A landlocked province with a rich history and untouched natural beauty make Abra an extraordinary destination. Yet it’s so underrated and still considered as an off-the-beat attraction. And as for personal experience, it’s very elusive.
It’s time to hit the road again as we reach the last leg of our trip. Apayao and Abra provinces are side-by-side, but the road that connects them was closed, and the only way was to go the north loop. None of us had done it before, though. All we knew was we had to go down to Cagayan then to the northernmost tip of Luzon to crossover to Ilocandia then to Abra. Roughly 375 kilometers to cover before another storm closes in, Abra here we come.
We reached the capital town of Bangued, around 10 in the evening, time to catch some sleep at our lovely hotel. At the break of dawn, picturesque sloping hills unfolded, apparently, it’s the Sleeping beauty mountain and best viewed at the hotel balcony. Those hills are not only beautiful but, also historic as revolutionaries, held refuge in its rugged ridges.
The highest point in town, Victoria Park, was our first stop of the day. It’s nestled on top of Cassamata Hill National Park right in the heart of Bangued. Panoramic views of the town, Abra river, and mountain ranges of the Cordilleras and Ilocandia await atop of the park. Then, quick stop at the Gabriela Carino Silang Monument and Tadangan Tunnel, both are popular landmarks of the province. We then lingered a little at the river banks of Abra river before lunch.
If there’s one activity I always look forward to on this trip, fine on all trips, it’s eating, and Abra delivered. Abreños sure knows the best way to cook pork. Their version of Bagnet Iloco or Lechon Kawali in Tagalog boasts a crispier skin.
We then made it to a couple of churches, the Shrine of San Lorenzo Ruiz and Sta. Catalina de Alejandria Parish Church. And then to the OTOP Center or One Town One Product center for their main produce, bamboo craft & furnishings before hitting the road en route to Baguio city to cap off our Cordillera trip. It had been my most adventurous couple of weeks in 2015, perhaps, of my life.
Back to the future
Back on the road again to catch a bus that leaves at midnight to arrive in Baguio just in time for the Cordillera Culinary Journey trip departure. I made it in Baguio with ample time for coffee, a bit of stretching, and short talks with my old and new trip mates. While waiting for our rides, we got word that the Abra leg would be canceled due to unfortunate events linked to local politics. It’s a long-overdue kind of conflict in the province, which adds to its off-the-beaten reputation. I guess a thorny Lechon stuffing was indeed thorny to get to.
Abreños has an eccentric twist on their Lechon or roasted pig. They use an herb that resembles a succulent shrub that abundantly grows in the region. Karimbuaya, as it’s locally called, its leaves are chopped thinly together with a handful of garlic, salt, and pepper, then stuffed in the hollow stomach of the pig and roasted to golden brown goodness. As to what it tastes like, I still have to find that out. Not to mention other indigenous dishes of the Itneg or the Tinggian cultural community.
The foods in this province weren’t the only ones that were rugged, but also it’s landscapes. It’s cascading waterfalls, slippery slopes, and rock formations are somewhat seasonal for public viewing. Thorny and seasonal in 2018, got it!
There’s something about those rugged ridges and untouched landscapes that speak to me. The idea of uncovering such beauty in the ordinary always crosses my mind, all in which Abra offers. Yet even a well-organized trip could face such roughness at times. Part of the thrill, I guess. A smooth paved road could go a long way though. Or perhaps it’s in the works, as they open up the province with festivity like the Abrenian Kawayan Festival. But it’s a two-way street, respect and responsibility are both warranted from visitors. With all of that, I’m still looking forward to the food, the cultural immersion, and nature trippings in Abra soon!
Disclaimer: The trips mentioned were sponsored by the Department of Tourism Cordillera Region. All views and opinions are my own.