When you think of tourist destinations in the Philippines, Abra is not often at the top of most traveler’s bucketlists. In fact, it remains one of the least visited provinces in the country. For outsiders, there’s still an air of mystery surrounding the place. Like a lot of provinces in Mindanao, Abra has a reputation for being “unsafe” mostly because of political wars and election-related violence in the past.
I was glad to see a different side of the province than what is usually portrayed in mainstream media. The province is home to many beautiful natural attractions and towns where families reside peacefully. There’s a lot yet to discover in this underrated province in the North.
WHERE EXACTLY IS ABRA:
Abra is a landlocked province in the Cordillera Administrative Region in the Philippines. The province is bordered by Ilocos Norte on the northwest, Apayao on the northeast, Kalinga on the mid-east, Mountain Province on the southeast, and Ilocos Sur on the southwest.
HOW TO GET THERE:
(Detailed information on how to get there provided by George Anthony Lalin)
By private vehicle:
- For those travelling in private vehicles, Bangued is 408 kilometers from Rizal Park or Kilometer Zero.
- It is a 7-8 hour drive via NLEX, SCTEX, TPLEX and the Manila North Road.
- Turn right at the Manila North Road and Abra-Ilocos Sur junction 4 kilometers after Narvacan town proper in Ilocos Sur, to head towards Tangadan Welcome Tunnel, the gateway to Abra.
- Other entry/exit points are the Abra-Kalinga Road in the east which traverses from the town of Malibcong, Abra to Balbalan, Kalinga and, Abra-Ilocos Norte Road in the west which passes through the towns of Danglas, Abra and Nueva Era, Ilocos Norte. Public transportation on these highways are not yet available.
By public transportation:
- From Metro Manila, there are three bus companies plying the Manila/Cubao/Pasay-Bangued route, namely Partas Bus Company, Viron Transit and Dominion Bus Lines.
- A typical bus trip from the country’s capital, Manila, lasts about 9 to 10 hours.
- Fare is about P600.00. All bus terminals are located in the capital town of Bangued.
Tricycles are the main mode of transportation within Bangued and adjacent localities. The minimum fare is P10.00. Going to other municipalities would require a jeepney ride. Terminals of all passenger jeepneys are likewise stationed in Bangued. Upland travels have only one trip per day, whereas the lowland trips go by the hour.
A lot of the more interesting sights in Abra require long land travel to get to, so it’s best to have your own vehicle. Some areas in Tineg can only be navigated by dirt bikes or 4 x 4 vehicles or military trucks because of the terrain. If you’re just going to stick to the capital Bangued and nearby towns, you can hire a tricycle or habal-habal motorcycle taxi to take you around.
Some destinations are located far-flung areas without commercial accommodations and regular public transportation. It’s best to coordinate with the tourism office of Abra at the Provincial Capitol in Bangued before your visit.
WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO DO IN ABRA:
Piwek Rock Formations
Piwek Rock Formations is a scenic natural rock formation in a river in Tineg. Getting here and back involved a rough jeepney ride, river crossing, hiking and scrambling down the rock surfaces. The whole place resembles Tinipak River in Daraitan, Minalungao in Nueva Ecija, and Siitan River in Quirino. It’s a beautiful natural spot. Visiting this was the highlight of our trip to Abra.
NOTE: As of now, there’s no entrance/environmental fee to visit the Piwek Rock Formations. However, the area is not accessible to regular vehicles. Getting here requires renting a 4×4 jeepney (30 pax max): P4,000. Guide fee (Piwek): P200/5pax. Allot a whole day for your visit.
Apao Rolling Hills
On our way back from Piwek Rock Formations in Tineg, we stopped along the rough road in the mountainous area of Apao to see this view. The lookout point along the road offers a dramatic landscape of rolling hills. Because of the high elevation, it can get really cold and foggy here.
Kaparkan Falls (NOTE: closed until August 2017)
One of the rising attractions in Abra (made popular by the TV show Byahe ni Drew) is Kaparkan Falls (also known as Mulawin Falls), a terraced waterfall in the interiors of Tineg. During our visit in late November 2016, the road going there was under construction and we were told that the park would not reopen until August 2017. To fully appreciate the falls, you’ll want to schedule your visit during the rainy season, because according to locals, there’s not much to see during the dry season from November to May.
#FallsOfTheWeek #25 Kaparkan (“Mulawin”) Falls – cascades through the forest. @ Tineg, Abra, Philippines ________________________________________________ • We have an upcoming trip going to this awesome waterfall. PM us for inquiries or Call/Text 09272638273 / 09166267150 / (02)833-3580z Follow @phfirstofficial #phfirst #travel #abra #north #luzon #cordilleras #car #waterfalls #nature #scenic #adventure #wanderlust #the_ph #earthporn #hidden #philippines
As a substitute to Kaparkan Falls, we visited Pagting Falls in Bangued, Abra. Getting here required a pleasant hike through rural communities following a riverbed before we reached the main two-tiered waterfall with a deep basin where we took a dip. We passed a lot of dry waterfalls on the way here. I can imagine the whole place would look a lot more impressive during the rainy season. The fun part is scrambling on the side of the falls to get to the upper tier.
