Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Byahe kung Byahe, Circumnavigating North Luzon: Pampanga-Ilocos-Cagayan

It was a extended 4-day weekend, and for us, that meant nothing but going beyond our staple zambales/pangasinan route, not to mention we didn't have anything else in mind for those provinces. Turning down south to Batangas wasn't clever as we want that trip to extend  further southwards to camsur and even albay and with the places we want to check on that region, we'll need far more number of days...perhaps requiring our resignation from our respective companies.

For the coming 4 days, we thought about covering the north luzon. It's a good idea to finish it off before turning southwards. Perhaps next to Boracay being the most called upon beach is Pagudpod, so that's where we thought about driving. Midway, there is Vigan, Paoay church and the bangui wind mills! That's the call...more places, means sure agreements :-). Then again, google definetly gives you thousands of results, and sure enough, i've come accross this Jotay Beach Resort in Cagayan, and with our guiding philosophy, the farther the distance, the less likely we'll get back...so, if it's rather near, cover it up. I've called the resort,
Jotay beach, and they said it may take ONLY 3 hours from Ilocos. I spoke to my friends and  again...the guiding philosophy...everybody agreed. I've fixed up the itinerary...so off we went.

We have a friend landing in Clark, Pampanga from Nevada at 12MN and he's coming with us...straight from a so-so number of hours flight. The agreement was to pick him up at their house by 1:30am. We picked him up at 2am...generous enough to give him some rest/unpack time. 

He had a luggage full of whatever which we had a hard time trying to fit in the Hyundai Getz trunk (to think that, after showing him the itinerary, the agreement was for me to drip him in laoag airport the next day as he's flying to hong kong the following morning. In other words, he's not joining us for the cagayan trip, and will have to head back home to pampanga ahead). We left exactly 2am in Pampanga, and according to my uncanny research, we shall be within Ilocos Norte in about 8hours...meaning 10am. Gladly, we've stumbled upon roadwork in Urdaneta, Pangasinan and we were stucked for 2 hours or so...not a good sign.

By 6am, we were in San Fernando, La Union and we took a 20 minute time off for some stretching, coffee, boiled egg, and change-driver shifting.

There is a great consolation to this long drive; that is, probably the scene on the left pane of the route...it's all coastline, great shores, and mountains throughout. 


walk around vigan
By 11, we were in Vigan. It's unbelievable how the whole village has that communal though of restoring their native houses. While there, we thought about having lunch as we need to hit the road quickly. There were a number of eateries but are serving rather fried chicken, spaghetti, etc. Walked around the village to find a
suitable carinderia, but we didn't find as many serving the local cuisine, until we got one on a corner.

We ordered the more unfamiliar dishes and upon asking the servidora what they have as a best seller, she said, better try their vigan longganisa, which we did. Meantime, unlike before where we'd scoop at everybody else's food because it is tasting so delicious, this time, everybody was so generous transferring one's food to another's

plate for them to finish it up. No one seemed to have liked what we ate. One friend ran to the washroom and threw up. When she went out, instead of being upset, she was kind of amazed to tell us that the energy drink even came out still very cold from her tummy... :-) just how bad that dine was.

worst meal ever

After that toxic meal, we're moving next on our list: Paoay Church. We got to the church at around 11 am. I've heard about this church back in college on my humanities classes, and I am the most thrilled in the group to get to it. It is amazing how the structure stood in time. Coming close to it's walls, I tried rubbing my palm to the surface and very easily, debris' loose. Plants have grown in all corners and surfaces. Inside the church, the scaffolding would tell you just how struggling the foundation is.

After a 30 minute shoot whatever you could shoot, we left for the bangui windmills: Major attraction rank 2. From the highway, I kinda doubted on the turn going to the windmills; It was very narrow. The only sign that made me assure I am on the right way is the mid size bus turning back and forth to get it fully itself through the turn.The road isn't concrete and at some points you'll have to come to a halt and struggle to fit in versus the fro traffic. There were plenty of houses selling wooden souveniers of the bangui along the way.
Looking from afar, I feel nothing but a rather just a view...just something to check out. I mean, they appear so calm like they are

bangui windmills
nothing but power generating figures. When I went at the foot of one of the windmill, I couldn't stand it. They were gigantic and it felt like the rotaries are going to drop on me for sure death. From the sound of the windblow, and the speed of these rotaries, You could feel the power they are are generating.
still in bangui

After some pictures, then we headed to Pagudpod, and immediately scoutted for a transient accomodation.
The cheapest we found was one that seemed to have been a sari sari store turned lodge after an influx of tourists. It was alright...it was comfortable and clean anyway.

Ate Maribel's sari sari lodge

Ate Maribel, proprietor of the lodge, offered to source and cook food for us. Her husband did the shopping after giving him our list, and let us take our time to tap the beach.

