There are a lot of places I consider to be special to me, and for various reasons. The best restaurant you’ve dined at. The coffee shop with the coziest interior and the best brew. Or it could be special because of the “first” factor. The first country visited. The first mountain climbed. The first island “hopped” on. The first amusement park visited… Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte is somewhat special to me, at least in that respect.
It was 2003 when I first caught sight of and set foot at Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. And it does not even matter that it was only for a short while – just one night, because we arrived there by dusk, then left quite early the next morning.
Yes, that brief. I did not even get to dip my toes in its famous waters.
Despite that, I still have a soft spot for the place, mainly because it was the first trip that I went on with my co-workers. In other words, it marked the beginning of many more “trips-with-colleagues” to come.
Now that I think back, my memories of that brief foray into this side of the north have become hazy. After all, it was such a long time ago. I do remember, however, that it was such a loooooong trip.
So it was with a bit of nostalgia that I went back to Pagudpud, via this road trip up north. This time, I was able to soak in more than I did 15 years ago.
But first… Patapat.
The Patapat Bridge
Or, officially, the Patapat Viaduct.
The Patapat Viaduct is a bridge spanning 1.3 kilometers, hugging the coastline of the town of Pagudpud, overlooking the Pasaleng Bay. This concrete bridge is 31 meters above sea level, and effectively connects Laoag City, Ilocos Norte to the Cagayan Valley.
We made our way to the furthest end of the bridge, parked our ride, then snacked on some watermelons being sold by a local lady and her daughter by the side of the road.
And, of course, enjoyed the view. Who can ignore all that blue, pray tell?
The bridge was as impressive as I remember from the first time I saw it more than a decade ago. In fact, I think it is even more impressive now, now that I have greater and better appreciation for these things, haha!
Many tourists stop their cars somewhere in the middle of the bridge, where they step out to have some snaps. The danger there, of course, is that there are going to be other motorists passing through, so they’d have to be extra careful. And parking their vehicles in the middle of the road is not really motorist-friendly, is it?
Personally, I think the best spot would be at either end of the bridge, because then you’d see how it curves against the side of the mountain.
Fortunately, there were only a handful of vehicles that passed by, so some of us were able to go out in the middle of the road to goof around on camera. Of course, I would not really advise this, unless with some responsible guidance. And common sense on your part.
Not long after, we pushed forward to where the middle of the Pagudpud action is.
Our accommodations were already arranged, and it was in Barangay Saud, which was still a good distance away. But we felt it proper to swing by Bantay Abot Cave while we were in the area.
Bantay Abot Cave
In the region’s vernacular, “bantay” means “mountain” while “abot” means “hole”. Put those two together, and you have what seems like a crudely put together phrase that means “mountain with a hole”.
In this case, I’d have to say the phrase works, because that’s what Bantay Abot Cave literally is.
I love caves and enjoy going down and into them. Well, at least the caves that I’ve been to. And I didn’t know what I expected from this one. I consciously steered clear of reading blog posts and reviews on most of the places that we visited during this road trip, maybe because I wanted to see and experience them with a fresh eye, without preconceptions inevitably shaped by other previous travelers.
To be sure, this was not the cave I expected. Which was quite a disappointment.
At the same time, it was a pleasant surprise. Because just look what surrounds it!
I’m not sure if this is used by beach bums for… err, bumming around, because the beach is not exactly soft sand…. and the water is quite shallow, with sharp pebbles and stones underfoot. It was also slippery in some parts. But we did see some local children frolicking here and there.
Now let’s talk about Bantay Abot, the cave that is not a cave.
From the side of the road, you can look down on to the beach and spot the rock formation on the shore. It did look like a mountain, with vegetation on top, that hugs the divide between land and water.
And look, the mountain has a hole.
To aid visitors, a flight of hewn stone steps was carved on the side of the mountain, from the road to the beach. If you’re lucky, there won’t be a lot of other visitors before you, so you won’t have to queue and wait long while waiting your turn to go up into the hole.
There were several groups ahead of us, but not too many that we had to wait long.
I cannot help but picture the place if there’s a much thicker crowd. Definitely not fun at all.
So this is the extent of the cave. You won’t go down under the ground, or have to walk-crawl-slide your way through deep holes and crevices.
Instead, you’d just have to walk on a dirt-packed path up to the hole.
And the hole opens up to a view of the other side of the bay, Compared to the beach on the other side, the water here is a bit more aggressive, driving into the shore with more force, and slapping against the rocks.
Needless to say, we didn’t see much beachcombers there as well. I suppose it takes a certain degree of a daredevil streak to swim in these waters.
On the other side of the hole are piles and piles of huge rocks and boulders that looked like they were purposefully placed there for people with cameras.
Of course, it did not take too long before we were also clambering up these giant boulders so we can get better views… and have photos taken.
Contrary to what others say, standing atop this rock is not as precarious as it looks. Maybe because it has a flat and wide top, so you can stand there comfortably, and it’s a good distance from the water, so there is no long drop to be afraid of.
Of course, there’s still that fall into the rocks below. So I suggest you still exercise caution.
While this is definitely a far cry from my usual “cave” experience, I’d have to say this was quite unique.
I guess you can say this is nature and creation being geniuses, since this small mountain or hill was formed when an earthquake took place in the area. The shifting of the earth resulted into this mountain and, most importantly, the hole that led many to refer to it as a cave.
I suppose one of the things that made this visit memorable was the sound of the waves rolling in and hitting the rocks. It’s not a loud and rumbling sound, but the splashing certainly is very relaxing.
….Now I wonder what the place would look like in the middle of a storm. *shudder*
There are no admission or entrance fees to visit Bantay Abot. There is also a parking area by the side of the road for those with vehicles.
You’d spot many local children lingering in the area, offering their “services” to help take photos of you. And some of them are actually pretty handy with cameras and taking trick shots. Afterwards, feel free to give them a tip for their help.
We didn’t visit Bantay Abot when we came to Pagudpud all those years ago, so I’m glad that I was able to check it out this time around.
A visit to Pagudpud won’t be complete without a stop at Bantay Abot. If you’re going to stay at the Hannah’s Beach Resort or any of the other resorts and homestays close by in the Baloi area, then this is definitely on your way, so make sure to stop by even for a few minutes. Apparently, this is a favorite for photoshoots, particularly for prenups.
I can see why.