Enough of child´s play and touristy stuff, and let´s brave the great outdoors of Echague, Isabela.
Knew little about Isabela, so when I got an invite to explore the province, I accepted it. It’s my first time in the province of Isabela, and I definitely had no idea what to do in this province.
After roughly about, 8 hours on the road we reached Echague, Isabela at around 5:30 am. We mainly stayed at a hostel, also houses the Tourism Office of the town, in an old NIA compound next to its Municipal Hall. The town was founded in 1752 and named after Rafael de Echague y Bermingham, the Spanish Governor General that time. Thus before that, it was called, Camarag, which was a name of a tree that was abundant in the place.
Echague is also the home of the Yogads, got to meet them during the Tilamsikan Festival. However, didn’t really get to know much about one of the smallest minority ethnic group in the country during the said event.
And like the town’s name, Yogad got their name from the Spaniards. According to folklore, Yogads were migrants from south of Philippines and ended up settling in the region. Then during the Spanish occupation, they could not be outwitted. So these Spaniards decided to give them entitlement as alta sociedad which coined their ethnic group name as YOGAD.
Apart from those, Echague offers the great outdoors as their main attraction. Well, up coming attractions. And these could potentially be ecotourist sites. We were able to visit Madadamian Falls, their coveted 18 waterfalls.
Going there meant, boarding at the back of an elf truck. Considering roads to the barangay Madadamian were mostly rough. Then we reached the starting point, the Barangay Captain’s house, where he even prepared breakfast for us.
I really had no idea on what’s waiting for us in Madadamian. We were about to brave the great outdoors, literally.
That meant, coursing through hectares and hectares of corn, banana, pineapples fields. Steep and muddy hills. And lots of river crossings. Which I wasn’t prepared for because I wasn’t wearing the right foot gear, was only wearing a sneaker type footwear. Also, I am not a legit hiker. I hike but, not that often I´m a guilty acrophobic.
So, this natural attraction may not be for sightseeing type tourists and would greatly appeal to the outdoor enthusiast. The terrain is definitely not suitable for beginners.
There were areas that needed some rock climbing skills.
And hiking skills in the middle of corn fields. A corn maze would be a good idea.
Locals are claiming there are 18 waterfalls throughout the terrain, but some of these would be classified as cascades and not waterfalls.
One of the two main waterfalls is Mada Falls. Eighteen meter waterfall with a small pool of water at the bottom. However, we were not able to go to Damian Falls. Base on folklore, Mada and Damian were the only inhabitants in the area then called Villa Dim, fell in love with each other and stayed there. Thus, named the barangay, Madadamian.
After traversing the waterfalls, we went to what they call centro, an overlooking spot. Wherein you can see the town and fields. Then en route to the Captain´s house. Madadamian circuit was roughly 7 kilometers and took us about 3-4 hrs.
All in all, Madadamian is undisturbed greenery with potential as an outdoor attraction. Still untouched, we even had a snake scare, not just one but two. Still, nature lovers couldn´t just go there and hike as they need proper coordination with the local community.
My Take away
I love to visit the outskirts, as they are not too crowded with tourists. However, it also has its cons. And in Echague, its pretty evident. There´s a lot to work on, infrastructure wise, logistics wise and safety wise. Accommodation and lodging would be challenging due to lack of infrastructures around town. And to reach their attraction would also be challenging considering the lack of road network of the town plus public transport as well as safety, well at least going to Madadamian.
Altogether, Echague needs to cope up with these factors if they want to open up their town. And I´d love to see more of their own culture, perhaps showcase Yogad culture. If no infrastructures, encourage homestays. Review their public transport network. Exhibit their homegrown produce like corn and rattan since they are claiming these are their main products. And the most important would be the training of their people, specially the guides.
This invitation was for International Day of Yoga and the Tilamsikan Festival , as Echague played host to these two events. Hosting the said events was an attempt to boost the town’s tourism related activities. And to promote their up coming outdoor attractions. Thanks for accommodating us.
For more info and guidance:
MUNICIPAL CULTURAL and TOURISM OFFICE
NIA BUilding, Municipal Ground
Provincial Road, San Fabian, Echague, Isabela
Contact number: (078)305-5159