8 Fun Ways to Enjoy Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Piat Shrine

Piat is a town in Cagayan province known their miraculous image of Nuestra Señora de Piat enshrined at the Basilica Minore de Piat.

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church facade with bell tower undergoing restoration

The jump off point is Tuguegarao city and it is just between 32.8 to 33 kilometers away from the town. On our second day, We took the chance to visit this famous pilgrim center despite our hectic schedule.

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tourist center

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The souvenir shop, tourist information center is closed and only one store located near the entrance was open. We arrived past 5:00 pm and few people where around the church.

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bas relief of Our Lady of Piat and Piat logo

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8 Fun Ways to Enjoy Pilgrimage to Piat

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Department of Agriculture -Cagayan Breeding Center with giant boer goat

8.) Land Transportation– We took an hour or so travel via private car from Tuguegarao city to Piat. One can rent a tricycle or AUV vans which ply the capital city to the town.

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People’s Integrated Agri-Tourism Center ( PIAT with giant corn)

7.) Scenery –  One would enjoy the leisurely travel by marveling both man-made and natural wonders.

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6.) Food and Souvenir Items– One must not missed the “Pawa” a type of local delicacy which probably influenced by the Chinese. The steamed ground sticky rice is filled with ground and sweetened peanuts. They are sold in packs of 9 or 10 pieces per pack. They are best eaten when freshly cooked.

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two kinds of Our Lady of Piat statue ( 10 inch) made from fiber resin

I was fortunate to have bought one Our Lady of Piat statue made from fiber glass from an old man manning the religious /souvenir store. There were t-shirts, key chains and magnets for those interested.

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According to our tour guide/ companion/ diver for this tour. I was able to get a big bargain for the Our Lady of Piat statute which normally cost between Php 500 to Php 550.00.  I was able to buy the 10 inch statue for just fraction of the quoted price.

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Our Lady of Mercy Reconciliation Chapel

5.) Bukal na Buhay – There was a spring located at the back portion of the Minor Basilica according to one of the caretakers of the place.

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4.) Basilica Pilgrimage Inn, Museum and Inn – This is like a one stop facilities for those planning to visit the center.

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staircase

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religious / souvenir store located within the church

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museum

There is a small museum which features religious carvings, statues and church vestments. The souvenir store which sells religious images, t-shirts, books among others is close. A portion of the sales goes to helping seminarians and indigents.

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3.) Stations of the Cross – life-size statues, garden, an area to lit candles and place admire the place.

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marker

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2.) Santo Domingo Parish -is located within the premises, with centuries-old bell.

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Santo Domingo parish with centuries-old bell

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Basilica Menor de Nuestra Señora de Piat interior

1.) Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Piat– ( Basilica Menor de Nuestra Señora de Piat ) This is a must visit pilgrim site dates back to 1604 when Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary was brought from Macao to Manila. The image is dark complexion made from paper mache probably originated from Goa, India.

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The dark skinned image resemble the Indians of Goa which is also a Portuguese colony. One can admire the church grounds and immediate vicinity.

Place to Stay : Our jump off point is at Hotel Carmelita in Tuguegarao City.

Note: We would like to “Thank” the local lay sister which took the time to welcome the group invited us to stay and tour around. But our group is such in hurry to go back to Tuguegarao.

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7 Ways to Explore the Callao Cave System

Callao cave is one of the largest cave system in the country. It is a must visit place when you are within Cagayan province.

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Callao cave -chapel area ( photo courtesy )

It is about 21.4 kilometers away from the capital city Tuguegarao or between 35 to 50 minutes away. We pass through winding landscape, valleys, fields, houses, commercial establishments and the scenic Pinacanauan river along the way.

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Pinacanauan river

There are many ways to hike and enjoy the cave system and immediate surroundings . Due to lack of time, we only managed to explore the area which is accessible to the general public.

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entrance

We arrived almost 4:30 pm at the entrance of Peñablanca Protected Landscape and Seascape. The cave is located in two barangays Magdalo and Quibal. There were over 330 cave system within the protected area with Callao cave being the largest and frequently explored by visitors.

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There is also a garbage in-garbage out policy. graffiti, use of camera flash and touching the stalactites and stalagmites are highly prohibited.

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7 Ways to Explore the Callao Cave System

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7.) Admiring its Natural Landscape– One can admire the surrounding views even before arriving at the entrance.

6.) Flora – There are a lot of flowering plants and trees within the hiking trail. We spotted some dischidia species,ferns, trees and flowering plants. We saw several non-native trees like mahogany planted within the area. Hope that the local park authorities would minimize planting these exotic species.

5.) Fauna– There are at least 3 different kinds of bats, countless species of birds, insects and swiftlets or balinsasayaw which inhabit the premises. Hornbill bird sighting is very rare.

