Golden blankets of palay and blue, misty mountains make for picture-perfect mornings in Pagudpud on the northern end of Luzon.
Smoke billows out of fields at random, and people pedal bikes along well-paved roads a little distance from its most touristy spot: Saud Beach, about 10 minutes from the bucolic town’s sentro.
In Saud, brightly painted, if out-of-place, two-storey homestays and resorts interrupt rows upon rows of towering coconut trees. These resorts compete to give the best beach views, but anywhere in Saud the beach is a perfect blue anyway, the sand a faint yellow. Palms sway in groups of three or more, and the famed windmills in the town of Bangui look gentle and small at the far left of the horizon.
But being at the northern tip of Luzon also means Pagudpud gets first dibs on rainy weather. Drizzles are frequent even on storm-less days, so never take for granted a perfect sunny day. We’ve been to Pagudpud four times together, half of which sunny, the other half a tossup between a drizzle and a deluge.
We also noticed that weather considerably changes from Saud Beach to Blue Lagoon, which are (just) 16 kilometers apart. So you have been warned: sunny Saud doesn’t necessarily mean sunny Blue Lagoon, although they are located in the same town.
And that’s how it really is: rugged, beautiful, but certainly frustrating even with the faintest rains, Pagudpud can be such a prima donna. And nobody dares mess with the winds and rains here: stores, eateries, and just about everything else closes; no one dares swim on the beach (Saud has pretty rough waves only surfers can appreciate); and everybody else vents their boredom on the karaoke machine instead.
“Not me, no.”
We weren’t very lucky during our recent trip. What started out as a clear, sunny morning in Pagudpud turned gloomy and drizzling throughout the day.
The downpour started only after we decided to take the so-called Northern Tour via tricycle, the only means available for carless people like us to go around (round trip, P600, for up to three people). We were fortunate enough to have ticked off Kabigan Falls first, because immediately after boarding the trike to our second stop, the rains started to pour, the skies not clearing up even after reaching Saud Beach after three or so hours.
Obviously our cameras, heavy-beaten as they already are, went on another field day that day, and because we didn’t have any umbrellas with us, it meant having to wipe water off them every time we take a shot. Thankfully, as of this writing, they’re still alive and kicking (and this entry is really in honor of our trusty old Nikons for living through all the fog and rain, sunshine and sand).
You’re looking at droplets of water too.
Kabigan Falls in Bgy. Balaoi is 20-30 minutes away by tricycle from Saud, and another 30 minute trek from the entrance. You’ll have to pay P10 each as entrance fee, plus P100 tour guide fee per group. You will pass by rice paddies on one side and the Balaoi River, whose water comes from Kabigan Falls, on the other side.
Welcome to le outback, strangers.
Rocky and a bit slippery if it rained the previous day (or when it’s drizzling, just like when we visited), the trek will require no more than careful walking.
A rather pretty way to Kabigan Falls.
Watch out for carabao dung though, and be careful in crossing the makeshift bridges.
The single-cascade falls is about eight storeys high (pardon our estimates if it’s not nearly accurate, but the point is, it’s very tall). The surrounding areas are marked with moss-covered, jagged rocks with ferns jutting out of them. Visitors can swim, though we didn’t.
Waterfalls are the only ones that can look good in photos taken under unfavorable weather. All the other spots we visited, unfortunately, require a friendly sunny day.
The other spots in the northern tour include Timmangtang Rock, Dos Hermanos Island, Bantay Abot Cave, Paraiso ni Anton, Patapat Viaduct, Agua Grande, and Blue Lagoon. We opted out of Dos Hermanos Island as we were nearly soaked from going in and out of the trike at every stop.
The weather at Patapat Viaduct two years ago, which was our last visit, was exactly like this.
This, meanwhile, is what remains of the Korean bunker MV Nam Yang 8. The vessel was en route to China from Cagayan in December 2009 when it got stranded near the coast of Balaoi after an engine trouble.
Agua Grande, meanwhile, is where you swim on icy cold freshwater from upstream, flowing through boulders and out into the open sea. Sheds are available for picnics, so this spot is best for groups. Entrance fee is P25 each.
Agua Grande on the left, Kabigan Falls on the right.
