The Thrill of the Trail – Mt. Pinatubo (Sapang Uwak – Delta V)

 

Mt. Pinatubo (1760+MASL)
Sapang Uwak – Delta V Extended Dayhike

Major Jump-off Point: Brgy. Pidpid, Porac, Pampanga
Coordinates: 15°8’35″N, 120°20’54″E, 1468MASL
Days Required/Hours to Crater: 1-2days, 9-10hrs
Specs: Major Climb, 8/9, Trail Class 1-3


I have always been fascinated with the stories and documentaries of the historic eruption of the Pinatubo Volcano. And that one day, I will visit whatever is left of this volcano and witness this beautiful disaster for my own eyes to see. And that day came eventually.

The Disaster

Mt. Pinatubo is an active stratovolcano that is nestled at the Cabusilan Mountain Range which is the tripoint of the provinces of Pampanga, Zambales, and Tarlac, located 55miles northwest of the capital city of Manila. It was home to thousands of indigenous tribes of Aetas who sought refuge in its tropical forests and made a living with its rich natural resources during the Spanish conquest.

It laid dormant for over half a century, but on that fateful day of June 15, 1991, Mt. Pinatubo erupted in its mightiest and most frightening form yet. Spewing out cubic kilometers of ashes and pyroclastic materials that ravaged the surrounding communities and municipalities in the provinces of Pampanga, Tarlac, and Zambales. Successful predictions by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) and the United States Geologic Survey (USGS) at the onset of this cataclysmic eruption lessened the number of fatalities, by evacuating tens of thousands of people, saving lives that may have been gone to the ashes.

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The onslaught of ash and dust. (Photo Credits to Albert Garcia)

But the aftermath still left 847 dead, hundreds missing, thousands displaced by the lahar flow, cost millions of pesos of damage to infrastractures and means of livelihood, and billions of pesos for the recovery period. What made this eruption more devastating is the arrival of typhoon Diding several days after, that unleashed floods with lethal mixes of ash, tephra, streams of pyroclastic materials and rocks that remobilized the lahar deposits to the mourning communities, inflicting again damage to what’s left in the vast plains of this three provinces.

This Plinian/ Ultraplinian eruption produced the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century. It ejected vast quantities of materials into the stratosphere including millions of tonnes of Sulfuric Dioxide that created a sulfuric acid haze, subsequent effects of it were the global cooling, reducing worldwide temperature by 0.9°Fahrenheit, but also depleted the ozone layer substantially from years 1991-93.

The Long Walk to Mt. Mcdonald

I signed up for the Mt. Pinatubo Sapang Uwak to Delta-V day hike organized by Sir Jherry Guiao, this climb was the first of its kind as no group has ever attempted a day hike that traverses the volcano the other way around aside from the traditional Delta-V to Sapang Uwak hike. From Manila, it took us almost two hours before we reached the Porac Exit of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX). From the exit, the surroundings were dank and dark, only tall grasses surrounded the area, the once paved roads became rough. We happened to pass by two military check points asking for our permit and identification cards before we finally reached the community of Sapang Uwak. At the end of the once again paved road, our service came to a halt, with no further ado, we started the very early morning trek at two in the morning.

The trail was wide open on a series of uphills and downhills, fog and pitch black darkness enveloped the whole team with only our headlamps and flashlights as source of light. Everything was a spot-on blur with the following four hours with no one talking, surely everyone got a little exhausted with this non-stop walk, but this is all just a warm-up, I told myself.

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“As the sun slowly rose, so does the surroundings came into life.”
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Go higher to see a pitcher!

As the sun slowly rose, so does the surroundings came into life. The once grass covered trail with nothing to see turned into slopes and valleys teeming with life.

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“….slopes and valleys teeming with life.”

Sir Jherry started to point out several other mountains and peaks that has not been fully explored by the city people, some of what he mentioned was the Mt. Babatibat, Mt. Siang-Kabayo, Mt. Bale-Hangin and the formidable looking Mt. Negron and its knife edged ridges that is said to be a hunting ground for wild boars and where rare and endemic flora and fauna still thrives due to its obscurity from the modern man.

An hour and a half passed, through meandering and really long ridge walks, we have finally arrived at Mt. Mcdonald by 7:30 in the morning and rested for a while.

From afar, the jagged peaks of the Pinatubo Volcano, seemingly resembling the fangs of that of a wild beast, intimidated us a lot that made the hike more exciting than ever.


The Rebirth

After that much needed rest, we then continued down Mt. Mcdonald to reach the much awaited crater rim. But this is where the challenge really started.


The way down was a lot steeper than what I expected, the trail was an almost 90 degree wall with paths that is just as wide as a ruler, one wrong step, and voila.


After that steep descent, boulders and rocks welcomed us, then we eventually covered the gap that seperates Mt. Pinatubo from Mt. Mcdonald. From the foot of the volcano, the crater rim is just a stone throw away.

But the ascent trail proved to be more tricky since there are hardly any trails leading to the crater summit due to the alternating patches of boulders and grasses, that it became really hard to tell which one are the hole gaps and which one is safe to put your weight upon. 

After two hours and a half of descent then ascent, the final leg proved to be more breath taking than ever, from that point, just a few meters away from the crater, the surrounding valleys and mountains inside the Cabusilan Range was like taken straight out of a fiction book. Isla Nublar, Michael Crichton’s fictional Central American island of the Jurrasic Park came into mind, as I was expecting dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes grazing this vast fields. I was day dreaming that time, the heat of the sun was bearable due to the cool breeze. But I continued on.


All things must come to an end, but after all of this, there is rebirth, to a more beautiful, stronger, and a more resilient one. Mt. Pinatubo proved this into reality. 

Just a few more steps, I felt an even more strong surge of wind signalling that I am coming closer to the crater, and that a wide panoramic space awaits me on that steep edge. Then as I set my eyes upon the wholeness of the crater, I was simply struck in awe. I was cursing and cussing at that same catatonic moment, and that everything that came out of my mouth is still not enough to express what I felt during that moment.

After what seemed like to be a split second eternity, everything before my own eyes is still hard to digest. All that hours of endless walk paid off, big time, even more than that. This, I should admit, is one of the most beautiful sights that I have seen to date. Definitely, this is a beautiful kind of rebirth, the one that leaves a lasting memory of what it feels like to be surprised in the most unconventional way, but still leaves you speechless everytime it crosses your mind.

A kind of lasting story that is worth telling, like that kind of lasting love that is worth keeping, and like of that of a lasting impression that is hard to erase.

The jagged peaks that seemed to be the crowning glory of this volcanic edifice surrounded the almost triangular Pinatubo lake, spanning 2.7km wide, that is painted in hues of emerald. The crater rim is heavily eroded, and from this viewpoint, one should exercise caution as the edges seem to be fragile that you’ll plunge down to your death on a little mishap.

The gently sloping apron coated in lahar and hardened lava, rising just 200 meters above the surrounding ancient volcanic relics hides the volcano from the lowlands.

The Thrill of the Delta V

But it is still mandatory to come down even though we’re still in a state of euphoria. The journey is still halfway from over so we have to push through with the Delta-V. By 12noon, we descended down to a new trail since the traditonal trail still needs some bush whacking after the typhoon months. It took us more than an hour to finish the Patal Mai, that is mostly composed of cramped up mountain walls on both sides and boulders of all shapes and sizes as trails covered in moss and vegetation. 


We reached the infamous Delta-V river after several minutes more, and by 2:00pm, we reached the Pinatubo Twin Falls. The twin cascade is tucked inside the mountain where cool water flows down into a gentle stream. We took a quick dip just to relax our sore and tired muscles. 

Then just a little more trek down, is where the Apu Malyari Falls is located, a single flowing waterfalls plunging down to an estimated 30 meter drop with the rock wall that is symmetrically and peculiarly tucked side by side.


Much of the view is covered in myriads of curious rock formations of great scales. The whole trek was like walking into a hotel corridor, walls on each side and a carpet on the center. But this time, the walls are great volcanic edifices, and the carpet is that of the raging river flowing upon large rocks and bordered by fine lahar sand that keeps on being stuck inside our shoes that hurts the sole even more.

