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Pamplona, Cagayan: Your next charming destination

Allure of Isla Paraiso

She is a perfect combination of beauty and serenity. There are no cars, no screaming market vendors, no crowds but only a seemingly endless river merging with the horizon. The scenery erase your weariness and heavy thoughts as you embark on its splendid brackish, warm and transparent water in greenish and bluish shades. You’re out of your boring routine and you are calm.

The weather was fine with no fluffy shreds of clouds under the Pamplona sky when we had the rarest chance of visiting an unexplored and unknown potential destination, hidden from the prying eyes of tourism vultures. Only ten minutes ago, we left Barangay Cabaggan, home of possibly the country’s first village-managed nipa-fueled bioethanol distillery.

An estimate 20 meters hanging footbridge separates Cabaggan and Barangay Nagtupacan, also known as Isla Paraiso. It was the people themselves who named their small island maybe because of its irresistible qualities. We passed through a jigsaw puzzle maze of cute pathway fenced by knee-high bamboos straight into the house of the barangay captain and empties into the bank of the creek.

The houses we passed tell us Isla Paraiso is basically a progressive community despite the absence of an elementary school and a heath unit station due to space limitations. Only a few houses are nipa-roofed and majority are modern houses, a far cry from the images of coastal barangays in Northern Cagayan where houses alone speak of deprivation.

Shimmering Splendor

The barangay officials were there and offered us some drinks and biscuits, I was disappointed. For tourists, they would have preferred a cold coconut juice or some boiled bananas or sweet potato roots for snacks. Anyway, we’re not tourists. There are two ways to explore Isla Paraiso; through a motorized banca (not the outrigger types) and a privately-owned boat.

The Philippine National Police and members of the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council plus employees of the local government unit of Pamplona were ready for us. The river, a tributary of the Pamplona-Abulug river, is marvelous and relaxing that even the worst thoughts and a gloomy mood disappear.

We proceeded to the banks and boarded a local DRRMC rescue boat. The Mayor who arrived seconds earlier joined us in one of the two boats. We’re on our way to board a privately owned leisure boat for the river cruise. Floating carelessly below the hanging foot bridge, we boarded the boat which can accommodate at least 10 to 15 people at any given time.

The shimmering silky ripples (Ibanag, arapang) caused by the playful rays of the Pamplona sun provides an unbelievable tint of peace and beauty. The river crisscrosses Isla Paraiso and a long stretch of magnetite sand bars dotted by fishermen’s makeshift temporary shelters while they earn a living looms in the horizon.

Domain of Fruticans

In fact on summer nights, the area is dramatically turned into an ethereal-like kingdom of fairies with flickering lights brought by bonfires and other light sources. It is a must-see in summer. Both sides of the river are rows upon rows of Nipa (Nypa fruticans). They have declared both sides of the river as their domain and allowed only a few mangrove species to share in the film-like scenery.

“The river is rich and the nipa has been the source of livelihood of the people aside from fishing,” the young doctor-Mayor added. True to her words, fishes occasionally leapt on the surface of the water as if to confirm the statement of the Mayor.

The river seems to be endless releasing an incredibly beautiful imagery one can see only on social media and elsewhere. The place offers a perfect location shoot for photographers and video enthusiasts. Isla Paraiso offers a varied locations for prenuptial shoots. My bet would be the hanging foot bridge, the sandbars, nipa mangrove and the river itself, at dusk.

It has been a wonderful, refreshing and relaxing river cruise, a rare opportunity given us to explore Isla Paraiso. It will be the same experience the local government unit will offer to tourists once the town embarks of its massive tourism plans and projects.

“This is just the beginning. We want others to share in the natural endowments of our town,” Mayor Arnie said. When we returned, a group of young boys, playfully, were diving and swimming against the backdrop of the bridge. The image, caught on camera, was stunningly beautiful.

Darkness now creeps slowly in the horizon. For Bobby Lucson and Jun Baylon, the struggle between darkness and light is what good photographs are made of. They succumbed to the unimaginable lure.

As we drove back into the comforts of our beachfront house, courtesy of Nena’s Beach Resort, courtesy of a dear friend Dr. Nena Ifurung Velarde, I can’t help but think: Isla Paraiso satiates your eyes to feast on an incredible imagery not even the masters can capture on canvass.

With the allure of Isla Paraiso and the other tourism bets, Pamplona is destined to be your future destination. I bet my bottomless binarayang on that. Benjie De Yro/Northernforum.net

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