I sat on the hull of the solitary banca that was docked on the shore. My toes were flirting with the gentle ripples of the sea curling up in the warm sand. Wafting the soft easterly winds on my face, the horizon’s drama started to unfold. He held on tight to his might and battled with his enduring strength. They chased each other behind the clouds leaving trails of bleeding reds and weakening blues. She unleashed her ultimate vigor and spewed the golden fire. Finally, he succumbed into his greatest defeat. Slowly, she blanketed the universe with her blazing victory. Darkness started to creep in. The moon and the flickering lights ashore illuminated the sea as I start to feel the northern wind chills.
From a distance I could see my newfound friend walking on the sand towards me. He is a fisherman who has lived all his life in the sea. He sat on the stern of the banca and threw in a bottle of chilled beer. Cheers and welcome to Currimao, he said.
Most travelers driving on the northwest side of the Philippines often take the touristy autoroute. Seemingly mad on the accelerator, they speed past so many beautiful places along the way. Bounded by the towns of Pinili and Badoc in the south and the historic town of Paoay in the north, Currimao is always a missed out destination in any northbound drive.
As exotic as its name, Currimao is an interesting coastal town hugging the shores of the West Philippine Sea. It is the smallest town in Ilocos Norte and was once the only navigable sea in the province. Currimao became an important trading route in the early 1900s, making it the home of the 1869 Compañia General de Tabaco de Filipinas, the biggest tabacalera in the tobacco-rich Ilocos. With the shift of global trade fortunes, its luster faded into thin air like the smoke from its once popular cigars. Today, no one remembers its illustrious past. Its people, aware of their town being out-of-route, have to thrive on agriculture and fishing to live by.
With very few tourists coming in, Currimao has kept its quaint character sought by those who prefer a quiet getaway. The long stretch of fine alabaster sand hems the placid southwestern sea of Ilocos Norte. Far from the rest of parading vacationers, the beach on the coastal side of barangay Victoria offers a romantic indulgence. The resorts that deck its beachlines are tastefully done, each with its own exquisite character.
I am not a mad-honker when I drive so I took a leisurely spin from Vigan in Ilocos Sur to Ilocos Norte. While Currimao was on my list of places to visit, I never really planned of staying in for the night. But I had a long time on the wheels and the place was too beautiful to just let it be a stopover. I thought of it as a one-night affair but Currimao turned out to be my base camp for the rest of the days wandering through the rest of the neighboring towns.
I woke up to the crisp scent of ocean breeze and the bright morning light streaking through the soft curtains. With a few children running around, I took a quiet walk on the beach. Looking back on my footprints on the soft sand, I realized that I have been on the road for days and still uncertain on how many sunrises I will wake up to until the end of this journey.
After a simple lunch hosted by my friend’s family, he took me for a breezy ride to Pangil Coral Gardens. In contrast to the graceful coastline of Victoria, the northern side of Currimao is edged by jagged coralline rock formations. Punctuated by shallow tidal pools, this heavily calcified rocks span to about 2 kilometers and have built monumental churches that stand for hundreds of years now.
The battle for light has begun when I left Currimao. Looking back at the sunset that bewitched me on the first time I set my feet on its powdery sand, I realized that Currimao is not just a detour. It is a destination.
HOW TO GET THERE
From Manila (Private Vehicle/Approx 458 KM)
- Take the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX). Exit to Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX).
- In SCTEX, drive straight to the newly opened Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX). This will lead you to the exit in Paniqui Tarlac. As of Dec. 23, 2013 TPLEX terminates in Paniqui but once completed, it will end in Rosario, Pangasinan.
- Take the McArthur Highway passing through Urdaneta in Pangasinan.
- Follow the national highway that leads to La Union. You will drive past Bauang, San Fernando and Candon. Further up north, you will arrive in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. The last town in Sinait will connect you to the first town of Ilocos Norte (Badoc).
- After the town of Pinili is a Y junction in Currimao leading to Laoag via Batac and Laoag via Paoay. Take the Paoay route.
- The first barangay on this route is Victoria where the beach resorts are found.
From Manila (Commuting of Public Transport/6-7 hours)
- Take the bus from Cubao Terminal to Laoag, Ilocos Norte. Bus lines such as Victory, Genesis regularly ply this route. Alternatively, there are northbound buses in Pasay area such as Florida Bus Line.
- Get off in the Currimao-Paoay junction.
- From the terminal, take the tricycle to the beach resorts in Victoria.
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