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I am a Bicolano by birth and choice. By any standards, I am a slow runner but I like it that way. I look at running as a healthy and exciting way to make a difference. Together with my fellow runners from our family, school, office and the community, we use running to give back..

March 12, 2016

PAGUDPUD ULTRA MARATHON: Tireless In A Boundless Place

The Cambridge dictionary defines the word "boundless" as having no limits. Boundless was the impression I have when I looked at the route map of the Pagudpud Marathon and Ultra MarathonPagudpud.   It was as if the town of Pagudpud was so huge geographically, seemingly without limits,  that  all categories of this IRunner event, the half marathon,  the full marathon, the 50-km ultra and the 80-km ultra marathon were to take place within the boundaries of this  single town. .    
Route Map of the Pagudpud Marathon and Ultra Marathon
Normally we are used to having an ultra marathon that cuts thru multiple towns and cities.  My very first ultra marathon,  the 50-km T2N by Bald Runner,  started in Tagaytay City and traversed thru at least 2 towns before reaching the municipality of Nasugbu in the neighboring province of Batangas. My annual pilgrimage that is the 80-km Mayon 360 starts and ends in Legazpi City after passing thru 2 cities and 5 towns in Albay.  But the Pagudpud event scheduled for Mar 5 promised to happen in one holiday town known famously for its beaches.   

This got me intrigued so decided to book a late registration with the Race Director who graciously accommodated my request a couple days before the event. I would be flying 500+ kilometers to the Northern tip of Luzon. 

Would the trip be worth it?

The answer is a big YES. And what made it a very positive experience are countless reasons.  Here are a few:

First, the Pagudpud Ultra Marathon added the 13th province to my growing list of provinces that the Bicolano Penguin have had the privilege of running a marathon or an ultra.  Ilocos Norte is now added to Laguna, Camarines Sur, Metro Manila, Albay, Cavite, Batangas, Bataan, Pampanga, Laguna, Quezon, Davao del Sur, and Negros Oriental.  I endeavor to join a marathon or an ultra  in as many provinces as I can in our beloved archipelago before I stop running. With God's grace, perhaps all 81 provinces in the Republic of the Philippines. Still a long ways to go but I now have  a feeling that with the friendships and connections  established here in Ilocos in this most recent ultra, many provinces in the solid North will be included soon in my list. 

Second, the sceneries that I savored in the Pagudpud Ultra Marathon are breath-taking and extraordinarily varied. It was worth the price of admission for not one but several epic  movies.   Imagine,  if you will, running thru scenes that evoked memories of  5  movies.  

The first part which had the participants running in the dark for an hour and a half from the starting area in Barangay Saud to the neighboring Barangay Caparispisan  had me thinking of the movie 2011 movie "Wuthering Heights" whose location is the rolling hills of the Yorkshire moor in Great Britain.  It was dark but the runners could hear the howling winds coming from the sea.  It is this same howling wind that is powering the 27 wind turbines of the Northern Luzon Renewable Energy Corporation. Though it was still dark, glancing to my right I could see on the top of the hills the silhouette of the circling movement of the turbine blades. 

Blessed with strong winds 24 by 7, the hills of Barangay Caparispisan are dotted...

...with wind turbines generating power for the Luzon grid.  
The first light of day had me climbing a long uphill together with Sheryll Obispo of Antipolo and Romil Francis of Taguig.  When we crested the hill, we were rewarded with the view of a hilly outcrop jutting out into the sea.  Both wind and wave were crashing into it.  All 3 of us had the same exclamation of wow. The windy landscape reminded me of the 1994 movie "Rapa Nui". The rugged coastline and green hills, minus the huge Moai stone figures,   were eerily similar to the Easter Island landscape which was the setting of the movie.   We were now entering the barangay of Caunayan.  It is a remote place and its remoteness is perhaps the reason why a certain promontory of this barrio was picked as the beaching point for the submarine USS Stingray as it delivered weapons and supplies for Filipino guerrillas in 1944. Barangay Caunayan is where the trail part of the ultra marathon started.  Support vehicles were not allowed entry into the trails and the runners were on their own. The 21-km particpants made their u-turn here.   Good thing I had Sheryll and a couple more Taguig runners for company in the grassland on the hills overlooking the sea.
Awesome view going downhill entering Barangay Caunayan.  

The trail part of the Pagudpud Ultra started in Barangay Caunayan which boasted of grassy hills with the occasional wind-swept trees.

Running with Sheryll on the trails akin to the route of the Birdman Competition race in the movie Rapa Nui  which was shot  in Easter Island.  

At a certain point, the trail veered down to the coast and this is where we get to glimpse the barreling waves of Pasaleng Bay crashing into the rugged reef.  The white foamy  sight and thunderous sound of the  waves have me imagining another  movie, the 1991 cult classic "Point Break". The surfing flavor of the route was further enhanced when we started passing by surfing inns with names like Kapuluan Vista and Northcoast Boatriders. We were now in the Barangay of Balois, still in Pagudpud and the blue body of water that we were marveling is the Maira-ira cove or more famously known as the Blue Lagoon.                              
White foam from breaking waves in the background as we entered the area of the Blue Lagoon in Pasaleng Bay . 

