Cape Bojeador watched our bus intently as we entered the north. The lighthouse has been the guardian of the far north since it started operation in 1892. The watchtower has ensured the safe passage in the territory to those who offer their respects. We have been traveling by land for over three hours, from Narvacan, and the sight of Cape Bojeador gave me a sigh of relief that we have finally reached the far north of Ilocandia. But on this side of the north, winter is not coming.
The tri-municipality of Burgos, Bangui, and Pagudpud are the homes of the tourism icons of Ilocos Norte. Located along the western shores of the Ilocandia, the three municipalities receive a steady stream of guests both for its natural and man-made wonders. These spots have earned a page in our “Araling Panlipunan” books but nothing beats a face-to-face encounter with these icons that we have seen and heard via our school teachers and social media.
As we found ourselves working on a tight schedule, we quickly hopped onto a tricycle for a quick tour of Burgos, Bangui, and Pagudpud.
Playing With The Gods of the Wind in Bangui
Our hired tricycle roared along the highway with the wind. On this part of the north, the wind seem to play the game of the gods as they electrify most of the region, literally, with its wind turbines. You get accustomed by the sight of windmills along its rugged coast that stretches from Burgos to Pagudpud.
But the picture-perfect spot for playing with the wind is Bangui. This sleepy municipality made its mark in the tourism map of the Philippines for being the home of the first power-generating windfarm in Southeast Asia - the Bangui Wind Farm.
The completion of the initial phase of the project in 2008 gave way to the installation of 20 wind turbines along the shores of Bangui facing the West Philippine Sea. These wind turbines gracefully form an arc that make the Bangui Wind Farm a perfect spot for photos with these mighty giant fans.
The perfectly lined windmills against the seascape and landscape of Ilocos was definitely impressive. It was not surprising that the Bangui Wind Farm is a hit among travelers because of its story and aesthetic beauty.
It is good to see that not only did it bring environmentally clean electricity in the area but it also gave birth to the tourism economy that Bangui locals can definitely benefit from.
The Rock Dragon of Burgos
Burgos was the home of fierce Ilocanos who took arms against the Spaniards as soon as they stepped onto its soil. Prior to being named after the Ilocano priest, Padre Burgos, it was called "Nagpartian", meaning a place of slaughter, in reference to the brutal killing of a Spanish priest. Presently, Burgos receives a steady stream of tourists that admire its natural and man-made beauties.
The crowd was overwhelming when we got to the jump off point of the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation. Judging from the influx of tourists, Kapurpurawan is the municipality's crowd drawer.
Carefully sculpted by nature, the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation is a product of years and years of craftmanship of the elements. This rock formation stands out with its white color against its rugged and dark landscape. Its name is derived from the Ilocano word "puraw" which means white.
From afar, the formation looks like a seated dragon facing the sea. The rock formation radiates as the rays of the sun hits its white surface. One can opt to take a horse, for a minimal fee, to get to the formation faster or take a leisurely walk along the trail.
We opted for the latter to enjoy the scenery and the breeze. There are viewing decks along the trail where you get to see the amazing white rock formation and the surrounding seascape and landscape of Burgos. You will also get acquainted with the Ilocano hero "Lam-ang" with his own spot bearing a sculpture of him defeating a crocodile.
You can get up close and personal with the rock formation but trying to get a good spot for a photo without a photobomber can be a challenge. The white surface of the rock formation is unique for its color but its form lacks the "awe" element compared to other rock formations that I have seen in my travels. One of the locals mentioned that the side facing the sea have a whiter shade.
With a lot of tourist getting close to the Kapurpurawan, I have concerns that these "interactions" may damage the rock formation.
The Tame and Fierce Waters of Pagudpud
Pagudpud is the northernmost municipality of the Ilocos Region. Most Ilocandia trips would conclude their tours with Pagudpud for its resorts and white sand beaches.
If Burgos and Bagui are marveled for their earth and air elements respectively, it is safe to say that Pagudpud's strength lies in its water elements.
As the sea water crashed onto the shores of the north, it seemed that the waters of Saud Beach was not in the mood to play during our stay. The waves rolled higher than usual that those intending to swim opted to just quit the idea or walked further down the shoreline for tamer waters. I guess, Saud Beach woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day.
Often referred to as the “Boracay of the North”, Saud Beach is a popular destination known for its long stretch of white powdery sand beach. Its proximity to the town center of Pagudpud and its wide selection of resorts that cater to all types of travellers make it a popular stop for guests of this municipality.
