Prior to 1856, there were only two provinces in the Cagayan Valley Region: Cagayan and Nueva Vizcaya. The Province of Cagayan at that time consisted of all towns from Tumauini to the north in Aparri and all other towns from Ilagan southward to Aritao comprised the province of Nueva Vizcaya. In order to facilitate the work of the missionaries in the evangelization of the Cagayan Valley, a Royal Decree was issued on May 1, 1856, which created the province of Isabela from the portion of the province of Cagayan and Nueva Vizcaya. From Cagayan, the towns of Gamu, Angadanan and Gamarang (now 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 “Her Royal Highness Queen Isabela II” of Spain.
Although the province did not play a major role in the revolt against Spain, it is in Palanan that the final pages of the Philippines Revolution was written when the American forces led by Gen. Frederick Funston finally captured Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in the area on March 23, 1901.
Santiago City, the industrial center for region 02, is now an Independent City while Cauayan, the commercial center is a component city. In August 11, 2012 the people of Ilagan voted in a plebiscite to convert their town into a city.
The eastern side straddled by the Sierra Madre Mountain Range is rugged and thickly forested. 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 and exceptional biological diversity. Its coastal area is a small strip of flat to rolling land. It has a 208-kilometer coastline and is home to beautiful caves, coves, bays, and rich marine life.
The western area is a sprawling fertile valley hemmed by the Central Cordillera Mountain and is criss-crossed by the Cagayan, and the Magat Rivers.
Isabela is home to Magat High Rise Dam and Tourism Complex known to be the highest and biggest dam in Asia at the time of its construction.
Isabela comprises an aggregate land area of 10,665 square kilometers, representing almost 40 percent of the regional territory. It is the largest province in the region and the second largest province in the Philippines in terms of land area. 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 Cordillera Administrative Region and on the east by the Pacific Ocean.
01. AGUINALDO SHRINE in Palanan is a historic place where the First President of the Philippine Republic, General Emilio Aguinaldo surrendered to the American forces, thus ending the Philippine Revolution in March 1901. Palanan is accessible by aircraft, pump boat and trail hiking thru Sta. Ana, Cagayan, San Mariano/Cauayan/Aurora and Ilagan, Isabela respectively. Nelbusco buses in Santiago City have trips to Palanan via Dilasag, Aurora
02. NORTHERN SIERRA MADRE NATURAL PARK (NSMNP) is the largest protected area in the country and is a low altitude rainforest at 800 feet above sea level. The area is about 359,477 hectares and is rated No. 1 in the world’s biodiversity. Very ideal for marine and outdoor adventure, people trek its mountains to reach the coastal areas. Tours take for five days over rainforests, mountains, rivers/streams with stops at indigenous people’s communities; appreciate at close range a wide variety of flora and fauna and enjoy a relaxing dip into rivers and streams or the Pacific Ocean. From Manila, Isabela is about 10 hours by commercial airconditioned buses. Palanan Wilderness Guided Tours can be arranged through DOT Region 02 (email: email@example.com) and through Myrose Alvarez, Municipal Tourism Officer at 0906-721-1016.
03. SHRINE OF OUR LADY OF THE VISITATION OF GUIBANG in Gamu is located along the national highway frequented by travelers passing the Maharlika Highway. It is now as famous as the Piat Basilica Minore because it also comes alive on July of every year when religious pilgrims from all walks of life come to offer prayers of good health, peace, abundance and good voyage among many other intentions. The image of the Our Lady of the Visitation was canonically crowned by the Most Rev. Carmine Pocco, Papal Nuncio to the Philippines on May 26, 1973 at the St. Ferdinand Cathedral in Ilagan, Isabela. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines at its 52nd Annual Bishop’s Meeting held in Tagaytay City on January 24-26, 1986 have approved the petition of His Excellency, Most Rev. Miguel Purugganan, Bishop of Ilagan for the Church of Our Lady of the Visitation of Guibang to be called a National Shrine.
04. ST. CLAIRE MONASTERY in Gamu is located along the Maharlika Highway and stands a few meters from the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Visitation of Guibang. It is a contemplative community of Poor Claire sisters from Cabuyao, Laguna established in 1991 and is open to the public.
05. PARISH CHURCH OF ST. MATHIAS in TUMAUINI was built in 1753 under Dominican supervision and was completed in 1805. It is an ultra-baroque church unique for its extensive use of baked clay both for wall finishing and ornamentation reflective of its Chinese ancestry. This church of stone with a unique cylindrical bell tower is the only one of its kind in the Philippines. The church has been declared a National Cultural Treasure.
06. OUR LADY OF ATOCHA CHURCH in Alicia and its convent was built by Fr. Tomas Calderon, OP and inaugurated in 1849. It has an antique Spanish architectural design and is located along the Maharlika Highway.
07. St. ROSE DE LIMA CHURCH inGamu is famous for its Spanish architectural design. Built in 1726 during the Spanish time, the church façade was made of layered bricks and stones dating back during the 17th century and considered a pilgrimage church because of its antiquity. The feast of their patron, Saint Rose De Lima is celebrated every August 23rd.
08. MAGAT HIGH RISE DAM AND HYDRO-ELECTRIC POWER PLANT is about 350 kilometers of good roads from Metro Manila. Constructed in 1970, the dam costs P6.5B to include the dam itself, powerhouse, office buildings and other related facilities. This infrastructure project was the biggest dam in the whole of Asia at the time of its construction. Project benefits include year-round irrigation supply of some 102,000 hectares of agricultural land and an ultimate capacity of 540 megawatts of hydroelectric power sufficient to supply the whole of Northern Luzon Grid. Its reservoir area of 4,460 hectares has a great potential for water-based recreation like fishing, swimming, boating and water skiing, among others. Recommended for educational tours and is accessible by jeepney from Santiago City.
09. SAN PABLO CHURCH is the oldest town of Isabela was founded by Padre de Sto. Tomas on Nov. 30, 1646, or about 210 years before Isabela was made a province and its bell tower with six levels including the circular apex is made of adobe and is said to be the oldest in Isabela and the tallest in Cagayan Valley.
10. BONSAI FOREST at Sumanget, Dinapigue is about 20,000 hectares. The area is accessible by land transport from Baler in Aurora Province and can be seen from the plane when travelling by air to Palanan.
11. CAMP SAMAL HOTEL, RESORT, TRAINING CENTER & LEISURE PARK – The municipality of Tumauini operates Camp Samal which offers accommodation facilities, lagoon boating area, swimming pools and slides, grill house and restaurant and other facilities for vacationing families.