Paoay Lake Asian Bird Census 2011

On January 15, 2011, a small flock of birders paid Paoay Lake a call for the Asian Water Bird Census. It was my first time to be with a group of avid birders who benevolently share their time and effort in the protection and conservation of the world’s biodiversity.

The Paoay Lake, “most northerly lake” according to Gina Mapua, is feeding point to birds heading south. As always, it was no less than local birdwatcher Dr. Petrus “Pete” Calope who spearheaded the bird count. Elsie Nolasco of the DENR-PAWB and Richard Ruiz, Dr. Pete’s birding buddy, assisted in the task. From Manila, Gina Mapua and hubby, Ixi and Mikeli Mapua and anac ti Batac Cecil Morella were among the Paoay Lake group. Gina and Ixi were very accommodating, helping me figure out the results of the count.

The untiring Dr. Pete Calope.

Early bird Bishop Sergio Utleg.

Victor and Ann Ang and daughter Ginger try to know more about bird appreciation. Ixi  shows Ginger how to peep through the lens.

A busy morning at the Paoay Lake View Deck.

In focus, Cecil and Ixi.

Ixi and company also visited the Paoay Sand Dunes for a bird check.

About birdwatching as a sport, here’s a tip they shared — “Buy the most expensive. When you get super upgrade, don’t lend your gadgets. Take care of your own things. Never be distracted by anything.” A spotting scope may be costly, and I’ve met birders who won’t settle for cheap quality.

Dr. Pete and Ms. Elsie do the reports.

Kind and informative Gina Mapua.

I don’t like posing like this, heheh… for documentation purposes only, okay?

For now, the Provincial Govenment of Ilocos Norte and the Local Government Unit of Paoay, Dr. Pete Calope and the barangays covered by the Paoay Lake are making moves to improve the environment making it conducive to birds who feed in the Paoay Lake National Park.

*I’m really sorry for not having the gadgets to shoot some of the ducks I saw that morning.
Photos by Blauearth  Copyright © Blauearth™ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Heaven Is A Place On Earth

Wen! An Ecotourism Magazine of the Ilocos and Pangasinan

Wen! An Ecotourism Magazine of the Ilocos and Pangasinan

text by Blauearth and photographed by Allan Godfrey Pagdilao of LEAD Movement

Adams, a quaint town in the northeastern side of Ilocos Norte, nestled by the pristine mountains at the northern end of the Cordilleras, is a long two and a half hours drive from Laoag City. If you happen to come from the metropolis and yearn for a communion with nature, going up north to this treasure of a place called Adams is more than an escape from urbanism. One gets to discover not just beautiful places, but a chance to experience living in a place as natural as God wanted it to be.

Drive up north. The Adams-Pansian, Pagudpud junction is several meters away from the Patapat Viaduct. Turn right after Panzzian Beach and Mountain Resort. Expect the next 20-35 minutes to be bumpy, dusty and, at times, wet. The way is through a rough road in between mountains, mountain ridges, rivers and creeks. Before reaching the Adams Municipal Hall, the refreshing sight of the Bulo River that snakes through the hills and mountains makes you want to dunk in the cleanest body of water you’ve ever seen. Crude but sturdy hanging bridges connect the hills and mountains for a more convenient passage for those on foot.

The Adams town proper does not hint, at all, that outside its boundaries are enchanting places to be explored; and unique diverse cultures — Yapayao, Isneg, Kankaaey, Igorot, Ilocano — to be experienced. Visitors can be assisted by the Adams Mountaineering Organization, known as the AMO. Getting around Adams is by walking or riding a bike; motorcycle transit and 4×4 vehicles can reach only up to certain points. There are no hotels in Adams; lodging means homestays or setting-up camp at allowed areas like the vast Lovers’ Peak where one can enjoy the panoramic view of all the majestic mountains surrounding the town. There are only 2 commercial eating places where you can pre-order an exotic meal of freshly cooked red mountain rice with available wild vegetables, upland fish, eel and shellfish.

To reach Anuplig Falls, the premiere waterfalls in Adams, one has to hike for one and a half hours from the poblacion. From there, going back can also be done by tackling the Bulo River through rubber tubes. Mountain bikers can visit Sitios Sinidangan or Masasabog and experience the heartwarming welcome smiles of children and oldies amid rustic sceneries. For the bird lovers, birding, or birdwatching, is a chance not to pass up. A variety of birds such as wood peckers, pigeons, hawks, eagles and owls abound.

