North Luzon, Philippines Ride

belgarathc

Ol'Timer
Oct 23, 2006
48
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North Luzon, Philippines Ride

Motorcycle: Honda XR 200 from Nice-Bike at 550 Pesos per day. Deposit of 2000 Pesos and passport are required.
Distance Covered: ~1500KM
Reference: Lonely Planet Philippines and GPS Map
Spendings: 18,500 Pesos (= 400 USD) excluding air tickets and insurance
Quick Review: Lively festivals, glorious mountains, majestic rice terraces and interesting hill tribes

Route
Angeles > Baguio > (Kabayan) > Sagada > (Bontoc) > Banaue > Penablanca > (Claveria) > Vigan > Capas (Mt Pinatubo) > Angeles

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Anti-Clockwise loop around North Luzon, Philippines.

Day 01 - SG to Angeles

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Field Ave, the happening street of Angeles City. I took a complimentary ride from Bluefields Hotel to town to buy a SIM card.

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Being such a good boy, I spent the rest of the night reading. Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not) was written by Jose Rizal, national hero of the Philippines. The book is said to be instrumental to the awakening of Filipinos' sense of national identity and indirectly caused the 1896 Philippine Revolution. F. Sionil Jose is one of the most famous English language writers of Philippines. Don Vincente is part of his Rosales Saga. I read the first book, Dusk (Po-on), before coming to Philippines.

Day 02 - Angeles to Baguio

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Attended the Philppine International Hot Air Ballon Fiesta at Clark. Everybody waiting with anticipation for the hot air balloons.

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Besides hot air balloons and other flying objects, there are performances, exhibitions and bazaars.
 

belgarathc

Ol'Timer
Oct 23, 2006
48
0
0
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Got my XR200 motorbike. Condition of the bike is very good.

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Performing band along the way to Baguio

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Rosales is now a modern city. SM City is a mall that can be found in major cities in Philippines.

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It's a day of festivals - Chinese New Year, Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, Valentine's Day and Panagbenga. Panagbenga festival is also known as the Baguio Flower Festival.

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Flower displays everywhere

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Burnham Park becomes a place of activities. There are street stalls and concerts.

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Jeepney is a cheap form of transport in Philippines. Jeepneys are also mobile works of art.

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Sunset at Baguio

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Night view of Baguio

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Enjoyed some street snacks

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Was woken up by fireworks. Took some obligatory photos and went back to bed.
 

belgarathc

Ol'Timer
Oct 23, 2006
48
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0
Day 03 - Baguio to Sagada

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Knowing it would be a long day, I started off early. Plan was to visit Mt Cabuyao and Mt Santo Tomas in the early morning, then back to Burnham Hotel in Baguio. After that, would travel on Halsema Highway to Sagada and visit the Timbac mummies caves along the way.

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The start of unpaved roads

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I want to grow up as tall as you!

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Halfway between Mt Cabuyao and Mt Santo Tomas, I found the roads too rough for comfort. Decided to u-turn.

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Fell shortly after I turned back.

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My feet were worse. A big difference if I just bothered to wear gloves and wear proper footwear. I hope I learned.

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Washed up, shopped for gloves and thick socks before continuing my way with a limp. Changing gear hurts my injured foot. Anyway, above photo shows the highest point of Philippines highway system which is around 2255m.

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There are 2 ways to reach Kabayan Timbac caves. From Kabayan town proper or from a road cut recently from Halsema Highway. The latter route was met with controversy. It's probably more culturally sensitive to take a Ibaloi guide from Kabayan. Anyway, the signboard to the turn off from Halsema Highway was missing. It took me a lot of asking and backtracking to get onto the correct path. One can ride all the way to the caves. But I parked my bike at Montogo Elementary School and hiked 30 mins because the roads were slightly rough.

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The keyholder. The guide told me she's Igorot but I'm not sure if she's Ibaloi.

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Mummy at first cave. I must be corrupted by the movies but I was expecting something better preserved.

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My guide opened the coffin at the second cave

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and the mummy moved her hand to shield herself from the sun.

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Hiked back to Montogo Elementary School and took a short break.

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Kids at play

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En route to Sagada, tourist mecca.

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Lemon pies at Lemon Pies House
 

belgarathc

Ol'Timer
Oct 23, 2006
48
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Day 04 - Sagada to Banaue

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Sagada Sugong Hanging Coffins. Stare hard.

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Misty morning at Sagada

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Sagada Lumiang Burial Cave

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Echo Vally Viewpoint was just beyond Sagada Christian cemetery. Did you know that Philippines is the only predominantly Christian nation in Asia where 90% claims to be Christian?

