Monday, February 24, 2014

PROVINCE OF ABRA: PHILIPPINES' BEST KEPT SECRET


When a province in the Philippines hides from the call of tourism and with only a few eager to discover it, that doesn't mean it should be dreaded, tagged as a ghost town or a war zone.

The landlocked province of Abra has received negative notions as a tourist destination.  Absolutely, our local media takes a great part on this publicity with reports on unstable political conditions.  But it's time to change our perspective to never equate a declared election hot spot with unsafe travel destination.

Truly, I was surprised of what the province has to offer beaming with a distinct character ready to be unveiled to an open-minded visitor, thrill seeker and a nature lover.

Curious of the Abra province? Join me as we wander on my first meet-up with the province.


Bangued is the capital of the province of Abra and this shall be the gateway in discovering the province.


Getting There

Travel time from Manila to Abra is eight (8) hours on a land trip.  The trip is serviced by the following bus lines:

Partas Bus Lines (Bangued to Manila, Baguio);
Dominion Bus Lines (Bangued to Manila, Baguio);
Philippine Rabbit (Bangued to Manila, Baguio);
Sambrano Bus Lines (Bangued to Baguio);
Viron Bus Lines (Bangued to Manila); BBL Transit (Bangued to Baguio, Vigan, Laoag); and Esonice Bus Lines (Bangued to Vigan, Tuguegarao).

In our case, we took the Dominion Bus Lines from Manila with terminal at Cubao, along EDSA, Quezon City.

After that long and winding road amidst the cliff and surrounding luscious mountains, we arrived at Bangued, Abra.

As soon as we arrived at the bus terminal, we were greeted by our gracious host, a fellow Taclobanon who now resides in Abra.  

The mode of transportation within the town proper is through a motorcycle with a noticeable "Peace for Abra" sticker, as if consoling us and assuring that security issues for travelers should be the least of our concern.



Unlike other cities, where jeepneys are the common mode of transportation within the vicinity, commuting via jeepneys in Abra is for long-distance travels, thus, the overload and cramped top-loading, which is a common scenario in the mountains of northern Luzon.







Abra Cuisine

There's no better way to understand culture than to taste the culinary masterpiece of a given place.  We were welcomed by a feast on a dining table as the first meal of the day.  The Abrenian cuisine is truly simple yet grand in taste and presentation.  Mouth-watering indeed.

Lechon de Abra
I particularly liked how suckling pig (lechon) in Abra was prepared.  It is quite similar to the lechon in Tacloban City, stuffed with thinly sliced leaves and seasoned with plenty of chopped garlic, salt and pepper. I would really love to go back to Abra and treat myself to more lechon on whatever meal of the day, the meat does no traces of cholesterol and the crispy skin is unforgettable.   
    



Abra has also its own version of known rice cakes for dessert.  A local delicacy worthy of gastronomic experience.


We were fortunate to have tasted sinuman and patupat.  Honestly, I was having a hard time identifying which one is which as both are named the same in our province and that is  -suman.  


sinuman in Abra
But once tasted, there is indeed a difference, the triangular shaped rice cake is the sinuman which tastes like the ordinary suman less the latik as served on various parts of the country.

On the other hand, the one best served with muscovado sugar is the patupat, a must-try local delicacy of the province of Abra.
Patupat
For vegetable lovers, Abra has something in store for you as well.

Diningding
The northern mountainous parts of the Philippines is known for large tracts of land dedicated to farms of various vegetables and crops.  

It is no wonder that most provinces of the north have the same set of dishes served yet of unique taste and ingredients.  Diningding and sinanglaw for instance are likewise served in Ilocos Region and other parts of Luzon, but Abra has a different way of presenting it.

Sinanglaw
One realization I had when travelling around the Philippines and getting a taste of each province' culinary masterpiece is that there are similarities in set of dish served yet the names vary.  For instance, the kare kare known to locals of Marinduque is actually dinuguan as we know and not to be mistaken with the kare kare that we are familiar with.  In Abra, the locals boast of chicharron which should be tried by every visitor. And what do you know of chicharron?  It's not what you're thinking of. Chicharron in Abra is the deep fried pork, the Ilokano bagnet as popularly known or the lechon kawali in Tagalog.


And of course, one should not leave Abra without a taste of the sumptuous chicken/beef mami.  


Mami is a noodle soup prepared on almost every corner of the Philippine streets.  But there is just something special with the one prepared in the province of Abra.





Our host treated us to one of the eateries named Mik Yhan situated along the highway, which they proclaim serves the best commercial mami in town.  And indeed it does.

I am definitely looking forward to a home-made mami the next time I visit Abra.  Truly, this is one cuisine associated with the province of Abra.



Nighttime came and so does the mandatory drinking spree.

The last time I got dizzy and had a terrible hangover for a lambanog (coconut whisky) was during my Maniwaya Island, Marinduque holy week vacation.

This time around, with only a few shot glasses of Abra's sugarcane wine, basi, I was temporarily disoriented from the world.  The spirit of alcohol possessed me.  I was drunk in an instant.

ipon for "pulutan"
caliente for pulutan
 Tourist Attractions



After the long and winding road journey towards the Philippines' best kept secret destination, Abra, a 40-meter tunnel greets every visitor.  This is situated along the Abra-Ilocos Sur national road.