There are four major mountains in Adams. Getting to the summit of Mt. Palemlem, or Pico to some, 1294 m asl, is a 3-5 hours difficult ascent through forested narrow trails, steep slopes, and mountain ridge trails. The summit campsite, named Camp Gazebo, offers a glorious panorama of the province of Ilocos Norte. The endangered Ventricosa plant, commonly known as pitcher plant is common at the summit. Mt. Pao, 1323 m asl, is a barely explored old-growth rainforest where giant mushrooms have been reported. It boasts of waterfalls and a natural canopy walk from above midway to the summit. It takes approximately eight hours to get to the peak; a clear view of the regal Cape Bojeador Lighthhouse amidst lush green forests awaits you after the arduous ascent. Climbing Mt. Linao, 1407 m asl, is a 12-hour uphill slog through open trails, a creek, grass-covered trails, forests, a dry river bed and muddy slopes. The Linao Pond, 952 m asl, is a sanctuary to wild ducks and boars, the reward one gets from braving the extreme climb. Waking-up to see a pond beside Linao’s peak, amidst fog and cool air breezing through, is the most amazing experience in Adams.

Before leaving Adams, ask around for in-season fruits — lanzones, Mandarin oranges, jackfruits, rambutans, Barbados cherries, juicy dwarf pineapples, sweet Adams bananas, and wild strawberries. Other products include tapuey, or rice wine; santol wine; bugnay wine; Adams coffee with an exotic mocha-like taste; homemade cocoa, walis tambo, or broom, guaranteed to last 2 years; handmade knives; and neatly hand-woven rattan baskets and bags. The next time you visit Adams, consider: waterfalls-hopping to all 12 waterfalls; water-tubing from Adams to Bangui (another town in Ilocos Norte) through the Bulo River; or biking from Adams town proper all the way to Pasaleng, Pagudpud.

The lofty paradise in Northern Ilocos is as mysterious as its name. One can easily get enthralled with the place and forget about the rest of the world. The experience of being in a place as beautiful and natural as Adams makes one truly thankful to Our Creator. This rare treat evokes a sense of discovery and longing for the simple and stress-free life uncomplicated by the modernism and commercialism of the times. Indeed, there are still heavens on earth.

Bulo RiverBarbados cherriesmonkey in Adamsan Adams motherwhite waterexotic food trippingAnuplig Fallsforest spiderthe scenic AnupligVentricosa plantBulo on a summer daythe sinidangan childrenhomestayon the trail to Linaorubber-tubingCabacan fallswild flowerpinkiesjackfruitmountain bikingLina Pondpagpandayanexotiquedown the roadtapuey shotat the break of dawnpineapplesYapayao houseyoung rambutanspre-tapueycacaobalbalusa, aba and kukutit

[all photos by blauearth]

Shifting gears toward green

As the world battles a global economic meltdown, more and more people are concerned with issues affecting the future of our environment. Living a sustainable life has become one of the top priorities in 2009. People have started making lifestyle changes. Luxe is suddenly out; ‘back to nature’ has become oh so fashionable.

Green Trends

Discovering the healthy benefits of organically grown produce has encouraged more individuals to plant in their own backyards. With the growing demand for eco-friendly fashion, even textile developers are looking into the suitability of organic materials (like maguey, saluyot, water lily, etc.) as substitutes for the now rare natural cotton. Today, there is an endless choice of beauty products and health supplements that make use of natural ingredients. Many budding entrepreneurs in the country continue to capitalize on the current trend.

The push for green gismos or eco-gadgets is gaining momentum. Energy saving light bulbs are flying off store shelves.

Walking or bicycling to work is not only healthy and economical; it also reduces carbon emissions in the air. Plug-in electric cars are the new hot wheels for those who have extra buck to spend. Everyone benefits from the current crop of hybrids and alternative fuel-powered cars out in the market today.

In the aviation industry, the latest “high bypass” turbofans burn less fuel, so less greenhouse gases are produced.

Cheap and cool summer vacation ideas

Nowadays, with less money to spend for travel like we used to, there is an emerging vacation trend all around the world—staycation or stay-at-home vacation. Discovering and appreciating the very same attractions that lure tourists to your hometown is a great way to experience new things.

