If you haven’t seen my previous article yet, you’re surely wondering why this was titled as my “moving on” journey. To give you a quick rundown, I just got off a break up last February and this was my first time to dare traveling alone. Think of it as a gift from me, to me. It was a brave decision to make because I’m either a homebody or a gregarious tourist. This solo trip plan was originally just for VIGAN alone, then pack up and go home. However, my Vigan tour guide asked me a question that was worth considering…
You’re already in Vigan. Why not go all the way to Pagudpud?
Pagudpud is 4 hours north of Vigan, Ilocos Sur. Looking at it from Google Maps, the distance alone overwhelmed me. I guess the right question to ask was… Can I do it?
My reluctance turned to YES when my tour guide arranged for his contacts to assist me when I get north of Ilocos. By dawn the following day, I was on my way to the northernmost part of Luzon.
The name “Pagudpud” has a few versions, each one completely different from the last. Here are some:
- It is said to be named after a kind of green grass abundantly growing across Ilocos Norte’s coastlines, in which Pagudpud is never short of.
- Or it could have been an old Ilocano word which meant “soft, sandy soil”, describing its unspoiled beach fronts.
- And some legend even went as far as rooting from the statement “Ako’y pagod na pagod na at ang sapatos ko’y pudpod” (I’m extremely exhausted and my shoes are worn out), spoken by a Tagalog-speaking merchant who happened to wander around Pagudpud, when the place is still not named as such. It has been called “Pagud-pudpod” since, and eventually shortened to Pagudpud.
Interesting, isn’t it? But no matter which story is true, let me start by telling you that Pagudpud is definitely something to look forward to!
How to get there?
There are no direct bus trips from Vigan to Pagudpud so I had to take a bus first (Php165, Partas Deluxe) to Laoag, then from the city center hopped on a van taking me to Pagudpud for Php100. Travel time should be approximately 2 hours from Vigan to Laoag, then another 2 hours from Laoag to Pagudpud.
There were light rain showers when the van dropped me off at a waiting shed in Mawini. My designated Pagudpud tour guide, Kuya Arnel, picked me up a few minutes later in his tricycle and helped me find a good place to stay. I told him I’m not looking for anything fancy. I don’t even need WiFi; just a room of my own with its own bath and I’m a happy gal.
He took me to Uddon’s Homestay where I was given the keys to a mini-house for just Php 500/night. I took one look inside and out and sealed the deal.
I don’t have to go too far either if I want to see the beach because it’s just a 5-minute walk away from Saud beachfront, one of the top three beaches in Pagudpud.
What to do in Pagudpud?
I’ve been on the road since dawn so I asked Kuya Arnel to just come back for me after a few hours. I need to get a shut-eye first. He came back two hours later and even patiently waited outside while I’m still prepping up (and curling my hair!)
When I got out of my mini-house, he explained how our tour around Pagudpud will go. It will be divided into two parts – the North and the South tour.
The Northbound Tour should include the following destinations:
- Kabigan Waterfalls
- Patapat Viaduct
- Timmangtang Rock
- Bantay Abot Cave
- Blue Lagoon
- Dos Hermanos Islands
The Southbound Tour should include the following destinations:
- Bangui Windmills
- Bangui Viewing Deck
- Kapurpurawan Rock Formations
- Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
My place is nearer the Northbound tour so we went on the Southbound tour first to make it easier to course through the plan till he drops me off later at the end of the day.
So here are the things that kept me busy in Pagudpud…
Got surrounded by “fans” at Bangui wind farms
Ilocos Norte is one of the few places in the Philippines to have a wind farm harnessing electric power. Bangui is the perfect location for the windmills, facing South China Sea constantly bringing in strong winds towards Luzon.
Towering to an amazing height of 60 meters, the first Bangui Windmills were constructed in 1998 with the help of the Danish government to the province of Ilocos Norte.
You can already see the first few windmills atop the mountains as soon as you enter the municipality of Bangui. The first batch of windmills were placed at shore, just a few meters away from the sea and spaced a few hundred meters apart from each other. They can easily be seen when viewed from the Bangui Viewing Deck.