4.) Taking photos – The best way to capture precious moments. Selfie and groupie is highly encourage minus the use of flash.

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3.) Pinacanauan river banca ride– A banca ride along the river is recommended to those who wanted to see the immediate surroundings and other caves within the protected landscape.

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2.) Souvenir Items– One can buy souvenir items like t-shirts , key chains and magnet. This helps the sellers and stall holders.

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1.) Exploring Cave System– Callao cave was named after the horn bill bird which used to be common within the area. It is now rare to see one within the protected landscape. The cave is made up of seven chambers and various formations: the Column, Chapel, Skeleton, Elephant’s Head, Praying Angel, Rocket, Lion’s Head and Dog’s Head Formations. We only manage to reach the “chapel ” area since it is getting dark and could not explore the other chambers.

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marker with graffiti

There are numerous graffiti at the entrance of the cave, some dates back in the 1930’s when the cave was opened to the pubic.

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The most famous among the formation is the chapel with its cement benches, altar and grotto. They conduct Catholic mass every 1st Saturday of the month. There are also wedding and pre-nuptial photo usually held upon reservation.

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vertical cave entrance

 According to the locals, the trek was much harder and few people would be able to climb the cave system even until the early 1970’s. It was only when cement staircase was built when more people were able to access the cave.

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113th staircase

We also have a ceremonial photo opportunity on 113 step since it is considered lucky and another group photo when we reach the top.

There are two ways to to climb the cave. The one with 184 steps cement stairs which reach the entrance of the cave and 300 plus step which local would call viewing deck, since one can see the panoramic view of surrounding landscape.

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Mr. Wilber Bancud

 Our group met Mr. Wilber Bancud who is a volunteer tour guide of the cave for 9 years. He is fluent in Itawis, Ilocano, Tagalog and English. Try to contact him at (0965-218-5965) when you plan to visit the cave.

Compared to the Pinagrealan cave system that we explored in the Norzagaray, Bulacan. This is bigger and more complex.

excavation site where bone fragments and stone tools were found

The carrying capacity of the cave system is about 2,000 people on a daily basis and only between 150 to  200 people by batches were allowed to enter the cave according to our guide. This would normally peak during the summer months or from late November to early June.

It is best to visit the cave early in the morning or noontime, for photography inside the cave is best during these time.

Note: There is a minimal entrances of Php 20 per person, Php 15 students, senior citizens and person with disability. Other rates also apply.

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Peñablanca welcome arch

How to Get to Callao Cave

Tuguegarao city is the jump-off point to Callao Cave. We took a private car which is the fastest and convenient mode of transportation.

It is also best to have at least 3 to 4 persons to form a group, so that one can divide any expenses.

To get to Callao Caves from Tuguegarao City, one can negotiate a tricycle for at least P400 to Php 500 round trip. If your are alone and in a budget, you can take the shared tricycle at Peñatoda (Peñablanca tricycle) station in Tuguegarao Riverside to Callao Caves resort (P40/pax, 30 minutes) then take a boat to Callao Caves (P20/pax, 2 minutes).

Another option is to ride a jeep/tricycle in Balzain Highway going to Quibal for P35.00/head that leads to straight to Callao Cave, public ride is a bit rare though and you might need to charter the entire ride.

To ride a banca to Pinacanauan river, go downstairs near the Callao Cave entrance. One banca can accommodate up to fifteen (15) people, so you may opt to join other groups to lessen the expense. A banca ride cost P300.00, back and forth.

Where to stay: We stayed at Hotel Carmelita in Tuguegarao City.

Dining Experience at Billy Jacks Panciteria in Tuguegarao

Billy Jacks Panciteria is famous for their Pancit Batil Patung. This is one of the must dine restaurant when you are in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan province. Is also favorite hang-out place for foreign tourists.

The panciteria is owned and managed by Mr. Billy Anchanzar Lim opened in 2014.

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Pancit Batil Patung ordinary Php 80

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Billy Jack’s Panciteria

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Billy Jacks Panciteria interior

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Billy Jacks Menu Board

Billy Jacks Panciteria sitting capacity is between 40 to 60 persons at any given time and it is always teeming with customers. We were lucky to visit this restaurant early mid-morning around past 10:00 am just before lunchtime.

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Billy Jacks Panciteria

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The vibe is mid -1970’s and 80’s with reggae/surfer atmosphere with poster of Bob Marley, surf, guitar with a lot of signatures from their customers and loyal clients.

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signature and autograph from customers

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Bob Marley photo collage

Pancit Batil-Patung

Pancit Batil-Patung (or patong) is the specialty of Tuguegarao city. Almost every carinderia, eatery or even in hotel serves this kind of noodle.

