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    Aparri Gateway to Cagayan



    As our jeepney rounds the bend, I am presented with a splendid view of the Magapit Bridge spanning the Cagayan River. The village of Magapit is situated on the eastern shore of the Cagayan River at the junction of two major arterial roads, which link the northern municipalities with the south and the northeastern municipalities with the northwest.

    Our driver decided to pull over at the Magapit junction, allowing us to stretch our legs and enjoy the refreshments being offered by the many marketing stalls that surround the eastern approaches to the bridge. The opening of the bridge at this point, has provided the locals with a viable industry, catering for the hundreds of travelers that pass through here on a daily basis.

    Magapit Bridge Spans Cagayan RiverOriginally a gift from Japan, the Magapit suspension bridge was the first of it's type to be erected in Asia. The bridge was constructed during the nineteen seventies and is most important, as it is the only bridge spanning the Cagayan river in the far north of Cagayan Province. It provides a more direct route from the northwestern municipalities to the capital city of Tuguegarao, as well as a road link to the northern port city of Aparri.

    Refreshed, we resumed our journey and headed for the historic township of Lal-lo, which has the distinction of being the only place in the valley where clams can be harvested in commercial quantities. During the Spanish colonization times, Lal-lo was known as the city of Nueva Segovia and was the seat of the Nueva Segovia diocese. It was the capital of Cagayan up to 1839 when the provincial government was moved to Tuguegarao. Most of the historical buildings were destroyed by the American air force in January 1945 when they bombed the area, which was occupied by Japanese forces.

    We stopped at Camalaniugan, especially to visit the church, San Jacinto De Polonia Parish, which houses the oldest bell in the Philippines. The Bell of Antiquity was forged in 1595. I was quite disappointed to find that the church and belfry have been rebuilt and renovated more than once. The bell, however, is the real deal but, it just sounds like a church bell!

    Aparri is a bustling city on the north coast of Luzon, situated at the mouth of the Cagayan River on the eastern side. It is the largest and most important northern port of the Philippines, as it services many surrounding communities. As we approached the city limits the road traffic became more congested as local people performed their daily activities.

    The Business Center of Aparri

    Aparri Market StreetOur jeepney crossed the Appagonan River, a tributary of the Cagayan, only to be confronted by a sea of tricycles plying their trade outside the city markets. The stench from the river, mingled with exhaust fumes, hung in the air as our vehicle maneuvered slowly through the maze of passenger vehicles that clogged the street. Instinctively, our driver turned left into Rizal street, and followed a line of jeepneys to a fairly large parking reserve behind the Metro Bank building at the northern end of the street.

    My companions and I decided to take a stroll along Rizal street to do some window shopping and stretch our legs. The street is choked by tricycles, and the sound of bells, whistles and horns fills the air. Many people are abroad, and navigating the footpath is tedious, as pedestrians have to avoid the many shopkeeper's displays that adorn the walkways. I was fascinated by the amount of noise and activity, as well as the variety of goods that are on display. Jewelers, watchmakers and technicians are operating from tiny little stalls on the sidewalk, seemingly oblivious of the noise, traffic and amount of passersby.

    I selected an eatery along the street, where we were served by a waiter packing a holstered pistol on his hip. I later learned that he was a local Aparri Market Streetcop who owned the place. The food is okay, the coke is watered down, but the doughnuts are first class. In the next block we came across an Internet cafe in Ryans Arcade, we called in to check our email, of course! The connection is pretty good and the staff are friendly and helpful, so we spent a couple of quiet hours there before getting an ice cream from the little shop at the front of the arcade.

    We wandered back down the street and went across to the markets and gazed in wonder at the amount of produce and goods that are on display, and the amount of people there are in here, looking for a bargain. The other side of the building opened onto a street opposite the boat ramp, which is a concrete structure with steps leading down to the river. Seating is provided for passengers awaiting there boat, so we sat there in the shade for a while, to enjoy the cool breeze and the relative quiet.

    Aparri Market StreetOn the way back to our jeepney I called into Rizal Merchandising for some personal items. It's a one stop grocery store absolutely jam packed full of goodies. Staff are friendly, service is good and purchases are packaged for convenience.

    Before leaving Aparri, we called into Jollibee for a snack and some refreshments. Jollibee's product and service are excellent. Good evening sir, good evening Ma'am, thank you for dining at Jollibee, gotta love it!

    La Hunter