Santa Ana is more than #YourAdventureParadise

Written by: Mark Djeron A. Tumabao

In 2022, I was among the lucky individuals invited by the Department of Tourism to join its Familiarization Circuit Tours across the region. I’ve been into four provinces and without biases [okay, a pinch of biased], since I am proud Cagayano myself, nothing compares to my province Cagayan.

“Huwag maging dayuhan sa sariling bayan.” I will never get tired of telling this to everyone. While it is not completely wrong to visit other places in the country, for you to better promote your own tourism destinations, as a local, you should experience it at first hand.

When the DOT, through the Santa Ana Tourism Office, introduced its new tourism brand which is #YourAdventureParadise, I was expecting that the tour will offer the usual pristine white beaches, beautiful resorts, delectable foods, a glimpse of the town’s culture, among others. But I was completely wrong after I was immersed with the series of activities conducted. [Take note of the word ‘immersed’.] As I have mentioned, the tourism brand #YourAdventureParadise is more than the adventures it offer. Here’s why:

YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE YOUR EYES. Santa Ana, Cagayan has proven that the municipality is not only confined with white and pristine beaches as it also promotes ‘fireflies watching’ as one of their tourism attractions.

‘Fireflies Watching’

The ‘Fireflies Watching’ in barangay Casagan offers an odd experience in these days where digitalization has slowly dominating our old days. From the barangay hall, we walked at least 10 minutes to reach the farm near the foot of the mountain where the fireflies thrive. The fireflies live in trees called ‘Kullaban’ by the members of the Casagan Tourguides Association.

In darkness, we appreciate light. As soon as we were advised to keep our phones’ light off and to minimize our voices, the fireflies, one by one, started to astonish us with their presence.

The experience was nostalgic because the ‘fireflies watching’ reminds us of our childhood. If you’re one of those who grew up in the countryside just like me, maybe one of the things you miss as a child is catching fireflies in your own backyard. That scenario when you caged the firefly with your both hands, peek and then let go when you’re fed up.

Children in Casagan are very lucky that they are still free to play with fireflies and can still see their light flickering. And if given the chance to experience this again [I am surely I am], I will definitely bring my nieces and nephews here. And didn’t I tell you as well that if fireflies thrive in an area, it means that it is less polluted? Then it is safe for everyone!

BEHIND THE FOOD IS THE PEOPLE. Members of the Kulinarya de Casagan, who make the native bibingka and serve as tour guides during the fireflies watching. The group was trained by the Department of Tourism.

The Kulinarya de Casagan also didn’t disappoint. After our fireflies’ experience, we were treated with native foods such as tinola, famous bibingka, and rice coffee. Everytime I visit a place; it amazes me how the members of the people organizations that manage the area help one another so that one tourist will have a complete experience. Hats off!


The Santa Ana Tourism Office is hitting two birds with one stone with its beltfishing as new tourism attraction. Locally known us ‘espada’ or ‘bulung-unas’, beltfish has become the center of attraction now in barangay Diora-Zinungan as the Diora-Zinungan Belt Fishing Association was organized by the DOT to make beltfishing not only their sole means of income but also a new one-of-its-kind experience for tourists. Assisted by CEZA, it is composed of 60 fishers from the barangay.

LEARNING FROM THE MASTER. Guilbert Perucho, president of the Diora-Zinungan Belt Fishing Association, demonstrates on how to properly prepare our bait to catch beltfish.

Guilbert Perucho, president, bared that in 2004, from their usual 10-kilometer catching area, the group tried to go as far as 18 kilometers which is now the area for beltfishing.

Beltfishing is not measured by the number of fish caught, but rather the challenge and satisfaction that comes with it. If you have had a busy week at the office or in your home, then put in your bucketlist. From the shore of Diora-Zinungan, only two tourists are allowed per boat accompanied by two members of the association who will serve as our banca operators and tour guides.

An approximate of one-hour sea travel is expected before reaching the catching area. Life vests are provided and a green light from the Philippine Coast Guard is needed before going to the sea. Upon reaching the destination, tourists will be taught on the technical know-how of beltfishing.

FIRST CATCH. As they say, there is always a first time. Here’s to our first catch during our beltfishing activity.

Usually, the activity lasts for one hour to one and half hour depending on the tourists’ catch. The tourist’s catch will be theirs and will be cooked by the spouses of the fishers which will be served during their lunch.

With our more than one hour of stay in the middle of the sea, it made me realized how difficult fishing is. As a tourist who has never tried in my entire life the actual fishing how fishers do, my notion that fishing is all about hooking some bait onto your line, throwing it into the water, and waiting for a fish to bite, were totally washed out.

SECOND CATCH: Love is sweeter the second time around but to catch beltfish for the second time is the sweetest.

“Grabe ang hirap palang maging isang mangingisda,” these were the words I kept on repeating while we were on board. The reality of being out on the water is that you’re going to spend way more time NOT catching/fishing than you will actually reeling something in. And as soon as we reached back the shore, I told myself that the next thing I will buy fish direct from fishers, “Hindi na ako tatawad!” because I had experience it at first hand. Salute to all our ‘bayaning mangingisda’.

MODERN DAY HEROES. My salute to Melmar Arquero Jr and his father (center) for letting me experience beltfishing or fishing in general.
FRUIT OF LABOR. The best part comes after the activity and how else can we best celebrate it if not with a feast of the beltfishes. Thanks to the woman-members of the Diora-Zinungan Belt Fishing Association for preparing our lunch.

More than #YourAdventureParadise

Truly, in Cagayan, fun is endless. And when we say fun, enjoyment is understatement. With my 4D3N experience of #YourAdventureParadise Tourism Circuit, more than the enjoyment, the immersion aspect prevailed as it gave me real-life realization. For me, as a tourist, gone are those days that we only visit one place because it’s beautiful and instagrammable. With Cagayan’s newest tourism brand #EndlessFUNCagayan, the hashtag goes beyond what it has to offer. In the end, more than the place, it’s the people whom we interact and their untold stories worthy to be shared – and in Cagayan it’s endless.