It was already almost 5pm and we were sticky and stinking. Everyone was dying to get wet and washed; Besides, the Nevada friend has to go very early the next day.

me...fooling around with the weed
my favorite place in the beachfront
with waves this strong...
After an hour's swim, we felt tired and thought getting our dinner. We had 2 pieces bangus, which we requested Ate Maribel to grill. Not sure how she's done it, and not sure if it is with the bangus itself, but I never had a grilled milkfish this good. Everybody is done just after the first piece, and I thought about reserving the 2nd one for the other day (though I wanted more and was rather just resisting). Only 2 of us in the group stood for the d'bar vodka bottles awaiting us. I, and my friend, could hardly finish them up.
After emptying the first bottle, none of our throat could take any more liquor. We, my friend and I, drained up a bit, and walked along the shore.

When we got back, Ate Maribell's well behaved but hungry dog was munching up on the 2nd bangus...poor me! And since I can basically do nothing, not to mention I was tired and tipsy, ..and so I threw myself to bed (or mat, for that matter); Woke up at 8am, woke up the flight-compulsive guy, bathed, and then dropped him to laoag (which, by the way, again, my uncanny research said was a 30-minute drive). When I got back, it was already late 12 noon. I bought some grilled squids along the way served for that day's lunch. After the
luncheon, it was beachtime part 2 til about 3 o'clock. After the wash, we had another discussion of whether we are pushing through with the cagayan trip, or rather staying for another night in pagudpod. In my absense, while I was driving to and from laoag, my friends asked people around how far it is to cagayan, and no one
could give them a sure proximate...but "very very far" But then again, like I said, Ilocos to Cagayan is much closer in comparison that Pampanga to Cagayan. So...objection Overruled...we're pushing through.

It was past 5am and we're ready to leave; We Paid a thousand pesos for the lodge and extra hospitality of ate Maribel and her husband.

We're taking the backdoor route, going through the patapat viaduct and through the upper horizontal coastline of luzon.

Just before getting to the patapat viaduct, from the highway atop the mountain, you could see a nice view of Stone formations and shores of Hannah Beach Resort.

must see in pagudpod
We took a detour for a photoshoot delaying the trip for another 2 hours.

i love the peeping thing

nursery for fishlets...:-)

Just before leaving the boundaries of Hannah Beach Resort, we spoke to another group to ask them about the odds of the route. As out of us 4, 3 of my companions were ladies, the driver whom we asked said,
we might not be able to get through as it's late, and the weather is wet. From Hannah beach itself, you could see the dark clouds covering the range and it translates to some fear. But then, what's fear????

along hannah beach resort

We were at the patapat viaduct and we couldn't see any more vehicles except ours; Rain was getting stronger, winds blowing harder; Rocks falling from our right, and from our left are huge sounds of the pacific waves. At some point, you'lll have to turn the car a bit as huge rocks will be lying at the middle of the
road. Nobody was talking on the car, everyone trying to sense around, and I spoke up to cut the wrack. 

That was a saturday night, and I yelled "where the hell is the party? It's a freaking saturday night and all I hear is the rain dropping and the frogs croaking" I'm glad I've refreshed everybody...but, it's just not enough to get rid of the worry. No matter how I try to revive everybody's spirit, the view from the windshield couldn't help...the zigzag, narrow, and wet road, the thick forrestry, the stones falling, etc.
We've come accross some villages but all the villages were deep asleep. It was around half past 9 when we came across a flying V station in the middle of a rice field. The rain was also off.

Stretching stretching and more cardio perhaps. Took some of our boiled eggs, and made some coffee. We thought we were somewhat safe. My goddd...I've seen one of the staff take out a suspicious 45
caliber gun from his waist and put it in the drawer. Whoofff! what a scene. I asked that we leave as early as possible and excused that we have a lot more to drive. We thanked the people there in the gasoline station and left. Along the way, I opened up what I've seen and the 3 girls saw it too. We were brainstorming, and for our relief, we though they might be using it for security; they're in the middle of the field and villains could just rob them anytime.

More driving, continued darkness, and in and out rain. Around almost 12 mn, my google maps says we are in Aparri - getting close to Jotay beach resort. Heavier rains pour and past the cagayan river, next to the national highway, the map shows 2 ways leading to our destination. We took the closest one...another unpaved road. Well, who'd think it'll be unpaved all throughout...it's about 20kms of wetness and roughness; that translates to 2 hours of mixed fear and boredom; Again...the frogs...2 cemeteries along the way...no
houses...what an experience. It was past 2am when we got to Sta Ana Cagayan, and there is nobody awake. We are less than 250 meters to Jotay beach but it is a secluded and narrow muddy traverse..and it
seems like our getz will have a 10 inch margin of error from the left wheels before dropping about 3 meters high to the shore. We said, we'll take it in the morning, and find somewhere else to park and nap for the meantime. We took a u-turn and parked at a nearby closed gasoline station. At around half past 5, I woke up and I saw a man coming out from a stay-in room in the gasoline station. I woke up the rest of the
company and told them someone's coming. When he got to us, he asked where we are heading. I then told him the story of our adventure..he looked at the ladies I was with and he seemed stunned at how braved
we were to drive all the way from pampanga, to ilocos, then to cagayan, on a nightime, and that wet. I told him about our destination and he was suggesting something else...Anguib Beach Resort, claiming it is incomparable to Jotay beach Resort which was our intended destination. A few minutes past, we asked to leave and drove to a carinderia for our meal. That carinderia was in San Vicente Cagayan Market and the food was a total delight..a delightful reprieve from our vigan serving. In the carinderia, we asked people again, and everybody was pushing us towards Anguib Beach. Then again, locals know best. So, there...off to Anguib
Marker in San Vicente Cagayan..Tip of the National Highway.
Beach. The locals however say that we might not be able to drive to the beach as the car might not be able to handle the road. On dry season, bigger 4x4s can do it, but a petite car like our can't handle it when it's this wet. Our option was to take a boat for P1200 or take a 2 tricyles for P600 each. Either way, we have only a thousand pesos left and we are several hundred more kilometers away from home. The max we could spend is only P500, and withdrawing the trip is neither an option after all that we've gone through.
Thinking thinking and more thinking. Yes! I made it to P500. The agreement was to bring the car up to the part that it could handle, and then the 4 of us transferring to the tricycle from a certain
heading to anguib
point forward. The manong driver agreed. Along the way, in the zigzag road, we spotted some monkeys standing freely on the roadside (though they ranaway when they saw us freaking out at our excitement). The road leading to the beach is under construction and in preparation for perhaps a high end tourist destination.

