Raw, rugged and riddled with natural attractions, Abra is on my top list of unexplored destinations in the Philippines. While you won’t find any beaches here, its bountiful pastoral land, forest-fringed mountains, emerald-green rivers and Instagram-worthy waterfalls will make you forget its lack of sand and sea.
When I visited Abra 5 years ago, my friend and I did not know where to go. I vaguely remember that although there were bits and pieces of information about Abra, it was mostly about its capital, Bangued.
Recently, Marcos and I decided to visit Abra after our adventures in Narvacan, Ilocos Sur. We spent 5 days exploring Abra, yet still, it was not enough, me thinks this province has so much potential and it’s a shame that I only got to see it now. So in case you are wondering what places to see and what to do in Abra, here’s my ABRA TRAVEL GUIDE to help you plan your trip this 2017.
WHERE IS ABRA?
Abra is part of The Cordillera Region in Luzon, fringed by the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Mountain Province, Apayao and Kalinga. Although it’s believed that the original settlers of Abra are the Ifugaos and Bontocs, they eventually moved to the Mountain Province leaving the settlement to the Tingguins.
Based on anecdotes, even before the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines, Abra is already a thriving community engaged in agriculture, production and trade with other oriental countries like China. Evidence of pre-colonial trades include the excavated antique porcelain jars and gongs in Abra. In 1898, the Augustinian friars established Bangued as the capital of Abra. During the Spanish colonization, guerilla organizations were formed to resist their occupation.
One of the revolutionary leaders to resist Spanish occupation was Gabriela Silang, wife of Diego Silang, who moved to Abra to hide in his uncle’s house. If you happen to pass by at Tangadan Tunnel, there is a small park there with her statue riding a horse. Tourists can also get a glimpse of the Gabriela Silang Fine Arts Gallery in their ancestral house in Tayum, along with impressive collections of paintings, sculptures, ceramics, artifacts and furniture owned by his relative, the retired Ambassador Rosario Carino.
HOW TO GO TO ABRA
MANILA TO ABRA
How to get to Manila from Abra? From Manila, Abra is roughly 8 hours by bus. Partas, Dominion and Viron Bus have daily trips to Bangued, Abra from Manila. I took Partas Bus from their bus station in Cubao at around 8:00 PM and I arrived around 4:00 AM in Bangued town. Air-conditioned bus fare is PHP 665 / USD 13.41 and travel time is approximately 8 hours.
VIGAN TO ABRA
From Vigan, Ilocos Sur you can also go to Abra by bus. Take a bus that will pass by the town of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur. Tell the driver you are off to Abra. Alight at the highway intersection to Abra and wait for another bus there going to Bangued, Abra.
BAGUIO TO ABRA
If you are coming from Baguio, you can also go to Abra by bus. Partas Bus has daily trips to Bangued, Abra from Baguio City and vice versa.
ABRA THINGS TO DO AND WHERE TO GO
People often ask, is Abra safe for tourists? Yes, definitely. News of political instability should not deter you from visiting Abra. There is so much this province has to offer to travelers, but do note that Abra’s most beautiful sights require stamina. Nonetheless, once you reach them, you will be rewarded with such jaw-dropping beauty. Here’s a list of the top tourist attractions to visit in Abra, especially for first-timers.
The village of Kili is tucked in the verdant wilderness of Tubo, Abra, home of the Maeng indigenous people. Kili reminds me of the classic towns in Ifugao, peppered with gorgeous rice terraces flowing down emerald green rivers. Just a short trek from the village is the gorgeous Kili Falls surrounded by rice fields, rock formations and jungles. Behind it is a hot spring overlooking a mighty river surrounded by colossal rocks formations.
KILI RICE TERRACES
KILI HOT SPRING
How to go to Kili, Abra:
Kili, Abra is about 3.5-4 hours away from Bangued. There is a jeepney that leaves daily for Brgy.Tiempo in the town of Tubo at around 8:00 AM in front of “Tubo House” in Bangued. Fare is roughly PHP 240 / USD 5 and travel time is about 3.5 hours. From Brgy. Tiempo, you can hire a habal-habal (motorcycle) for PHP 200 / USD 4 per person to Brgy.Kili.
In case there is no jeepney (like what happened during our visit), you can hire a Ford Ranger for PHP 4,500 / USD 91 (good for 6-8 persons) from Bangued to Brgy. Kili or PHP 3,500 / USD 91 from Greenfields to Brgy. Kili. What we did was shared the cost with the locals who are also bound for Kili. You can coordinate with the tourism office under the Office of the Congressman, Lone District of Abra. Their office is inside the DPWH Compound in Bangued. To get there, just take a tricycle. Look for Sir George Lalin or Sir Jun Rosales, they can help you find transportation.