Bangui, Ilocos Norte now has a total of 49 windmills to date and contributes to at least 40% of the province’s source of electricity.
Lighten up at Cape Bojeador
Regarded as one of the last standing Phil-Hispanic lighthouses, Faro de Cabo Bojeador or simply Cape Bojeador sits atop the hill of Vigia de Nagparitan and is still operational to this day. The lighthouse was originally designed by Engr. Magin Pers y Pers in 1887 and construction was completed in 1892. It has then been declared as one of the country’s National Cultural Treasures in 2005 and is the most accessible of all Philippine lighthouses.
The lighthouse retains its original design with whitewashed walls accentuated with red paint. Admission is free for all, but you may need to inform the caretaker of your visit if no other tourists are around. Tips will be very much appreciated!
The courtyard has an empty well with separate storehouses on either side which have been used as granary, storage, and kitchen. Some of these rooms now serve as the caretaker’s quarters. Going up the stairs leads to the veranda and the main rooms.
The offices are now converted into a mini-exhibit showing the lighthouse’s beginnings and brilliant engineering. Some rooms still kept the office, beds and furniture of the previous operators of the lighthouse who used to stayed in.
The tower was closed to the public for safety concerns so I wasn’t able to get to the top.
The surrounding viewing deck still gives you a good vantage point to enjoy the sea view.
It was windy up there and the cold breeze from the sea will definitely warrant a jacket. I hung out there for quite a while. There’s not much people around and it was a perfect place for me to take some quiet time and think some things through.
I guess it’s also common knowledge that Cape Bojeador has a somewhat eerie reputation. This spook factor piqued my interest as much as the place’s rich history (which I’m a nerd of). People who came to visit had their own ghost stories to tell. Even the caretaker has his own hair-raising experiences – from a bearded ghost trying to hurt him to disembodied voices of a woman and a crying child. I wonder if I’d have one too?
I stayed in the rooms for quite some time reading the tarpaulin exhibits and photographing the furniture and other memorabilia. Whether it was just too early in the morning or I’m merely blind to the supernatural, I’d say I really didn’t feel anything strange at all.
Ghosts or no, Cape Bojeador is one of the most picturesque sites I’ve visited in Pagudpud.
Skipping stones at Kapurpurawan Rock Formations
“Kapurpurawan” is just one of those words that can’t easily roll off your tongue, but this one of a kind gem in Burgos, Ilocos Norte is proof that nature is mightily capable in creating something this beautiful on its own. The place was named after the Ilocano word puraw which literally meant “white”, describing the porcelain-like beauty of the huge limestone rocks rippled by the wind and sea.
From the hillside receiving area, you’ll need to walk a few minutes to reach the seaside down below. Once you get down, you can rent a horse from there for Php100 to take you to the rock formations, or you can continue trekking at your leisurely pace. It’s wise to have a tour guide with you if you decide to walk; the trails don’t always have clear beaten paths on where to go next, especially for first-time tourists.
Kapurpurawan has born witness for one too many photoshoots and rightly so. The whole place is just so picture-perfect, something you think can only be seen in National Geographic.
Supervised by my local tour guide, I managed to climb the rock formations and see them up close.
Honestly, I am so glad I have a tour guide in tow. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have tried getting up those limestones. It looked huge and intimidating unless you’re told it’s okay to go there.
Other rocky hills were okay to climb on too (as I’ve been told *wink wink*), so I didn’t pass up on the chance.
Still closely supervised by my trusty tour guide, I braved through the rough rocks. I’m glad I wore my trainers for better ground traction.
Can’t help but fall for Kabigan Waterfalls
Pagudpud’s coastlines can surely mesmerize anyone with its turquoise waters and white sand beaches, but this piece of heaven from Ilocos Norte also has something to offer for the hikers at heart — the Kabigan Waterfalls. Named after the local word for “friend”, venturing towards Kabigan Falls will definitely make you feel one with nature.
