Friday, June 24, 2011

Adams, Ilocos Norte - A Weekend in a Hidden Eden Up North

Ilocos Norte - Anuplig Falls Dramatic Rocks
Anuplig Falls, the oft-photographed falls in Adams
From the Florida sleeper bus terminal in Laoag, we rode a van headed for Pagudpud. No, we're not heading off to the beach as most Pagudpud visitors are inclined to do but further inland and upland to the town of Adams for our outreach cum photo trip for the long weekend. From the turn-off in Pancian, it's still a 45-minute motorbike ride through 13 kilometers of dirt and rough roads that takes one through mountainous and forested terrain punctuated by the gently-flowing Bolo river.

Ilocos Norte - Adams Scene from the View Deck II
A view of the town from the view deck
The sun was up, the weather a bit warm but breezy when we arrived. Welcome to Adams, population: 1,522 as of the last census. The name seems out of place alongside the names of the other municipalities of Ilocos, the familiar ones as local-sounding as Bangui or Paoay. But the place lives up to its namesake, the first man created by God, as it looks and feels like an Eden locked up in the northwestern fringes of the Gran Cordillera range. Even towards noon, the place is quiet save for the singing of the cicadas and the occasional barking of dogs.
Ilocos Norte - Adams Chens Fishpond
The Chens' Homestay
Through the auspices of Dr. Bielmaju, the wife of the mayor, we were able to secure accommodations and transport ahead of our trip. Lunch was at the homey place (Adams' version of homestay) of the Chens. Ilyn, formerly an OFW in Taiwan who later married a Taiwanese national, maintains this charming place complete with huts set around tilapia and koi ponds, cages of birds, and an inspiring view of the distant mountains.  The food is simple yet tasty, with most of the ingredients sourced from the garden.

Not wanting to waste our first afternoon away, we set off for Anuplig Falls after lunch. It's nearly an hour and a half hike through the forest and here's where one will fully understand that the local definitions of "easy" and "near" are as far away from our definitions as we are from Manila. Sherwin, our guide, had no difficulty navigating through the forest and looks ready to go back for another guiding trip. Anyway, it rained hard when we got to the falls but the overcast conditions cannot hide the fact that it is beautiful as they say it is.
Ilocos Norte - Adams Bielma Bugnay Wine
Bugnay Wines
When night fell, we had dinner with Dra. Bielmaju as well as a wine-tasting session. Wine-making is as much as an industry as a passion here as there are 63 wine-makers in a population of just over 1500, taking advantage of the profusion of wild fruits and berries that grow here and in the mountains.  The wines, especially the Bugnay wine, were very good, a perfect way to cap a long day and a free-flowing conversation that covered a raft of topics from the tourism initiative started in 2008 and the future of eco-tourism in Adams.  It's refreshing to come across a person who fully recognizes that the place is suitable for low-volume tourism and that what they offer as unique are the natural surroundings, the peace and quiet of this place where people from different tribes -- Yapayao, Isneg, Ilocano Igorot, Kakana-ey and Ibaloi  -- live in harmony.

Info:   To go to Adams via air, ride a plane to Laoag (travel time: less than an hour) then take a van or bus headed for Sanchez Mira; alight at Pancian and hire a motorbike to go upland (P150; 45 minutes) • via land, there are buses that go straight from Manila to Sanchez Mira (Florida Transit, around P750, approximately 9.5 hours) • From Tuguegarao, you can ride a van bound for Laoag (around 2 hours, P180)


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