It was a series of river crossings, some of which involves wading over waist high river water. The night eventually caught up on us, and the trek even became more dangerous with the swelling of the river as the rain fell by dusk. The long corridor-like walk brought my spirits down as my food provisions are thinning down to almost zero, our flashlight and batteries are about to die anytime soon. My companion Ms. Anna was nursing a sprained ankle, and not much of the medicine she took had any effect and eventually slowed her down as the pain became increasingly unbearable. 

We reached the Bahay na Bato by 7:30pm, we then again waded into waist deep river water in pitch black darkness. Then that is where the large boulder with raging river waters as deep as several meters flowed into each side. Only way to get down is through ropes brought by Sir Jherry that we carefully used to go down. One wrong move again and two raging rivers with mud waters on each sides awaits. (RIP to the headlamps swallowed by the river during that night)

Everything again, just like the morning walk was a blur, I was on auto-pilot mode that time. We did not managed to reach the end of the trail nor can our lead locate the shortcut that involved us going about three times up and down several mini waterfalls to the Aeta Community where we can spend the night to rest. Everybody was downright exhausted, that we decided to go back to the highest lahar riverbank that we can find on our way to set up our emergency camp by 10:15pm. We were traversing the Delta-V trail for several hours now that hope ran out and only daylight can solve our problems.

The Pinatubo Experience

Morning came, the vast stone walled corridor, and the gleaming river bank got illuminated again by the morning light clearing things out. I failed to bring out provisions for e-camps since this is just a dayhike, a thing that I will always avoid on my next hikes. I slept on large rocks with my poncho and a small blanket that Ms. Anna shared as my source of heat against the really cold night that made me shiver. Ms. Anna felt relieved with her sprain after a not so good night sleep, and we were again as strong as the day before but little more famished than the usual.

The short-cut that we can’t locate the night before came into being, as it was hidden beneath a curtain of vines and plants. Upon reaching the top, it took us about two more hours before we reached the Aeta Community where they received us with warm smiles and some fruits to eat. 

Then from the small community we then got back to the Mt. Dorst junction that also happens to be the Sapang Uwak trail. We saw the grand Miyamit Falls from the top of this ridge filled with “Mirasol” or Sunflowers. And again it took us an hour to reach the jump-off point where our van was parked, this is one of the most hardest extended day hikes that I’ve been into. Sir Jherry, with no sign of exhaustion on his face asked a guy with his motorcycle to buy us something to eat from the community below. 

Mt. Arayat loomed faintly that day from where we were standing. Recounting the experiences from the past day, it was hard and rewarding all the same, the beautiful disaster proved to be an experience of a lifetime.  We got down to the Alviera Land by noon time where we had ourselves cleaned, and then had a fun post climb buffet in San Fernando, Pampanga. And the rest was history.

*This was the first attempt to hike Mt. Pinatubo in a day via Sapang Uwak to Delta-V Trail. (No one attempted to do this again as of this writing, cause it was plainly crazy and stupid.)


NOTES:

● Permits from the local municipality of Porac is needed before doing any hike in the mountains of Cabusilan. Security is strictly observed as you will be passing by 2 checkpoints that asks for your identification cards and permit to climb.

● There are hardly any water sources in the Sapang Uwak Trail going to Mt. Mcdonald, No tree cover as well and prepare for the almost 17km long trek to the campsite. Start early before the sun catches up on you.

● The Delta-V trail is the one with the most number of watersources and waterfalls (and hardest as well). But never attempt to take this route during the night, since river crossings and bouldering as such will be your only way out through this trail. Wear appropriate Hydro Hiking/Mesh shoes for a more comfortable trek.

● If doing a day hike, make sure you have the necessary provisions for inclement weather conditions, emergency camps, and other unexpected circumstances such as accidents/injuries. A day hike will take you an average of 20hrs depending on the pacing of the team so be prepared accordingly.

● There are four (4) known trails of Mt. Pinatubo, first is the most visited and easiest, the Sta. Juliana Jump-off point in Capas, Tarlac, Second is the Delta-V trail, third is the Sapang Uwak or CM50 Trail that is both located in Porac, Pampanga, and fourth is the recently explored trail coming from San Marcelino, Zambales.

● Always practice the LNT (Leave No Trace) Principles, minimize impacts to the environment.

How To Get There:

● Via Commute: Take any bus plying the Tarlac or any northbound route that passes by the Dau Terminal. From Dau Terminal, there are jeepneys going to Angeles, alight at the Nepo Mart where there are tricycles that can take you to the Sapang Uwak jump-off. 

● Via Private Transportation: Take the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) to Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) route and exit at Porac, Pampanga, turn right at the Alviera Land, then right again at the Tunnel then turn left until you reach the first check-point of Sapang Uwak.

Budget and Itinerary:

Mt. Pinatubo (1760+MASL)
Sapang Uwak – Delta V Extended Dayhike

Day 00
0000 Depart from Manila

Day 01
0145 Arrival at Sapang Uwak Trail Head
0215 Start Trek
0600 Last Water Source
0730 Arrival at Mt. Mcdo Campsite, breakfast
0830 Resume trek
1100 Mt. Pinatubo Crater Summit (1468+MASL)
1140 Start Descent
1300 Patal Mai
1600 Pinatubo Twin Falls
1700 Apo Malyari Falls
1930 Bahay na Bato
2215 Delta V E-campsite

Day 02
0600 Resume Trek
0800 Aeta Tribal Settlement
0900 Mt. Dorst Junction to Sapang Uwak Trail
1000 Jump-off Point
1200 Porac, Pampanga, Tidy-up
1400 Bale Kapampangan, Late Lunch
1600 Back at Manila

Total Damage: 1,100.00php registration fee for the event organized by Sir Jherry Guiao (Reg. Fee comes with a free post climb buffet!)


“It always seems impossible until it is done.”

– Nelson Mandela


Go, Carve That Niche,

Rex

Uncharted Territories – Abra (Part II)

Often an overlooked destination and a blank canvass on the tourist map, the province of Abra for the longest time is still managing its way to become one of the next up and coming destinations in the country. With its location and being relatively near the top tourist destinations in the Northern Luzon, shadowed by the great Ilocandia and the mighty Cordilleras, only a few eager and brave travelers and backpackers alike have set foot into this intriguing province. 

After setting foot at some of the far flung municipalities in Abra, I continued my journey back to the provincial center, Bangued, with persistent hopes of proving that the province is far from what the local media claims it to be.

Dayum, Tayum!

I felt a jolt of sudden relief as paved roads welcomed us again at the municipality of San Juan. With the long ride covering almost two thirds of the distance down to Bangued, we stopped over at Kuya Minic’s house to rest for a little while. Then after some good fifteen minutes we strolled a little until we reached Tayum. 

Tayum, located just four kilometers north of Bangued, is one of the places you shouldn’t miss on your next visit to Abra. We were welcomed by a quaint town center with many surviving bahay-na-bato ancestral houses (Filipino style houses with lower portions made with bricks and adobe while the second storey is made up of local wood). We then turned left to visit one of the impressive churches in the province. 

Tayum Church or the St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish Church is declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines. This Spanish Baroque style church was built during the Spanish colonialization and boasts of a facade a little similar to the Earthquake-Baroque style churches in the Ilocos Region. 

I noticed that some of the details aside from the brick clad sidewalls supported by buttresses and fluorishing vines lining the upper portions, are the designs that somewhat suggests influences from the Filipino culture for the presence of “Palayok” or clay pots atop the pillars.

Another interesting sight is the little scale model of the church beside the rectory grounds, smallest church in the country eh?

 A few blocks away along the Teodoro Balmaceda Street  is where the former headquarters of Gabriela Silang is located, known today as the Gabriela Cariño Silang Gallery of Fine Arts.

The estranged wife of one of the great leaders of Ilocos resistance, Diego Silang, Gabriela made a name for herself and retaliated against the spanish forces after his husband got treacherously killed in 1763. She was called as the “Joan of Arc of the Ilocandia” for being the first female leader of a Filipino movement for independence against Spain. This is where she stayed prior to her attacks continuing the Ilocos Revolt after assigning two locals as generals namely Miguel Flores and Tagabuen Infiel.