I have a few hiking experiences up in the mountains of Pangasinan and since I’m a fan of walkathons, I was surely up for this one. My tour guide dropped me off at the village center in Balaoi which marked the starting point of my trekking adventure. I was asked to register my name in their records and pay Php 100 for the tour guide fee and Php 10 for the Environmental Preservation fee. Be sure you’re prepared for a 30-min walk with a bottle of water to keep you up!
I was given a separate local tour guide to hike with into the mountains. A young boy in his teens, he introduced himself (I forgot his name, oops!) and started leading the way towards the depths of the mountainside. The concrete pavement from the village center turned into a narrow, muddy beaten path as we went along. He always walked a few steps ahead of me and barely spoke a word, allowing me to appreciate the surroundings better in my own reverie.
We passed by houses and small huts, rice paddies left and right, cows cooling in the mud, and kind locals cheerfully greeting me a good afternoon.
Keep your balance in check because you’ll need to cross a few streams over narrow bundled branches. The silver lining is… you don’t have to worry about getting your feet wet, as long as you don’t fall over!
I was starting to get worked up with all the brisk walking (my tour guide walked so fast!) but I got pumped with excitement as soon as I heard the waterfalls splashing down the catch basin.
There are no other tourists around and I had the place all to myself. Perfect for a photo op!
My tour guide gave me enough space to enjoy the place, but remained within earshot to answer my questions.
I hopped on to the rocks down below to get a closer look of the falls. Your trekking efforts will be rewarded with cool mist spraying on your face as the 70-foot waterfalls comes splashing down the concave.
I asked if it’s okay to jump from the top. He said the water below isn’t deep enough for such fall, and anyone who’ll dare try will surely meet an unhappy end. If you’re brave enough, you can still take a dip in its ice cold waters for a quick swim!
Kabigan Falls starts seeing more visitors during summer time. I’m not sure I’d enjoy the place better if there were other people around, so I’m glad I came before peak season starts.
Take the perfect shot at Patapat Viaduct
Snaking its way through the Northern Cordillera mountain ranges lies the Patapat Viaduct, one of the most scenic and photographed bridges in the Philippines. It overlooks the Pasaleng Bay and stretches for almost a mile through the northernmost tip of Luzon, connecting Maharlika Road to Cagayan Valley. Raised more than 30 meters above sea level, the Patapat Viaduct has since provided safe passage to everyone going to Cagayan and back.
The viaduct finished construction in 1986 and has been open to the public since. This served as the perfect solution to all motorists who had to travel along the mountainside without having to worry about sudden landslides.
Before the viaduct was built, people used to go through the mountains on a narrow, two-way rough road to get across. The old road traverses four mountains on the ridge, thus the name Patapat, meaning “four”.
The road scarcely had vehicles so it was great for taking scenic photos. You can even sit on the road for a while and take quick shots. I’d still recommend taking extra care though, especially if you’re parked near a curb.
The place isn’t accessible on foot so you’d need to go there in a private vehicle (or on a tour like mine) to park for a while and have your pics.
Marvel at Timmangtang Rock and Bantay Abot Cave
If you’re starting to feel hungry from your Pagudpud trip, looking at Bantay Abot Cave will make your hunger pangs grow stronger! Its name literally meant “sea mountain with a hole”, looking like a giant doughnut forever dipped halfway in the open seas. The locals have dubbed the cave “Lover’s Rock” with its male counterpart, the Timmangtang Rock, forever gazing at Bantay Abot Cave’s beauty from a distance.
“Why is it called a cave when it looked more like a mountain with a hole?”
I had the same question too! Thankfully, my tour guide filled me in on its origins before I came to asking. According to Kuya Arnel, the hole used to be a cave back then with the hole as its opening. A strong earthquake struck a few decades ago causing most of the cave to collapse on the waters below and all that’s left now is what Bantay Abot Cave looks like to this day.
A bit of seaside trekking is involved to get to the cave so better be ready! Slippery footwear is quite risky, so make sure you have some trainers or rubber sandals on.
Crossing the rocky sides were a bit tricky. Aside from the risk of slipping, you need to time your footing within seconds before the waves come crashing in again! Thankfully, I reached the cave without falling off or getting my feet wet.
