Santa Praxedes, Cagayan: An Escape to the Extraordinary

Written by: Sonnyboy P. Pacursa

From the immense northern seas, a cooling breeze that negates the heat of the scorching, broad summer sun rolls in, rustling the huge, elongated leaves of beach almond trees (lugo) that lined the serene beachfront. Sitting on a log under the shade, I look out on a seascape of aquamarine, turquoise-blue colors. At anchor on a tiny bay hugging into the hemline of the northern Cordilleras before me, are several fishing boats gleaming painted-yellow in the sun on a backdrop of the startling blue sea.

A curving panorama of pale golden sand spattered with colorful seashells and coralline fragments define the entirety of the semicircular bay. A dense, tropical growth of a verdant greenery of enormous trees blankets the surrounding mountains set back opposite from the beach. I am in a traveler’s paradise where adventures never end. I am in every intrepid’s destination wish list in this tiny, sunny speck of tranquility.

This captivating paradise is in Mingay Beach, Santa Praxedes in Cagayan, the northernmost province of Luzon Island, tucked between the mountain ranges of Sierra Madre in the east and the Cordilleras in the west. I’ve been into several places in Cagayan, but this time in this municipality on an excursion into the spectacular, eccentric destination the mediocre will snub. Cagayan abounds with an endless fun of striking phenomena – from wild rivers, gentle rolling hills, marvelous caves, lofty mountains and volcanoes to coastal realms. But spot like Mingay is unusually special. I have considered it as one of the most beautiful places in the province I’ve been into. Mingay represents a place in Cagayan to kick off your shoes for a real life fantasy of Robinson Crusoe saga or Tom Hank’s Cast Away survival adventure in a paradise that beacons a traveler with the promise of an escape to the extraordinary.

Time was too slow in Mingay but my settlement for three days in the bay was perfected in a sensational way where the quickest pace of the day was having indulged with a beach stroll. At sunrise, a littoral hill commands the picture-perfect view of the arching bay of the pale golden sand encircled by the massive Kalbario-Patapat Protected Rainforest, an International Union for Conservation of Nature or IUCN assessed key-biodiversity area. At sunset, an equally fascinating bay, the Mingay A Bassit Beach (Little Mingay) glanced over the hill exerts a pull of excitement. The hill, located perfectly between the two bays serves as a central giant sentinel, offering double-sided panoramic view of both the semicircular bays.

There is no permanent population in Mingay. No roads. No stores, No Wi-Fi signals. No inns. No electricity. Darkness came; galactic lights bathed the entire beach. There were no artificial lights except from the campers’ torches. There were no sounds other than those from nature – the wind rush through the trees, the songs of nocturnal creatures and the harsh gush of the surf in its perpetual barrage of waves, torpedoing the side of the Simmapatos rock formation not too far from our camping tents. We dined on seafood previously pulled hours earlier from the near shoals and coral reef-rich waters of Mingay; a bounty of gamet and ar-arusip, sea urchins and a delectable grilled mulmul (parrot fish).

On the first glimpse of the morning, my journey on the stretch of Mingay revealed a landscape of exotic and at once familiar. Its wild shores and limpid waters remind me of the beautiful island of Calayan. Its colossal rock formations and coral reefs teeming with life evoke those in Camiguin de Babuyanes Island. Its green palette mountains resemble the Sierra Madre of Santa Ana and the Palaui Island. It’s the juxtaposition of these different features that makes Santa Praxedes so exotic, yet alluring.

We landed first on the majestic Burbursayok Falls plummeting down from the rocky cape directly into the Babuyan Channel, a body of water dubbed as the playgrounds of the giants. As we proceeded to the next destination, innumerable rock formations and caverns greeted our sight with such nature sculptures molded by the geologic forces and the immortal blitzkrieg of waves and wind. We briefly anchored in a crystal-clear waters protected by the surrounding reefs only to be mystified by the high-rising Bilbilagot Falls free-falling down to the sea. With nearly eighty waterfalls in the country I photographed, Bilbilagot is the tallest; possibly also the highest known waterfalls in Cagayan. I donned a snorkeling gear and dived on the shallow natural- aquarium near the waterfalls. I could see fishes of extravagant colors and seemingly limitless variety of corals in bizarre shapes.

Santa Praxedes is a town of beautiful sheltered coves. Of those, there are seven notable beach coves namely the Salsalaysay, Immugsa, Mingay (Dakkel and Bassit), Puwak, Nanaplaan and Kimmansir. Each cove has its own, unique characteristic of tranquility and eye-catching beaches bounded by massive cliffs saturated with rainforest and thick vegetation. But Kimmansir Cove is the most stunning, most bewitching and most enthralling of them all yet, also the farthest to reach.

A Praxedenian shimmering jewel, Kimmansir Beach offers the enchantment of turquoise-blue waters, murmuring surf and the peculiar immaculate white, uniformly-sized, quail egg-shaped stones on its shores. As we approached the beach, Kimmansir sparkled and shimmered as it collided with the sunrays of the morning. Kimmansir is a landscape that captivates at first glance. It has enchanted the fisherfolks and the locals but it remained concealed, hidden from the world until the boom of ecotourism industry. And for those fortunate enough to travel here, Kimmansir still charms them – one thing it has done for many decades since its pioneer visitors experienced the same bewilderment.

But for the seasoned adventurers, it’s not the cozy hotels and lavish night life that impress them in the places they visit. For me, the enchantment of Mingay and the rest of Santa Praxedes would come into its both rugged and untroubled coasts, magnificent coves, rich tropical rainforest and laidback life that surely will bring you an adventure to the unusual, an escape to the extraordinary. ©