Unfortunately, there was no one around that day and I was not able to take a look at what’s inside so I just peeked from the alightly ajar front door. But it is said that it contains an impressive collection of paintings, books, artifacts and documents collected around the world by the retired ambassador, Rosario Cariño. Some notable and prized pieces were paintings by Juan Luna, Fernando Amorsolo, Pablo Picasso, Domenico Ghirlandaioto, and Pierre Auguste Renoir. 

Bridging Gaps 

After a worthy visit in Tayum, we further travelled down to Bangued but passed by some fascinating bridges along the way. First was the Don Mariano Marcos Bridge, located along the Abra-Kalinga Road and connects the towns of Tayum and Dolores, and is the third longest bridge in the country. Make sure to stop by and appreciate the view. 

We arrived in Bangued by lunchtime and had a quick stop at Nanay Binang’s that serves authentic Ilocano and Abrenian cuisines cooked in traditional way. We had good servings of Dinardaraan, Ginisang Munggo, and Dinakdakan. It is one of the most visited eatery in Bangued. 

Then we met Ms. Dykath somewhere in Calaba and transferred to a private vehicle since they insisted on taking me to the “Little Baguio of Abra” and who am I to resist such offer. This was by far the best and hospitable tourism office experience I ever had. Then the next bridge came into view, the Calaba Bridge.

Spanning over the mighty Abra River, which is one of the largest river systems in the Pjilippines. It is a major infrastructure project at a total length of 900 meters that connects Bangued to the town of La Paz. During dry seasons, Nipa Huts are present under the bridge and swimming is allowed to beat the stifling summer heat. 

We also happen to pass by the municipality of La Paz where it is famous for the Bulbulala Loom Weaving Village, eight kilometers northwest of Bangued. This place is unique since the sustainability of the craft is still continuous since old and young generations alike are into the trade.

Another 40 kilometers northwest of Bangued, and around 2:00pm we arrived in Nagaparan, a community in the Municipality of Danglas, is located along the Abra-Ilocos Norte road. From afar, we caught a glimpse of the black mountain named Mt. Sedir and noticeable are the presence of pine trees around the mountain ridges due to the elevation gain to reach the area. 

Mountains and more impressive ridges awaited us that looks a lot similar to those in Tineg. Then we travelled back to Bangued and made sure to stop over again at Calaba Bridge!

Bangued, Abra

Abra was said to be a thriving community engaged in agriculture and trade even since the Spaniards came. There were evidences of pre-colonial trades include the excavation of antique porcelain jars and gongs in Bangued. And in the year 1898, Augustinian Friars established Abra as the provincial capital.

After a long drive down from Danglas, they showed me the tourism homestay in case I visit again, and room price ranges from 300php-600php per night per person. It is also where I washed off as my day almost comes to a close. 

Then for the last leg of the tour, Kuya Minic took me to Bangued’s favorite park, the Victoria Park. It is also known as the Cassamata Hill National Park, from the main road it is accessible through a 15 minute ascend on paved concrete road leading to the top of the hill or a 5minute tricycle ride. 

This is where some of the provincial events are held and where you can enjoy the stunning view of the whole downtown Abra. This is also where you can see the surrounding mountain ranges and take a glimpse of Mt. Bullagao, also known as the Sleeping Beauty for its resemblance of a woman in her sleep.

Tha park also has a shrine for the Blessed Mother and Infant Jesus and an amphitheater for several events.

From Victoria Park, I bid goodbye to Kuya Minic and for showing me what Abra has in store for me for the whole day and paid 1500php for the whole tour. Might sound costly for some but Tineg is really far, and travelling with a local is the most safest way of exploring a destination. 

Five minutes from the Park is where the Provincial Capitol and Municipal Hall is located. Then at the other end of the park is where the Bangued Cathedral is located.

Known also as the Cathedral of St. James the Great, this churchbhas survived several eras, from the Japanese occupation and the adjacent Colegio del Sagrado Corazon used as military hospital and is now called the St. James the Elder Parish Rectory, up to the bombing of American Warplanes in 1945, the church has stood the test of time and was declared as cathedral in 1955.

 The place is very much alive, a typical day at the busy intersection, students walking around the park after class, fast food chains in their usual chaos, tricycles in their usual waiting lines. Everything in Abra is very much the same as every town center in the country is. I was all alone but I never felt frightened or threatened from what I have experienced the whole day. 

Truly awesome, a day spent in Abra is worth the long travel, but there is still far more awesome attractions like the numerous waterfalls such as those in Kili and Kaparkan, mountains to climb like that of Mts. Bullagao, Sedir and Poswey, Springs to take a dip like that of in Lusuac, spanning rice terraces to marvel at, river systems and rock formations. There is truly more to Abra than the negative notions set by the local media that is waiting to be rediscovered.

One thing’s for sure, this place is truly, #ABRAMAZING!


How To Get There:

● In Metro Manila, there are three bus companies plying the Manila/Cubao/Pasay to Bangued route, namely Partas Bus Company, Viron Transit, and Dominion Bus Lines, Fares start at 650php for the Regular Airconditioned Bus, and 800php for the Deluxe Bus. (Travel time: 7-10hrs)

● For those travelling with private vehicles, Bangued is 408 kilometers from Manila. Passing through NLEX-SCTEX-TPLEX and the Manila North Road, then turn left at the Abra-Ilocos Sur road which is 4 kilometers past the town of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, head past the Tangadan Tunnel until you reach Bangued. (Travel time: 7-8hrs)

● Other entry and exit points are the Abra-Kalinga Road in the east, which passes through the town of Malibcong, Abra to Balbalan, Kalinga. There is also the Abra-Ilocos Norte Road that passes through the town of Danglas, Abra to Nueva Era, Ilocos Norte. Public Transportations along these roads are still not available.

● Once in Bangued, destinations within the city are accessible through tricycles which is its main mode of transportation. It can take you within the town and its adjacent municipalities. Minimum fare starts at 10php. Jeepneys are also stationed in Bangued but their schedules are based on the Alas-Puno-Bago-Umalis schedule or it will wait to be filled up with passengers before it leaves, so if planning to go farther, contact the tourism office to arrange your service vehicles.

● You can contact their local tourism officer, Ms. Dykath Molina at 09277725856.

Where To Stay:

■ Abrassi Hotel – Poblacion, Tayum

■ Origines Hotel and Restaurant/ Abra Valley Grand Hotel, Hollandia Homestay- Calaba, Bangued

■ Oval Era Hotel/ Adtemco Hotel – Zone V, Bangued

■ Terrence Hill Resort – Poblacion, Bucay

■ Abra Tourism Homestay – Calaba, Bangued


Itinerary and Expenses

Abra Day Trip

Day 0

2200 Partas Bus Terminal, Cubao (Deluxe Bus, 800php)

Day 01
0445  Arrival at Bangued
0530  Meet Tourism Coordinator, Dykath Molina
0540  Breakfast at Acosta Panciteria
0600  Start motorcycle tour
0730  Arrival at Apao Rolling Hills, Tineg
0800  Salakop River, Brgy. Alaoa, Vira, Tineg
0810  Piwek Rock Formation
0830  Traverse to Ambang Camouflage Rocks via Mt. Aliwatey
0915  Arrival at Ambang Rocks
0930  Ascend back
0945  Piwek cliff dive spot,
1000  Descend back to Brgy. Alaoa (200php guide fee, 100php raft fee)
1015  Brgy Alaoa, travel back to Bangued
1120  Stop Over at Brgy. Dolores
1130  Tayum Church, Gabriela Silang Gallery
1150  Resume trip back to Bangued
1200  Don Mariano Marcos Bridge
1215  Arrival at Bangued, lunch at Nanay Binang’s
1300  Resume, San Lorenzo Ruiz Church

1415  Little Baguio, Brgy. Nagaparan, Danglas

1450  Calaba Bridge
1500  Back at Bangued, wash up
1530  Bangued Plaza, Municipal Hall, Provincial Hall, Bangued Cathedral, Cassamata Hill National Parj
1600  End tour (1500php tour fee)
1930  Depart for Manila (655php)

Day 02

0330 – Arrival at Cubao

Total Damage for Solo Trip: 3200php + Food

Go, Carve That Niche,

Rex

“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things — air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky — all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.” – Cesare Pavese


Uncharted Territories – Abra (Part I)

Often an overlooked destination and a blank canvass on the tourist map, the province of Abra for the longest time is still managing its way to become one of the next up and coming destinations in the country. With its location and being relatively near the top tourist destinations in the Northern Luzon, shadowed by the great Ilocandia and the mighty Cordilleras, only a few eager and brave travelers and backpackers alike have set foot into this intriguing province.

