The City That Never Sleeps
My name is John Mark Francia. I am, a Filipino. I find it hard to name things I hate (because i barely hate anything). I'm 18 and I don't mind being shy.I try my best at everything and never fear failure because I believe that there is a reason for everything

posted : Sunday, June 23, 2013
title : ILOCOS NORTE: Hidden Paradise of the North

It was June 14, 2013 when I and my friends Verna, Carl, April and her boyfriend Kurt left for our planned escapade in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. The trip had flimsy preparation and lack of travel know-how’s. It was entirely young adventurer’s burning desire to feel the most sought after destination in the Northern Philippines.

It was around 7am when we met up at downtown Roxas (Isabela).  Since we are already too late for the GMW trip straight to Ilocos, we had no choice but to ride a van bound to Tuguegarao City in Cagayan. It was 9am when we reached the GMW Terminal in the city, and left at around 9.30am.

We had our stop-over/lunch in Gattaran, Cagayan and then continue travelled the rest of Maharlika Highway through the municipalities of Lal-lo, Alcala, Abulug and Camalaniugan. It was quarter to 2 when we reached the municipality of Claveria and had a taste of their yummy ‘bibingka’. The view in Claveria is the first peek of what you will experience up north; it was amazing to see the Babuyan Channel and mountains packed with coconut trees and Anahaw, our national leaf. We were able to reach Sta. Praxedes by 3pm, a town where Cagayan and Ilocos Norte meet each other. As soon as we enter the first town of Ilocos Norte which is Pagudpud, we pass by through the Patapat Viaduct, a landmark which serves as a boundary between Region I and II.

(Lhea, Verna and April)

We were dropped off at Baduang Market in Pagudpud pass 3PM but the person we made contact with didn’t show up. He is supposed to take us to a public house we reserved and tour us around. Because of that we ended up checking-in at an expensive tavern at Casa Victoria Hotel along Saud Beach. The room has an LCD TV, double-decked bed and it is pretty spacious for us. We changed our clothes right away and had a taste of their pancit and fruit shake.  To finally start our adventure, we roam around the nearest beach at night and had some alcohol shot. There were line of hotels and resorts along Saud Beach but there were only few tourists that time because summer has already ended. 

(Pancit and fruit shake)

15th JUNE, 2013th

An ensemble of strapping winds and unruffled waves extending towards the shores,  with the tender brushing of trees, all together, played a melodious ambient tune which greeted us a good morning at Casa Victoria Hotel. We woke up at around 5 in the morning because we want to see the sunrise. Only to find out that you cannot witness the sunset and sunrise in the beach because of its location, but there is the view of Bangui Windmills which is a great replacement. Theatric cloud formations seen from the horizon contrasted the stunning hues of blue dominating the open sky. The morning was full of colors, sounds, and energy. It seemed like a perfect day for a Pagudpud day-out so off we went
(Pagudpud welcome arc)

It was 8AM when the two tricycles who will tour us, arrived. Our first destination was the PATAPAT VIADUCT, a long highway at the northernmost tip of Luzon Island. It is a snaky 1.3 kilometer concrete bridge that follows the outline of the northernmost mountains of Cordillera, elevated 31 meters above sea level, and the 4th longest bridge of the Philippines was strategically built to avoid accidents in this landslide prone area.

(Patapat Viaduct)

Next was the AQUA GRANDE PICNIK PARK. According to our tour guide, the park also serves as an alternative source of electricity. The place is very good for people with problems because it is so breezy and so relaxing.  Our third destination was the PARAISO NI ANTON. According to our tour guide, they do not have any idea why they call it that way. It is a twin falls which the locale believed is miraculous. I also noticed those buses coming from Cagayan were dropping by to drink its blessed water. So, to maximize our Ilocos experience, we also had the chance to drink its water. Beside the falls is flight of stairs leading to a Virgin Mary sculpture.
(Aqua Grande Picnik Park)

On our way to Hannah’s beach, we passed by the TIMMANGTANG ROCK and BANTAY ABOT CAVE. We went first in Timmangtang Rock, which according to our tour guide is synonymous to a male cock. On its left side is the Bantay Abot Cave but we needed to ride a tricycle first in order to reach it. Well, our world is full of tales, and these two tourist spots also have its own.  According to our tour guide, a long time ago there were two lovers who went to the sea but unfortunately, were drown. Then suddenly, the Timmangtang rock which is the male and Bantay Abot Cave which is the female appeared in the area. Strong Pacific waves relentlessly pummeling the coastline of Pagudpud since the dawn of time could’ve punched the huge hole into the mountain that made Bantay Abot truly a sight to see.