There are superstitious beliefs that when one passes the tunnel, every visitor should yell and if possible state your name.  If you ask me what this is for?  I don't know I am not in the position to answer such question. Thus, just obey and there's no harm in doing so.


This is known as Tangadan Tunnel.  Unlike other provinces in the country where an arch serves as a welcome marker, the tunnel serves such purpose for the province of Abra.


The Province also has a share in the history of the country.  Beside the tunnel is the Gabriela Silang Monument, built in honor of Gabriela Silang, the "Joan of Arc" of Ilocos.  Gabriela Silang led the Ilocanos' resistance against the Spaniards in 1763 after her husband Diego Silang was treacherously shot of the same year.  Gabriela Silang is a daughter of the province of Abra.


For simply basking under the sun, swimming and other leisurely activities such as fishing, the Lusuac Spring Resort of Lagayan, Abra, is a perfect treat.

Travelling time from Bangued, Abra takes one to one and a half hour, traversing the Abra-Ilocos Norte Road and Lapaz-Lagayan Provincial Road.

The clear waters of the spring are indeed inviting for a dip and expected to provide a therapeutic effect.



The Lusuac Dam is likewise noted to be a gravity irrigation dam.

The cool waters that flows in the spring would definitely refresh the weary bodies of travelers.  Apart from being a well-landscaped resort, it is a good place to hold picnics and bonding with family and friends.

The cool breeze of the air and the continued swaying of the canopy of trees that surrounds the swimming area is worth the experience.


The Province of Abra is known for loom-weavers.  We particularly visited the loom weaving village of the municipality of La Paz.

We were greeted by the owner of Leila's Loomweaving, one of the popular loom weavers of the province whose shop is situated in a vast mango plantation.

Loom weaving is one of the cottage industries in the province which skill has been passed from one generation to another.  Thus, a part of every family's business and a major source of their livelihood.

The process of loom weaving has been demonstrated to us. And indeed it takes a skilled, keen and intricate hands to be able to hone the art of loom weaving.

A simple mistake would cost a lot. The process is indeed extraordinary which produces world-class fabrics.





Spinning the yarn with the use of an ordinary wheel is the commencement of this tedious loom weaving process.

It was truly remarkable that no words can explain how skilled they are.

The weaving center is likewise a home to century old looms.  It is a family business which existed for several generations and has been the constant source of livelihood for mothers in the village.



 Aling Naty is an icon in the weaving community.  We are fortunate to have met the woman behind the continued existence of the loom weaving industry.

Since the weavers of this shop are mothers of this unassuming village, Aling Naty has empowered these women to produce an additional income for the family.

A humble woman with humble beginnings is what makes Aling Naty an inspiration.

Aling Naty and Lakwatserong Tsinelas

Every visitor of Abra should indeed pay a visit to Aling Naty and the loom weaving village of the municipality of La Paz.  Thank you so much for the souvenir fabrics and the mangoes!

Calaba Bridge
One of the largest river systems in the Philippines is the Abra river and the Calaba Bridge is a major infrastructure project that spans the said river measuring 900m.  It connects the municipality of La Paz to the capital of Abra, Bangued.  As we traverse the said bridge, noticeable are the huts underneath and the sounds of varied belting tunes on a karaoke.  




The huts underneath the bridge is another alternative for a picnic session and bonding with family and friends providing the panoramic view of the Calaba Bridge and the Abra river.

We stayed for a few minutes at one of the huts to breathe fresh air and observe the locals swim on the cool and clear waters.  And it was truly relaxing to commune with nature.



The Province of Abra lacks a number of visitors, thus, there are no usual ref magnets and key chains in store.  But the products of its cottage industries, from furnitures, sugarcane wines and loom weaved fabrics are enough souvenirs to serve as pasalubong to loved ones.

Along the national highway, the showroom of Abra products is nowhere to be missed.




Anyone in Bangued should never miss the Victoria Park, overlooking the town and the neighboring municipalities.  We were able to visit the park at night.  And contrary to security issues being circulated, there is nothing to be afraid of indeed.  There were locals spending the night at the park, some were having drinking sprees with friends, bonding with family and others simply dating.

Then the mandatory wandering of the town plaza began and it was around 8 in the evening.  We were scheduled to be on board the last trip to Manila via the Dominion bus at around 1030 PM, thus, we were left with a few more minutes to explore.

The town plaza was indeed full of locals enjoying the cool breeze of the town and is like any other town in the country, full of activities and bum loiterers.

A typical rural life indeed.

This is just the first of the many intended visit to the Province of Abra.  Truly, this is Philippines' best kept secret destination.  Aside from the cultural, historical and natural wonders that it offers, the people of Abra are likewise accommodating and truly hospitable, which makes the visit truly memorable.

For this special trip and discovery with no single centavo shelled out, we are truly grateful to our gracious host, the Borlas and Bernardez family of Bangued, Abra.