Downtown Abra and the sleeping beauty that is Mt. Bullagao from afar.

The province hid from the call of tourism mostly because of the negative notions set by the local media tagging Abra’s publicity as unsafe and dreaded. Primarily due to political rivalry and being an election hotspot, many reports of deaths and abductions have loomed the local scene and kept the people from visiting the area. But it is time to change our perspectives regarding this matter, in retrospect, there is much more to Abra than the fear inducing news and negative publicity.

Prior to my trip, I knew very little about Abra and what it actually has to offer. I was plainly curious for what’s in store for me inside this landlocked region. Only fueled by photos from social media as one word got out of its amazing destinations, I told myself that I should set foot on this province, but this time, solo. 

Landlocked Wonders

Abra is part of the Cordillera Administrative Region, this landlocked province is bordered by Ilocos Norte on the northwest, Apayao on the northeast, Kalinga on the east, Mountain Province on the southeast, and Ilocos Sur on the southeast. It is said that the original inhabitants of the province are the Ifugaos and the Bontocs but eventually they moved farther up and left the place to the Tingguian Tribes.

From Manila I took an overnight Deluxe Partas Bus going straight to Bangued, Abra and cost me 800php, I failed to catch the 7:00pm regular bus trip but all is well since the seats inside the bus are incredibly comfortable and can be reclined totally. I slept all throughout the trip and woke up when we had our stopover at Candon City, Ilocos Sur, it was way faster than I expected. Most of the provinces in the country will greet you with a welcome arch, but not here in Abra, wherein a tunnel serves such purpose. Tangadan Tunnel is a 40-meter tunnel situated along the Abra-Ilocos Sur National Road.

Fifteen minutes before 5:00 in the morning, and after six hours and forty five minutes of land travel, I have finally set foot in Abra!

Ms. Dykath Molina, a tourism coordinator of Abra whom I made contact prior to the trip met me up in the wee hours of the morning just to accomodate me and even treated me to the Acosta Pansitan’s Abrenian Pancit Miki. Way to go!

Sunrise over the mountains of Kalinga

At exactly six in the morning, my habal-habal guide Kuya Minic was already waiting for me and so we started the whole tour. The natural tourist destinations are basically raw, majority of the roads past Dolores and Tayum are not passable to all types of vehicles that only off-road capable conveyances can pass through this dirt roads. Public transportations in the form of Monster Jeepneys only plies several routes once a day only so going into this places are rather costly and likewise advisable to groups or if renting a motorcyle.

The Rolling Hills of Apao

50+ kilometers northwest of Bangued, we ventured down to Tineg, Abra to reach one of its natural landscapes that has circulated throughout social media after the Kaparkan Spring Terraces, that is the Apao Rolling Hills. Too bad, the waterfall is only open during the rainy season (August to December) since during summer months no water trickles down the terraces of enchanting white rocks. 

Then we also passed by San Juan and their imposing golden lion statues along the road and its beautiful municipal hall.

Municipal Hall of San Juan, Abra

The way going to Tineg was not an easy one, majority of the roads are still not developed, it was raw and rugged and the trip aboard the single motorcycle is not for the faint hearted. But the sight of the surrounding mountains fringed with lush forests, wide valleys, river systems and pastures riddled with corns, rice and numerous types of vegetables, made the trip worth it. Tourism still hasn’t knocked on this undeveloped province, but for some, it is where the charm really lies.

Dirt road going to Tineg, Abra

Monster jeepney and motorcycle as common modes of transportation.

After a butt numbing trip, the weather changed dramatically and it felt like I was in the Cordilleras due to the cool climate as we arrived at the Balay Ti Tineg, or the Tineg Municipal Hall standing atop the mountain ridge with splendid views of the surrounding valleys and the Abra River. A few kilometers away, the Rolling Hills of Apao waited before us, as the sun slowly rose above the horizon, leaving the vast grassland filled plains in a beautiful array of amber and auburn hues.

” ….atop the mountain ridge with splendid views of the surrounding valleys and the Abra River.”
Municipal Hall of Tineg, Abra

Being near the Municipal Hall, Police Station and the Rural Health Unit, this place is ideal for camping and for stargazing. Located at Sitio Vira, Brgy. Alaoa in Tineg, the panoramic viewpoint of the Apao Rolling Hills is a very picturesque landscape that left me in awe. The mountains of Apao cover its neighboring Barangays of Lacub and Lan-ag. 

“….the Rolling Hills of Apao waited before us, as the sun slowly rose above the horizon…”
“…..leaving the vast grassland filled plains in a beautiful array of amber and auburn hues.”

Truly, I was surprised of what this province initially has to offer, beaming with a distinct characteristic that slowly unveiled itself as we ventured farther down into Brgy. Alaoa.

The Piwek

Another thirty minutes down Brgy. Alaoa, where pairs of Labuyo (Native Jungle Chicken) were disturbed by the faint rumbling of our motorcycle from their morning hunt for food along the road side, and flew like birds of paradise, I never thought that chickens could fly (and even soar through the air) that high! 

Rice Terraces as seen from the main road leading to Alaoa.

Encompassing the equally picturesque mountain ridges of Brgy. Apao, the dirt road lead to one of the obscure spots in Tineg, the Piwek Rock Formations. We arrived at a modest community down the footholds of a limestone karst of a mountain down to the gleaming riverbanks of Salakop River.

Daing na Igat, or Freshwater Eels dried under the sun to preserve it longer.

People in here spoke in heavy Ilokano dialect, but after some negotiations, we were given guides to accompany us to the rock formation (It was Kuya Minic who accompanied me all the way to Piwek), they charged us a total of 300php (200php for the guide, and 100php for the raft). Initial part of the short trek involved crossing the emerald waters of the Salakop River by a bamboo raft. Ten minutes and we were greeted by the limestone formations that line the riverbanks of the Salakop. 

“Initial part of the short trek involved crossing the emerald waters of the Salakop River by a bamboo raft. “

The beak shaped limestone rock at the river is worth the climb as it gave me a good view of the river and the surrounding mountains. It is reminiscent of that of Tinipak River in Daraitan Rizal, but a little bit rugged and more beautiful from its obscurity. 

No raft were present on the other side so I was asked if it is alright to wait for it, but I chose to climb the little mountain called by the locals as Mt. Aliwatey, going to our next destination where crocodiles and eels frequent the place.

The hike was relatively short but purely descent, there were no tree covers and thus, it was a little exhausting because of the warm and humid weather down here in Alaoa. But upon arrival at the little craggy peak, I caught a good glimpse of the meandering river down below and the imposing rocks they call the Ambang Rock Formations.

Another ten minutes of descent, we finally reached the rocks, but there were no crocodiles on the banks, only the Barangay Captain and his crew searching for Igat (Freshwater Eel) to eat that day. Ambang Rocks are said to contain gold ores because of the bright streaks of brown and yellow against the peculiar color of the rock that from afar, looks like camouflage patterns.

Another rock formation lies at the other bend of the river but it will take longer to reach so we chose not to venture at the other side. We traversed again at the other side of Mt. Aliwatey and arrived by 9:45am at the Piwek cliff diving spot, I had no life vest that time so no cliff dive for me then. 

We travelled back to Tayum by 10:15am and prepared myself for another long and bumpy ride.

Next part of my Abra adventure here:

Uncharted Territories – Abra (Part II)



How To Get There:

● In Metro Manila, there are three bus companies plying the Manila/Cubao/Pasay to Bangued route, namely Partas Bus Company, Viron Transit, and Dominion Bus Lines, Fares start at 650php for the Regular Airconditioned Bus, and 800php for the Deluxe Bus. (Travel time: 7-10hrs)

● For those travelling with private vehicles, Bangued is 408 kilometers from Manila. Passing through NLEX-SCTEX-TPLEX and the Manila North Road, then turn left at the Abra-Ilocos Sur road which is 4 kilometers past the town of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, head past the Tangadan Tunnel until you reach Bangued. (Travel time: 7-8hrs)

● Other entry and exit points are the Abra-Kalinga Road in the east, which passes through the town of Malibcong, Abra to Balbalan, Kalinga. There is also the Abra-Ilocos Norte Road that passes through the town of Danglas, Abra to Nueva Era, Ilocos Norte. Public Transportations along these roads are still not available.

