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Isabela Queen of the North
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: *
Date: 2006-08-14
There used to be only two provinces in the Cagayan Valley Region – Cagayan and Nueva Vizcaya. But a Royal Decree issued on May 1, 1856 created the province of Isabela from the portion of the provinces of Cagayan and Nueva Vizcaya. From Cagayan, the towns of Gamu, Angadanan and Echague and from Nueva Vizcaya, its capital town Carig (now Santiago) and Palanan were segregated to constitute the province of Isabela. The new province was named in honor of then Queen Isabela II of Spain.

As if destined for greatness, Isabela is now dubbed as the "Queen Province of the North". This premier province is one of the most progressive in the country with Santiago City as the industrial center for Region 2 and Cauayan City, the commercial center. Isabela is also the second largest province in the Philippines.

Although the province did not play a major role in the revolt against Spain, it is in the coastal town of Palanan that the final pages of the Philippine Revolution was written when the American forces led by Frederick Funston finally captured Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo on March 23, 1901.

Isabela comprises an aggregate land area of 10,665 sq. kms., representing almost 40 percent of the regional territory. The province is bounded on the north by the province of Cagayan, on the south by Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Aurora, on the west by the sprawling fertile valley hemmed by the Central Cordillera Mountain, criss-crossed by the Cagayan and Magat Rivers, and on the east by the Pacific Ocean.

The province is also close to developed Asian economies such as Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore. It is strategically located between the port of Cagayan Economic Zone and other fast-paced development centers in the country such as Subic and Clark Freeports. The development potentials of the province is further strengthened through the establishment of Isabela Special Agro-Industrial Economic Zone.

Isabela boasts of a variety of attractions and destinations. Fast-becoming a major tourist destination here is Palanan, one of the coastal towns, which is a center of biodiversity studies and researches. Its coastal areas host whales and dolphins. The site is also ideal for water sports such as scuba diving and surfing. Several NGOs are based in this town where they operate their monitoring of the whole length of Sierra Madre.

The Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park is a haven for researchers and outdoor enthusiasts. Its mountains rise to peaks of about 8,000 feet and is home to one of the country’s largest remaining rainforests with numerous unknown endemic species of flora and fauna. It was declared as number one in biodiversity in the country and also among the world’s top ten biodiversity hotspots. It has a 208-km. coastline and is home to beautiful caves, coves, bays and rich marine life.

The province is endowed with powdery fine white beaches and warm beds of crystalline waters, which span the shoreline of the coastal municipalities of Palanan, Divilican, Maconacon and Dinapigue.

Aside from ecotourism, there are other destinations and attractions here including the Magat High Rise Dam and Tourism Complex, known to be the highest and biggest dam in Asia when it was built in the late 1970’s. Its reservoir area of 4,450 hectares is perfect for fishing, boating and water skiing.

Some historical structures are still visible to this day like the big adobe stone church located in Cauayan City. Now called the San Pablo Church, it is said to be the oldest church in the province and its bell tower is the tallest in the region. Likewise, St. Mathias Church in Tumauini is unique with its cylindrical belfry, the only one of its kind in the country.

Isabela is also home to the "World’s Largest Butaka" or lounge chair at 11 feet and 4 inches in height, 8 inches long, 9 feet and 7 inches wide, and weighs 2,368 kilos. The lounge chair was constructed by 25 workers in 29 days.

Tourism development is fast trickling down to the region with the construction of new accommodation facilities, expansion of existing hotels, and the establishment of new dining facilities, particularly in Cauayan City.

Isabela’s average share of regional tourist arrivals is 45 percent (80,135 total visitors in 2004) with tourist arrivals in the province increasing at an annual average rate of 11 percent over the last five years, and an average tourist receipt of R0.04 billion generated for the last five years.

The Department of Tourism (DoT) Region 2, headed by Regional director Blessida Diwa, offers a 4-day/ 3-night tour package to Isabela. This Biodiversity Appreciation Tour includes a trek to Palanan Church and Aguinaldo Shrine; a river cruise along Palanan River; an overnight stay at Dicotcotan Beach Resort; island hopping to Honeymoon and Divilacan islands; and marine and terrestrial habitat exploration. For more information, log on to or email:

[ Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park (Palanan Rain Forest) Wiki | san Pablo Church Wiki ]

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