Calaba Bridge is a 900-meter long modular bridge spanning the Abra River. It’s said to be one of the Philippine’s longest bridges, since it stretches almost a kilometer. From the bridge, you can get a great view of the rugged countryside. You can also see the Sleeping Beauty mountain from here. Before the bridge was built, locals had to use a ferry to cross the river, which could be quite dangerous during the rainy season.
Don Mariano Marcos Bridge
The Don Mariano Marcos Bridge is another steel bridge located along the Abra-Kalinga National Road between the boundaries of Tayum, Langangilang and Dolores in Abra. It is said to be the third longest bridge in the country.
The most accessible and photographed landmark in Abra is the Tangadan Tunnel, which serves a welcome arch to the province. There’s a seal of the province above the 40-meter long tunnel, which goes through the mountain along the Abra-Ilocos Sur National Road.
Gabriela Silang Shrine
Right next to the Tangadan Tunnel is a small park with a statue of Gabriela Silang riding a horse. Gabriela Silang is a heroine of the Philippine revolution against Spain, who happens to be a native of Abra.
WHERE TO STAY IN ABRA:
We stayed in Abrassi Hotel & Restaurant in Tayum near Bangued, which offers basic rooms as well as 24/7 Videoke rooms. The hotel is located along the highway and provides secure parking for vehicles. Rooms come with air conditioning, small desk and basic but private restrooms. For inquiries, contact Ms. Miriam Carino.
Other bloggers recommend Abra Valley Grand Hotel in Bangued.
Other places to stay in Abra:
- ORIGINES HOTEL & RESTAURANT – Calaba, Bangued
- ADTEMPCO HOTEL – Zone V, Bangued
- OVAL ERA HOTEL – Zone V, Bangued
- ABRA VALLEY GRAND HOTEL – Calaba, Bangued
- HOLLANDIA HOMESTAY – Calaba, Bangued
- TERRENCE HILL RESORT – Poblacion, Bucay
WHAT / WHERE TO EAT IN ABRA:
Abrenian cuisine is similar to a lot of the dishes in the North, including some associated with the Ilocos region. One of the most unique dishes to the province is Abra Miki, a Filipino noodle soup dish made of miki noodles cooked in a pork broth. It’s often served with a hard boiled egg, shredded pork and bits of chicharon. The soup gets its orange color from annato seeds (atsuete). It’s similar to the Ilocos Miki, but the soup is not as thick as that of Ilocos variant.
Warek-Warek is the local version of dinakdakan, an Ilocano dish made from pork’s liver, tail, tongue, ears and jaws that is seasoned with mayonnaise or pig’s brain.
On the way home, we stopped to buy packs of Abra Longanisa or native sausages. The Abrenian variant is very garlicky and savory.
Other specialties of the province include Pinakbet with Chicharon toppings, Abra Chicharon (Dried bagnet), Abra Lechon stuffed with karimbuaya (soro-soro leaves), Dinaldalem (Abra Igado), Dinardaraan, Lomo-lomo, Abra Sinanglao, Imbaliktad (Beef Kilawen) and Dinengdeng/Inabraw.
Restaurants in Abra:
- Rooftop Grill & Chill – Zone V, Bangued
- Kubo Ni Zek – Poblacion, Bucay
- Doming’s Pansitan – Patucannay, Bangued
- Mikimoto Pansitan – Zone III, Bangued
- Putar Pansitan – Zone I, Bangued
- MK4 Pansitan – Zone III, Bangued
- Tina’s Refreshment – Zone I, Bangued
- Mc Donald’s – Bangued Town Plaza
- Jollibee – Bangued Town Plaza
- Chowking – Bangued Town Plaza
- Mang Inasal – Bangued Town Plaza
- Struts Art Café – Zone II, Bangued
- Noah J’s Pizzeria – Zone VI, Bangued
- Mayana’s Restaurant – Patiao, Penarrubia
- Greenfields Restaurant – San Ramon, Manabo
- Calaba Fiesta Restaurant – Calaba, Bangued
I joined as a solo traveler in an open trip organized by PH First, an accredited travel agency managed by husband and wife team Ralph and Karla Yadao. Interestingly, the couple met when Karla joined an open trip organized by Ralph. They’re now married and co-managing the tour company. 🙂 For inquiries, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their Facebook page: PH First.
These are just the highlights of my visit to Abra, focusing on the unspoiled natural attractions. I know there are lots of other more accessible tourist spots in Bangued including churches, museums and eco-parks. I look forward to revisiting Abra next year to visit Kaparkan Falls (and hopefully visit Apayao as well). Thank you to PH First for organizing this open trip!
For a comprehensive guide of other attractions in Abra, check out this helpful post by Vigan-based travel blogger Edmar Guquib, who has covered Abra extensively: ABRA: 65 Attractions and Must-See Destinations