The name originated from Hookien and Ibanag languages- Pian e Sit- from Hookien-Chinese language “which means easy or convenient food”, “Batil “( to beat ) and “Patung” ( to put on top).iho

Before the 1970’s, Most of the pancit (noodles) serve in the province were miki, bihon guisado. It was in the early 1970’s when Theo’s Panciteria introduced this dish by adding carabao’s meat with poached egg. Triangle Panciteria offered this dish around 1972 and is one of the oldest known panciterias which still offers this well-loved noodle.

Out of the 160 or so panciterias in the province, Over 90 panciteria have sprung -up in the city. The city’s thus earn the nickname “Pancit Capital of Cagayan“.

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Pancit Batil Patung with chorizo for Php 100

The noodle was introduced by the Chinese immigrants and was localized by using ingredients which are available in the region.

This is an all in one noodle dish which is heavy, the original version had a hand pulled miki noodles topped with sautéed minced carabao meat (carabeef/ karahay) with poached egg on accompanied with a cup of soup made from carabao beef stock complemented with another egg cracked and stirred in the soup.

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It is also serve with chopped onions, chilies plus a dash of calamansi and vinegar to add taste.

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The group ordered two kinds of pancit batil patung, the ordinary one and the one with chorizo. This is the first panciteria to offer pancit batil patung with balut.

Other popular variations of the pancit-batil patung at Billy Jack’s Panciteria comes by simply adding on some of the available toppings such as: balut,Tuguegarao longganisa, tapa, chorizo, sisig, chicharon bulaklak among others.

Visitors from Metro Manila and other places, specially returning college students after the semester break and summer break flock to the panciteria for some bouts of the famed pancit with their own variations of choice.

The restaurant is just few kilometer away and within 1 ride away from Hotel Carmelita.

Address: Buntun, Santiago- Tuguegarao road, Tuguegarao City, Cagayan province

Operations: Mondays to Sunday from 9:00 am to 8:30 pm

Contact : (078) 304-1888/ 0975-363-5435

10 Interesting Places to Visit and Stay in Tuguegarao

Tuguegarao is the capital city of Cagayan province. There are a lot of historical places, museum, churches and natural wonders for any visitor or tourist visiting the place.

The fastest way to visit the city is via air by taking domestic flights. While the most interesting and scenic places can be captured via land routes.

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Van Gob statue near Robinson’s Mall -Tuguegarao

We took the exciting 9 hours trip from Cubao, Quezon City to Tuguegarao City with one stopover at San Jose City, Nueva Ecija province.Land travel from Metro Manila may vary from 8 hours to 12 hours depending on how fast or slow the driver due to ( road construction and traffic).

In our short stay in the city, We managed to visit these places.

10 Interesting Places to Visit & Stay in Tuguegarao City

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Buntun Bridge and Cagayan River

10.) Buntun Bridge and Cagayan River – This is considered as the second longest bridge in the country with length of 1,369 m (4,491 ft) with 15 spans. It also provides panoramic view of the Cagayan river which is the longest and widest river system in the country.

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Boy Kanin at the WOW Tuguegarao standee

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WOW Tuguegarao standee at night

9.) WOW Tuguegarao Standee–  This is an iconic landmark to get a selfie or groupie when you are within the city. The standee is located near two important fast-food restaurants and mall.

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tricycles

8.) Tricycle and Calesa ride – We managed to ride in one of the colorful tricycles which ply the major streets in the city.

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7.) Cagayan Museum and Historical Research Center- This is located within 5 kilometers within the city’s centro district.

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Ms. Lorie I. Decena (Museum Researcher I -Cagayan Museum and Research Center)

The museum and research center was conceived by the Provincial Board in 1971 and became operational on its inauguration on August 15, 1973 during the traditional Aggao na Cagayan.

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stone age tools and animals found in the province

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Homo erectus skull replica

The museum is divided into several sections and theme

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primary and secondary burial jars

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Homo luzonensis

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farming tools

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religious statues, ecclesiastical items and vestments

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ethnic group

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portion of the building which used to be jail

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fountain area and outer courtyard

This is one of the few buildings in the country which used to house a jail  with free guided tour service when one visit the city. There is no entrance fees collected in the museum.

Address: Otis corner and Aguinaldo street, Tuguegarao, Cagayan

Operations – Mondays to Friday 8:00 am to 12:00nn and 1:00pm to 5:00 pm

Contact: (078) 846-73-37

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6.) Plaza Rizal and Monument- This monument was erected more than 100 years-ago in August 17, 1918 during the incumbency of Governor Honorio Lasam. Dr. Jose Rizal’s had an overcoat and at the foot of the statue had four Filipina ladies in period costume which represents (virtues): Prudence (Katalinuhan), Justice (Katarungan), Fortitude (Tibay ng Loob) and Temperance (Pagtitimpi).

