The southern portion of Nueva Vizcaya is a rough agglomeration of small towns and two protected areas around the rugged and heavily forested Caraballo Mountains, which cross into Nueva Ecija to the south. It has the Dalton Pass, the road gateway to Cagayan Valley.
This area guide encompasses seven rural municipalities (and their central settlements) and two protected areas. The municipalities covered (with population from the 2015 census) are:
- 1 Bambang (53,000) — The largest municipality, with a bustling town center
- 2 Alfonso Castañeda (7,900) — A rural municipality only reachable on the highway between Nueva Ecija and Aurora
- 3 Aritao (37,000)— The junction between Maharlika Highway (Asian Highway 26) and Benguet-Nueva Vizcaya Road.
- Dupax — Rather two municipalities, named 4 Dupax del Norte (27,500) and 5 Dupax del Sur (19,000) since the 1970s, It has Spanish-era relics such as the San Vicente Ferrer Parish Church and Dampol Bridge.
- 6 Kasibu (37,000) — Remote municipality with mountains and caves
- 7 Kayapa (23,700) — A town along the Benguet-Nueva Vizcaya Road.
- 8 Santa Fe (16,000) — Remote municipality which encompasses most of Dalton Pass.
The two protected areas are Casecnan Protected Landscape and Salinas Natural Monument.
The region is remote, dominated by mountain peaks and rainforest, but has plains and valleys, where the Magat River, a tributary of the Cagayan River, runs southwest to northeast. Most of the population is concentrated in the plains along the Magat River valley, in the municipalities of Aritao, Bambang, Dupax del Norte, Dupax del Sur, and Kasibu.
Southern Nueva Vizcaya is the traditional homeland of the Ilongot, a tribe related to the Igorot in the Cordilleras. They used to follow the primitive practice of head-hunting until they were finally converted to Christianity in the 1960s, and soon called themselves Bugkalot to leave behind their bloody but proud past. Another indigenous group to the area are the Isinai, formerly called Mallat or Imaalat, a gentle tribe who easily embraced Christianity.
Asian Highway 26, or locally Maharlika Highway runs north to south through the area. South of Aritao, it crosses the rugged Dalton Pass from Nueva Ecija. Buses ply the highway all day, most plying routes from Manila to the northern Cordilleran provinces (Ifugao, Kalinga) and the rest of Cagayan Valley.
Benguet–Nueva Vizcaya Road (Route 110) connects the area with Baguio, and meets Asian Highway 26 at Aritao.
The Pangasinan-Nueva Vizcaya Road, which partially follows the historic Villaverde Trail used by the Americans to reach Dalton Pass, will connect southern Nueva Vizcaya directly with Pangasinan and Ilocos Region in general, but is still incomplete. Existing routes will be via Baguio or Nueva Ecija.
- 1 Dalton Pass (Balete Pass). It is a rugged piece of terrain where a part of the Caraballo Sur reaches south and joins the Sierra Madre. Because of its strategic importance as the only access between Nueva Ecija and Cagayan Valley, the pass became the scene of much bloody fighting during the final stages of World War II. Japanese Shobu soldiers headed by General Tomoyuki Yamashita tried to hold their positions while Filipino and American soldiers under the leadership of Colonel Robert Lapham, were determined to dislodge them from February to March 1945. By the close of hostilities, the blood of almost seventeen thousand Japanese fighting units and the US-Filipino allied forces mingled with the soil. Markers that commemorate their sacrifice stand by the road’s highest point, with good view into the highlands. The shrine is a reminder for Gen. James L. Dalton who was killed by a sniper’s bullet during the end of World War II. At 900 m (3,000 ft) above sea level, Dalton Pass is the gateway to Cagayan Valley.
Dupax del Norte and Dupax del SurEdit
The main attraction is the old San Vicente Ferrer Parish, built in 1776; other sights are well-preserved Spanish-era monuments such as the Spanish Flagpole and Dampol Bridge — an unreinforced bridge made of bricks.
- San Vicente Ferrer Parish Church (45-minute drive from Bayombong.). One of the biggest and oldest unreinforced brick churches (18th century) in Cagayan Valley. The church has all the requisites of an Old Spanish brick church like wooden altar, columns and lattices and a museum which houses centuries old church artifacts. The church is declared by the National Museum as a National Cultural Treasure in 2001.
- Kayapa Fruits and Vegetable Farms is a three-hour drive from Bambang highway. Travel over forested mountains and hills, cool climate, streams/rivers and terraced slopes of vegetables, fruits, flowers and rice fields. Kayapa town cuts travel time from Nueva Vizcaya to Baguio by two hours during summer. Bambang fruit and vegetable stalls also serve as outlets for fresh produce from Kayapa frequented daily by buyers from Manila and Baguio.
Kasibu, a remote municipality within 31 km (19 mi) from the town of Bambang and 51 km (32 mi) from Solano, has a group of caves at the remote barangay of Capisaan, which can be reached by a four-hour jeepney ride from Solano.
- Capisaan Caves, Capisaan, Kasibu. The fifth longest cave in the country at 4.2 km (2.6 mi). It has layers of cave network including Lion and Alayan Caves with rare calcite formations and a subterranean river which doubles as a passageway to the best part of the cave. Brgy. Capisaan is about four hours by jeep from Solano on feeder and clay type soil road carved out of mountain sides.
- Alayan Cave, Malabing Valley, Capisaan. Ranked as one of the best in the country, Iit is a multi-chambered cave with living calcite formations and subterranean river. Tours can be arranged with the Sang-at-Salug Mountaineering Group or the Provincial Government of Nueva Vizcaya.
- Heaven Cave, Malabing Valley, Capisaan. Has two big chambers of various calcite formations and a mezanine of pure white limestones where one has take off their footwear before exploration.
Other caves in the area are Lion and Sabrina caves.
- Mount Ugu. The mountain offers trails that pass through native communities of the Kalanguya tribes and is becoming a favorite mountaineering destination among outdoor enthusiasts.
- Imugan Falls, Imugan, Santa Fe (30 minutes from Maharlika Highway). A two-level falls with a shallow catch basin. Trek over streams/rivers emanating from the falls. Enjoy trekking, exploration, swimming, fishing and cultural immersion. Also within the area is the Imugan Mountain Fresh Factory which utilizes wild berries and other fruits to produce spreads and jams while visitors can watch the production process and shop for preserved fruit spreads. .
The larger towns will have at least one hotel, and are mostly new. Most lie in the budget range, but due to the remoteness of the area, payment is expected to be in cash only.
|Routes through Southern Nueva Vizcaya|
|Santiago City ← Bayombong ←||N S||→ Carranglan → San Jose City/Manila|
|Baguio ← Bokod ←||W E||→ END|