The Bantay Abot Cave is rather scary during rainy weather, as waves can get a bit big, and it’s impossible—not to mention dangerous—to head to the cave just off the beach. The shore has some nice coral stones though, but be careful when treading the rather slippery boulders. It was still drizzling when we got to Blue Lagoon next. Needless to say, it didn’t look good on photo so we simply left cursing our bad luck.
By the time we went back to Saud, we still had half a day to burn, and thankfully the weather wasn’t as bad though it would still drizzle every so often.
Talk about redeeming value: that sunset was one of the better ones to show itself this year.
Or maybe because we were just too darn disappointed at what happened the whole day.
In our search for food after being turned down one time too many by eateries, we spotted these men making fishing (lambat in Filipino) nets along the beach.
The day’s best moment didn’t come until sundown, when we had 10 minutes of beautiful sunset in the middle of a misty beach. It was free, stunning, and right in the company of coconut trees—exactly what we want Pagudpud to be.
Now if only we had a car.
Better luck next time, yo.
TIPS FOR YOUR TRIPS: PAGUDPUD, ILOCOS NORTE
HOW TO GET TO PAGUDPUD
Saud Beach. Board a Pagudpud-bound mini bus at the back of the Ilocos Norte Capitol in Laoag. Travel time is 1.5 hours (P60). The bus will drop you off at the sentro. From here, take a trike to your resort in Saud Beach (fare is about P50).
Blue Lagoon. Take a Claveria-bound bus in Laoag and ask to be dropped off at the entrance to Blue Lagoon. Travel time is around 2 hours. From here, take a trike to your resort (Blue Lagoon is about 4 kilometers inland).
HOW TO GO AROUND PAGUDPUD
Tricycles.The main means of transport around town is the tricycle, although locals go around on bicycles too. The town proper and Bgy. Saud are off the national highway so traffic is sparse, although going around can get pricey.
Pagudpud’s sentro has Internet shops, convenience stores, and more slippers for sale than there are people. From your resort in Saud Beach, it’s a virtual walkfest though there really isn’t anything else to visit except the beach. Best to take the number of your trike driver on your first day just in case your resort cannot arrange for your transportation back.
Pagudpud Tricycle Tours
Sadly, the tourist infrastructure leaves much to be desired. There is by far only one means to go around the sights (that is, if you don’t have a car): via tricycle tours, priced at P600 for up to three people only (excluding the driver). The price is a standard among all drivers and is supposedly accredited by the local tourism office, as stated on the laminated rate card you can see on every tricycle.
Trike driver/tour guide: Chris Palafox (09433664365)
Kabigan Falls, Patapat Viaduct, Paraiso Ni Anton, Timmangtang Rock, Dos Hermanos Island, Bantay Abot Cave, and Agua Grande.
Bangui Windmills & Viewdeck, Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
The South Tour is farther away from Pagudpud and is headed towards Laoag, but the spots are nearer from Pagudpud. We haven’t done this yet, but the spots are spread out, so it’s best to take this tour for convenience.
WHERE TO TRY TO EAT IN PAGUDPUD
This is where we got a little disappointed. Food is average, pricey in most places, and the more affordable ones do not feel the need to stock up on supplies everyday, so chances are, in the off season, they’re closed.
The best one we’ve tried yet is Evangeline’s Beach Resort’s restaurant along Saud Beach, which has an array of snacks at less than P100 and main dishes at around P200. The food (we tried their French Toast Ice Cream, P86) was not bad, not discombobulatingly good either.
Nearby resorts have restaurants too, but they tend to be pricier (Saud Beach Resort’s main dishes average P300, Jun & Carla’s Beach Resort average P350, no dish lower than P200). Though the mains at the Saud Beach Resort tasted good, they were not magical, and, for the price, do not offer the best value.
For a place so charming and laidback, it’s such a wonder why nobody seemed to care enough about giving visitors great, affordable food.
WHERE TO STAY IN PAGUDPUD
Pricey: Hannah’s, Kapuluan Vista Resort (both at Blue Lagoon)
Midrange: Casa Consuelo (Blue Lagoon), Polaris, Evangeline Beach Resort, Britanya Lodge (all at Saud)
Budget: Scour Sitio Namnama leading to Saud Beach for homestays. Or else walk along Saud Beach and ask around for homestays. Note: Always ask for a discount especially in the off season (ask and you shall receive).
No ATMs, so stock up on cash in Laoag City. Select resorts accept credit card payments.
AND lastly, don’t even think about going except during the summer. Weather here is bipolar.