There are some places that, when you visit them, you fall in love with them and leave a part of yourself behind. Maybe because of the experience, because of how it looked, and how it felt. Maybe because of its history or its scenery. When I went to Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur last month, the tour package included a lot of stops in different places, but there were certain places that I liked the best and would love to visit again should I find myself once more in Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur someday.
1. 4X4 ON THE SAND DUNES AND SANDBOARDING
Hello, adventure! I'm not so much of an adventure sports person, but you only live once, right? Sandboarding was definitely my goal for this stop (what better way to conquer your fear of heights and falling than sliding down a sand dune at an amazing speed? Cue in the screaming. But they said the 4x4 wheeler was a discounted package with the sandboarding so we said yes and hopped on.
If I ever said that roller coasters are scariest rides on earth, I take that back now. There is nothing scarier than standing—yes, standing— at the back of a 4x4 wheeler and watching yourself careen downhill at a maximum speed. I think I have never screamed so loud in my entire life. What a thrilling, thrilling ride! But the scare is totally worth it when you are at the top of the dunes and see the long stretch of the West Philippine Sea. When we were there, a storm was already brewing and we could see it further out, coming quickly in; the dark clouds spreading into the sunny horizon. Our last stop was on the beach, just as the rain began to fall, but the waves were lovely and the beach stretched for miles and miles.
2. KABIGAN FALLS
Picture this: a trek through meadows, valleys, forests until you come to a clearing and you see the falls which spill into a lake with the coldest, clearest water you have ever seen. That's Kabigan Falls for you. We started rather early so that it wouldn't be too hot yet. The trek to the falls was just lovely. It's a rather long one, so comfortable footwear is a must. But the view is spectacular. And soon, you forget that you've been walking for some twenty-thirty minutes and just enjoy the sights. There are trees, shrubs, grass undulating with the wind. There are streams and little rivers, rolling hills and mountains rising in the distance.
And the falls when you come to it! We when you turn a curve, you see a mini version that comes from the bigger one. At first, I thought the mini version was the Kabigan Falls and I was wondering what was so amazing about it. But as you hike further up and when all the foliage clears, you see it: the real Kabigan Falls falling some 120 feet from the mountains. After taking some photos, we decided to dip our feet into the lake and the water was so cold and so clear. I regret not being able to swim then, but I shall return and I shall take the dip I wanted.
3. KAPURPURAWAN ROCK FORMATION
Kapurpurawan is beautiful in a different sort of way. We kind of make a mistake when we came to this. We thought we were going to view the Bangui windmills, and when pointed the direction of the viewing deck, we were confused why the trail led down instead of up. It was only after that we realised that the attraction was not the windmills, but the rock formation.
Which was really beautiful, by the way. You can rent a horse or take a walk (which two of us did while our friend rode the horse). The hike isn't that far anyway and the view is spectacular. When you're on foot, you can stop to take photos any time and even pause to admire the scenery for a while. There's a trail carved out and all you have to do is to follow it. Can't stray from the path so much because you might land in a bog and see the dead bodies of the Elf and Men soldiers from the Last Alliance of Men and Elves (my imagination and yes, that's an LOTR reference).
As you're walking along, you see the sea. And you see the rocks jutting out, seemingly carved by a giant hand. And up the mountains where you just came from, you see (and hear) the Bangui windmills. And the wind is lovely, whipping your hair about your face, and for miles and miles, it's nothing but rocks and sea, rocks and sea.
Imagine driving with the sea on one side and the mountains on the other. The road is curving And then you see it: Pagudpud. Gentle blue waves lolling in the distance. A white shore that stretches for miles and miles. I couldn't help but remember Gandalf's reassurance to Pippin when the hobbit was on the verge of despair in the battle of Minas Tirith. Pippin was saying that he feared the unknown of death, and Gandalf said that it was not so.
Pippin: I didn't think it would end this way.
Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn't end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.
Pippin: What? Gandalf? See what?
Gandalf: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
No wonder why Pippin responds, with a hint of his old cheerfulness, "Well, that isn't so bad." Granted, Pagupud's shores are commercialised with nipa huts and kayaks and all other things people can think to put, but if you were to remove all that, and just leave the long stretch of white sand, blue waves, blue sky, and the mountains rising beyond that, you'd see what Pippin saw.
Pictures don't do it justice. You have to be there and see things for yourself to know what I mean.
5. CAPE BOJEADOR LIGHTHOUSE
I think lighthouses are magical. I think they hold within them secrets swept into their reach by the waves of the sea. I think their rooms hold echoes of days gone by, of footsteps of previous caretakers, and stories spoken by sailors and captains.
Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, also known as "Burgos Lighthouse", was established in the 1800s, during the Spanish Colonial period in the Philippines. It is located in Vigia de Nagpartian Hill in Burgos, Ilocos Norte, overlooking the beautiful Cape of Bojeador. It used to light up the galleons that sailed past more than 200 years ago.
I can't pinpoint what it was exactly that made me fall in love with the place. Was it the foggy, long-winding road that we walked up in order to get to the lighthouse? Was it the slanted red roof and faded white paint? Was it the cold wind and the beautiful, breathtaking view? Or the rooms that showed old beds, old things, old photos of how life was back then? Whatever it is, it made me fall in love with lighthouses, which I've only "seen" so far through stories and movies.
How about you? Have you ever been to Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur? What places did you like best?