An hour air travel; almost half day bus trip; unfeasible sea passage; and a lifetime dream – for him who was once a witness of Manila’s hostage crises, a window shopper during the many bomb threats in malls and a victim of street pick pockets; for him who had no choice but to stay for work, tolerate his abusive employer and continue providing for the family; and for him who just turned to a poor bridge over the troubled water of urbanism and had no idea how he can actually be with the water, enjoy the days and live life at its best – here in Ilocos Norte!
1. Bracing experience at Adams
“Bokarot,” word uttered by my father if asked where to spend one busy day, which never seemed good to my judgmental auditory nor looked a place of worth to my very particular eyes (though I never got a chance to visit it). Since then, I just leaved this I-do-not-want-to-mention place (as it really sounds scary) to my father’s interest. The bubbles of curiosity disappeared but the stain of ignorance remained years.
Until the town of Adams struck my notes in elementary’s HKS (History). I can still remember how my father, his friends and old folks answered my, once again, curiosity. They talked about this new-in-my-vocabulary municipality of Ilocos Norte in terms like “remote,” “forest,” “refreshing,” “cool,” “hanging bridges” and a suggestion, “better use a two-wheeled vehicle in going to,” because of its close-to-inaccessibility road features.
A vivid picture of previous black-and-white Adams was developed then during my high school years. That wasn’t through innovations – HD images, powerpoint presentations, etc. Instead, it’s the more-than-innovative discussions to stories of my biology teacher, Mrs. V, that helped me to understand – the ecosystem, kingdom animalia, plantae, and our environment – what we call science! She once described Adams as rich in natural resources, with their mountain and forests where we can find uncommon floras and faunas. I also learned that her husband, a head teacher in Adams high school, also drives the town with his motorcycle (in the same reason above).
Then later, I just discovered that “Bokarot” is a sitio in Adams where you can actually take pleasure mountain biking in the area. Wow! This only shows that the farming get-up of my father whenever he goes to the place (when I was still a child), had gone a long way of nonsense stereotyping. I mean, the place is such a paradise for me to overlook it.
Adams is located in the northeastern part of Ilocos Norte. It consists of only one barangay with less than 6,000 feet counts. The place doubles the virginity of even combined neighboring towns Pagudpud and Bangui. If awe comes after seeing the forests of the two other towns, awe joins inspiring after discovering the exquisiteness of Adams rainforests. The town also showcases not one, two or three but eight extraordinary waterfalls. Two of which, being admired by comers and goers, are the 25-feet Anuplig and Kanayupan. Likewise, the stretch of Bolo river which starts in Adams and ends in Bangui is very much abundant with scrumptious, province pride fishes, shrimps and shells. Trekking Mt. Palemlem (Mt. Pico de Loro), the highest peak in Ilocos Norte, is a favorite in Adams too. Many mountaineers had been dumbfounded – specifically after coming across the challenges the place has to offer, going breathless in exhilaration and lastly, tramping the cold expanse of Adams, not just because of the high altitude but also radiation (experiencing heat loss after exposure to secluded area which is of greater force or power opposite yours, that is with the same feeling when entering an abandoned mansion where one mistakenly refers this to the presence of ghosts or other supernatural entity).
Kayaking and rubber tubing in Bolo; rock climbing, rappelling and cliff diving the hard goodness of Adams; mountain biking their sitios; and simply strolling under the wide, accommodating, canopy-forming, century old trees! You can all enjoy these in loaded, blessed Adams!
2. Water flurries at Pagudpud
It was a struggling caterpillar at first. Finding ways, begging for love, waiting for the sun. After hardships and efforts, it turned to pupa, getting itself ready for tomorrow, for another coming of the sun. Until its wings formed. From peeking, to crawling, then soaring. And now everyone’s running after its promises! They want to see it! They want to catch it! Truly, Pagudpud have gone this far. Glad, I witnessed Pagudpud’s metamorphosis – its adventure, its fly to fame!
Pagudpud has a different impact on me when I was still in grade school. I always get excited every time they call for a picnic in Pagudpud. Because it would mean a grand gathering, a lot of food, and fun! From birthday celebrations to family get-togethers. If Bolo river nearby our house was just a palamig, Pagudpud was a halo-halo for me with three scoops of ice cream – ube, choco and vanilla!
