Friday, June 24, 2011

Visit Pagudpud : The Boracay of the North

Pagudpud (PAH GOOD POOD) is an enormous place to visit if you're looking for the comparatively perfect charms of the Philippines. Pagudpud is a wide and beautiful town on the northwest tip of Ilocos Norte, Luzon, bounded to the south by the town of Bangui and to the east by the Cordillera Mountain Range, the town of Adams and the province of Cagayan. The South China Sea lies to the west and north.

It is considered the largest island in the Philippines. The hills and mountains are luxuriant, the valleys productive. It lies 45 miles north of Laoag City, the provincial capital, and about 350 miles north of Manila -- about the equal distance between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area. Creeks, streams and waterfalls splash the landscape and spill into the South China Sea. All around, the ocean and sky are awash in varying shades of blue.

Pagudpud Beach, 2 hours north of Laoag City, has powder-white sand, but it's hard to tell which is bluer: the sky or the sea. While you are making up your mind, you might also consider a stop in Pasuquin, where the famous biscocho (Ilocos biscuit) is a favorite take-home delicacy for local visitors. But don't forget to check your watch, for while you play in the waters of Pagudpud, you may not notice how much time you have spent on these delightful shores, which are at the very tip of Luzon Island.

Inexpensive resorts are located along the shores of Pagudpud. They normally charge a fixed fee about US$5.00 for a nipa hut where you can hide under the hot sun. But for those who want to relax in more luxurious surroundings, the spacious Saud Resort beckons. Even then, rooms go for about US$35-40 a night. Saud Resort is the most secure of the resorts, with 24-hour security manning the entrance. But it doesn’t mean that the place is dangerous. On the contrary, Pagudpud, as elsewhere in Ilocos, is very safe, and the people are friendly and hospitable.

Tagalog (renamed Pilipino) is the language you'll hear most often, but don't be afraid - a lot of Filipinos speak English, even if some can be a bit shy. The more-educated and more-traveled people aren't shy at all and will be more than able to amaze you with their English.

While Manila is a wonderful place to spend a day or two, you'll soon most likely want to get away from it all. Pagudpud is an excellent place to go. It's clean and green and apparently in a different world. In fact, Pagudpud is the farthest geographical point from Manila without leaving the island of Luzon. This has its advantages.

A struggling economy means a good exchange rate for most tourists. Of course, that means Filipinos already struggling to make a living have to struggle even more. So go easy on the bargain with street vendors. And, though it's not always expected, leave your waiter a tip.

It's always wise to check ahead to make sure there's room for you at one of the resorts. While increasingly popular, you shouldn't have a problem finding accommodations in Saud -- unless you plan on visiting during Holy Week in April, when the entire country seems to take a holiday. Rates vary widely. Some resorts are plusher than others, but all are excellent. Check with resort proprietors for room availability and prices.

A common practice of local visitors is to stop by the wet market for fresh (as in live) seafood, and to have them grilled over charcoal on the beach, and served with plain rice for a very affordable price. For those on a budget, you don't need to worry, because you may be pleasurably surprised to know that a whole day in Pagudpud won't cost a family of 5 more than US$30.00, including lunch (except if you really intend to visit Saud Resort)!

Government and People
Pagudpud was decreed a municipality on Feb. 5, 1954. Unlike L
aoag, Ilocos Norte's only independent city, Pagudpud gets its authority from the provincial government. It had previously been a part of the neighboring town of Banguio. More than 17,200 people live in Pagudpud. They exist across 16 barangays -- town districts -- that spread over Pagudpud's 83 square miles.Most make their living through farming, fishing and survival retailing. Tourism is a growing part of the economy.

How to Get There
There are some choices, some more convenient than others.

To get to Pagudpud, first get yourself to the Philippines. You'll arrive in Manila, one of the world's biggest cities. It's an awesome place that is choked with traffic, people and life. There are skyscrapers, malls, parks and attractions in large numbers. Accommodations in Manila run the range, from the deluxe to the seedy. The Makati district has some of the city's finest hotels. Many, including the most high-class, offer excessive discounts to balikbayans and the cheapest rates to local residents.

Air
Flight
schedules to and from Laoag, the provincial capital of Ilocos Norte, are difficult to come by. Things keep changing. Philippine Airlines used to have connecting flights to and from Manila. Air Philippines used to fly there, too. Laoag International Airlines has or used to have operations there. There are some carriers that fly directly from Taiwan. The province has long talked about upgrading its airport to increase tourism, but so far it's just that.


Land transportation (Bus)


Take a long-distance bus and ride 8 hours to the Northern part of Luzon, known as Ilocos No
rte. Ilocos is home of historic Vigan that offers the oldest stone-built houses in the country and Laoag City that holds the so-called "Malacañang of the North". But those are just sites you'll be passing through when you go to Pagudpud beach which is located 110 kilometers from Vigan.

