Up north, one finds an impressive showcase of some of the most pristine beaches in the country.
Ilocos Norte has a lot to offer from food and festivals, to sand and sea. Every year, tourists flock to various resorts and beach hotels in the province to escape the dreary, fast-paced city life — a contrast to the idyll, laidback nature of Ilocos.
Relatively obscure, except to some travel bloggers and enthusiasts who have fell in love with the island, Badoc Island is a place less frequented by Ilocos Norte visitors.
Although tiny and isolated compared to the more familiar Pagudpud, Badoc is a gem with its crystal clear water, powdery sand, and historical landmarks.
Badoc is the hometown of Juan Luna, a political activist whose art continues to resonate around the world. The town is called Badoc after badok-badok or Timothy-grass, which is abundant in this part of the region.
Getting there, the essentials
To get to Badoc Island, ride a bus bound for Laoag, and instruct the driver to drop you at Badoc Detachment or Badoc New Market.
From there, you can ride a tricycle to Barangay Pagsanahan, where boats are docked bound for the island. Tricycle fares range from P100-200.
Bangka fees are collected at the jump-off point, where they also provide small plastic bags for your phones and a bigger one for your leftovers and garbage. They also require you to sign a waiver, and to wear life vests.
The bangkas can accommodate a maximum of 6, boatman included, and the rental is pegged at P1,000 per boat. The ride to the the island takes no more than 25 minutes, and the experience is, in itself, wondrous.
The bangkas are tiny and the seawater easily slushes inside the boat. We finally understood why they gave us small plastic bags earlier: your gadgets can easily get wet on the ride to the island. Make sure you place your gadgets and other valuables in a waterproof bag or container.
When we alighted from the boat, we stepped onto very clear water. You can see rocks and shells through it. Standing on the shore, you can see the wide expanse of the beach rushing to your direction in gradually lightening shades of blue.
There are very limited sheds in the island, which they rent out at 300 pesos, inclusive of the fifty pesos environmental fee. You can opt to camp in any part of the beach, and just pay the environmental fee. Pack a mat or tent, if you plan to relax or catch up on reading. There is a small comfort room for sharing. It is advisable to relieve yourself before going to the island.
There is a small store there that sells soda and junk foods. You need to buy your snacks or meal before going to Badoc Island. There are karinderias, a convenience store, and some take-out establishments in Pagsanahan and the nearby areas.
An intimate venue
It takes about an hour or two to go around the island by foot. Photographers will find the island a joy to shoot in. The island has good lighting and structures ideal for framing. It can even be an intimate venue for prenuptial shoots.
The local guide said that even during peak season, there aren't that many tourists in Badoc Island.
There is a hill you can climb (roughly an hour's climb) and the view is amazing. We did not get to the summit for fear of snakes. The tour guide said that they do not advise visitors to trek since they discovered three snakes in the trail some weeks ago.
This is a great place to take your GoPro or underwater camera for a spin. Note, though, that there are no swimming amenities in the island aside from the life vest given at the jump-off area. It's best to bring your own snorkeling gear to make the most of the crystal clear water and the sea creatures thriving down under.
Only few decide to camp in the beach overnight. If you are there for the day only, the boats will fetch you by pm.
To cap off an amazing trip, you can circumnavigate the island by boat for an additional P200. It takes around 30 minutes to do this, but the sunset and breeze are reasons enough to do it.
Badoc Island is a breathtaking and relaxing alternative to other beaches in Ilocos Norte.
As it is in the gateway of the province, it is more accessible than the other beaches on the edge of the North. It is one of the many hidden gems in the Philippines worthy of visit and experience. – Rappler.com
Ivan Jim Layugan is based in Baguio City. He teaches literature and research in the University of Baguio. He blogs at www.iandscapes.com.