The Quick Stops
There are a few tourist spots in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte but we’re finicky as to where to go. Plus, the places we wanted to see the most are located north. Other destinations, such as the Kapurpurawan rock formations and the endless lines of wind turbines, are in the south part. As agreed with the driver earlier, we’d visit the north part only, and our time was not enough to cover both.
Since the lagoon didn’t meet our satisfaction, we decided to go to the falls. Before that, as a result of our split second decision, we had two quick stops along the way.
Our driver asked if we’d like to see the rock formations, the ones we passed by the road early this morning. There’s plenty of time, so why not. Went down the stairs, about twenty steps if I have to guess. Saw the biggest rock formation with an arch-shaped hole in the middle. It’s called the Bantay Abot Cave. Went through and took a couple of photos.
Then we headed to another famous spot, the Patapat Viaduct.
“So, this is popular because of the birds?” My friend was curious, and confused (I think).
In addition to the crowd taking photos and vehicles parked on the other side, a dozen of thin, black birds was flying in circles at the same spot as if some animal just died several feet below them.
“No,” rolling my eyes and realising his point at the same time.
There’s nothing touristy about the place. It’s basically a long snake-like bridge but can offer a great view if the sky is bright and sunny. I would’ve enjoyed it a little and probably wouldn’t mind taking more time standing on that dirty white pavement, however, the weather wasn’t good.
The Kabigan Falls
Expecting a much better turnout, we went in the tricycle and headed back south to see the falls. I couldn’t wait to hike.
It didn’t take long when our tricycle finally turned off the engine. We were silently and unofficially welcomed by a small barangay hall with a basketball court in front and an elementary school on the other side. It’s basically something you can see at almost every barangay in the Philippines.
That also means there’s one thing to do before we could start trekking, which make our friends at local tourism very happy. The entrance fee is 20 pesos ($0.40) only and that’s absolutely fine, but it’s the tour guide that can make heads shake. We paid 120 pesos ($2.40) each in total, which I later regret (until today as I write this). As I’ve mentioned previously (check out my backpacking tips here), there are things that are overpriced and sometimes (or wish) you just have to skip the paying part. Going to this waterfall is definitely one of them.
Nevertheless, there’s no turning back. It’s now or never. We wanted to make this day adventurous even just a fraction at least.
We began the trek, which took us fifteen minutes only. I say it as if we deserved some medals waiting for us. As much as that would be nice, it’s basically easy-peasy. Even a five year old child can make that trip without complaining too much. There’s no stepping of big rocks, crossing of an angry river or passing through a hanging bridge, although there’s a wooden bridge that’s about three yards long. Just a lazy walk following a flat trail surrounded by rice fields and trees. That’s another reason why I regret paying that 100 pesos, uggh!
There were local vendors, who seemed to be residing at the same spots, selling fresh coconut juices, lumpias and banana ques along the way. Before leaving Blue Lagoon, I purchased a big pack of cornick and a small chocolate pudding-like brownies for lunch. We had limited time so grabbing anything what’s available in front of us and eating whilst on the road was a smart move. I know that’s not enough and my food choice wasn’t healthy obviously. Hence, I stopped by at the second vendor we saw to get three pieces of lumpia. It’s also my favourite. Gave one to my friend who hadn’t tried it before, but I was confident he’d like it. Of course, he did. You would too, I swear. But this one was different than most lumpias I had. It’s an Ilocos version as locals call it “pancit lumpia”. It is filled with pancit noodles and thin shreds of carrots and beans with little ground meat. It tasted amazing, especially if you dip it with sugar cane vinegar.
“Malayo pa ba Kuya,” I asked our tour guide wondering how many more steps to take. I wasn’t tired yet. It wasn’t hot either, still gloomy. But I couldn’t sustain the suspense, and I badly wanted to swim.
Our tour guide was probably fifty years older than either of us, but he seemed friendly and patient based on his all-smiling face. I don’t think he said a single word throughout the short hours we were with him, or I just didn’t hear him because he’s a soft speaker.
He pointed up in response. That’s also when the sound of water falling down began fading in. Saw the steps that were intentionally dug and moulded to create an easy passage. Went up and voila, there she was!
Despite my dismay of the area’s small size, I was glad the people who made it first before us was just about to leave.
“Good, we can have it all to ourselves,” I thought.
I’m kind of selfish that way circumstantially, forgive me. There’s no fun swimming when there are lots of people doing the same at the same time. And with that limited space, no way I’d enjoy it.
The water was cold. I was shivering the first 5 seconds. Had to put my sleeveless blue top back on or I’d freeze to death with just a bikini.
“You wanna go over there? Come on!” My friend suggested to go behind the falls.
I wasn’t sure if that’s a good idea knowing how extremely cold the water was and how strong falls are in general. It could easily pull me down, or worse bang my head on the rock wall and never recover. But I trust my friend. And the adventurous and risk button in me automatically set on before realising I made a mistake, a stupid idea.
When you look at the falls you might think I’m crazy to be scared. But my slight (yes just a little) fear was triggered by the fact that there’s a part of the water that’s deep. Don’t get me wrong, I love water in any form but I’m not a good swimmer (I keep saying that by the way). A waterfall, even if not that huge like the Kabigan falls, is more dangerous than a wide-stretched beach. It has a natural force to keep your head trapped below water. That’s what I was scared of. Regardless, he grabbed my hand and, without any pause of hesitation, I went with him.
Boy, the wall was slippery! You can only hold on for a second. It’s only a few inches away from the endless showers when my hands glided off of the wall. With panic mode on, I quickly wrapped my legs around my friend’s waist and arms around his neck. He slipped his hands off the rock the minute I clung to him. I couldn’t see him. It’s been ten seconds and felt long. Only then I realised my hands were still on his shoulders. All of me was actually clutching over him like a buoy.
“Dammit, I think I’m drowning him.” I began to worry about him more than myself. I never told him this unless he’s reading it right now.
The next thing I remember was that my small, lightweight body started levitating. Got suddenly pulled up and away from the water by him like a superman from nowhere. He saved both of us (cheeks blushing).
I guess that’s the adventure I was looking for. Sometimes, you really have to be careful what you wish for!
For the last twenty minutes, I spent soaking myself in the cold, shallow part of the water, whilst he kept going back behind the waterfalls. We couldn’t stay longer. We needed to catch a bus before the sun sets and head to our next destination.