If you are traveling alone to Kili from Bangued, you can also hire a habal-habal (motorcycle). Should set you back at around PHP 1,000 / USD 20 – PHP 1,500 / USD 30 (roundtrip). You may contact Ricky Gordovil at 09059049129 or Ruben Sabini at 09263563886. They are both based in Kili.
The town of Tineg in Abra is home to some of Abra’s most famous and beautiful attractions like Kaparkan Falls (open only during rainy season, around August 2017), Apao Rolling Hills and Piwek Rock Formation. Sadly, the road getting there is hellish and getting a transportation can be pretty costly.
How to get to Tineg, Abra
If you are traveling in groups, charter a 4x 4 or For Ranger for about PHP 3,500 / USD 71. You may also try to get here by hiring a haba-habal (motorcycle) in case you are alone. Should set you back around PHP 1,000 / USD 20.
APAO ROLLING HILLS
PIWEK ROCK FORMATIONS
GABRIELA SILANG GALLERY OF FINE ARTS
How to get to Tayum, Abra
From Bangued, you can just rent a tricycle to take you to Tayum Church, fare is about PHP 100 / USD 2 (one way, good for two). From Tayum Church, Gabriela Silang Gallery of Fine Arts is a few minute walk. Just follow the paved road going to the National Highway and cross the road. The house is on the other side. You can ask the local for directions.
GOURD HAT IN SAN QUINTIN
I’ve long wanted to meet Teofilo Garcia, a farmer and a master artisan of gourd hats. This humble man from San Quintin was declared a National Living Treasure in 2012 by the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA). We visited him during our trip to Abra and bought his gourd hats (tabungaw kattokong). He makes gourd hats and sells them for PHP 700 / USD 17 – PHP 2,500 / USD 50. I highly encourage tourists to visit Sir Teofilo Garcia and buy his gourd hats (you can ask him to sign it) to keep the tradition alive. Currently he is training some students on how to make a gourd hat.
To get there, you can board a bus and alight at the highway near Bangued and Narvacan intersection. And then walk up the hill to his house on the right side.
Most tourists visiting Abra will see Bangued first. Bangued is the capital of Abra and has a handful of attractions to flaunt. If you are pressed for time, you can combine the tour of Bangued and Tayum in one day.
CATHEDRAL OF ST JAMES
CASAMATA HILL/ VICTORIA PARK
SAN LORENZO RUIN SHRINE
How to get around in Bangued
Most of the tourist spots in Bangued are accessible by tricycle. Fare is PHP 10 / USD 0.20 – PHP 20 / USD .40 per person depending on the distance.
LA PAZ, ABRA
The main reason tourists and entrepreneurs go to La Paz is the thriving Abel Loom Weaving in Brgy. Bulbulala. I visited this place back in 2012 and was surprised to see a new concrete building housing more loom weavers now. You can purchase souvenirs here such as wallet, purse, table runners and textiles. Hand-weaved textiles are priced at PHP 100 / USD 2 per yard while a coin purse costs PHP 35 / USD 0.70.
CADABA BRIDGE AND ABRA RIVER
ABEL LOOM WEAVING IN LA PAZ
How to get to Abel Loom Weaving in La Paz, Abra
Ride a jeepney (no fixed schedule and only leaves once full) at the market bound for La Paz. Alight at Brgy. Bulbulala and then hire a tricycle to Brgy. Bulbulala. You can also hire a tricycle going there from Bangued for PHP 150 / USD 3 – PHP 200 / USD 4 (roundtrip).
WHERE TO EAT IN ABRA
There are a couple of fast-food chains in Bangued, Abra such as McDonalds, Jollibee and Chowking, however, when in Abra, don’t go home without trying their local dishes. Some of the must-try traditional foods here are Abreño-style pancit miki, Abra’s longganisa, palileng, cascaron, Lechon de Abra, among others.
Pansit Miki at Six Cousins
Abra Pancit Miki at Doming’s Pancitan
Brgy. Patukanay, Tayum
Pizza and Pasta at Noah’s J Pizzeria
WHERE TO STAY IN ABRA
There’s a handful of budget hotels in Abra. We stayed at Abrassi Hotel which we booked online (because it’s cheaper online). It’s not located in the town proper, you need to take a tricycle going there from downtown Bangued, but it’s pretty close to Tayum. So if you are planning to explore Tayum, it’s a good base.
