The Cagayan River traverses the whole Cagayan Valley Region, including Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, and flows to the sea at the Aparri estuary in Cagayan. This makes it the longest and widest river in the Philippines.
The river’s presence in such provinces has provided scenic views from the Iguig Calvary Hills,the Buntun Bridge in Tuguegarao City, and the Aparri estuary while supplying the much needed irrigation supply to the bountiful fields of the valley.
In the municipality of Madella in Quirino, part of the river’s tributary and its surrounding natural attractions have become an ecotourism destination—the Governor’s Rapids.
The 600-hectare area spans five barangays including San Bernabe, Divisoria Sur, Villa Jose V. Ylanan, Villa Agullana, and Divisoria Norte. It is recognizable for its wide river flanked with limestone cliffs on both sides.
On a sunny day, visitors can clearly see the green waters and the bright white limestone formations of the place cutting a path through the lush foliage in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountain.
It’s easy to marvel over Governor’s Rapids’ beauty that visitors would likely not even bother to ask why the place is called the way it is.
“The story goes that a Japanese Governor General was in these waters,” says Jesus Duran, a bogador or boat rower, and guide at the Governor’s Rapids. “The boat he was on later capsized.”
It’s unknown whether he died or not, or if the story itself bears any truth, but it’s more than enough to inspire its present-day name.
Activities to try
For a visitor to make the most out of the visit, it’s best to enjoy the Governor’s Rapids and its many natural attractions by trying the various activities offered to tourists.
How fun are the activities, one may ask? To put it simply, Duran says that “no visitor has come here and left unhappy.”
Boating, for instance, allows guests to leisurely cruise along a portion of the river and enjoy the serene view and fresh air. Each boat can accommodate up to five visitors.
For those who are more adventurous, free-floating tubing—or simply, water tubing—on the slopes of the Governor’s Rapids provides the thrill of riding the river’s rapids while sitting on a floatation device.
The limestone formations in various shapes and heights along the banks of the river are perfect jump off points for cliff diving. Guests can simply climb The Stage, a formation specifically deemed as ideal and safe for visitors to take the plunge.
But Governor’s Rapids is not exclusively for water activities. In fact, visitors are highly encouraged to explore the taller limestone cliffs, which hide a system of caves and waterfalls.
Spelunking in the area’s limestone caves leads to what the locals call magic falls. It’s called such because it only appears when it wants to.
“It’s rare for the magic falls to show up. Regardless of the weather or climate, water flows at the most random moments,” Duran says.
When it does appear, however, not only does it excite tourists, the locals can also expect a weather condition in the coming days.
“Once water flows out, it’s a sign that there will be rainfall in three to four days,” he adds.
Leonardo Pimentel, Duran’s fellow bogador and guide, recommends an all-in tour package (P600), which lasts anywhere from three to four hours.
“It’s inclusive of all the activities you can try here,” Duran says. “This way, visitors can see all the sights here at Governor’s Rapids.”
Guests can fully enjoy their time at Governor’s Rapids, not just because of the natural attractions, but also because of all the safety precautions in place.
Every activity begins with a briefing where dos and don’ts are discussed. The most important bit? Always follow the guides.
“All the guides are trained by the Department of Tourism,” Duran says. “They undergo at least five upskilling sessions, including basic life and rescue training.”
Despite this, safety gear is a must.
“For all activities, we never allow guests who are not willing to wear a life vest, helmet, or rash guards,” Pimentel says. “We impose these rules for the safety of everyone because they are our responsibility.”
The guides carefully consider the weather and river’s water levels, too, before proceeding with any activity.
“If the river swells or if there’s a storm, all water activities are not allowed even if the guests insist,” Duran says. “We can only push through if the river is calm or if it’s just drizzling.”
Preserving the area
Given that Governor’s Rapids is an ecotourism destination, it’s important to keep the place in its best natural state.
For this, the local authorities, Duran says, have issued an ordinance
“There have been instances where guests have been fined because of littering,” Duran explains. “That’s why we encourage guests to keep the place trash-free.”
Visit to the Governor’s Rapids is part of the Quirino tourism circuit called Quirino: Your basket of Happiness!
All tourist destinations in Quirino have health and safety protocols in place to protect locals and visitors alike. Everyone is expected to comply by wearing face masks, regularly washing their hands, and practicing physical distancing.
To check out up-to-date information regarding local destinations that are open and the safety protocols and requirements needed for each location, you may visit philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel, Apple Store, or Google Playstore.