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Echo Valley. There are other hikes in Sagada but I excused myself.

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Left Sagada for Bontoc

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Bontoc Museum. Nice little museum tells you about the different tribes and there are some excellent photos.

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Kaingin or slash-and-burn agriculture persist in North Luzon

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Bay-yo rice terraces. The benefit of being on your vehicle is that you can stop whenever there is something interesting.

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Long road to Banaue

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Tourist at Banaue view-point.

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Banaue rice terraces

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My original plan included a visit to Batad rice terraces. But I heard that the road from Banaue to Batad is rough and it's mostly hiking at Batad. I gave it a miss and stay at Banaue.
 

belgarathc

Ol'Timer
Oct 23, 2006
48
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0
Day 05 - Banaue to Penablanca

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Started off very early as it's a long way to Penablanca in Cagayan province. I decided to take the Halsema highway through Kalinga province. Looking back, I should have taken the easier road through Isabela province.

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At another Banaue view point

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It's always very cold in the morning on the mountains. It's just 2000m++. I wonder how I can cope with Mt Kinabalu.

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The road from Bontoc to Lubuguan was rough. It's about 10% paved. This is a good section of the road.

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Soon the road narrowed and construction vehicles blocked the way.

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Whenever 2 vehicles meet, one had to reverse to find a wider spot where 2 could pass each other. It's sometimes easier for a motorcycle.

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But not always. A bus broke down and I was stuck for around half an hour.

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Puddles of muddy water along the way is common.

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But there are still nice scenery to admire.

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After an 8 hour ride, I finally reached Callao Caves in Penablanca. At per limestone cave SOP, the guide would point out the resemblance of each rock to a certain animal. In the photo, there is a gorilla, a merlion and all you can imagine.

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A chapel in the cave. You can hold a church wedding here, subjected to approval.

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Callao Caves Resort is located at the other side of the Pinacanauan River.

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Pinacanauan river. One can pay 600 Pesos for a bangka ride to view thousands of bats leaving the caves at dusk. I wasn't willing to pay and had a glimpse of some small fruit bats flying pass the resort.

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Haha, I got a Honeymoon Suite. I am all alone in the resort.
 

belgarathc

Ol'Timer
Oct 23, 2006
48
0
0
Day 06 - Penablanca to Vigan

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Another long ride. I was to cover 400km+ today.

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To make things more interesting, it rained.

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Stopped by Claveria, a beach town for lunch.

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Claveria beach

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I enjoyed the northwestern coastal roads. Slightly winding, well-paved, mountains on the left and water on the right.

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Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

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North Luzon's most famous church - Paoay Church.

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Jollibee fastfood restaurant is in every major city/town in North Luzon. I just had to try it. Sarap Nito!

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Food stalls at Plaza Burgos in Vigan

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How can I resist an Empanada?

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Mestizo district of Vigan at night
 

belgarathc

Ol'Timer
Oct 23, 2006
48
0
0
Day 07 - Vigan to Capas

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Grandpa's Inn, nice cozy place where I stayed.

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St Paul Cathedral in Vigan

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Padre Jose Burgos National Museum. Father Jose Burgos was executed by the Spanish in 1872. As a champion of native clergymen, he was accused by the Spanish of mutiny.

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The museum houses various Ilocano artefacts.

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After a long dusty ride to Capas, I visited Chow King, a popular restaurant in Philippines, for dinner. At 49 Pesos for a plate of fried rice and glass of iced tea, it's definitely valued for money.

Day 08 - Capas to Angeles

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Rode to Santa Juliana and joined 2 German tourists on a 4WD tour to Mt Pinatubo. I paid 1500 Pesos for the tour. If I am to take the 4WD alone, it would cost me 4000 Pesos. To reach Mt Pinatubo crater lake, it would involved a 1.5hr bumpy drive and a 20 mins hike. The road was quite bad and I was glad they don't allow me to ride my motorcycle up the trail.

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Aeta people of Mt Pinatubo.

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Short easy hike to the crater lake

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Mt Pinatubo crater lake. Mt Pinatubo erupted in 1991, the largest eruption in the past few decades.

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Wikipedia mentioned that "Global temperatures dropped by about 0.5 °C (0.9 °F), and ozone depletion temporarily increased substantially." after the eruption.

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After the eruption, Mt Pinatubo remains active with the most recent activity registered in 2002.

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Late morning and the place is getting crowded.

