Philippines may be home to 7107 islands. But one island beats them all in size. Luzon is the largest and the most populous island of the Pinas – as Philippines is often called. And unlike what you may think, it was much, much more than just Manila.
And to understand that, I had to go north of Manila. Past Zambales, Baguio, the cordilleras and even La Union. All the way to the Northern tip of Luzon.
To Ilocos Norte.
Ilocos – From the South to the north
When the Spanish started consolidating their control over Manila in 1570, they came north of Luzon and saw many sheltered coves (looc). The Spaniards named this region the ‘Ylocos’ and the people as ‘Ylocanos’. The Ilocos region soon started establishing beyond the sheltered coves. To the point that they were soon split into 2 different provinces – Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte. And for a while, Ilocos Norte gained national prominence because of one of it’s residents: former president Ferdinand E. Marcos.
I had just finished exploring the former Spanish colony of Vigan, which was in Ilocos Sur. I took a bus with a couple of my friends and started moving north. Towards the northern tip of Luzon, in a popular local beach town called Pagudpud.
The Rock formations of Kapurpurawan
But first, we had to get to Kapurpurawan.
The bus had dropped us off in Burgos, near the burgos municipality hall. I could walk the 3KM from here to Kapurpurawan. Or take a tricycle ride. Given that the Philippines sun can be torturous at times, I took the latter option.
The bumpy tricycle ride was a weird mix of orange dirt roads, and green landscapes on both sides of it, all leading into a blue expanse that we could see at some of the turns. The tricycle drove us until a staircase was visible, which led us all the way to the Kapurpurawan coastline.
Whatever image you had in your head when you hear the word ‘coastline’, will completely vanish the moment you see Kapurpurawan. There was simply no beach. Just a vast expanse of white rocks all the way, surrounded by moss and some seaweeds. It almost felt like I was in another planet.
We made our way through the difficult rocks, and started climbing the white rock formation. It was slippery most of the time, and there were some natural water fissures along the way, so caution was a must. But it all lead to the star of the coastline: an anvil-shaped rock that somehow balanced itself and looked over the Luzon straits. We climbed it for some of the most pristine moments under the shade of the giant rock.
Note: This was a few years ago, but I am told that there are some restrictions now on climbing the some of the rocks in the white rock area, due to their fragile nature.
Bangui and the wind farm
A little bit of Trivia here. What is the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR)? That would be Bangui, which has been at the centre of the Central African Republic conflict since 2012. Well, there is a Bangui in Ilocos Norte too. And unlike it’s African counterpart, this one was right on the coastline and the only rebellion it had was one between metal and the wind.
Actually, Kapurpurawan and Bangui were on the same coastline. But there was no way for us to walk along the coast to get from one to the other, thanks to the rough rocks. So, we walked back to the beginning of our Kapurpurawan walk and hailed another tricycle.
And what exactly was there to see in Bangui? The Bangui wind farm.
The Bangui wind farm was the first power generating windmill farm of not just the Philippines, but the entire South East Asia. 15 to 20 windmills, standing 230 ft high, created a neat line along the Bangui coast. It was amazing to think that a group windmills in Asia would make such a beautiful sight.
This visit was 4 to 5 years ago, and I remember that the place was almost devoid of any other tourist. In fact, there was nothing much to see on the beach apart from the windmills. There were a few abandoned boats. And one small beachside shack which sold some cold drinks and souvenirs.
The souvenirs were all miniature lighthouses. No surprises there.
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