The welcome scene: What does Pagudpud have in sto
re for you? Dig this, the beach has crystal blue waters, white sand and Ilocos' native version of lechon kawali, bagnet (deep fried pork belly). Pagudpud beach is considered the Boracay of the North for its close resemblance to the beach island. The wonderful landscape will hold you in charm while you scan the town’s streams, falls, and mountain ranges.

Some bus companies will take you straight to Pagudpud from Manila. Be cautious because the trip is long and you'll be traveling about 350 miles, approximately the distance between San Francisco and Los Angeles. The bus (ordinary fare buses) often stops to unload passengers or pick up new ones. If you leave Manila at 7:30 p.m., expect to arrive in Pagudpud anywhere between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. getting a Deluxe, air-conditioned bus makes things a lot more manageable -- and a lot speedier because of fewer stops. A night trip isn't that bad; just fall asleep, and when you wake up, you're there.

If you must get down in Laoag, you can continue the trip to Pagudpud by taking a mini-bus, renting a car or hiring a private vehicle. Commuter buses depart from Laoag every half hour, sometimes more or less frequently, depending on how quickly they fill up. The fare is reasonable, and the trip takes about an hour.

If using this route, just take a tricycle to the Pagudpud bus station. TIP: The tricycle fare should be no more than 10 pesos, although it doesn't hurt to double it as a bonus -- say no if they ask for something extreme, unless you don't mind spreading your wealth to complete strangers.

Here's a list of some of the bus companies that originate from Manila.

The benefit of taking a bus, particularly during the day, is that it allows you a more thorough sight of the country, even if from the national highway. Another plus is that a bus ticket from Manila is affordable, from $7 US (ordinary fare) to $10 (deluxe), depending on the exchange rate and the class of service.

Rent a car. Check with the major rental companies for rates. Driving in Manila will make you crazy. There's tons of traffic. Worse, lanes and traffic laws are seemingly optional. If you're prone to road temper, leave the driving to others.

Taxis are reasonably priced, though taxi drivers will try to snooker - heck, cheat and lie. Keep your eye on the meter; make sure it's working and is ticking correctly. Fares to and from the airport is more expensive.

Hire a driver. Some taxi drivers will offer to take you around. You can strike a deal for hourly or full-day service. Taxi service to outlying areas is pricier than bus service, but has its conveniences. Taxi drivers will sometimes offer their services to take you anywhere - I mean anywhere -- for a flat hourly or daily fee, though you pay for fuel, meals and any other minor expense. Driving allows you to go anywhere a car can go. You can stop anywhere, anytime, to get a closer look.

Whatever you choose, you'll find Pagudpud a wonderful place to escape. Once in Pagudpud, a tricycle -- it's not what you're thinking; it's an enclosed sidecar hitched to a motorcycle -- can take you to your destination. You can also arrange with the driver for transportation during the length of your visit.

From Manila, bus travel usually takes eight to nine hours, sometimes longer. If you've got time, the bus is a good deal. It's always a good idea to make sure the bus is air-conditioned. You'll be glad, especially during days of harsh heat. A deluxe bus, with reclining seats, is the best bet.

Verify with each bus company for schedules, fares and accurate destinations. Some of the companies listed below travel only as far as Laoag, the provincial capital of Ilocos Norte. From there, hop on a mini-bus to Pagudpud. Not sure where to get off, where to go? The bus conductor will be glad to help. Or just ask the person sitting next to you.

Auto Bus
Dimasalang cor. Laong Laan St., Sampaloc, Manila

Fariñas Transit
Laong-Laan St., cor. M. dela Fuente, Sampaloc, Manila

Maria De Leon Transit
Dapitan St., Sampaloc, Manila

Partas Transit
Aurora Blvd., cor. Bernardo St., Cubao, QC

Philippine Rabbit
Rizal Ave., Sta. Cruz, Manila

RCJ Transit
1558 España, Sampaloc Manila

Viron Transit
1209 Dapitan cor. Blumentritt St., Sampaloc, Manila

Activities:
These days that Pagudpud is becoming the surfing capital of the Philippines, you might as well learn surfing during your stay there and go skinny dipping, boating and swimming all day. Aside from these got-to-dos that need water, you can pamper yourself in taking pictures of some of Mother Nature's beauty while mountaineering to Kaibigan Falls and walking along the historic streets and landmarks of Vigan, Batac, and Laoag. One big warning that the folks in Ilocos will give you is not to swim too far from the shore because the waters there have a very strong undercurrent that can pull you far off the shore. And since you won't be in the region more than once a year unless you're an Ilocano, visit the Marcos' Mansion and the Marcos Museum to get a taste of their lifestyle during their time in power.

Peso Power: The place is worth the trip and money to be shelled out as most visitors would say. Expect some big cash shelling for nothing of such superb beauty can come cheap, though local shopping costs less they do back home.

In the Northern part of the Philippines is a beach reputed to have the longest contiguous white sand with mighty waves and strong winds that can compare to Hawaii. Wind and wave surfing are the outstanding activities that Pagudpud beach offers its very discriminating customers. Not to mention the inviting views, clear blue waters, and white sand. Pagudpud promises its visitors a magnificent experience in a secluded paradise.

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