● Once in Bangued, destinations within the city are accessible through tricycles which is its main mode of transportation. It can take you within the town and its adjacent municipalities. Minimum fare starts at 10php. Jeepneys are also stationed in Bangued but their schedules are based on the Alas-Puno-Bago-Umalis schedule or it will wait to be filled up with passengers before it leaves, so if planning to go farther, contact the tourism office to arrange your service vehicles.

● You can contact their local tourism officer, Ms. Dykath Molina at 09277725856.

Where To Stay:

■ Abrassi Hotel – Poblacion, Tayum

■ Origines Hotel and Restaurant/ Abra Valley Grand Hotel, Hollandia Homestay- Calaba, Bangued

■ Oval Era Hotel/ Adtemco Hotel – Zone V, Bangued

■ Terrence Hill Resort – Poblacion, Bucay

■ Abra Tourism Homestay – Calaba, Bangued


Itinerary and Expenses

Abra Day Trip

Day 0

2200 Partas Bus Terminal, Cubao (Deluxe Bus, 800php)

Day 01
0445  Arrival at Bangued
0530  Meet Tourism Coordinator, Dykath Molina
0540  Breakfast at Acosta Panciteria
0600  Start motorcycle tour
0730  Arrival at Apao Rolling Hills, Tineg
0800  Salakop River, Brgy. Alaoa, Vira, Tineg
0810  Piwek Rock Formation
0830  Traverse to Ambang Camouflage Rocks via Mt. Aliwatey
0915  Arrival at Ambang Rocks
0930  Ascend back
0945  Piwek cliff dive spot,
1000  Descend back to Brgy. Alaoa (200php guide fee, 100php raft fee)
1015  Brgy Alaoa, travel back to Bangued
1120  Stop Over at Brgy. Dolores
1130  Tayum Church, Gabriela Silang Gallery
1150  Resume trip back to Bangued
1200  Don Mariano Marcos Bridge
1215  Arrival at Bangued, lunch at Nanay Binang’s
1300  Resume, San Lorenzo Ruiz Church
1415  Little Baguio, Brgy. Nagaparan, Danglas
1450  Calaba Bridge
1500  Back at Bangued, wash up
1530  Bangued Plaza, Municipal Hall, Provincial Hall, Bangued Cathedral, Cassamata Hill National Parj
1600  End tour (1500php tour fee)
1930  Depart for Manila (655php)

Day 02

0330 – Arrival at Cubao

Total Damage for Solo Trip: 3200php + Food


“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”

– Henry David Thoreau


Go, Carve That Niche

Rex

SNAPSHOT – SAUD BEACH

Saud Beach, characterized by its ivory to cream colored sands, it earned the title, “The Boracay of the North” owing to its sand reminiscent that of Boracay in Aklan. Located in Barangay Saud, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, it has a long stretch of fine sand beach dotted with numerous coconut trees with some docked outrigger boats and nipa huts.

How To Get There:

● By land, take any bus bound for Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte (GV Florida Transport), or alternately, take any Laoag, Ilocos Norte bound bus (GV Florida Transport, Partas Bus, Dominion Bus Lines, Fariñas Transit, Autobus) then hop on to another bus bound for Pagudpud town proper. (10-12hrs travel time)

● By Air, take any flight bound for Laoag City Airport via Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines, and from Laoag, Ilocos Norte hop on to another bus bound for Pagudpud. (45mins flight time + 1.5hr land travel)

● Once in Pagudpud, there are several accredited tricycle tours that can take you on the Southbound Tour (Pagudpud Town, Saud Beach, Bangui and Burgos Wind Farm, Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse) and the Northbound Tour (Kabigan Falls, Patapat Viaduct, Bantay Abot Cave, Timangtang Rock, Blue Lagoon and Dos Hermanos Islets).

Full Article Here:

The Great Amianan, Northbound – Ilocos Norte (Part III)


SNAPSHOT – BLUE LAGOON

Located in Brgy. Balaoi, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, the Blue Lagoon is a half moon shaped cove formed by the Nacatnagan Cliff in the east and the Dos Hermanos in the north. The sand is fine and cream colored, when surf season is out, waves are gentle and still that it reflects the clear blue sky earning its name, the Blue Lagoon. But during swell months, the waves are really good for surfing as the depth of the beach is shallow mostly inside the cove. 

How To Get There:

● By land, take any bus bound for Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte (GV Florida Transport), or alternately, take any Laoag, Ilocos Norte bound bus (GV Florida Transport, Partas Bus, Dominion Bus Lines, Fariñas Transit, Autobus) then hop on to another bus bound for Pagudpud town proper. (10-12hrs travel time)

● By Air, take any flight bound for Laoag City Airport via Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines, and from Laoag, Ilocos Norte hop on to another bus bound for Pagudpud. (45mins flight time + 1.5hr land travel)

● Once in Pagudpud, there are several accredited tricycle tours that can take you on the Southbound Tour (Pagudpud Town, Saud Beach, Bangui and Burgos Wind Farm, Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse) and the Northbound Tour (Kabigan Falls, Patapat Viaduct, Bantay Abot Cave, Timangtang Rock, Blue Lagoon and Dos Hermanos Islets).

Full Article Here:

The Great Amianan, Northbound – Ilocos Norte (Part III)



SNAPSHOT – BANGUI WINDFARM

Bangui Wind Farm has been the icon of Ilocos Region and all throughout Asia. The turbines are arranged in a single row stretching across the nine-kilometer Bangui Bay facing the West Philippine Sea. Each generating 1.65Mega Watts, this 70 meter high V82 Vestas Wind Turbines, is also composed of a three rotor blades spanning a total blade diameter of 41meters. 

How To Get There:

● By land, take any bus bound for Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte (GV Florida Transport), or alternately, take any Laoag, Ilocos Norte bound bus (GV Florida Transport, Partas Bus, Dominion Bus Lines, Fariñas Transit, Autobus) then hop on to another bus bound for Pagudpud town proper. (10-12hrs travel time)

● By Air, take any flight bound for Laoag City Airport via Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines, and from Laoag, Ilocos Norte hop on to another bus bound for Pagudpud. (45mins flight time + 1.5hr land travel)

● Once in Pagudpud, there are several accredited tricycle tours that can take you on the Southbound Tour (Pagudpud Town, Saud Beach, Bangui and Burgos Wind Farm, Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse) and the Northbound Tour (Kabigan Falls, Patapat Viaduct, Bantay Abot Cave, Timangtang Rock, Blue Lagoon and Dos Hermanos Islets).

Full Article Here:

The Great Amianan, Northbound – Ilocos Norte (Part II)


SNAPSHOT – BURGOS WINDFARM

Aside from Bangui, there is also Burgos with their Wind Turbines sitting atop the craggy hills facing the West Philippine Sea. Being the second wind farm after Bangui in the country and the others in Rizal, Mindoro, Guimaras, Aklan et al. It features 50 units of V90 Vestas 3 Mega Watt Wind Turbine and produces energy as large as a whopping 150 Mega Watts per day, 5 times larger than that of Bangui! 

How To Get There:

● By land, take any bus bound for Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte (GV Florida Transport), or alternately, take any Laoag, Ilocos Norte bound bus (GV Florida Transport, Partas Bus, Dominion Bus Lines, Fariñas Transit, Autobus) then hop on to another bus bound for Pagudpud town proper. (10-12hrs travel time)

● By Air, take any flight bound for Laoag City Airport via Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines, and from Laoag, Ilocos Norte hop on to another bus bound for Pagudpud. (45mins flight time + 1.5hr land travel)

● Once in Pagudpud, there are several accredited tricycle tours that can take you on the Southbound Tour (Pagudpud Town, Saud Beach, Bangui and Burgos Wind Farm, Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse) and the Northbound Tour (Kabigan Falls, Patapat Viaduct, Bantay Abot Cave, Timangtang Rock, Blue Lagoon and Dos Hermanos Islets).

