From fine, white sandy beaches to remarkable cliffs and hidden waterfalls, Pagudpud remains to be a vivid example of a true tropical paradise of Northern Philippines.
Pagudpud, a town situated 1 and a half hours north of Laoag City, the provincial capital of Ilocos Norte, and about 10 hours by land from the Philippine capital Manila, is fast gaining fame in the international travel circuit staking its claim amongst the pretenders to the throne of having the best Philippine beach which unarguably is perennially held by Boracay in Aklan. But Boracay it is not, although it comes pretty close when it comes to sand quality, the clarity of its stunningly blue waters and the length and width of its beaches (other beaches in the Philippines do have white sand, but not as fine nor the beach as long nor wide). But whilst Boracay caters to the to the party scene and its extensive range of island activities, Pagudpud derives its charm from exactly the opposite of that – even on a long weekend, the beaches of Maira-ira, Saud and Pansian rarely get the hordes of tourists that Boracay, Panglao (Bohol), and Puerto Galera (Oriental Mindoro) due to the town’s relative remoteness (although Easter Weekend is an apparent exception as told by our Korong-korong driver where the road to Maira-ira can get pretty clogged with traffic).
Photo by storm-crypt
Pagudpud, the town, was still named as Tongotong which was then under the administrative control of the town of Bangui as being one of the barrios. And then just before the outbreak of World War II, a Batangas native, according to a local story, arrived in the area selling mosquito nets and blankets from house to house until he was totally exhausted. He sought shelter in one of the houses, hungry and tired, asking the owner of the house for a simple meal. After all had settled down, the owner asked the itinerant vendor for his purpose, and the guy, not understanding the local language merely replied, “Ako’y pagud na pagod na at ang sapatos ko’s pudpod,” in heavily Batangas-accented Tagalog meaning “I am very tired and my shoes are all worn out”. The reply became the byword of the Tongotong locals even though they themselves did not understand the meaning of what has been said. A few months later, a Bicolano (native of the Bicol Region of the Philippines) arrived to seek employment in one of the logging companies in the region (as apparently the area had thick, virgin forested mountains before and logging was still allowed by law). The guy, not knowing where the office of the company was located got off in Tongotong and asked one of the locals for the name of the place and he immediately replied, “Ako’y pagud na pagod na at ang sapatos ko’s pudpod,” as the bystander thought the man was a Tagalog and those were the only Tagalog words he knew. Our guy interpreted that the place might be called Pagud-pudpod. Tongotong became Pagud-pudpod and later shortened to Pagudpud.
But that was one story. The elders say that Pagudpud is an old Ilocano word which meant soft sandy soil “kuppuoy” a kadaratan. The majority of the population of its 20,385 residents is composed of Ilocanos, whilst a few are a collection of Apayaos, Bicolanos and Visayans.
Photo by jessiefish
Pagudpud’s main attractions are of course its beautiful beaches, and unlike other pretenders to Boracay’s throne, Pagudpud has every reason to believe that it does rival Boracay’s spectacular sceneries. So much so, that international travelers started to sit up and take notice. Sunday Herald Sun of Australia ranked Saud Beach as Number 1 on its list of the top ten best, lesser-known beaches of Asia besting Thailand’s Ko Adang, Sri Lanka’s Bentota, and Cambodia’s Occheuteal among others.
Pagudpud has three different beaches actually – Maira-ira Point which is also known by its moniker, Blue Lagoon and the other name Malingay Cove (It is not a lagoon – it is more like a cove), Saud and Pansian – all white sand beaches. Pansian is the furthest of the three which is almost at the border of Cagayan province and rarely gets any visitors at all, if any. The two most popular are Maira-ira and Saud. Saud is where all the resorts are, and when we say that the waters off Saud are emerald-colored even during cloudy weather or when its waves are rough– we are not kidding you. The beach is long, palm-fringed and with less people and on a clear day, one can see the Bangui windmills in the distance. The waters can be rough and dangerous during the rainy season as Saud faces the open sea and the current can be very treacherous so adequate caution and common sense are very important.
Maira-ira meanwhile has a shorter beach but has calmer waters compared to Saud. Unlike Saud with sudden drops a few meters from the shore, Maira-ira boasts of a mostly gently sloping beach into the ocean. Maira-ira is more scenic as well, the beach forming a graceful arc, with some rock formations on the right end and the islets of Dos Hermanos (Two Brothers) that seem to be guarding the cove to the left end. The main annoyance is probably the irritating sound of banana-boats in Maira-ira and the presence of some trash which we think is more or less manageable. The local government of Pagudpud should start a daily clean-up and environmental education campaigns in the area to further minimize or possibly eliminate trash in Maira-ira. The Dos Hermanos islets, which can be reached by motorized boats off Maira-ra meanwhile pride themself with their caves, rock formations, and a smattering of colorful tropical fish. The best part of the Pagudpud beaches, rarely you will get any touts at all, one can actually lie down in some corner without being bothered by anyone selling crap – better watch out for a tiny herd of goats though, cute but otherwise mostly harmless.
Photo by huno
Aside from the stunning beaches, Pagudpud offers a lot of other attractions as well. The waterfalls of Kabigan and Saguigui on Barangay Balaoi are quite dramatic. Kabigan Falls is 80 feet surrounded by lush forest and a concave basin and practically reminds us of those picturesque waterfalls of the jungles of the Caribbean while Saguigui Falls is a smaller waterfall and very hard to get to.
