Tag Archives: ABRA

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


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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