Full Article Here:

The Great Amianan, Northbound – Ilocos Norte (Part II)


The Great Amianan, Northbound – Ilocos Norte (Part III)

Northbound, Finally!

After spending a good forty five minutes at the spanish era beacon, we headed to the northernmost territories of Ilocos Norte. The trip aboard our tricycle took us an hour and fifteen to reach Barangay Balaoi, which is the second to the last community before reaching the municipality of Claveria in the province of Cagayan.


It was around 1:00pm and the sun hid behind the clouds giving us a cool weather for the short trek. We registered and paid the corresponding fees, 10php for the reg fee and 300php standard rate for the guides. One thing that amused me the most is that all of the guides are female and they are the same age as my mom! 

To reach Kabigan Falls, one must trek for 1.8kms from the National Highway passing through a small community, then views of rice fields continuing up  through a forest with the trail lined up with trees that requires some crossing through brooks and streams. After a good 20 minute walk, we heard the trickling sound of gushing water. Hidden beneath a small mountainside with conclaves of moss covered rocks and age old trees, Kabigan Falls was a welcoming sight.

We crossed a wooden bridge before reaching the basin. The falls is approximately 87 feet high and flows down through a wide shallow basin ideal for swimming. The water was quite a refreshing treat after spending half the day under the sun. 

This makes Pagudpud a little more enchanting and jam packed all the same, from the beaches, the mountains and now, the waterfall. The word “Kabigan” was derived from the Filipino word “Kaibigan” which means a friend, since the waterfall and the river it goes down to is quite an unseparable duo given the fact that whatever the season is, it never dries up. 

Right after our waterfall trek, we got back at the main highway by 2:30pm and we almost forgot to have our lunch. Quite famished, we drove for 10minutes until we reached an eatery beside the highway, Ilocano cuisines are served and one must try their signature dishes such as Dinakdakan (Pork Sisig), Dinardaraan (Dinuguan) and Pinakbet.

The Patapat Viaduct

Connecting the Maharlika Highway from Laoag City to the Cagayan Valley, the Patapat Viaduct was completed by 1986 and is a 1.3km coastal bridge constructed 30 meters above sea level that passes through the mountain slopes of Pagudpud up to the municipality of Claveria in Cagayan. 

Said to be the fourth longest bridge in the country, this concrete masterpiece has been bridging two provinces for decades now and has been a very busy road ever since. 

It has been a tourist attraction as well, given the awesome seascape with the sight of the fierce waves hitting the shoreline beneath the bridge and also its long and winding sentinel of a structure if viewed from a good angle.

Lovers By The Beach

Pagudpud has a number of incredible beaches that is really perfect for relaxation after hours of touring under the sun. And at the northernmost tip of Pagudpud lies the Maira-ira Point, a once secluded cove located in Sitio Gaoa, Barangay Balaoi. 

But right before reaching the little paradise on the shortlist of travelers, two peculiar rock formations got our attention.

One of the highlights of the northbound tour, Timangtang Rock, is a piece of boulder lying alone off the shores of Maira-ira Beach. From a distance it looks like a whale stranded off the coast. This is believed to be the male counterpart of another rock formation on the otherside of the shoreline.

Located at Brgy. Balaoi, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, Bantay Abot Cave, jutting out in the open sea, in my opinion, is really not a cave but an arch that resembles that of Mahatao in Batanes. It used to be a hill back in the days and was strucked by an earthquake leaving a hole in the middle. Its top is covered in lush vegetation and is complemented by the Maira-Ira Beach on one side and the Timangtang Rock, its other half, on the opposite side.

They were said to be lovers by the sea as they complement each other from a distance. The calm blue sea reflecting the clear blue sky, and the sound of waves crashing against the pebbly coast will surely relax the hell out of all your city burdens for a little while.

Photo by Kristina Cuenca (IG: @keiseizetheday)

The Blue Lagoon

Not that far from where the rock formations are located, we passed by a couple of cartoon themed hotel rooms ranging from the Clash of Clans, Superheroes up to the disfigured Disney characters until we reached the other cove in the Maira-ira Point. This once secluded paradise now became a tourist hotspot, thanks but no thanks to the development ala Hannah’s Beach Resort, that perfectly ruined the white sands of the Malingay Cove with all the sight of cartoon figures that they have put up everywhere, add up the very expensive zipline that is said to be the longest in Luzon. 

The Malingay Cove or popularly called as the Blue Lagoon, was glorious as it can be, how I wish I could return back to a time wherein nothing was built in the area but nipa huts and the mountains at the background.

This half moon shaped cove is formed by the Nacatnagan Cliff in the east and the Dos Hermanos in the north. The sand was fine and cream colored, when surf season is out, waves are gentle and still that it reflects the clear blue sky earning its name, the Blue Lagoon. But during swell months, the waves are really good for surfing as the depth of the beach is shallow mostly inside the cove. 

We spent only half an hour swimming inside this laidback paradise as we have to get back before the sun sets. 

The Boracay Of The North

Upon returning at our homestay, we still had one last beach that we had to visit given that it is only 5 minutes away from where we were. 

Saud Beach, characterized by its ivory to cream colored sands earned the title, “The Boracay of the North” owing to its sand reminiscent that of Boracay in Aklan. Located in Barangay Saud, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, it has a long stretch of fine sand beach dotted with numerous coconut trees with some outrigger boats and some nipa huts.

The serenity along its crystal clear waters facing the Bangui Bay has became a backpacker favorite, also for its raw beauty and lack of the usual amenities found in Blue Lagoon. We spotted the windmills of Bangui and Burgos and that of another windfarm waiting to be synchronized to the grid. 

The sun perfectly set before us, the bright hues of yellow and orange painted the sky in ominous streaks that mar the once cool blue atmosphere into a warm orange as the big ball of light slowly descended from the horizon and finally hid behind the thin line that seperates the sky and the sea. What a way to cap-off our Ilocos Norte adventure as our second day was about to end. 

We returned back to our room and made haste to tidy up so we can catch the 7pm Florida bus in Pagudpud town proper that is en route to Manila. Around 6:30pm, Kuya Vhong brought us to the humble abode of Ate Maricel who sells authentic Pagudpud Longganisa (Filipino Sausage) for 250php/kilo. This variant was far from the little garlic infused Vigan Longganisa as this one was huge and Ate Maricel claims that they are made from the only finest parts of pork and no fats were included, she also supplies this type to various hotels in Pagudpud. As the day came to a close, we rode the overnight deluxe bus for 700php/each back to Manila and arrived by 5:00am the following day. 

Surely, Ilocos Norte will keep you coming back for more, there is still more to discover aside from the shortlists of travel aficionados. More waterfalls, beaches and mountains are still waiting to be revisited. So much for this two-day Ilocandia Adventure!


Update: Pagudpud Longganisa was a sure hit!, full of garlic goodness and really savory, no backfats were inside and only the ground mixture of pork as Ate Maricel claimed it to be, were present. Partnered with Sukang Iloko, a plateful of rice, nor a whole rice cooker did not sufficed. I was a bit dissapointed for only ordering a kilo and not making it ten! I’m thinking of a return trip to Pagudpud because of this. Bummer

NOTES:

How To Get There:

● By land, take any bus bound for Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte (GV Florida Transport), or alternately, take any Laoag, Ilocos Norte bound bus (GV Florida Transport, Partas Bus, Dominion Bus Lines, Fariñas Transit, Autobus) then hop on to another bus bound for Pagudpud town proper. (10-12hrs travel time, 700-900php/trip)

● By Air, take any flight bound for Laoag City Airport via Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines, and from Laoag, Ilocos Norte hop on to another bus bound for Pagudpud. (45mins flight time + 1.5hr land travel)

● Once in Pagudpud, there are several accredited tricycle tours that can take you on the Southbound Tour (Pagudpud Town, Saud Beach, Bangui and Burgos Wind Farm, Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse) and the Northbound Tour (Kabigan Falls, Patapat Viaduct, Bantay Abot Cave, Timangtang Rock, Blue Lagoon and Dos Hermanos Islets). Each tour costs 600php/trip and can accommodate 3 people each tricyle.

Where To Stay:

● There are several homestays to choose from at Saud, the one in which we stayed overnight is at Allen’s Homestay located in Brgy. Saud, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

 – Owned by Mrs. Rorily De Guzman (09102898217/09127470765). Room rates starts at 500php/ Fan Room, 800php/ Airconditioned Room and can accomodate 2-3 people.