Abrassi Hotel and Restaurant
Pila, Patucannay, Tayum near, Bangued
ABRA TRIP ITINERARY
We spent 5 days in Abra, but I created this 3 days 2 nights Abra sample itinerary for you. Feel free to modify this depending on your budget and travel schedule. If you are pressed for time, you can do Abra in 2 or 3 days. Just pick the destinations that you want to visit.
|08:30 PM||Bus (Partas Bus) to Abra from Cubao, Manila|
|Day 1||EXPLORE KILI|
|05:30 AM||Arrival in Bangued, Abra|
|05:45 AM||Breakfast at McDonalds (McDo in Abra is open 24 hours)|
|07:00 AM||Head to Office of the Congressman Tourist Assistance|
|08:00 AM||Head to Tubo House jeepney stop for the 8:00 AM trip to Kili|
|09:30 AM||No jeep, so Sir George Lalin drove us to Greenfields|
|10:30 AM||Lunch at Greenfields|
|11:00 AM||Greenfields to Kili by chartered Ford Ranger.|
|Pitstop : Wayangan Rice Terraces|
|Pitstop: Ataki Rice Terraces|
|02:00 PM||Arrival in Kili Village. Meet with the Brgy. Secretary. Sign up at Brgy. Hall and pay fees (guide fee, Barangay fee, homestay).|
|03:00 PM||Trek to rice terraces, Kili Falls and Kili Hotspring|
|05:30 PM||Trek back to Kili Village|
|07:00 PM||Dinner. Socials.|
|Day 02||EXPLORE BANGUED + TAYUM|
|07:00 AM||Trike to Jeepney Terminal in Tiempo|
|08:00 AM||Tiempo to Bangued, Abra|
|11:00 AM||ETA Bangued, Abra|
|12:00 PM||Explore Bangued ( Plaza, Church, Victoria Park)|
|02:00 PM||Tricycle to Tayum|
|02:30 PM||Explore Tayum (Church and Gabriela Silang Fine Arts Gallery)|
|04:30 PM||Tricycle back to Bangued|
|05:00 PM||Ride bus to San Quintin for the gourd hat|
|05:30 PM||Meet Teofila Garcia at his house. Buy gourd hat.|
|06:30 PM||Back to Bangued.|
|Day 03||EXPLORE TINEG|
|07:30 AM||ETD to Tineg, Abra. Bring packed lunch.|
|09:30 AM||Explore and swim at Kaparkan Falls|
|01:00 PM||ETD to Piwek Rock Formation|
|02:30 PM||Rafting at Piwek River|
|05:00 PM||ETD to Apao Rolling Hills|
|05:30 PM||Quick stop at Apao Rolling Hills. Nice view at sunset.|
|06:00 PM||ETD to Bangued|
|08:00 PM||Back to Manila|
ABRA TRIP BUDGET
We spent 5 days and 4 nights in Abra. Below is a list of our trip expenses, it’ll be cheaper if you are traveling in groups because you can share the transportation cost. The problem with Abra is the limited transportation to get to certain attractions. So either you hire a motorcycle to get to your destination or charter a Ford Ranger like we did because there was no jeep to Kili that time. The tourism consultant under the Office of the Congressman can help you find vehicles. Just take a tricycle in Bangued town and head to their office near DPWH.
|PHP 665 / USD 13.25||Bus fare Cubao to Bangued, Abra|
|PHP 665 / USD 13.25||Bus fare Manila to Cubao|
|PHP 10 x 4 = PHP 40 / USD .80||Tricycle ride in Bangued|
|PHP 653 (good for two) x 2 nights = PHP 1,306 or PHP 653 / USD per person||AC room at hotel (good for two persons)|
|PHP 240 / USD 4.78||Jeep to Tiempo|
|PHP 200 per head / USD 3.99||Motorcycle to to Tiempo from Kili|
|PHP 240 per head / USD 4.78||Jeep to Bangued from Tiempo|
|PHP 100 per head per night / USD 2||Kili homestay|
|PHP 200 / 2 = PHP 100 / USD 2||Kili Guide fee|
|PHP 75 x 2 times = PHP 150 / USD 2.99||Kili meal (unlimited rice)|
|PHP 50 / USD 1||Kili registration fee|
|PHP 1,500 / USD 30||Motorcycle to Apao Rolling Hills|
|PHP 4,363 / USD 88.49||TOTAL|
Special thanks to Edmar of Edmaration blog for connecting us to Sir George Lalin who helped us with our itinerary, transportation contacts and showed us some of the best destinations in Abra.
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