mud slide in a bit...
At that point we've seen a hugh catch basin of thick mud, we
transferred to the tricyle to get us going. The tricycle couldn't handle it either, so for those basins, we had to carry our slippers and walk barefooted past. We realized, the point where we left the car was almost only 500m away from the beach. By the time we reached the beach, it was around 10 am. I took out the camera to start the rolling the pictures, and it's battery dead! Shame on me... Nevertheless, as bad as it goes, I got my phone. That's better than nothing.
finally getting there

The water was cool and clean and we couldn't waste anymore time on bluffing. Dipped Dipped Dipped. The fact that we've been led to anguib beach, and feel its waters even only for an hour was more than enough to cover it all up.
the ladies preparing for their cool dip

By 11am, we had to head home. We paid P15/head for the entrance charges. We didn't pay any cottage rentals as we informed the caretaker rightaway that we'll take only an hour and we don't need any table nor shade. Along the way back, I was regretting about the P500 we paid for the tricycle...we could've walked. But then, that's  fine...charge to experience.

Not that we didn't have time to wash, but we actually had no where to wash. We got in the car feeling all that salt in the skin...quite sticky; We aren't bothered. We are more bothered by the distance we'll have to drive home. Now, before hitting the road, I looked at my google maps and told my friend to take the alternative route, instead of the 20km rough; After some 15 minutes, we just realized we were already on the national highway. We could've spared ourselves all that trouble had we taken the proper route. We might have not had to sleep in the car and in the gasoline station; we might have had more time for swimming...all but funny regrets...haist.

On the way home, in tuguegarao city, craving for lunchtime, we've come accross a cozy restaurant. So..there we were chatting with the people..it's a whole family working in the restaurant. We told them the same things, that we're from pampanga, we drove to ilocos, yada yada,,,and again, that amazement. Another great dish on their menu...try their pancit with tokwat baboy topping. It seems the people in cagayan really cook just as well. It's totally different from the kapampangan dishes but equally delightful. We asked if we can have our thermos filled and they agreed at a charge. They also have a big shower at the which, which the ladies asked if they could take a bath. Ate was so accomodating that she agreed. Her sons even collected water for their bath (and as a Man, had to take care of mine myself). After the bath, we were ready for home. We thought the adventure is far over...and nothing but plain driving. But here goes manong... he told us to be very careful when we get to Sta Fe - the slopes, and the turns. All freshen up...no more pit stops. At a minimum speed of 80kms, and eyes steady on google maps...Along the way, we saw markers of Jollibee: 25kms ahead. I was surprised getting to a burgersteak here can cause this much travel.

At 9pm, we were in Sta Barbara. Much of the vehicles travelling were trucks of vegetables distributed to the southern regions. The slopes and turns are outrageous and I am going freak at what's ahead within a few kilometers in Sta Fe. On a gasoline station before we reach Sta Fe, the girls excused for a comfort break, and that's where we shifted drivers. I took the steer, and here goes sta fe... 

The feeling is like, if only I could take an alternative way even having to bear +100kilometers more, I would. You go up the mountain revolving like in a spring, and from the heel, you could see the vehicles going round up, one after and next to another, on hardly beyond 3kms/hour. The slope goes straight upwards...no downward slopes, no plains...I just held my breath the whole time til we got past it. Then came Nueva Ecija...and then pampanga. We got home only by 4am...The day after and the following day after, everyone was on sick leave...muscle aches and extra dozages of ibuprofen.

*Ate Maribel's number is 09283150095
*To get to the closes market from pagudpod is P80 oneway on trike.
Better get everything you'll need before landing.


  1. i was just in Ilocos norte 3 weeks ago... ang ganda dun noh?

  2. naman. I loved the driving...coastline to coastline...and the distances too: jollibee: 25kms ahead. hehe :-)

  3. san yang sta. fe na may nakakatakot na highway?


Popular Posts