`ARYA ABRA’ FESTIVAL MARCH 7-10, NATURE AT HER BEST
Bangued, Abra, Feb. 24, 1999 - The tranquillity of Abra will be disrupted, albeit in a positive way, from March 7 to 10, when the province breaks out in merriment for the `ARYA ABRA’ festival. What can tourists expect in this cool, mountainous community which remains largely mysterious to lowlanders?
The Bulletin’s travel writer Maan Benetua was recently there, and filed this report.
Abra is not a tourism destination that instantly comes to mind. It's not for the first-time traveller, nor for the inexperienced, and it's usually not even considered as a sole destination. Sadly, if a tourist is looking for a sophisticated tourism infrastructure, Abra is not the place to visit since it is currently outclassed by other provinces and regions which have magnificent beaches, better shopping malls and a well-developed tourism industry.
So, what does Abra have to offer tourists?
The answer is simple, retort Abra's Lone District Rep. Vicente "El Syd" Valera and his wife Abra Gov. Ma. Zita Claustro-Valera: "an old province still smoking with the fumes of history, culture and quaint traditions. This legacy is Abra's distinct characteristic for it has been home to ancient and great Filipino warriors like: Gabriela and Diego Silang, which give it a competitive edge over its neighboring provinces and will win hands down when it comes to natural beauty."
Abra is beautiful in its own distinctive way, yet its heritage and history are the main attractions and most promising assets. Any travellers visiting this province seeking to learn its culture, history and tradition will not be disappointed.
“While other destinations offer attractive beaches, exquisite and cheaper golf courses my province has the pretty Abra River," beams Gov. Valera "to which I have attached the `karerakit’ -- an annual sports-related activity .”
`Karerakit’ is a race of rafts manned and paddled by brawny and muscular Abreños during the `Arya Abra’ festivity held from March 7-10. The festival dates are already red-letter days in the calendar of feasts and events promoted and endorsed by the Department of Tourism.
Abra offers not only history but also archeology and a generous splash of rainforests.
The name of the province Abra comes from the Spanish word "abre" meaning "gorge", "opening;" "breach or pass" which the Spaniards used to refer to the region above the Banawang gap (or Vigan gap) through which the Abra River flows westward out of the basin of Abra province into the China Sea. Often referred to as Ilocandia's last frontier and the Central Cordilleras' spinal cord; it is bordered by Ilocos Sur to the southwest and Ilocos Norte to the Northwest.
To get to Abra from Manila, travel North on the Pan Philippine (also known as the Maharlika) Highway up to km. 378 at Narvacan, Ilocos Sur, where there is a road that leads east from the junction.
Along the route to Bangued, the capital, is the Tangadan Tunnel, 62-5 meters long, while 54 km. east of Bangued are the famous Licuan Rice Terraces, which many consider to be even more beautiful than the more publicized Banawe Rice Terraces.
Spelunking beckons at the Lagayan Caves, located 19 kms. Northeast of Bangued. Not far from there is the Ar-Arbis Waterfall which offers a refreshing swim amid enormous rocks and boulders fringed by creeping vines and mountain foliage.
About 28 kms. north of Bangued, past the municipality of Danglas, is the Mapaso Hot Springs, whose soothing mineral waters are sought after and believed to cure ailments such as rheumatism and general malaise.
Exploring Boliney, a mountain hamlet south of Bangued, one finds the Bani Hot Springs, which warmer and reportedly more potent the hot springs near Danglas.
What else is there to do in Abra? You can try panning for gold at the numerous rivulets east of the Abra river, particularly along the Bolongan river in Lacub. The rich veins of Abra’s mountains occasionally reward tourists with small nuggets.
The cultural festival "Arya Abra" has become a traditional yearly festival which the Valera couple aim not only at outsiders but also the natives of Abra.
"The Arya Abra festivity is a week-long great exercise, not just for attracting tourists but also to enlighten all Abreños to take pride in the heritage and rich culture of their province."
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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