● Polaris Beach Resort, Brgy. Saud, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

● Hannah’s Beach Resort

BUDGET AND ITINERARY

Ilocos Norte-Ilocos Sur 2D1N DIY Adventure

Day 0

2000 – Cubao, Take Partas Bus Bound for Vigan, Ilocos Sur (625php/pax)

Day 01
0500 – Arrival at Vigan (Breakfast own account)
0530 – Start walking tour
●Calle Crisologo
●Vigan Cathedral
●Simbaan A Bassit
●Plaza Burgos and Plaza Salcedo
●Ilocos Sur Provincial Capitol
●Bantay Bell Tower (Hail a tricycle to take you to Bantay, 30php/trip)
0815 – Take Tricycle to Partas Bus Terminal (40php/trip)
830 ETD to Batac, Ilocos Norte via Partas Bus (105php)
0945 Alight at Batac Junction, Start tour (300 each(2pax)/ 600php good for 3 pax)
●Marcos Presidential Center and Mausoleum (50php/per pax)
●Batac Cathedral
●Paoay Church
●Paoay Lake
●Malacañang Ti Amianan (20php/pax)
*you can add Suba Paoay Sand Dunes if you are traveling by group, 2500php for an hour of 4×4 ride and sand surfing
1300 Laoag City, visit Sinking Bell Tower, Ilocos Norte Museum and Ilocos Norte Provincial Capitol, take lunch
1430 Depart for Pagudpud, Bus Terminal is at the back of Provincial Capitol (90php/pax)
1630 – Arrival at Pagudpud, take tricycle to Aling Rollie’s Homestay (tricycle free of charge to and fro the bus terminal, if you are availing his tour services)
1650 – Arrival at Homestay (500php/overnight/fan room/good for 2-3persons, Aircon Room starts at 800php)

Day 02
0700 – Wake up, breakfast
0800 –  Start South bound tour (600php, 200php/pax if group of 3)
0830 – Bangui Wind Farm
0930 – Arrival at Burgos Junction, transfer to another tricycle (100php/each, 300php/trip)
0945 – Kapurpurawan Rock Formation and Burgos Wind Farm (15php/pax, Entrance Fee)
1100 – Cape Bojeador Light House
1145 – Start North bound Tour (600php, 200php/pax if group of 3)
1300 – Arrival at Kabigan falls (Guide Fee: 300php, Entrance Fee: 10php)
1430 – End of Waterfall trek
1445 – Lunch
1530 – Patapat Viaduct
1600 – Timangtang Rock Formation
1615 – Bantay Abot Cave
1645 – Pagudpud Blue Lagoon
1730 – Saud beach
1800 – Back at Homestay, Tidy up
1830 – Tricycle to Bus Terminal, Buy Vigan Longganisa at Aling Maricel’s House 250php/Kilo
1900 – Florida Deluxe Bus (700php/pax)

Day 03
0500 – Manila

TOTAL DAMAGE: 2815php/pax excluding food
My total expenses (with food and souvenirs): 3500php


Go, Carve That Niche,

Rex



“The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.”


– J.R.R. Tolkien


SNAPSHOT – Kabigan Falls

Photo by Kristina Cuenca (IG: @keiseizetheday)

The falls is approximately 87 feet high and flows down through a wide shallow basin ideal for swimming. The water was quite a refreshing treat after spending half the day under the sun. This makes Pagudpud a little more enchanting and jam packed all the same, from the beaches, the mountains and now, the waterfall. The word “Kabigan” was derived from the Filipino word “Kaibigan” which means a friend, since the waterfall and the river it goes down to is quite an unseparable duo given the fact that whatever the season is, it never dries up. 

How To Get There:

● By land, take any bus bound for Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte (GV Florida Transport), or alternately, take any Laoag, Ilocos Norte bound bus (GV Florida Transport, Partas Bus, Dominion Bus Lines, Fariñas Transit) then hop on to another bus bound for Pagudpud and alight at Burgos Junction.(600-700php, 10-12hrs travel time)

● By Air, take any flight bound for Laoag City Airport via Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines, and from Laoag, Ilocos Norte hop on to another bus bound for Pagudpud and alight at the Burgos Lighthouse, on the right. (45mins flight time + 1hr land travel)

● Once in Pagudpud, there are several accredited tricycle tours that can take you on a Southbound Tour (Pagudpud Town, Saud Beach, Bangui and Burgos Wind Farm, Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse) and the Northbound Tour (Kabigan Falls, Patapat Viaduct, Bantay Abot Cave, Timangtang Rock, Blue Lagoon and Dos Hermanos Islets). Each tour costs 600php/trip and can accommodate 3 people each tricyle.

Full Article Here:

The Great Amianan, Northbound – Ilocos Norte (Part III)

The Great Amianan, Southbound – Ilocos Norte (Part II)

Through the open windows of the regular provincial bus we took from Laoag City; the province of Ilocos, together with the houses getting lesser by the minute, and the landscape getting into full view, very much came alive before our own eyes. Though the 40-seater bus, filled with rowdy engagements, and even the fervent clucking of roosters echoing all over the crammed-up space full of locals all bound for several towns before Pagudpud, the almost two-hour trip was all worth it. 

Southbound, Here We Come!

“Agyamanak, Manong!” yelled the old lady who alighted somewhere nearing the town of Burgos, then there I was, at the back row of the bus, sweating profusely, goosebumps all over, caused by all the food I ate hours prior to the trip. I immediately went down the passenger bus on halt, almost leaving my friend behind.

Then the story went on, we asked the lady from the sari-sari store beside the provincial highway if the town of Pagudpud is somehow near, and told us that we should just wait for the next bus that leaves every 30 minutes from Laoag. It was around 4:00pm when we hopped at the passing bus that almost missed us, and after half an hour again through the winding roads leading to the northernmost tip of Luzon, we dropped-off at the intersection at the town going to Saud. It is also where, Kuya Vhong, our tricycle tour guide whom we made arrangements prior to the trip, was already there waiting for us. 

For backpackers and budgetarians, hotels are rarely out of the budget, so we chose to stay overnight at Saud where several homestays are up for grabs. Nanay Rolly, whom we also contacted prior to the trip already prepared our fan room for the night. Usual rates starts at 250php per night/person, and 400-500php/person for the airconditioned ones. The whole places feels much like home, owing for the single bungalow type house like the typical ones in the province. Upon arrival we immediately settled down and prepared for dinner after a little chat with Nanay Rolly and her husband. We had dinner at the nearest eatery and made friends with a solo backpacker from Palawan who asked if he can join us the following day.


The following morning, our tour guide was already waiting for us outside and we immediately started the tour by 8:00am. Usually, the Pagudpud Tour is divided into two, the Southbound and Northbound both pegged at 600php/trip. We chose to start venturing down its southern territories.

Renewable Energy? I’m a Big Fan!

Pagudpud is a fourth class municipality located at the northernmost tip of the island of Luzon. Perennial visitors are drawn by the alluring ivory beaches and natural land and seascapes of this coastal town, that some of its beaches gained the moniker “Boracay of the North”. From our homestay we travelled down south to the municipality of Bangui, 21 kilometers from Saud, where the famous Bangui Wind Farm is located.

Bangui Wind Farm has been the icon of Ilocos Region and all throughout Asia. The turbines are arranged in a single row stretching across the nine-kilometer Bangui Bay facing the West Philippine Sea. Each generating 1.65Mega Watts, this 70 meter high V82 Vestas Wind Turbines, is also composed of a three rotor blades spanning a total of 41meters. 

Their total peak capacity, with all the 20 turbines in operation, generates 32 Mega Watts of power and energizes much of Ilocos Norte combined with the several wind farms commissioned in the region. To promote clean and renewable energy, the North Wind Project spearheaded by the local government of Ilocos, was initiated during the 1990’s and was finished by August 2008. Although not for tourism purposes, their aesthetic quality became a major draw for tourists all over the globe.

Waves are strong across the shore, so is the streamlining winds, that I have no idea if swimming around this pebble beach is regarded as safe given the fact that the shelf starts somewhere near so water depth will eventually get really deep at some parts. Refreshments and souvenirs are sold at the huts near the turbines and make sure to buy atleast a piece of anything to help the locals make a living out of tourism activities.

