I didn’t know that much about Isabela aside from it being one of the major sources of the crops we eat, hence, I was lukewarm on the idea of visiting the province. Plus, I wasn’t seeing a lot of posts about Isabela on my Instagram newsfeed that was why the excitement wasn’t that great. But who was I to surmise.
We went to Isabela for a market research and met with fellow bloggers in the north. The long travel got me a rough start.
The first thing I noticed was the temperature. It was getting lower as we got closer to our destination. I thought Isabela had a hot climate. But I was surprised. It felt like we were in Baguio City during our entire stay. It was coldest in the morning, so if you would visit the place, make sure to get your coffee brewing.
According to locals, the province experiences cold weather starting December until February.
Second thing I noticed was how the people value cleanliness. Their streets were free of trash. When we went to the market, we hardly see any garbage lying on the streets.
And then, their generosity and kindness. It made our stay even more worthwhile.
Setting out for the adventure
Of course, our trip wouldn’t be complete without exploring and discovering Isabela’s destinations. On our first day, we visited Magat Dam. This is one of the biggest dams in the country. The place is panoramic. Upon entering the dam premises, the beautiful view of the mountains will greet you.
From the top, you will enjoy the view of the green mountains, the blue-green water of the river and the fluffy clouds. You can go biking around the area, or have a picnic, or go with the fishermen in catching/harvesting fish from the dam.
After going to Magat Dam, you can have a picnic at Camp Viscarra. There are cottages, picnic tables and grilling area by the river.
You need to cross a hanging bridge to get to the picnic tables. There is also a grotto few steps up from the picnic area. From the grotto, you can climb higher to witness the place’s beauty from a bird’s eye view.
The water of the river is clear and cold, but swimming is prohibited, because of the water current. You have to pay the entrance fee and rent picnic tables and cottages.
We were lucky that we visited Isabela in time for the province’s fiesta called the Bambanti Festival. So, we decided to visit Ilagan City to experience Bambanti. Bambanti is the local term for scarecrow, as Isabela is an agricultural province and scarecrows plays a major role in protecting farmers’ crops.
There were lots of activities in line for the festival, but due to the limited time we had, we just visited the booths of every town which showcased their One Town One Product (OTOP), industries, destinations and culture. According to our friend, visiting all the booths would make you feel that you visited all the towns and cities of Isabela. The booths were created to feature the each town’s identity. There were some that intricately designed. Others had giant robots and dolls.
Wait, I almost forgot one of the most important things in every trip! Food! Eating and discovering the authentic food of every place you visit is a must. And this time, we tried the famous Pancit Cabagan. Guys, I’m telling you, this is a must try! I ate pancit almost always during our stay. It’s mouthwatering and flavorful!
Pancit Cabagan’s secret is its noodles which is manually made. Unlike other noodles, though, its shelf life is short, so you need to cook it immediately.
There are two ways to cook Pancit Cabagan. One is with ‘sabaw’ (sauce). The other is dry. I prefer the latter topped with chicharon and ground pork.
You also have two choices: regular and special. I tried both and tried them in different stores. They didn’t disappoint. All the flavors were complementing one another.
Pancit Cabagan isn’t hard to find in Isabela, as there are more pancitans than sari-sari stores.
Our Isabela trip was unpredictable. It was short, but it definitely left a mark.