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Adventure in Adams, Ilocos Norte

June 22, 2011

Nestled deep in the mountains, surrounded by forests, streams and rice fields, Adams Village in Ilocos Norte is just one of those places that remind you of the rural town that most RPG heroes start their adventure from.

The community hidden from the world has all the elements of your basic mountain town – rolling hills, narrow dirt trails you can only navigate on foot, rickety bridges hanging over rivers, as well as the occasional wild beast blocking the path.

There are two paths to get to Anuplig Falls – a longer safer route that involves a river crossing, and a shorter one that cuts across one section of the mountain that involves a steep climb and descent using tree branches and loose rocks as handholds. The hike can take 1.5-2 hours depending on your speed.

The 25-foot high natural waterfall is framed on either side by lush forests and has two cascading fall basins. According to locals, Adams actually has several other waterfalls but its Anuplig that people really come to visit. The water here flows down to Bolo River and out to the China Sea.

While at Anuplig falls, we met Mang Juan Aguda, a 75-year native Ilocano who was looking for a plant called bilagot (similar to gabi) to eat for lunch. The plant apparently grows near the river, and is the only thing that he eats (though he added that he would eat chicken when available).

Despite the dialect barrier (none of us could understand native Ilocano), he gamely answered a barrage of questions about his livelihood (he used to be a farmer), education (he finished grade 2 but put his children through high school), health (he doesn’t get sick much except for “sakit ng matanda“) and family life (he has 5 children) translated by a local guide. When asked, Mang Juan said he believes in both modern medicine and albularyos (faith healers), but believes that albularyos are more effective. It was interesting chatting with him, and gave us a perspective on local life.
When we got back from the falls, the riverside lunch prepared for us was the most adventurous meal of the trip. Some of the tamer dishes included suahe (freshwater shrimps), igado (a saucy meat and liver dish), assorted organically grown vegetables, fern salad and mountain rice.

There was also tukak (deep-fried frogs), bu-os (boiled fire ant eggs) and palos (stewed freshwater eel). Everything was fresh and delicious, including the fried frogs which had surprisingly tender meat.

While the rest of the group was still eating, I took a stroll along the riverside where two kids were playing on the water using inner tubes as life savers. Behind them, motorcycles drove past a long hanging bridge while locals blared out tunes in a native hut that served as the community’s videoke house. If you live in the urban jungle of Manila, times like these remind you why it’s so great to live in the Philippines.

Our last stop at Adams was a tiny wooden cottage in the mountains where we got to taste several varieties of local wine such as basi (a liquor made from fermented sugarcane), Tapuey (rice wine), Bugnay (wild blackberries wine), and other flavors like pineapple and passion fruit.

The Bugnay wine was particularly good, which explains why several people to took more than one shot, leaving most of us cheerful during the ride back on the dump truck to the junction.

Just like the hour-long ride going down to the village, on the way back, people were clutching on to the sides of the dump truck or to other people who had a better grip to keep their balance. Every so often, someone would shout “ulo, ulo!” warning everyone to duck to avoid getting smacked in the face by low-hanging branches.

Like all epic adventures, this trip didn’t come without a few battle scars. By the end of the journey, someone had wounded their feet during the hike, another twisted an ankle trying to climb the falls, and another collapsed during the wine tasting session from severe muscle cramps. One journalist even suffered a severe allergy attack from the ant eggs and had to be rushed to a hospital for an injection on our way to Laoag.

Despite everything that happened, a lot of people still said they found this trip the most memorable of the Lakbay Norte tour when we got together a few months later for a reunion. Though it may not be the easiest place to reach, going there was a great adventure. In my book, I think we all earned some pretty good travel EXP points.

Trivia and travel tips on Adams Village, Ilocos Norte:

  • Adams has 18 waterfalls and 10 hanging bridges that you will not be able to visit in just one day. Visitors can opt to home-stay at the sparsely populated town proper if they plan to stay overnight or longer.
  • Another point of interest in Adams is “Lover’s Peak” from where visitors can get a 360-degree view of the Tinamburan mountain ranges. This point is great for sunrise and sunset shots.
  • According to SeaAir’s InFlight Magazine, visitors can enjoy kayaking along the 5-km stretch of Bolo River surrounded by virgin forests.
  • A 45-minute motorcycle ride from Pagudpud to Adams costs about P100-250 per person. Reaching the town proper in Adams, you can walk to the Bolo River, which overlooks Mt. Palemlem, the highest peak in Ilocos Norte. (Source: SeaAir)
  • Tripsiders says that potential visitors should first pass the police station in Adams to log-in for security purposes. Because of the long, bumpy ride, ordinary cars may have a hard time handling the road depending on the weather, while 4×4 vehicles can handle the trail easily.
  • Campers can also opt to stay the night in the vicinity of Anuplig falls as long as the weather is good.
  • Prior to 1918, Adams was made into a reservation for cultural minorities. To live deep in forest bed was their forefather’s choice to possess properties, which they call their own for a living and be able to support their families. (Source:

Next up: Ilocos Norte Convention Center

6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 23, 2011 11:52 am

    Kara, this is quite an experience, especially the food and bugnay. But more than that, I’m glad you also talked to some of the locals there. Makes traveling to a place even more worth it.

    • June 24, 2011 1:01 am

      hi cedric, thanks for dropping by. i agree that talking to locals and enjoying the place makes travel more interesting. too often we get caught up in posing in front of landmarks and sights just to show that we’ve been to a place instead of highlighting the place 🙂


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