For an adventure-filled summer, visit Ilocos Sur's Narvacan town

ILOCOS SUR, Philippines – More than 10 years ago, Mayor Zuriel Zaragoza thought of creating a brand for Narvacan town. It was an old town; its parish, which was established in 1587, is one of the oldest in Ilocos. Located in a valley, the town also one of the oldest trading centers in the North.

Zaragoza knew that dwelling on the past could only get you so far. Although his town was indeed beautiful, he thought of going beyond cultural tourism.

Narvacan is a huge valley surrounded by mountains. It is also bounded by the West Philippine Sea on the west but its beaches, though picturesque, are less swim-friendly than the neighboring towns.

Narvacan, however, has Bantay Abot (literally, Hole Hill), a hill about 1,000 feet high which has a huge hole from top to who-knows-how-deep. Because of overpowering presence and its proximity to the beach, Zaragoza decided to make Bantay Abot the anchor for its ecotourism development.

It was 5 years later in 2012 when he decided to shift instead to adventure tourism. The first they did was to call the whole package NOAH or Narvacan Outdoor Adventure Hub with its headquarters at Barangay Bulanos. In October 2012, Zaragoza launched the more than 500 meter zipline which would take you more than 45 seconds to traverse.

Later, he built “Arko” using about 30 container vans. Arko has a restaurant, roofdeck, huge restrooms, an outdoor drinking area, conference room, locker room, and bar.

Since then, the activities have kept on coming. Part of the Narvacan dunes was remodeled to become a race track for All-Terrain Vehicles. Via Ferrata was formed as an extreme trail with rock climbing, trail walking and reconnoitering.

A downhill course for mountain bikes was also established and later became part of the Philippine downhill bike circuit, with riders from all over the country participating in the annual event starting last December.

The trickiest part of the extreme adventure is paragliding. The summit of Bantay Abot was set to be the launching pad for paragliding. Buko Raymundo, an Asean games medalist for precision paragliding, was taken on as consultant to establish the Narvacan flysite.


Photo by Mau Victa/Rappler

Raymundo, who is based in Sarangani, said that unlike there where paragliding is theoretically available 300 days a year, Narvacan has a smaller window for flying because of the typhoon season. But he also said that the view in Narvacan is more spectacular because of the beach and the rice fields.

This February, Zaragoza reopened the NOAH and incorporating earth, wind, water and fire as the guiding symbols. According to Jose Cuerdo, the business development manager of NOAH, “Earth is the mountain with complete cable protected climb, at all times, you can be connected with the cables that can bring you to cliffs, to the stiff side of the mountain, up vertical section and you still on the cable, the swift part of this mountain on your way down you will go on a zipline.”

“Wind here is a very safe wind. Many ocean breezes [come in], at some point the wind is outward and that is dangerous because the wind can blow you into sea,” he added. “Fire is engine. It's [perfect for] motor sportsbecause there are sands here, [for] off-road adventure and it’s not technical. Hindi nakakatakot at [some] point na tataob ang sasakyan mo (you won't be afraid that the vehicle will flip), we can give you a vehicle to drive alone although the driver is beside you and motor is running.”

And of course, there's the beach. Windsailers from Anilao Cove in Batangas were hired to teach the locals for two weeks and help them in turn become trainers. Aside from windsailing, tourists can try parasailing.

Photo by Mau Victa/Rappler

Are you ready for summer? What are your summer plans? Let us know in the comments below. –

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