One time, relatives of my father’s brother in law invited us in Barangay Caunayan, a fishing village in Pagudpud. The place got a lot of potential. It was like Saud beach with white sands, nice shells and plenty of coconut trees around. But Caunayan had a rugged look – that is, Saud like a man wearing shades, v-neck white shirt, walk shorts in his shades and crocs, flaunting style and class while Caunayan like a man in black jacket and cargo pants in combat boots, giving in the other hand, the thrill or the so-called “kick”. This is because the barangay has wider coconut area, rougher sands and scattered twigs around. Of course, the welcoming folks served us during the picnic the best of their catches! As usual, I was delighted with the grilled fishes!
Pagudpud is located in the northern most part of Ilocos Norte and northwestern part of the country. It may not be an island alone but its coast is comparable to Palawan, Hawaii, and every beach-proud regions of the globe. Like Adams, entering Pagudpud, immediately after the arc, one can feel coolness and calmness. That aside from prominent beaches, canopy-forming century old trees which shield the sometimes-irritating tentacles of the sun, hilly areas which trap the playful air and the long-sticks-turned-fans-above coconut trees which reenergize breezes and create delightful ambiance are also gracing up this lowland heaven. It is not impossible then that Pagudpud is recommended by backpackers and foreigners, endorsed by the DOT and recognized by many – through awards, the Herald Sun (specifically Saud Beach) and other publicities.
Savoring the eyes isn’t Pagudpud’s only promise now but also uplifting the souls. Indeed, Pagudpud has upgraded. From just a mere glance and touch or just a free taste of the menu before, 0ne can now actually indulge in the unlimited sumptuousness of the paradise. Swimming as an all-time favorite during summer will never be a form of penance in Pagudpud (especially this holy week) because doing such will just violate one of the seven deadly sins – envy! And surfing, as looked forward by adventurers and tourists, is a special add-on in visiting the place’ boredom-killer waves!
But the major major attraction one shouldn’t miss is Hannah’s beach resort and convention center located near-or-almost Blue Lagoon, 20 minutes away from Saud. The less than 5 years established refreshment is situated few steps from the beach and few walks from the hill. There’s this lookout where one can afford a breathtaking view of the immaculate environment. The resort is equipped of swimming pools, billiards and a cozy bar. It has also a wide beach front of about 40 feet of ivory white sands before water – perfect to revel in driving their all-terrain vehicles (ATV). Boating? Speed boats, kayaks, pedal boats, rubber boats and banana boats – name it! All of these amenities in this hot-in-the-mind but cold-in-the-feeling spot!
So why not open this gift of God before Easter come!
3. Lurching spree at Sand Dunes
Ilocos Norte is one of the hottest provinces in the Philippines, in more than one sense – being the Marcos country, the home of superb tourist spots and the cradle of the Sunshine City, Laoag!
Laoag City, the capital of Ilocos Norte, records a substantial high temperature which can reach 30 degrees Celsius during the hot season. This is attributed, not just to global warming, but also to the city’s considerable huge population which includes both the residing and non-residing people contributing in the emission of carbon dioxide and decibels of noise. Therefore, anything that protects and rejuvenates us from a rampant sun – sunblock, sunglass, umbrella, cap, fan, cotton shirt, music, hammock, juice, ice cream, etc. – are very useful to survive an insipid day. But these are already outdated. Everyone wants something new, inimitable and spanking!
Actually, there’s an area being snubbed in the quieter eastern part. I wonder how it became unheeded to many despite its openness, its accessibility. Maybe, it has been associated to Middle East’ account – hot and hot! But actually, it is more than that! Sand Dunes of Laoag City is an alternative to go to for a tedious day.
Yes, the sun is still there but there’s no such thing as partiality to this heavenly body. I mean, the sun has its multiple rays to deliver life and energy to every part of the world – equally, immeasurably and unbiasedly. Now, the warmth in a certain place is just modified by the clouds, trees, people, factories and chemicals. And for Sand Dunes, the absence of trees and increased activities of the people imposes a warmer feeling due to less air current and increased metabolism respectively.