I’m not really that imaginative when it comes to creative shots but Kuya Arnel, being a very experienced tour guide, knew just what to do. He taught me how to pose and use the rocks for some cool shots!
No doubt a very picturesque experience for any thalassophile.
Never feel blue at the Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon, also known as the Maira-ira Cove, is one of the three best beaches in Pagudpud, the others being Saud and Pansian. Though it’s more of a cove than a lagoon, the Blue Lagoon boasts of cream-colored sandy shores gently sloping down towards cascading turquoise blue waters, beautiful enough to be matched against Boracay of Aklan or Panglao in Bohol. Seeing how the colors of the sea blend in from a dark hue of blue to a gentler shade of aquamarine fading into white, frothy waves, the effort you put in visiting its shores will no doubt make up for it.
The weather was overcast that day with a bit of wind and rain so the waves were bigger than usual. It would have been a good time to go surfing, though no one dared to take a swim except that one kid practicing his surfing skills among the waves.
This cove is also home to several of Pagudpud’s well-known resorts, like Punta Azul Beach Resort, Agua Seda, and Hannah’s Beach Resort.
Hannah’s was the most interesting of all because of its life-size Marvel heroes as seen from the roadside. Other popular characters like Disney princesses, Avatar, the cast of the Pirates of the Caribbean can be seen too… and even the iconic Elvis Presley! The entire resort looked like a huge playground and was really fun to look at.
The beachfront is free to all, though you may want to choose among the resorts nearby for your convenience.
Surf boards and surfing lessons can be availed at nearby huts. You can also opt to “fly” across the cove on a zipline for Php800. If none of these tickles your fancy, you can still choose to take a dip, sit by the shore and watch the waves crawl over and over.
Twice the fun at Dos Hermanos Islands
Dos Hermanos Islands are two identical mountains surrounded by rippling blue waters. It was named Dos Hermanos from a legend of two brothers who perished in a storm at sea and vowed to never leave each other’s side until the afterlife. Their bodies were washed ashore, forming the islands we now see today.
The ideal time to visit is when the tide is low so you can walk towards the island and get inside the caves to see the various species of colorful tropical fishes. Unlike the finer sands at Blue Lagoon, the shores overlooking Dos Hermanos Islands have coarser sand mostly made up of crushed corals and pebbles.
During low tides, the rocky terrain surrounding the islands is also where the locals gather a certain kind of gourmet seaweed called gamet, used to make the Japanese nori seaweed sheets. Gamet can fetch a handsome price when sold in the market, thus it was dubbed as the “Black Gold of Ilocos”.
Due to strong winds, the tides were higher than the usual so I wasn’t able to see anything beyond the shores.
How much have I spent?
I was so busy on the tour that I barely had time to do some food tripping unlike my gastronomic experience in Vigan. I only had a footlong hotdog sandwich for lunch and Ilocos’ famous empanada for dinner because of the jam-packed schedule. Most of my expenses went to the fare and fees on the tour and lodging:
- Partas Deluxe, Vigan to Laoag = Php 165
- Laoag to Pagudpud UV Van = Php 100
- Homestay rate = Php 500/night
- Pagudpud tour fee = Php 1000
- Cape Bojeador / Kapurpurawan tour guide fee = Php 300
- Kabigan Falls Environmental and Tour Guide fee = Php 110
- Miscellaneous = Php 349
Total = Php 2,524
Going to Pagudpud is mostly about getting one with nature, taking you to attractions from captivating beaches, misty waterfalls, a bit of hiking, and connecting with kind locals. It was even marked as one of the best places for solo women travelers to go to and I can attest to that. Whenever people ask me where in the Philippines have I enjoyed so far, Pagudpud is always the first thing that comes to mind and for good reason.
Much kudos to my tour guide as well, Kuya Arnel, who made my stay in Pagudpud very enjoyable and hassle-free. In fact, Kuya Arnel is already popular with other travel bloggers as well. You’ll only have to Google “Kuya Arnel Pagudpud” and a lot of blogs will already turn up with his name and be vouching for a great experience with him.
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