La Union is popularly known for its fine, gray-sand beaches and its moniker as the “Surfing Capital of the Ilocos.” However, it is fast becoming more than just these. One reason for this transformation is the fifth-class municipality (La Union’s smallest) of Pugo (named after the “quail” bird), the site of Pugad Pugo Adventure Park, a newly opened (it only had its soft opening on September 18 last year), 3-hectare adventure and recreation destination in the town. The five-day North Philippines Visitors Bureau and Manila North Tollways Corporation (MNTC)-sponsored “Lakbay Norte 2 Tour”, officially launched from the Victory Liner Terminal near Kamias Street in Quezon City, with members of the media (including yours truly), travel bloggers and cameramen, included this destination in our itinerary.
We were now in our tour’s second day and we left Hotel Elizabeth in Baguio City very early in the morning for Pugo. Our special Victory Liner tour bus, its body sticker-wrapped with the tour’s sponsors, arrived at the Flying V (incidentally also a Lakbay Norte 2 tour sponsor) station along Marcos Highway in Brgy. Cares in Pugo after a 30-min. drive. Here, a smaller Pugad shuttle bus and Department of Tourism Region 1 representatives Evangeline M. Dadat (senior tourism operations officer) and Reynaldo Gesmundo (tourism operations officer II) awaited us. After all transferring to this bus, we all proceeded for 300 m. over a narrow road (unfit for big buses) to the resort itself.
Pugad, which means “bird’s nest” in the vernacular, is actually a hybrid of the words pugo and “adventure.” Located in sito Kagaling, barangay Palina, this resort has 2 crystal-clear outdoor swimming pools for children and adults, picnic cottages, clean toilets, shower rooms, conference halls and a hanging bridge over a clean river, typically what you would find in an inland swimming resort.
However, what sets this resort apart from all the others is the extreme adventure it offers, one of the reasons for my joining the tour. For instance, one can fly high like a bird with its three zip line facility (PhP900 per pax and PhP1,000 if it includes wall climbing and rappelling). These days, Filipinos are getting more adventurous and there has been a rise in the number of adrenalin junkies. The sudden emergence of numerous zip lines all over the country, from Luzon down to Mindanao, is a testament to this boom.
Pugad’s famous 380-m. long and 240-ft. high Super Man Zip Line 1 stands out as the longest zip line in Luzon and is reportedly the second longest in the country. The resort also offers breathtaking rappelling and wall-climbing facilities, four-wheel, all-terrain vehicles and dune buggies for rent, and a paint-ball area. It also caters to team-building and small-group activities. Guests can stay overnight at the nearby Travellers Inn, a 10-min. drive away, which has 2 family rooms.
As the zip lines can be availed of by only five participants at a time, we opted to first try out the ATVs at its well-designed, 2.5-km. long course with its numerous bumps and turns. My other companions drove like racers but I started the race-track with caution, especially when I fell into a ditch, only speeding up midway round the course, then slowing down again as I tackled the final 4-ft. high and steep hill back to our starting point.
After this initial adrenalin rush, it was time for some state-of-the-art zip lining. There were only three of us left in the final batch, and the other two, Studio 23’s Hannah Barrios and Joshua “Red” Nietes, were reluctant and scared first-timers. After filling up the necessary waiver forms, the well-trained staff of Pugad suited us up with the necessary Petzl C29 Pandion harness and Petzl helmets for our safety.
Then we rode at the back of a pickup truck for a drive up the cliff, then a short hike, up a concrete stairs, to our first zip line—the Super Man Zip Line 1, so named because we had to do it in a flying Superman pose (you are harnessed parallel to the ground). Aside from being highest and the longest in duration (30 seconds), it also had the most picturesque views—smooth flowing, boulder-strewn river, small rice terraces and lush, forested mountains.
However, convincing Hannah and Red to try it was easier said than done, so I tried it first to quiet their fears. The ride was everything it was hyped up to be. From the other side, I waited patiently for the others to follow. It was sometime before Red took the plunge and it took an eternity for Hannah to follow suit. Both liked it so much that they were both first at the succeeding 2 zip lines. The 280-m. long, 160-ft. high and less picturesque Zip Line 2 was the fastest among the three (10 seconds with its 100-m. descent) and was done in the sitting position.
The 250-m. long, 60-ft. high and relaxing Zip Line 3, the basic and beginner’s zip line, also done in the sitting position, took a little longer (20 seconds) and passes over the swimming pool and the river before ending at the campsite.
It was drizzling when I finished the last of the zip lines, making rappelling and wall climbing out of the question as the wall had become quite slippery. Besides, all this adrenalin rush had made me hungry and we were invited by Pugad Pugo Adventure Park owners Eugene Martin, a retired police director, and his wife Pricilla, a Pugo councilor, for a catered lunch at the resort’s restaurant.
We were still scheduled to observe some patupat (a delicacy made from sticky rice calledmalagkit and wrapped in coconut or banana leaves) making at a factory in Pozzorrubio (Pangasinan) as guests of Mayor Artemio Chan and Pangasinan Visitors Bureau representatives Marion Puzon and Montserrat Escano, so we all conveyed our thanks and said goodbye to our gracious hosts, our stomachs filled and our craving for high-flying adventure fulfilled.