Monday, June 25, 2012

[PAGUDPUD] Pagudpud North

Pagudpud is what comes to mind when one thinks of beaches way up north. Located at the northern tip of Ilocos Norte (Luzon’s northwest), Pagudpud can be reached by bus in around ten hours depending on the traffic condition and how good everyone’s control of their bladder is. If you do not have the luxury of time, then take a one-hour plane ride from Manila to Laoag and then a two-hour bus to Pagudpud. All the airport hassles plus that bus ride would still cost you around five hours, but I believe that it is way better than ten hours of slouching.

There are two beaches in the municipality: Saud and Maira Ira (Blue Lagoon) which are about half an hour away from each other. One usually takes a tricycle to get around the area. The thing is that they are a bit lower than their counterparts in Manila so beware the instant scoliosis waiting to happen. Saud Beach is like a cross between Boracay and Cagayan Valley’s Anguib. Restobars and resorts line up the shore but the crowd is absent, except maybe during Holy Week when the place is be jam-packed with vacationers. During my stay there were around four dogs and eight visitors, not counting the staff. It can be a bit lonely if you do not have company unless you love dog-watching. Or hotel-staff watching. Or baby crab-watching.

One advantage Saud has is that during off-peak season the beach seems like it belonged to you, as opposed to Maira Ira which always seems to have visitors all year round, or perhaps only during the time I was there. Bangui’s windmills are visible from a distance but hard to capture with your phone’s camera. What strikes me as odd about this beach is that the eastern portion is fine whitish sand reminiscent of Boracay's yet the western side is rocky a la Batanes. It is awesome that way and adds a lot of character to this quiet cove.

I stayed here for one whole day. I paid for a North Pagudpud tour the next day and figured out that I could have done that during my first day in this municipality, but then again I just needed my emo beach bumming time for which a day is not even enough. I just love the solace one gets from sitting by the shore at night time and listening to the waves while staring at the stars blanketing the dark sky. Awesome, I tell you. Just awesome.

The bus from Laoag dropped me off at the town center of Pagudpud. From there, one has no other choice but take a tricycle to wherever your accommodation is. I paid 50 pesos to get to Saud. You can also walk if you are that masochistic, considering the distance. I noticed some laminated boards on the tricycle’s windshield regarding north and south tours which both cost PhP 600 for a maximum of three individuals. Since I was alone the driver agreed that I just pay him PhP 1000 for both, but because I no longer wanted to do the south tour the next day, I just paid the normal 600-peso rate.

After the thirty-minute tricycle ride from Saud, backpack and all (checked out, headed to Laoag later that day), we arrived at Patapat Viaduct which is really just an elevated road sandwiched by the sea and a cliff. The view is cool but the only possible activity is to take a photo. You can probably have a picnic there at your own risk while playing patintero with the six-wheeler trucks that frequent the area. The Paraiso ni Anton and Agua Grande are just next to each other, around five minutes away from the viaduct itself. The former is a collection of mini waterfalls, at the center of which is a grotto of the Virgin Mary. Agua Grande seems to be a picnic spot where you have to pay for an entrance fee. One cool trivia about the place is that it is actually a mini hydro power plant that supplies energy to two barangays.

The next three in line for the north tour are also close to one another. Around ten minutes away from the viaduct is Timmangtang Rock which is, uhm, a rock. A rock filled with green moss and grass big enough to become a tourist attraction. It is located right at the shore and you can easily climb it if you like with your feet getting wet, perhaps, because of the wave. Not that far away is what they call the Biglang Abot cave which is not really a cave but more of a big rock forming an arch by the beach, pretty much like that which they have in Batanes’ Malakdang beach. Going to the arch is a bit tricky because the waves are attention whores and the rocks are REALLY slippery. I slipped twice and hit my back against the rocks, which was a bit painful but hey, no guts no glory! Before reaching Blue Lagoon, the tricycle stops at one of the turns on the elevated road. The driver then points at two islands called Dos Hermanos. No, you won't set foot on those islands. They just show them to you. Nice. They say, though, that you could try swimming to them during low tide. KEY WORDS: they say. I do not want to be held responsible for anyone drowning in an attempt to do this.

Maira-Ira Beach is your typical beach with fine sand and clear waters. Although it would probably beat Saud in terms of the criteria just mentioned, I think Saud still has an edge over it because of its character. But yeah, well, Maira-Ira is the photogenic one. I do not know if it is always full of people. There were just enough of them when I was there. Huts are available for rent. Oops, let me clarify that: I do not know if they are for rent or for free. Maybe they are owned by Hannah's. I never bothered to ask because I did not use one.

Hannah's Resort is said to dominate the place because of its good location and facilities on offer. I ate lunch at their restaurant and it was yummy, so I guess there is no problem in that department. The cost of rooms, however, might be considered as a bit high for backpackers. If you are on a tight budget, there are home stay options within the vicinity of the resort. Take your pick. In terms of food, there are several eateries by the beach that accept paluto.

I really had a hard time deciding whether to go to Kabigan Falls or just book a room at Blue Lagoon and stay there for a night, take things easy, and just laze by the beach. It seemed to be the better option given the extreme laziness I was feeling. The sun was very angry that day. I felt like I wanted to collapse on the sand and sleep there, with a giant umbrella at least. Will power took over and we headed for our last destination for the day which was Kabigan Falls.

The trek to Kabigan Falls took around half an hour one-way. For exact minutes, take a look at the budget and itinerary post. Anyway, the trek was worth it because the waterfall was awesome! Beaches for me are the prohibitive favorites but waterfalls just have this otherworldly charm. There is an entrance fee and a guide fee. Your tour guide leads the way until you reach the waterfall itself. Upon arrival, s/he will whistle thrice and wait for her deity to appear, to whom you will be offered as a live sacrifice in exchange for three wishes. However, it seems that even supernatural creatures are choosy nowadays. I got rejected. I'm sorry, my tour guide. And so I just took photos and a video of the place.

The hike is not that difficult because the terrain is mostly flat, and so I recommend this as an activity best enjoyed as a family affair or with friends. Bring your snacks with you but please, DO NOT leave your wrappers everywhere. If I am not mistaken, I saw a shower room and a toilet out there somewhere, so no need to worry if you need to clean up after a good swim.

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