(Timmangtang Rock and Bantay Abot Cave)
 (Timmangtang Rock signage)
(Bantay Abot Cave)

Next is the HANNAH’s BEACH. There were lot of establishments within its vicinity such as Convention Center, Hotels, Resort, Resto’s and Bar’s which I think is very-Bora. J According to my research it is the most sought after place in Ilocos Norte because it is where you can experience the wonderful scenery of the Blue Lagoon Beach. It is a place perfect for adventure seeker, there is the longest Zip line and of course the Banana Boat experience. It was my first time to ride a Banana boat, and I got so excited so I really screamed at my loudest all throughout the ride. 

(Hannah's Beach from afar)
(Blue Lagoon Beach)
(Hannah's Beach Resort Convention Center)
(Getting ready for the boat ride)
(Banana Boat!)

After 10 minutes of travelling, we were able to reach the entrance of KABIGAN FALLS.  The entrance costs 10 pesos per head and a hundred pesos minimum fee for the tour guide. Beside the entrance is a restaurant where you can order foods they are going to cook for you. :) In front of a small chapel was a grass-covered parking space which also marks the jump off point for the 1.8 kilometer hike to the falls. We went hiking for 30 minutes, and we pass by a really forested area and a brook similar to that of Flatrocks in Los Banos, Laguna.  The trail was easy and entrenched. Flatland covered most of the hike leading deeper into the forest. Improvised bridges built from fastened tree trunks or wooden planks enable easier crossing of the streams. On a relaxed pace, Pagudpud’s waterfalls is in sight within 30 minutes. According to Ate Chona, the tour guide, the two people who discovered the said falls are friends who ended up as lovers. “Magkaibigan na nagka-ibigan”, and that is where its name Kabigan was derived. Surges of water plus the greenest of green welcomed us atop. We were amazed on the breathtaking view the falls has to offer. I admit that it was tiring to go hiking, but it seems like our effort was shelved off because of the reward. The 80-foot falls was surrounded by luscious green forest vegetation, and at the bottom was a basin of freezing water. I and my friends went on swimming and the water was so wintry and the cool mist felt in the air was refreshing, and a dip into the pool will kick tiredness and weariness out of your system. The local government bans any use of shampoo and soap on the falls because they are preserving its natural exquisiteness. When we got back to the restaurant, our Tilapia and Liempo were already cooked. Perfect! We were already hungry at that moment. We went back to Casa Victoria after eating to change our wet clothes.

(Kabigan Falls signage)
(Balete tree)
(After 30 minutes of hiking, finally...)
(Kabigan Falls)

Thirty minutes away from Pagudpud comes the KAPURPURAWAN ROCK FORMATION in the municipality of Burgos. The rock formations has been a shooting place for various movies such as Suddenly it’s Magic, Panday and Si Agimat, Si Enteng Kabisote at Si Ako. The rock is made up of limestones, with a sand-like texture and dirty white color. They used to allow tourists to climb up the limestone formations until it was becoming thinner because of human activity. 
(Kapurpurawan Rock Formations)

It was 4PM when we were brought to our next destination, the CAPE BOJEADOR LIGHTHOUSE. Because it was already late, the lighthouse was already closed but we managed to beg for the caretaker to open it for us. Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, also known as Burgos Lighthouse, is a cultural heritage structure in Burgos, Ilocos Norte, that was established during the Spanish Colonial period in the Philippines. It was first lit on March 30, 1892, and is set high on Vigia de Nagpartian Hill overlooking the scenic Cape Bojeador where early galleons used to sail by. After over 100 years, it still functions as a welcoming beacon to the international ships that enter the Philippine Archipelago from the north and guide them safely away from the rocky coast of the town.

(Cape Bojeador Lighthouse)

Our last destination for the day was the BANGUI WINDMILLS, located in the municipality of Bangui. Arranged on a single row stretching along a nine-kilometer shoreline off Bangui Bay, facing the South China Sea, it is the first power generating windmill farm in Southeast Asia. At first, I got so scared of coming near the windmills because it is so massive. But as soon as we came accross the mills, i began to appreciate it :)

(Bangui Windmills)

It was 7PM when we got back to Casa Victoria Hotel. Knowing that it is already our last day in the province, we went out to the sea, left our camera in the room and enjoyed the place as it is. We experienced the fine sand, felt the coldness of the sea and watched the moon shining over us. Forget about trying to capture everything, record everything, because in the first place we went there to enjoy the magnificent paradise of the North.

Our trip in Ilocos Norte was full of tiresome activities, but it’s definitely worth it. The people were accommodating and more friendly than its counterpart province. Wandering around the place will lash out stress and negativities out of your physical body. The province is highly recommended especially for family gatherings because of various attractions it offers. The place is also perfect for nature lover and adventure seekers because it’s full of exciting tricks. Ilocos Norte will leave you breathless with its sundry topography that persuades you to come back again and again…


Hidden Paradise of the North
photos courtesy of: CARL ALLAN TARUN
narration by: JOHN MARK FRANCIA

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