The Northern Exposure

Last Friday, Agnes and I took leave from our labors in the metro and embarked on a back-packing trip up north to Ilocandia. It was something we have always planned on doing but never really had the time. Seeing that our schedules were going to be full during the summer season, and the only other opportunity to visit the places would be in June, we decided that we had to go on the last day of March.

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First stop was Saud beach in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. After more or less 12 hours of sitting in a bus from Quezon City, the cool breeze which permeates the place was a welcome change of temperature from the heat of the metro and the chilling air conditioner on the bus. Saud was going to be our “base of operations” for the adventures in this part of Ilocandia. And so after checking in and unloading some of our gear from our packs, we took a swim in the cool blue waters, dug our toes into the white sand, and rested for the rest of the day.

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Bangui was going to be the first in our northern Ilocos itinerary. With our guide/tricycle driver Boboy, we went south to the next town after Pagudpud and took some time to marvel at the wind wonders. The wind farm made us feel like little children, both in scale and in experience. We wondered how the huge propellers were made and installed, and how they were maintained.

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Next stop was Kapurawpurawan, in Burgos. This was not in our itinerary but Boboy wanted us to see the place. He said that the white rock formation along the coast line was breath-taking, and yes it was. The white sides and surfaces of the little hill reminded us of the movie 127 hours, especially since there was this weird rock which seemed to have sat on its head on another rock. On the way to the white rocks though, we saw little mangrove trees being grown on the shore and there was a sign which said that it was illegal to destroy or steal the mangroves, but there was no government representative which would see to it that the sign was respected.

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After the rocks was the sentry at Cape Bojeador, Burgos. We visited the old lighthouse which was built during the Spanish era. The lighthouse is one of the oldest (and continuously used) lighthouses in the country and it sits on the Northwesternmost part of Luzon. In a conversation with the lighthouse guard Manong Jun, he said that visitors were no longer allowed up the lighthouse after the local chief executive alleged that they were soliciting fees from the tourists. Manong Jun denies the allegation but the Coast Guard (which has authority over the lighthouses), so as not to complicate the matter, issued the memo he mentioned. And the thing was, the memo was released just last month (if only we visited the place earlier).

By then it was lunch time and we had to eat. Boboy took us to Papa Nards back in Pagudpud. The place had a good mix of delicious Ilocano food and the usual viands which appealed to the taste of the average Filipino. After the sumptuous lunch, we resumed the trip. This time, we were going to the north of Pagudpud.

Boboy first took us to the Patapat Viaduct and the Agua Grande Picnic Park. The viaduct reminded me of a scene from a James Bond movie while the huge rocks at Agua Grande reminded me of those I have seen in Camiguin years back. After Agua Grande, we proceeded to Maira-ira beach or what was called by some as the Blue Lagoon.

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Maira-ira beach is another stretch of white sand beach and blue waters in Pagudpud. While Saud sits on the Western side of the municipality, Maira-ira is on the northern side. Which means that the waters, unlike those in Saud which are from the South China Sea, come from the Pacific, and are actually stronger and the waves, bigger. Dubbed as Boracay of the North, it seemed to mimic the island paradise of the Western Visayas with its huge concrete resort, colorful buntings, huts, and all the tell-tale signs of development. It was far livelier than the idyllic Saud beach we stayed in. As to which one is better and more advisable to go to would be a matter of preference and longing.

Both on our way in and out of Maira-ira beach, we saw a set of rocks which had been the object of some green jokes among the locals. At the westernmost set of these coastal rocks was the Dos Hermanos. Despite the brotherly name given, these rocks were connected by the locals to Bantay Abot Rock, which had a hole in the middle, and Timangtang Rock, which resembled the head of the male organ.

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And then there was Kabigan Falls. Boboy had warned us that the falls were inaccessible to vehicles and that visitors would have to hike. And hike we did. Along with Loida, our guide to the falls, Agnes and I walked through streams, the shade of trees, crossed make shift bridges and mossy rocks to get to Kabigan. After a distance of over a kilometer, we were there. The place was nested under the shade of trees with only the sound of water splashing and gurgling to break what would have been a silent environment. Had we had the luxury of time, we would have stayed for a swim. But being that Loida had to wait for us and she would be earning more as a guide if she accompanied more tourists, Agnes and I decided that we go back after a short break and taking some pictures.

All in all, we took in the sights of Burgos, Bangui, and Pagudpud in half a day and we had the afternoon for ourselves. Thanks to Boboy, Manong Jun, and Loida, the sight-seeing trip had been interesting and enlightening. We took the afternoon off and sunk our toes once again in the white sands of Saud, took a dip in the blue waters, and enjoyed the cool afternoon breeze, looking at the wind farms from a distance.

Next stop… Batac, Laoag, and Paoay…

(To be continued) 

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