Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Natural Northern Landscape

We were the only one that day enjoying the nice quiet beach in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. The landscape was unique in its own way. Rocky, which makes it not suitable for swimming. But the headlands bounding the bay are distinct. The shapes were probably eroded over time by the roaring strong waves coming from the open sea.

Yet in this harsh coastal setting, the natural vegetation seemed to rival the manicured plantings here in Manila. The wild plants form brushes that resemble the mass plantings in Metro Manila malls. There are contrasting colors of the different foliage. The beach morning glory (Ipomeia pes-caprae) form the foreground, the beach lily (Crinum asiatica) serve as middle planting and the beach pandan (Pandanus tectorius) provide the background. Nature is really the best architect around.

The Persistent Northern Exposure

I planned on going to a Mt. Pinatubo climb for this Labor Day weekend. But when I asked around for companions, the idea of going to Ilocos Norte popped up instead. I had several people warm up to it till we counted about seven wanting to go. We were all excited, or so I thought.

The week before the trip, several of my companions backed out. On the day itself we were supposed to leave, there were three of us left, and before the lunch hour passed, we got a predictable text from our third companion. So it was just my masteral classmate Mimie and I who were determined to push through with the trip. The cancellations did not hinder us from braving the long lines at Partas bus station. The last minute decision of Mimie’s housemate Jules to come brought new fuel to our still burning fire and all three of us were on our way, way-way up to the north by 12 AM of May 1.

We arrived in Vigan at breakfast time and decided not to go straight to Laoag (all the Laoag trips were already full and we got on a Vigan bus instead, thinking we could get that Laoag bus there). We opted to enjoy the sights of Vigan first (we intended to see Vigan last) and went on foot to see the Bassit church, Crisologo museum, the UNESCO preserved Crisologo Street and Vigan Cathedral. From the cathedral we went on a calesa ride to Bantay church and the Hidden Garden where we had our lunch. By 1:30 PM we were already again at the Partas Bus station waiting for a Laoag bus. When we finally reached our intended destination, we were all exhausted and decided to only make arrangements for our next day itinerary. We met an engineer, Kuya Allan, who agreed to take us around the tourist spots on his stainless owner jeep.

The next day we were fetched by Allan from our hotel at 4 am. We hit the road with the sun far from showing up. Sunrise only caught up with us in Burgos, Ilocos Norte, a mere 4 towns from San Nicolas, from which we came from. Shortly after daybreak we reached a cliff where we first saw glimpse of the Bangui wind turbines. We were immediately elated upon seeing it from that distance. Kuya Allan got to talk to a passerby and got directions how to reach the beach, where the wind turbines are (to see them real up close). A few minutes more we were already joining early birds taking snapshots and marveling about the engineering feat. That was already past 6:30 AM. But the day was still very young and we made our way to our next destination, Pagudpud.

Pagudpud is 76 kilometers from San Nicolas and the trip usually takes 2 hours because of winding roads and detours. The road leading there is a mixture of field sides, beach fronts, cliff roads and forest cut-throughs. Our trip lasted a little longer because of the usual plant finds I encountered, Kuya Allan obliging to stop whenever I spot a wonderful tree. I ll write about some of them in a separate blog.

Once we reached Pagudpud, the bright sunny sky of Ilocos became a little dark with overcast. We learned from Kuya Allan that we were almost at the northern tip of Luzon and the next town would be already Cagayan. He said Cagayan had a different micro-climate. In the summer months in Ilocos, it is a bit rainy in the windward side of Cagayan Valley.

The landscape of Pagudpud is a bit rocky but then again unique compared to the limestone formations of the southern islands. I find it a bit cleaner, more cut smooth around the edges. The vegetation seem to be dwarfed almost hugging the ground. The beach trees in the Visayas are thick though they grow in shallow soil. In Pagudpud, the trees are almost visibly windswept, obviously stunted by the wind, not by the limited soil. In here the coastal formations are also evident of wind and water erosion.

After basking under the limited Pagudpud sun, we decided to take our long overdue breakfast and head back towards Burgos. Again we stopped in another beach front area less spectacular than Pagudpud but has a certain charm of its own. Burgos is about 3 towns from Pagudpud so the weather is very much Ilocos, therefore very hot. But that did not stop Mimie and Jules from playing their roles of model-photographer. We then made our way back to Laoag and embarked on our church route. The day ended with us hitting our beds really hard that night, that no one was even bothered by my deep heavy breathing (snoring hehehe). The good night sleep helped us prepare for the day long bus ride home-which in itself is another story.