For making us instant ambassadors in a quest to tell the world how beautiful the province of Abra is, thank you so much!







33 comments :

  1. haha nice article kuya:) -pinsan po ako ni kuya jr:)

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  2. WOW...WOW!!!...Excellent virtual tour of our birthplace!....Thanks!!!...it brought great memories during my childhood experiences. I've been away from Sinapangan, Bangued, Abra for over 40 years and have not gone back home....it will be a refreshing and memorable experience to visit one of these days. The Lord has been good to Bangued, Abra and its other towns. May the Lord continue to bless everyone. THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR SHARING!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. your birthplace is an interesting province. more discoveries to be made. thanks for reading as well!

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  3. Great job Panyero. Abra is one province I have not yet visited because of security issues before but this post made me think of going there finally. Lechon de Abra is a destination in itself so I hope I cud have one also when I go there :)

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    Replies
    1. yup you should go visit. this is a nice province and a lot of interesting finds.

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  4. Nice one.bangued at la paz lng ang napuntahan mo dapat pumunta k rin sa tineg,budabosa area.dolores (libtec cave).lagangilang,tayum.at marami pang iba.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Pansin ko lng,2 bayan lng nmn napasyalan mo sa abra.bangued at la paz.dpat natry mo rin pumunta sa libtec dolores may cave dun.sa bumagcat tayum may bamboo craft din dun.at d mo tuloy nkita ung don mariano marcos bridge,mas mahaba un sa calaba bridge.by the way salamat sa pagbisita sa aming bayan.naway bumalik ka sa darating pang panahon.mabuhay anf god bless...

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    Replies
    1. hi sir! thanks for dropping by. yes i was just able to visit two municipalities due to time constraints but i'll definitely be back for more discovery of the province.

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  6. after how many years may blog nrin about ABRA which is soothing to people's ears and eyes :) proud ABRENIAN here :) thank you po sa article kuya :) -skulmate ako ni agnelli haha sbi ko na nga ba prang nkuhanan xa sa isa sa mga pix nyu hehe.. visit again sometime for the miki or rather our local mami hehe :)

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  7. Mark: thanks for your blogs; it serves as an inspiration to people like me who comes from Abra (San Juan) north of Bangued. The place is a hidden area not very much known; however, thank you for sharing your visit. I'm proud to be Abrenian. Planning to have a reunion with childhood friends sometime in 2015. ACeS

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  8. A little correction. Patupat is the triangular rice cake while the long one is the sinuman.

    Thanks for visiting our beautiful abode. Please come again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. as well as the beef mami. it is called pansit miki :)

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  9. Our family is going to have a reunion this summer and I was looking for some places in Abra to have our tour. Passed by this blog and I just wanna say this is a great feature of Abra. This is my mom's province (she's from Lagangilang). Been there many times and it definitely is an interesting and beautiful place. Good job for the "advertisement" of this province. I hope people will be educated. :) - Jodi

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  10. Thank you for visiting our province! Hope you come back again to discover other gems in Abra... :-)

    ReplyDelete
  11. I like the valuable information you provide in your articles.
    I'll bookmark your blog and check again here frequently.
    I am quite certain I will learn lots of new stuff right here!
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    ReplyDelete
  12. I'm extremely impressed with your riting skills and also with the layout oon your weblog.
    Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself?
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    ReplyDelete
  13. Great info. Lucky me I ran across your site
    by accident (stumbleupon). I have saved it for later!



    Here is my homepage IWC

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  14. Very nice. Thanks for your write up about my province.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi,

    Please allow me to add your site to my favorite index blog promoting informative sites for additional SEO exposure all for free. My priority are Abra related.

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    ReplyDelete
  16. Great! Thank you for sharing! :). Who would ever know that Abra has so much to offer.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Great! Thank you for sharing! :). Who would ever know that Abra has so much to offer.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thank you for this article. it made me miss Abra specially the food.
    I am just confused, in Abra dinuguan is dinuguan (dinardaraan), kare kare is kare kare. :) the sliced leaves stuffing in the lechon is karimbuaya :) miss this a lot :)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thanks for uplifting the Province of Abra!
    You should have tried Cascaron, it's one of the Best Native Delicacies in Abra.
    God bless!

    ReplyDelete
  20. HI KUYA MAY PROJECT PO KAMI GAGAWA NG BLOG. NEED KO PO NG ADVICE. TY
    BTW IM FROM ABRA

    ReplyDelete
  21. I spend almost my life in Abra but I never ever given the chance to visit these wonderful places. It was heartbreaking that I visited and roamed around US first before my hometown. But one day will come that I will visit those places when I get home.. hope soon

    ReplyDelete
  22. I spend almost my life in Abra but I never ever given the chance to visit these wonderful places. It was heartbreaking that I visited and roamed around US first before my hometown. But one day will come that I will visit those places when I get home.. hope soon

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hi! Thank you for this article. Great help. I just wanted to ask kung meron kang maire-recommend na van-for-hire sa Abra for touring around the place? Balak din kasi namin ng friends ko na mag-DIY na lang instead na kumuha ng tour packages. Hope you could reply. Here's my email: skye_khaeser101@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete

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