Not to be outdone, Bantay Abot Caves and Timmangtang Rock in Sitio Gaoa also in Barangay Balaoi are other interesting spots in the area. Bantay Abot means “a mountain with a hole” and sometimes called “the underground sea” as there is luxuriant greenery on top of the cave. Bantay Abot Caves had a hole in the middle of the mountains where the waves crashed until it was wrecked in a massive tremor in the ‘80s. Inside the cave is a church where one can hear the echoing sound of the waves, hear the swallows that swarm in the late afternoon and other birds chirp freely. The shore of the caves has white sand mixed with shells and rocks and has quite a great view of the sea and the rugged mountains.
A few meters away is the Timmangtang Rock, a bell-shaped rock covered with vegetation and with the Bantay Abot Caves is collectively named as “Lover’s Rock” with Bantay Abot being the female and Timmangtang as the male – possibly an obvious reference to the male and female nether regions, hey?
Still on Sitio Gaoa, a panoramic view of the Pasaleng Bay, Maira-ira Point and on a clear day Babuyan Island way up north can be had at the Nacatnagan Cliff, 150 feet above sea level. As an Ilocano word meaning “fell down”, stories of Nacatnagan tell that in old times, two carabaos (Philippine water buffaloes) climbed the mountain and fell down the cliff, thus, its name. The cliff has an untouched forest teeming with wild animals, wild orchids and rare ferns along its slippery and steep slopes.
Photo by huno
As mentioned in the Ilocos Norte article, the Patapat viaduct which is also considered as the 4th longest bridge in the Philippines, is a winding bridge hugging the cliffs of the Northern Cordillera Mountain Ranges which connects the barangays Balaoi and Pansian and is about 1.2 kilometers long. Dubbed as the “French Riviera of the North” for this breathtakingly beautiful coastal drive, one can pass by Mabugabog Falls, a source of power for the mini-hydroelectric plant. This pretty bridge features a blue sea and sea birds on one side and the beautiful mountains on one side. Can’t be any nicer than that!
If you need to get your adrenaline fix, shooting the rapids at Bolo River which divides the towns of Pagudpud and Bangui should get that blood pumping with its big boulders, and deep water in one of its portions in Barangays Dampig, Tarrag and Poblacion 1.
Every April, Pagudpud celebrates the Kangayedan Festival.
Why Not Go
The glitter of Boracay nightlife and the sophisticated, high-rolling glamour of Palawan are typically absent here – basically Pagudpud is a beach-bummer’s beach – simple and spectacular, and if you don’t want to drive all the way to Laoag City then just hop on a plane, Pagudpud is actually not as far as one might think.
Really excellent beaches, beautiful waterfalls, stunning sceneries, breathtaking coastal drives and a feeling of being away from it all should make anyone go to Pagudpud.
Best Time to Visit
Summer time is the best time to go to Pagudpud to head out to the calmest waters, and bluest skies hands down.
Where & What to Eat
Aside from the traditional Ilocano and Filipino fares which are offered in the resorts of Saud, one should also try get some seaweed called “gamet” which is compared to the Japanese Nori and is usually found near Dos Hermanos. Gamet is expensive and used sparingly to flavor dishes. Gamet comes in sheets and is used in soups, omelets and salads.
Pagudpud nightlife is centered in Saud Beach where most of the resorts with their restaurants and bars are located, although commercialization has crept into the area, Saud has still maintained that laidback atmosphere.
My to do List
1. Beach-hop Maira-ira, Pansian and Saud.*
2. Chill in the cool waters of Kabigan Falls.*
3. Hike to Nacatnagan Cliff.**
4. Explore the caves of Bantay Abot.*
5. Island-hop to Dos Hermanos.**
6. Drive along the Patapat viaduct.*
7. Kayak along the Bolo River.*
*- Highly Recommended
**- Recommended by Locals
Stay Away From
1. Mosquitoes! – just bring bug repellent to be sure
2. Dust Mites. – bring Lysol with you, if you think the hotel room is oldish and not cleaned properly.
3. UV rays – Apply ample sun protection and sunglasses. Ilocos can be pretty humid and searing hot when the sun is out.
Photo by storm-crypt
Laoag City is 45 minutes away by plane from Manila (Through Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Airlines) and also serves as an international gateway with the Laoag City International Airport which receives chartered flights from China and Taiwan (Mandarin Airlines currently has suspended its flights from Kaohsiung). Pagudpud is 1 hour and a half away from Laoag City either by vans or buses (Florida Bus Lines and RCJ has a Manila-Pagudpud route and vice-versa).
If you are not coming with a tour group, Partas buses are the most reliable form of transport to Ilocos Norte from Manila as well as RCJ, Philippine Rabbit, Maria de Leon, Florida and Fariñas Trans and Partas also do connecting trips to Baguio while GMW heads to Tuguegarao via Pagudpud.
Tricycles are the mode of transport within Pagudpud. One can usually hire a tricycle to explore Pagudpud for PhP600. If you are taking your own car and you are coming from Manila, take the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and then connect through the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), exit at Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac and follow the National Highway through Pangasinan, La Union and Ilocos Sur. You can get a more detailed map of Northern Luzon (Ilocos Norte included) at one of the bookstores in Manila before you embark on this trip.
Laoag City is about 9-12 hours away by land from Manila, 6 ½ hours from Tuguegarao and 5 hours away from Baguio City.