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After a hefty lunch (part of the 1500 pesos package), I rode back to Capas for my backpack which I deposited at Mr. Blue Hotel and continued to Angeles. After a short nap, I returned the motorcycle to nice-bike and visited SM Clark mall where I bought some sourvenirs. Goldilocks Polvoron is worth buying.

Day 09 - Angeles to SG
Took a jeepney to Clarks airport and flew home!

Thanks for looking!
 

Bert on the bike

Ol'Timer
Oct 5, 2007
155
0
0
hi

good report and nice pictures!

Nice to see a report from so far away from Thailand. Last year I worked for 7 month in Negros, Philippines and bought myself a Honda 200cc for something to do in the weekends, nice bikes which can handle anything you put in front of them.

Again, good report and hope to read more of your future reports

Take care and drive safe
 

feejer

Ol'Timer
Feb 16, 2007
443
1
18
Yes. Great stuff there and almost exactly the trip we had planned last October that the Typhoon derailed. My girl is Ilocano and from Caba just South of San Fernando. We are planning another trip this Oct basing operations at the family home there.

Great to see a preview of the rest of Luzon I didnt see last time there. We only got up to Baguio via Jeepney and came back same day then headed South to Puerto Galera.

Also good to hear NiceBike has some reliable stuff. Had reserved a TransAlp with topcase as we were going to be 2-up but some of the mountain roads look like that could be a problem. Oh well, that means I get to scout out alone first. Did you encounter any NPA representatives?
 

belgarathc

Ol'Timer
Oct 23, 2006
48
0
0
Thanks for the comments.

After my little accident, I would try to be more safe. Given opportunity, I would like to do a island hopping ride through Visayas, Mindanao etc.

I didn't know what NPA was until your post. Did a quick read up at Wikipedia and no, I don't believe I met them. I was just stopped by the usual road blocks when entering Ifugao province, Kalinga province and at Capas. At Ifugao and Kalinga, they asked if I carried any weapons and searched my sling bag. Almost wanted to search my nicely wrapped up and hooked up backpack but I gave the pity-me-I-am-just-a-tourist face and they let me go.

I saw the TransAlp at nice-bike. Looks good. The XR200 I received was in great condition. A minor con is that they don't provide me with any tools and spares.
 

feejer

Ol'Timer
Feb 16, 2007
443
1
18
belgarathc wrote: Thanks for the comments.

After my little accident, I would try to be more safe. Given opportunity, I would like to do a island hopping ride through Visayas, Mindanao etc.

I didn't know what NPA was until your post. Did a quick read up at Wikipedia and no, I don't believe I met them. I was just stopped by the usual road blocks when entering Ifugao province, Kalinga province and at Capas. At Ifugao and Kalinga, they asked if I carried any weapons and searched my sling bag. Almost wanted to search my nicely wrapped up and hooked up backpack but I gave the pity-me-I-am-just-a-tourist face and they let me go.

I saw the TransAlp at nice-bike. Looks good. The XR200 I received was in great condition. A minor con is that they don't provide me with any tools and spares.
Yeah, one should be pretty safe sticking to the main tourist path as you did. But venturing out alone in the more rural, less traveled paths would be a significantly bigger risk. I would go anywhere, anytime in the GT, but not in PI. No way. The BIBAK region remains an NPA stronghold that may not look fondly on an American passport as I have. The risk is low, but kidnappings for ransom do happen.

Luckily we know a lady who is a childhood friend of the key commander up there. Hopefully I will never need to throw some names around, but if I get my one phone call I know who it would be.
 

daewoo

Ol'Timer
Dec 6, 2005
821
13
18
You should have just riden up the North Luzon Expressway and marvelled at the overhead electronic information boards, the lightning quick communication from the toll plazas back to the central control centre, comfortable in the knowledge that the microwave transmission system was state of the art...

Cheers,
Darryl Easton
Systems Engineer Team Leader
North Luzon Expressway Project

:)
 

mikehohman

Ol'Timer
Sep 16, 2009
159
0
16
Great report, thanks for sharing!!

My friend and I are planning a similar trip, with a stop in San Fernando for surfing, this December.

Any chance you can ride the Cordillera on a Yamaha Nouvo? My friend isn't much of a rider, and i think he would be more comfortable on an automatic.

Possible? Or just nuts to even think about it?

Thanks!
 

Philigran

Member
Jan 14, 2015
17
0
0
Nice trip and that is something that's been long on my list. I wonder if you also stopped up in Pagudpud which I heard lots of good things about. Too bad you decided against Batad..it is really nice up there, the hike is worth it..much better there than in shitty Banaue ... Thanks for sharing ....