The long stretch of powdery white sand will definitely catch your attention when you find yourself in Saud. Although it is not as white as that of the one’s that you find in Boracay, the seascape will definitely hold your breath. It is a beach spot that offers you the excitement of the crowd and the serenity for those who are soul searching.
From the sea to the mountains, water seemed to be in abundance in Pagudpud. Our journey further up north brought us to another natural wonder – the Kabigan Falls.
The 30-minute trek to Kabigan Falls gives you a scenic view of the Ilocos landscape complete with lush greens, a clean flowing river, and rice fields being prepared for planting. It is a scene that is surreal and serene that is simply relaxing for the mind.
And if that scene is not yet enough to relax you, wait until you see water cascading from a height of 87 meters into a shallow pool in the midst of the forest. Kabigan Falls exudes a relaxing atmosphere. You hear the waters cascade, but it does not roar, as you enjoy water mists touching your skin. The best part of our experience was we got to enjoy Kabigan Falls without the crowd.
We enjoyed the beauty of nature with our feet dipped into the icy cold waters of Kabigan Falls. The cold waterwas enough to relax our tired soles from the trek while our eyes enjoyed the greens that surround the waterfalls. The sweet sound of the cascading waters was a complete contrast to the rolling waters of Saud Beach. It was simply relaxing.
Here is a quick tip – the best time to enjoy Kabigan Falls is in the early morning. There is a huge chance that you will get to enjoy it without the crowd. Take note that there are designated areas for smoking that guests ought to follow.
Guide Fee: Php100 / Entrance Fee per Person: Php20
The Patapat Viaduct snakes along the edge of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range. This is where the mountains meet the sea. We have reached the northernmost tip of the Ilocandia and the view of this man-made structure blending with the rugged landscape made the trip an unlocked achievement.
Elevated at 31 meters above sea level, the Patapat Viaduct was built to minimize traffic interruptions caused by landslides. It was opened in 1986 and spans a length of 1.3 kilometers, connecting Ilocos Norte and Cagayan, making it the fourth longest bridge in the country.
The viaduct gives its guests a panoramic view of the Pasaleng Bay.
Bantay Abot Cave
The geological attraction was a product of an earthquake that hit the area and carved a hole into a rock formation that sits along the shores of Baloi. It was named Bantay Abot Cave with reference to the Ilocano words “bantay”, which means mountain, and “abot”, meaning hole.
This rock formation can be accessed from the main road and is a popular stop for those heading to the Blue Lagoon. One needs to traverse through slippery rocks on shore to get to the actual “cave”. One also needs to prepare to get their feet wet with an occasional wave hitting its trail.
Bantay Abot Cave is Ilocandia’s window that faces the sea. You get a panoramic view of the West Philippine Sea on one side and the rugged Sierra Madre mountain ranges on the other. You can stand right under the arc to get a full view of both sides.
Blue Lagoon and Dos Hermanos Islands
From the vantage point, the Blue Lagoon looked like a peaceful sojourn bustling with activities. The view deck offers guests a panoramic view of the lagoon, also known as Maira-Ira Point. It is a popular beach spot in the north for its blue-colored waters and hosts one of the more upscale resorts in the Ilocos.
The Dos Hermanos Islands can be seen from the view deck. The two islands jut out from its blue waters and seemed to stand as guardians of the Blue Lagoon.
As an individual soared above us, you could actually hear his nervous shriek as he zipped down on one of the country’s longest zip lines.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
The far north of Ilocos is characterized by its rugged landscape that serves as a playground of the elements. The attractions, both natural and man-made, has its own charm that will leave an impression on its guests. The rugged feel of these spots make it more appealing to travellers especially those who are willing to rough it up during their travels.
Cape Bojeador watched us closely as we headed back to the south. With a heavy heart, I looked back and felt bad about not being able to visit the famed lighthouse because we didn’t have time to spare to have a personal encounter with this guardian of the north. I promised myself that the next time that I travel up north, I will make time to honor the famed guardian of the north.
Getting There: There are direct trips to Pagudpud from the Sampaloc station of Florida Bus Line. Another option is to take a bus for Laoag City. There are more trips that ply the Manila-Laoag route. You can check out pinoytravel.com.ph for bus schedules and ticket reservations.
From Laoag, you can take another 2 hour bus ride to Pagudpud. Buses bound for Pagudpud are located along Governor Agcaoili Street, behind the Ilocos Norte Capitol Building.
You can then hire a tricycle at Pagudpud to tour you around the tri-municipality of Bangui, Burgos, and Pagudpud. You can contact Kuya BJ at (0909) 7668584 for these tour arrangements.
If you plan to spend the night in Pagudpud, you can check out Polaris Beach Resort at Saud Beach.
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Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.