Abra is an enigma. For me at least. It’s ruggedness and mystery is something that an adventurer should discover. This province is just so promising that there are so many opportunities for discovery. But if you’re not so much into roughing it up, the municipalities of Bangued, Tayum, Pidigan and San Quintin are interesting enough for a leisurely tour. The good thing? These are just adjacent towns connected by good roads.
Check this top ten list of things to visit within and around Bangued.
1 St. James the Elder Cathedral
Originally founded by the Augustinians who built a church in the 19th century, only to be destroyed during World War II. The Seculars, who took over built the present structure after the war. It’s a quaint yet simple facade dominated with lines.
2 San Lorenzo Ruiz Shrine
Originally built during the turn of the 19th century, it’s a beautiful brick structure that is even older than the cathedral. It is the cemetery chapel of Bangued with twin belfries and a triangular pediment. It’s a heritage structure with interesting brick details on its facade, nave and especially the rounded rear portion. This is now the Shrine of San Lorenzo Ruiz.
3 Quintin Paredes ancestral house
It’s an imposing and beautiful green and cream colored ancestral house where the stateman and senate president of 1952, Quintin Paredes was born. The style is a renovated bahay na bato that still retains the original first level made of stone with a historical marker in front. It’s just near the Cathedral.
4 Cassamata Hill National Park and viewdeck
A sprawling 54 hectare green refuge where Victoria Park, a monument to the national hero Jose Rizal, an amphitheater and a marian statue is found. Cassamata Hill National Park offers a green refuge to the people of Bangued. It’s where many go up and down for the early morning and late after jogs. But the best reason to come up? Stunning views of Bangued below, the wide plains and rivers and a view of the Sleeping Beauty mountain beyond at the viewdeck. Climb up the marian statue’s second level for the best vistas!
5 Abraeniana Museum
If you want to get a glimpse of Abra, its history and culture and the different Itneg (or Tinguian) tribes that inhabit it, head to Abraeniana Museum at the Divine Word College. There are different artifacts, from religious antiques to Itneg baskets, regalia and daily utensils as well as things and events that trace the history of the province. A donation will help but get in touch first with the Abraeniana Institute just across the building.
6 Calaba Bridge
It’s one of the Philippine’s longest bridges stretching almost a kilometer with its steel trusses. And it’s also the best place to view and appreciate the ruggedness and beauty of Abra. A late afternoon visit is perfect as school children walk home while farmers, with their carabaos crossing the shallow water down below giving a memorable bucolic image.
7 Miki at Rico’s Pansitan
A pit stop for many travelers, Rico’s Pansitan is popular for its delicious, cheap yet filling miki. A big, full bowl with lots of noodles, meat, an egg and savory soup will just set you back P35 which can be a meal in itself! The noodles are handmade and fresh everyday while the soup is a delicious broth of boiled meat stewing for hours. The pansitan also offers traditional Ilocano fare.
8 Old Pidigan Church
I got mesmerized at its beautiful brick facade with its interesting details, its texture and feel of an era gone by. This was built in the 19th century by Fray Jose Foj when an earlier church burned down in 1881. It was finished in 1890. Currently, due to its sorry state, has been converted into a warehouse while a modern church has been built beside it.
9 Tangadan Tunnel and Gabriela Silang bust
You can’t miss the Tangadan Tunnel. After the signages that welcomes you to Abra, this is the first solid structure that will greet you. Tangadan Tunnel is just one of around four or five tunnels in the country that have been hewn from the mountain. Beside it is a park with a bust of Gabriela Silang bravely atop a horse.
10 Tayum Church
This is one of the reasons why you should visit Tayum! The Sta. Catalina de Alejandria Parish Church was built by the Seculars with their Itneg converts and is one of the country’s National Cultural Treasures. The church ground is wide and expansive and at the side are century old trees with cement tables and seats which is perfect for a late afternoon visit and just gaze at the beautiful architecture. An old convent, now unused is infront but outside the perimeter fence.
Although there is also the Don Teodoro Brillantes ancestral house and museum nearby, even if it’s a National Historical property, its in bad condition and the interior is in a bad state. Museum artifacts are no longer present.
GETTING THERE: From Manila are several buses like Partas and Dominion that travels to Bangued, the provincial capital. To go around Bangued and nearby towns, hire a tricyle if you don’t have your own vehicle.
WHERE TO STAY: Abra Grand Valley Hotel in Calaba is just along the highway, near Calaba Bridge. It has clean and cozy rooms with a restaurant downstairs and a swimming pool. The rooms at the back provide mountain views including the Sleeping Beauty mountain.
WHERE TO EAT: There are several fastfood and restaurants in Bangued as well as its varied pansitans. But you should check out Tinaâ€™s Refreshment Parlor and Restaurant for delicious yet affordable meals.
Thanx to Vice Governer Chari Bersamin for this opportunity, Edmar of edmaration.com as well as Elric who toured me around.