But isn’t it that it is more worthwhile if feeling intense because of liveliness and leisure interest than walking the corners of the city, that if so, you’ll go and buy something cold which is just temporary compared to the experience you can treasure in Sand Dunes?
Sand Dunes set off the wide area of sand ridges from Laoag and end in Paoay. It became famous because it is where international and local movies were filmed. Its imperfect but realistic feature makes everyone their choice over Middle East’. The place is like a chocnut, so real, so Pinoy! It’s not a toblerone, reese’s or kisses! Nor like Bohol’s Chocolate Hills that exhibit lavishness and is limited to the eye. That is, Ilocos Norte's chocnut mounds, through sand boarding and 4-wheel driving, can be tasted, can be experienced!
4. Zipline adventure at Banna
Banna, a place where cousins of my cousins lived. I had been there a few times because I used to go with them, when I was still a child. Then… boom! So sudden, I never got the chance to visit it again.
Describing the place where once in my life I strolled, stayed and enjoyed childhood is of great mango trees. I had enjoyed climbing the trees – old, vast but not exuding elevation. They are just within my reach. I can freely move up, down and jump! And as a child, having this experience is very satisfying.
The place has forests too. It is just that, their municipality is very far from my hometown. It is located south of Ilocos Norte while I was in the north in my entire life. Hence, hopping over the place and enjoy what it has to offer is not that easy.
Then... So? What? I have nothing to say much about the place. Indeed, I, we, have still to discover Banna!
And for how many years of waiting, I heard Banna again! It was just several echoes before but with the determination to create an effect, the sounds had been arranged and now being played and called music. Yes, they call it being too ambitious by travelers, detractors and those who don’t believe to the capabilities of Ilocanos. But see, we made it! Such a promise that we lived for it and now bringing to every pleasure-seekers out there – the zipline adventure in Paraiso ti Caribquib, Banna! A 17 seconds trip to...
You should try it first and let us name where we just had a jolt of happiness!
5. Town cruising around Ilocos
From just the aforementioned destinations, truly Ilocos Norte is rich, one of a kind, perfect! What's more if I’ll tour you around the province!
Aside from Pagudpud and Adams, the north covers the town of Bangui, where one can view the astonishing Windmills, visit the mountain resort in Barangay Lanao, hike the Abang Falls where once a Philippine eagle landed some time in 2006, trek the sitios of remote barangays discovering pristine rivers and cascades and behold the golden ricefields of the town; Burgos, the municipality where historic Cape Bojeador and magnificent wonder Kapurpurawan white rock formations can be found; and Pasuquin, a fishing village, known for their salt industry, Dumadara (a kind of fish) festival, the unparalleled bread recipe of biscocho and spelunking their caves. One can also gaze the Sinking Bell Tower, stay in Java Hotel and tour the Ilocos Norte Museum in Laoag City.
While the eastern part comprises San Nicolas, known for pottery and kiosk-making industry as well as the first true mall in Ilocos, the Robinsons – Ilocos Norte; Piddig, where one can also stroll and ramble their virgin forests and where I tasted great home made ice creams – go Pinoy with avocado, go trendy with cookies and cream and go crazy with the chili ice cream, my first ever encounter of this flavor; Dingras, the hometown of Girls Scout of the Philippines founder Josefa Llanes Escoda and the famous rice granary of the north; Sarrat, the location of the 105 meter long Santa Monica church; and Solsona, a great place for river trekking and sightseeing of the glorious Ilocos-Apayao Road.
And the south of Ilocos Norte embraces Batac, the new city in the province, where we can see Marcos Mausoleum, the World Peace Center – office of Congresswoman Imelda R. Marcos and at the same time a picture gallery of the Marcoses, that seeing the place feels like time travelling; Paoay, the town of the UNESCO heritage, St. Augustine Church and the Malacañang of the North overviewing Paoay lake; and Currimao, another beach town of Ilocos Norte with darker sands and more cliffs in the shoreline, plus resorts, Playa and Pangil.