If you’re from Ilocos Norte, here are affordable summer staycation suggestions for the whole family:

  • Visit museums like the Juan Luna Shrine in Badoc or Gameng Museo Ilocos Norte in Laoag and learn about our own rich cultural heritage. When in Badoc, look for Mino’s Italian Pizza and try their reasonable mouth-watering pizzas, ravioli, lasagna, cannelloni, crema, tiramisu, etc.

the world-renowned "Spoliarium" by Juan Luna

the world-renowned "Spoliarium" by Juan Luna -image from Pambansang Museo ng Pilipinas, Wikipedia

  • Build your arm muscles, go kayaking at Paoay Lake and enjoy the tranquility of the place. You can inquire at the Paoay Tourism Office for availability of kayaks.
  • Schedule a trek to Kaangrian Falls and Kapurpurawan Rock Formation (both in Burgos) and get exhilarated.
  • Learn to skimboard in the beaches of Pasuquin. Unlike surfing, skimboarding begins near the shore.


  • Enjoy a picnic amidst fresh air at the Villa Lita River Resort in Brgy. Ablan, Burgos, after which you can check out refmad farms, the first dragon fruit farm in the Ilocos Region. Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya or strawberry pear, is the fruit of several cactus species. It is believed to have medicinal properties (Click here to read related story).

  • Go on an extreme mountain bike adventure in Adams via the Pasian-Adams-Pasaleng route. Enjoying nature and beautiful sceneries (like the ancient Baset Hanging Bridge, the crystal-clear Bulo River, the rustic Sitio Sinidangan, the jacuzzi-like Kiwat Falls), plus the adrenalin-pumping downhill ride along the slippery rocks of the Badjang Trail, make up for the grueling bike climb.

Sitio Sinidangan, Adams

Kiwat Falls, Brgy. Pasaleng, Pagudpud

  • Rent a banca; tour the mangroves in Davila, Pasuquin. You might want to go farther and wait for a close encounter with dolphins. March to June is the best time to go sailing.

Davila, Pasuquin mangroves

seagrass bed, Davila Pasuquin

Bird watch

According to Dir. Martin Valera, DoT Region I Head, birding or bird watching is an emerging travel trend. Observing and identifying birds, a fresh way to appreciate the wonders of nature, is gaining ground among local hobbyists. In the country, birding sites like Candaba Marsh in Pampanga, Olango Island Sanctuary in Cebu, Philippine Eagle Center in Davao, Bangrin Marine Protected Area in Pangasinan, Hundred Islands National Park, Subterranean River National Park in Puerto Princesa, and Rasa Island in Palawan, among others, are attracting local and international tourists from various birding clubs all over the world.

When asked about the birding sites in the province, Dir. Valera said, “The Paoay Lake National Park has been identified and the town of Adams is promising.” He showed me his latest acquisition—a pair of binoculars which he intends to use for his first birding adventure. Aside from binoculars, a birder needs a spotting scope with tripod, a notepad, a camera or a camcorder, a field guide and a birdbook (birding list). There are over 600 bird species in the country; 200 are endemic; we have more endemic avian species per square meter compared to the Amazon.

In Adams, sightings of 18 bird species have been reported by the DENR; the endemic species are: Common Emerald Dove, Green Imperial Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Scops Owl, Rufous Hornbill, Philippine Forest Kingfisher, Coleto, Woodpecker, Hanging Parakeet, Quail, Labuyo or wild chicken, Brahminy Kite, Tarictic Hornbill, Serpent Eagle, Philippine Hawk Eagle, Little Crow; and the introduced species are: Zebra Dove and Crested Myna.

Sightings of the Philippine Eagle in Pagudpud, Adams, and the adjacent town of Kalanasan in Apayao, have been reported by locals in the past; to this day, the DENR has not confirmed its veracity.

Responsible travel

When traveling to natural areas, one should be sensitive to the negative environmental and social impacts. Individual impacts caused by recreation can accumulate to degrade the environment. Always be guided by the simple and easy to remember “pack it in, pack it out” and “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints”. “A more sophisticated set of outdoor and ethical principles is the Leave No Trace (Click here) which aims to build awareness, appreciation and respect for nature. To summarize, observing eco-friendly travel practices, respecting the hosts and their culture, being considerate of other travelers and respecting wildlife are foremost.

Making a meaningful connection with the townsfolk is a positive way to empower the host community and appreciate other cultures.

The three Rs

The world is quickly running out of space. We can produce less waste by practicing the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle concept. Reduce the amount and toxicity of trash you discard; buy products that are less toxic or contain less packaging. Reuse containers and products; repair what is broken or give it to someone who can repair it. Recycle as much as possible, which includes buying products with recycled content.