornfields were used as tobacco plantations, which helped Spain solidify its tobacco monopoly. When the Americans came, they replaced the tobacco with rice, but the remnants of some Spanish tabacaleras still stand today. 

Even with its agri-industrial roots, Cauayan seems to have no trouble navigating the future. The local government is intent on making the city “future ready” — it’s the first in the country to offer free public WiFi, for one. Because of these efforts, the Department of Science and Technology dubbed Cauayan the “First Smarter City in the Philippines. And with other projects like a mobile library and a food bank, the local government is making a great effort to realize their vision of becoming the Ideal City of the North. 

 

Highlights for the Traveler 

You might say that life in Cauayan is pretty corny. Everywhere you go, you’ll find the grain in different forms — decorating the city’s welcome arches, homes and buildings, and finding its way into the local food and drink.  

Corn-based cuisine is everywhere: Start your day with a hot cup of caffeine-free corn coffee, made of corn kernels that are ground up, roasted and brewed. (You can even eat the dregs like cereal — a complete breakfast!) Quench your thirst on a hot afternoon with a corn shake. End a meal on a sweet note with corn pastillas (a soft milk candy). 

If you’ve had it up to your ears in corn, you can visit the Mushroom Center, about 4km from the city center. This place grows various edible mushrooms, develops novel mushroom farming techniques and specializes in mushroom dishes like spring rolls, tempura and other snacks. 

Once you’ve had your fill, you can explore. Head 12km out of the city center to Hacienda de San Luis (“Bodega de Tabacco” during Spanish times), a tabacalera built in the 1880s. While it houses a museum that can give you a sense of Cauayan’s heritage, this is more than just an educational stop — in 2015, Hacienda de San Luis was converted into an eco-tourism park where you can take part in outdoor activities like camping and hiking. You can also go on a zipline, go wall climbing and rappelling.  

For more adventure, there’s D’Spot Rail Park in Jaycee Farm, a popular wakeboarding park in Barangay Fermin, about 4km from the city center. The park offers water obstacle courses for beginner and expert wakeboarders. Visitors can also practise their marksmanship at the firing and archery ranges at Jaycee Farm. If the bucolic air lulls you into relaxation, you can just chill at the beach bar or lounge in a villa.  

Other sites worth a visit are Our Lady of the Pillar Parish Church, a gorgeous 18th-century baroque church with a preserved brick façade and a grand mural on its ceiling; and the Isabela Green Valley Orchidarium in Sallawit Village, about 4.4km from the city center, where you can have a farm-fresh meal amid the green scenery. If you come around late March to early April, you might just catch the Gawaygaway-yan Festival, a celebration of the province’s bountiful harvest. The two-week event features dancing, parades, talent shows, beauty pageants, cultural shows and street parties.  

 

 By Raymond Maymay, as of January 2020.


Recommendations to be updated.

Recommendations to be updated.

Recommendations to be updated.

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