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details at the base of the monument

The design was inspired from the design of Mr. Carlo Nicoli. The base of the monument was made from adobe stones.

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The monument is erected just in front of the Cagayan Museum and Research Center,Tuguegarao Cathedral, schools, sports complex and important historical areas within the city.

Sources: Cagayan Museum and Historical Research Center, Historical Marker
Cagayan Heritage Conservation Society (Mr. Prince Wilson Macarubbo and Mr. Kevin Domingo) Ms. Lorie Decena.

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5.) Tuguegarao Horno– This is a place where bricks kilns are made and fired during the Spanish colonial regime. Most of the bricks were used in the churches and government buildings of the city.

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Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral

4.) Tuguegarao Cathedral- Also called Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral. This was built in the mid-18th century with bricks, adobe, mortal and stones.

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historical marker

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facade

High relief pilasters with alternating smooth and Solomonic/swisted design

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bricks

The cathedral sustained a lot of damage during the second world war during the aerial bombings by the Japanese forces on December 8, 1941 and during the liberation of the city in 1945.

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Address: Rizal Street, Barangay Centro 10, Tuguegarao City

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Lighthouse Cooperative

3.) Lighthouse Cooperative and Financial district – Lighthouse cooperative is located within the city ceter, One can buy products made in Tuguegarao or within the province.

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Tuguegarao City

2.) Ancestral Houses, Post Modern Mid-Century Buildings -There are few ancestral houses and mid-century buildings located within the downtown area. This is due to many factors, One is the city was heavily destroyed by the Japanese during the second world war, destructive fire and typhoons which destroyed many old buildings and houses.

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mid-century ancestral house

According to our tour guide, Typhoon Lawin left a big portion of the province without power for more than two months.

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1.) Hotel Carmelita– is located within the heart of the city. The hotel is just beside a bus company and features a restaurant, bar, a shared lounge, garden, convention place, venue place, swimming pool and 24 hour Boy Kanin restaurant.

All of these places are accessible within 15 to 20 minute drive or commute from the hotel premises.  WOW Tuguegarao standee is just 10 minute walk from the place.

Several well-known celebrities like Mr. DJ Durano and other personalities had stayed at the hotel.

Contact: 0917 572 2777 / (078) 844-1024

Address: # 9 Diversion Road Balzain, Tuguegarao City, Cagayan 3500

Boy Kanin Opens in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan

Boy Kanin had a grand opening at the premiere and cultural heritage district in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan province.

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Boy Kanin at WOW Tuguegarao marker

The big day started past 10:00 am with a grand motorcade within the historical centro district, capitol grounds and along the commercial center of the city.

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motorcade

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tricycle paraded within the city

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Boy Kanin mascot together with tricycle drivers of the city

BOY Kanin Grand Opening

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 Boy Kanin’s CEO and President Mr. Ronald Allan Callao together with Mr. Tristan Jarvis Tolentino ( franchisee),Ms. Nastassia Euperio (Miss Tuguegarao 2019),important local officials, friends, family, motorcycle association, bicycle group and the general public graced the occasion.

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Miss Natassia Euperio together with her friends and co-employees

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Miss Natassia is Miss Tuguegarao 2019. She is also the city’s ambassador of goodwill

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ribbon cutting

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After a short prayer and ribbon cutting ceremony, The general public were able to dine-in at the first 24/hour full service restaurant in the region.

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Affordable Price

 The restaurant is known for their all time favorite, well-loved lugaw, all day almusal, chicken pinoy barbecue, crispy pata,tocino, pinoy burrito and their new pinoy spaghetti.

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sizzling sisig with rice

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Boy Kanin rice meal

crispy pata

crispy pata

The restaurant had a stylish interior which can accommodate between 80 to 100 customers. Unlike other fast-food restaurants which limit students to study within their premises.

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friendly staff

Boy Kanin had a friendly atmosphere that also caters bakadas, office mates, entire family to come and enjoy playing games while eating at the place.

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well lighted dining area

Stylish Interior

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second level

Second level had a cozy sit down place. One can enjoy playing board games, FREE access to pillows and bean bags.

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Hotel Carmelita

The branch is located within the Hotel Carmelita which is more than the usual place to visit, when you are in Tuguegarao. It is just few meters away from Five Star Bus company and major city center.

Boy Kanin -Tuguegarao branch

Address: #9 Diversion Road, Balzain, Tuguegarao City, Cagayan province

Contact : 0917- 572 2777

Operations : Everyday 24 hours