After half an hour we left for the town of Burgos to visit the much celebrated rock formations of Ilocos. From the intersection of Burgos, tour guides and their tricycles are not allowed so we had to transfer to another one wherein they charge 300php/roundtrip.

The once off the beaten path leading to Kapurpurawan now became a paved road due to the commissioning of another plant called the Burgos Wind Farm. 

Aside from Bangui, there is also Burgos with their Wind Turbines sitting atop the craggy hills facing the West Philippine Sea. Being the second wind farm after Bangui in the country and the others in Rizal, Mindoro, Guimaras, Aklan et al. It features 50 units of V90 Vestas 3 Mega Watt Wind Turbine and produces energy as large as a whopping 150 Mega Watts per day, 5 times larger than that of Bangui! Why am I telling you this? Because you have to be very much aware how much electricity is produced by this rotating giants compared to the same capacity coupled with the pollution and waste produced by coal plants and the likes just to charge our phones and power up our appliances and airconditioning units. So, be a big fan of these big fans for clean and renewable energy. 


The largest in South East Asia, it covers 600 hectares of land and takes up spaces from Barangays of Saoit, Poblacion and Nagsurot, it also houses a Solar Farm inside the facility.

The Kapurpurawan

Upon arrival at the jump-off point, which is 45 kilometers from Laoag City, and 10 minutes from the highway, several huts lined up the area ranging from souvenir shops to eateries. The salty and crisp sea breeze bellowed from where we were standing and invited us to witness the rocks upclose and personal. From the huts the actual kapurpurawan formation will require you to trek for 5 to 15 minutes before reaching it.  There are also horses for rent available in the area. 

Photo by Kristina Cuenca (IG: @keiseizetheday)

The sun was all up from its slumber and a little searing than the usual as we trek a little with the whole sea in full view. 

Then from where I am standing, panting a little, the picturesque rock formation came into full view.

 A result of thousands, if not, millions of years of ocean movement, harsh weather conditions and carved by the howling winds streamlining the stones into quite a work of art, this peculiar rocks are no doubt, a feast for the eyes, and one of the attractions you shouldn’t miss on your next Ilocandia trip.

“Puraw” in Ilocano dialect means “white”, that is where the term Kapurpurawan came from, owing to its really white to cream colored appearance. 

Then we got back to the huts to have our breakfast, Pansit with pork toppings and Ilocos Empanada!

Burgos Lighthouse

We got back to the junction of Burgos and drove 20mins and 17 kilometers farther to the Barangay of Bannawag and reached the Faro De Cabo Bojeador or Cape Bojeador Light House by 11:00am. 

Photo by Kristina Cuenca (IG: @keiseizetheday)

Finished by 1887, it stands 160 meters atop the Vigia De Nagparitan Hill, the spanish lighthouse faces the West Philippine Sea and was designed by Magin Pers and was commissioned by Servicio De Faros headed by Engr. Guillermo Brockman.

 The lighthouse was designed to guide seafarers during the late spanish colonization era as a station point for ships veering towards the Pacific coast crossing the Babuyan Channel towards China, Japan and Hongkong. It likewise assists ships heading south towards the port of Saomangue in Ilocos Sur and Currimao in Ilocos Norte.

Leaving each visitor breathless with the sundry topography and the sea in unison. This Spanish lighthouse is still in use up to the present day and was declared as a National Cultural Treasure on June 20, 2005.

This is part of Spain’s masterplan for lighting the maritime coasts of the Philippine archipelago as the construction frenzy started with the country opening up to a wider network and international access began as the galleon trade of Manila-Acapulco ceased. 

Then we continued on up to the next part of adventure, next stop: Northbound!

Third part of our Ilocos Norte adventure here:

The Great Amianan, Northbound – Ilocos Norte (Part III)


NOTES:

How To Get There:

● By land, take any bus bound for Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte (GV Florida Transport), or alternately, take any Laoag, Ilocos Norte bound bus (GV Florida Transport, Partas Bus, Dominion Bus Lines, Fariñas Transit) then hop on to another bus bound for Pagudpud and alight at Burgos Junction.(700-800php, 10-12hrs travel time)

● By Air, take any flight bound for Laoag City Airport via Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines, and from Laoag, Ilocos Norte hop on to another bus bound for Pagudpud (45mins flight time + 1hr+ land travel)

● Once in Pagudpud, there are several accredited tricycle tours that can take you on a Southbound Tour (Pagudpud Town, Saud Beach, Bangui and Burgos Wind Farm, Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse) and the Northbound Tour (Kabigan Falls, Patapat Viaduct, Bantay Abot Cave, Timangtang Rock, Blue Lagoon and Dos Hermanos Islets). Each tour costs 600php/trip and can accommodate 3 people each tricyle.

Where To Stay:

● There are several homestays to choose from at Saud, the one in which we stayed overnight is at Allen’s Homestay located in Brgy. Saud, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

 – Owned by Mrs. Rorily De Guzman (09102898217/09127470765). Room rates starts at 500php/ Fan Room, 800php/ Airconditioned Room and can accomodate 2-3 people.

● Polaris Beach Resort, Brgy. Saud, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

● Hannah’s Beach Resort


BUDGET AND ITINERARY

Ilocos Norte-Ilocos Sur 2D1N DIY Adventure

Day 0

2000 – Cubao, Take Partas Bus Bound for Vigan, Ilocos Sur (625php/pax)

Day 01
0500 – Arrival at Vigan (Breakfast own account)
0530 – Start walking tour
●Calle Crisologo
●Vigan Cathedral
●Simbaan A Bassit
●Plaza Burgos and Plaza Salcedo
●Ilocos Sur Provincial Capitol
●Bantay Bell Tower (Hail a tricycle to take you to Bantay, 30php/trip)
0815 – Take Tricycle to Partas Bus Terminal (40php/trip)
830 ETD to Batac, Ilocos Norte via Partas Bus (105php)
0945 Alight at Batac Junction, Start tour (300 each(2pax)/ 600php good for 3 pax)
●Marcos Presidential Center and Mausoleum (50php/per pax)
●Batac Cathedral
●Paoay Church
●Paoay Lake
●Malacañang Ti Amianan (20php/pax)
*you can add Suba Paoay Sand Dunes if you are traveling by group, 2500php for an hour of 4×4 ride and sand surfing
1300 Laoag City, visit Sinking Bell Tower, Ilocos Norte Museum and Ilocos Norte Provincial Capitol, take lunch
1430 Depart for Pagudpud, Bus Terminal is at the back of Provincial Capitol (90php/pax)
1630 – Arrival at Pagudpud, take tricycle to Aling Rollie’s Homestay (tricycle free of charge to and fro the bus terminal, if you are availing his tour services)
1650 – Arrival at Homestay (500php/overnight/fan room/good for 2-3persons, Aircon Room starts at 800php)

Day 02
0700 – Wake up, breakfast
0800 –  Start South bound tour (600php, 200php/pax if group of 3)
0830 – Bangui Wind Farm
0930 – Arrival at Burgos Junction, transfer to another tricycle (100php/each, 300php/trip)
0945 – Kapurpurawan Rock Formation and Burgos Wind Farm (15php/pax, Entrance Fee)
1100 – Cape Bojeador Light House
1145 – Start North bound Tour (600php, 200php/pax if group of 3)
1300 – Arrival at Kabigan falls (Guide Fee: 300php, Entrance Fee: 10php)
1430 – End of Waterfall trek
1445 – Lunch
1530 – Patapat Viaduct
1600 – Timangtang Rock Formation
1615 – Bantay Abot Cave
1645 – Pagudpud Blue Lagoon
1730 – Saud beach
1800 – Back at Homestay, Tidy up
1830 – Tricycle to Bus Terminal, Buy Vigan Longganisa at Aling Maricel’s House 250php/Kilo
1900 – Florida Deluxe Bus (700php/pax)

Day 03
0500 – Manila

TOTAL DAMAGE: 2815php/pax excluding food
My total expenses (with food and souvenirs): 3500php


Go, Carve That Niche

Rex


There are far better things ahead than the ones we leave behind.
– C.S. Lewis

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