The heritage city of Vigan in Ilocos Sur has long established itself as one of the tourist draws of Region 1. A visit here is like a glimpse back in time as one walks through well-preserved colonial houses and cobblestone streets. This characteristic alone earned the city a listing under the UNESCO World Heritage Site. But for someone like me, who has been here several times already, I’m always on the lookout for new things to do in the city. Luckily, new establishments and initiatives by the local government have kept things interesting for return visitors.
Ilocos Sur is perhaps best known for Vigan’s Spanish-period architecture. But two hours away from the capital, in the windswept shores of Narvacan, an adventure camp is fast becoming a word-of-mouth gem. Narvacan Outdoor Adventure Hub, or NOAH, was founded in 2005, known only to a small circle of thrill-seeking explorers. They would drive seven hours to Narvacan to windsurf and paraglide at Bantay Abot hill, then later on, to scale the vertical walls of Via Ferrata. In February this year, NOAH’s management decided it’s time to extend its small family.
June is always an exciting time as I get to join and become a part-time guide to a Jim Cline Photography Tour in the Philippines conducted by international photographer Karl Grobl. It’s nice to know that the Philippines is gaining ground as an international photo tour destination. They were telling me it was unexpected that the Philippines Tour was filling up fast. And this year we had a full house so it was an exciting 6-day North Luzon leg from Vigan to Sagada (via Cervantes) then to Baguio and Manila. It’s great to be with different photographers and see their photographic styles and vision.
It’s the 3rd year for Jim Cline’s Photo Tour in the Philippines headed by none other than Karl Grobl himself. I was told that they were quite surprised that the tour filled up unexpectedly. I guess many foreigners are really interested in the Philippines lately. We had a full house this time. A French, an Australian, a few from England and the rest from the USA. Their 2-week journey in the Philippines started the first week of June. I stepped in at the 4th of June to for a 6-day guiding and photography assistance to 10 enthusiastic participants while exploring the historic streets of Ilocos and the breathtaking landscapes of Sagada, Mountain Province.
It’s not often we get an international Photo Tour to come here in the Philippines unlike our competing South East Asian neighbours, that’s why it’s a welcome development that the Jim Cline Photo Tours and Workshops decided to test the waters here in the Philippines where no other Photo Tour Groups have tried. On the helm is Humanitarian Photojournalist Karl Grobl where he took the group on key places around the country for a Photographic journey for two weeks. I assisted Karl on the photo mentorship and was their local guide for their Baguio-Sagada-Vigan leg of the tour which lasted for 5 days. Here’s a rundown of that very interesting segment.
We all deserved that long rest after that full day of driving from Vigan to Sagada via Besang Pass National Park. The group arrived in Vigan a little past 6pm and stayed at the elegant old-Spanish style accommodation of Hotel Salcedo de Vigan. With enough time to recharge the photo tour group starts to explore what makes Vigan so special. I’ve been to this UNESCO World Heritage City a few times already but I still like it, especially the photo opportunities it offered.
The challenge was to reach Vigan in the quickest way possible coming from Sagada. The original plan was to go directly westward plying the Sabangan-Cervantes-Tagudin road from Halsema Highway, but as it turns out, even after a year, the bridge construction over the river cutting through Cervantes was not finished yet. The first alternative was to go back to Baguio then Vigan which would take a grueling 11-13 hours ride. Our driver and co-navigator did ask around while we made a stop at Abatan and found out we can avoid that bridge by going through the Mankayan-Cervantes-Tagudin route instead. We took this dare and preferred this unfamiliar route. Everyone seemed excited with this adventure detour, even I, when I realized we’re passing through the historic Bessang Pass National Park where probably the most difficult battle in the Philippines World War II history was fought against Tumoyuki Yamashita.