As we gobbled a kilometer or so along Blue Lagoon coastline, the smaller surfing inns gave way to bigger beach resorts complexes like the Hannah's Beach Resort and Convention Center with its modern recreational facilities, chief among them  one of the longer ziplines in Luzon.  On top of the zipline is the u-turn for the 42-km participants. This is where I parted with my erstwhile running companion Sherryll. 
Going up the hill with the Blue Lagoon and Hannah's Beach Resort in the background. 
I was solo only so briefly as I luckily  got to catch up with two runners.  One was Randy Ratcho from Ilocos Sur and the other one was Kate Cruz from Ilocos Norte.  Both were 60-km participants. I asked to tag along and they happily welcome me into their company.  It was a blessing for me as Kate is a tourist guide connected with Laoag City Tourism and pretty soon I had a good running conversation with her on some of the interesting sights along the route. 

Pretty soon were exiting the barangay of Balois and entering the national highway.  We were still in Pagudpud, I was assured by the two. Up ahead was the u-turn for the 50-km participants.  On the u-turn was a hut with food provisions like boiled egg and watermelon. These food tasted so delicious, the intensity of the delight perhaps boosted by the fact that we were all so hungry after running for roughly  4 hours already.   Both Randy and Kate encouraged me to go with them up to the Patapat viaduct as it was a couple of kilometers away from the 50-km u-turn. Ever the wanderer and wonderer, I gladly accepted their offer to run with them. 

What's so special about the Patapat Viaduct?  Kate pointed out that it is the 3rd longest bridge structure in the Philippines at 1,300 kilometers long.  The 2nd longest is the San Juanico Bridge in Samar-Leyte at 2,200 meters long and the longest is the Candaba Viaduct in NLEX Pampanga at 5,000 meters long. It connects the province of Ilocos Norte to the neighboring province of Cagayan. It rises along the coastal mountains which is the starting point of the massive Cordillera Mountain Range. True enough, when we were at the vicinity of the Patapat Viaduct, I could see to our right the coastal mountain, its face shrouded by tropical forests.  Too bad, my celphone camera was already wet from all the rain and mists generated by the lush vegetation. So my photos of this scenery were not good quality but who's to complain when we are blessed with the sight of both man-made marvel that is the Patapat Viaduct and the natural marvel that is the Kalbario-Patapat Natural Park.  I would say that the bridge reminded me of the 1977 war epic film "Bridge Too Far and the tropical forests reminded me of the Kauai island  which was the setting of the original Jurassic Park movie (1993).

With Kate on the start of the 1.3km-long  Patapat Viaduct.

I've gone this far, needed at least to have my foot steps taste the surface of the country's 2nd longest bridge. Kate escorted me. .
Time to say good bye to Randy and Kate...

...who were on their way to the 60-km U-turn beyond the Patapat Viaduct. 

Making a u-turn on my back to the starting point in Saud Municipal Beach, roughly 27 kms away, I gazed on this awesome sight of the rough Pasaleng Bay to my right and the lush vegetation of the Kalbario-Patapat Nature Reserve.     
At the Patatpat Viaduct, I bade farewell to Kate and Randy as they were running to the 60-km u-turn which was more than 5 kilometers away. I turned around and retraced my steps back to the starting line in Saud municipal beach about 27 kilometers away.  The run back, which was essentially the rewinded version of the first half of the ultra,   took a little bit longer to accomplish as the trails were already muddy and slippery as a result of the intermittent rain showers. I for one slipped and luckily my left hand was able to shield my face from a muddy reception. Saw a couple of runners limping with their walk which were a result of some nasty fall on the trails.  Also, it was getting hotter, especially in the last 8 kilometers as the sun showed itself when we needed it least.  I guess another testament to the boundless size of the municipality of Pagudpud is that in this town there could at least be 2 micro weather systems.  Sunny on the lowland shores of Saud and its neighboring barangays and wet in the vicinity of the Patapat nature reserve.        

But there was still one adventure waiting to pop on me. And it literally jumped on me three kilometers away from the finish line. A 4-foot long snake crossed the road a couple of feet  away from me. It went so fast that I did not anymore have time to whip my phone camera into action.  How cool is that to see a snake in the wild. Guess it is true that in paradise (that is Pagudpud) there is always the serpent to tempt Adam and Eve with the proverbial apple. 

But I did not break my running stride as I was gunning to finish the 50+km ultra in less than 9 hours. At 8 hours and 54 minutes, I reached the finish line. Not much fanfare at the finish line as the Race Director was still out on the long route, tending to the stragglers among the participants. After promptly claiming the finisher medal, finisher trophy and finisher shirt, I immediately proceeded to the nearby beach and accomplished what I wanted to do in many an ultra finish - that is to go dive into the cool blue waters of the sea. I was not able to do it in Negros Oriental  given the chance to finish on a beach area , I sure will not pass on the chance this time. 

A tireless finish to the  lookout point in Saud Municipal Beach. 

Proudly showing the colors of First Balfour.
With the finisher medal and finisher trophy for the 50-km ultra.

Master Vic graciously joined me in the finish line photo.  He joined the 42-km full marathon. He finished much earlier.
Doing the several dive(s)  on the cool water looked as if the Bicolano Penguin was tireless. And I sure felt like it - tireless in this boundless place of Pagudpud.  And the reason for my tireless condition is that the 50+-km route offered a lot of awesome and breath-taking sceneries that getting tired was simply out of the equation.  The route was never boring. It was simply resplendent with nature's bounty.
Finally,  a chance to go straight to the cool water after an ultra.
Still tireless after all the kilometers.

Must be the adrenaline. 
Must be the azure charm  of the place.
The cool waters off Saud Beach was inviting ...
...and felt like the fountain of youth for the Bicolano Penguin.

And of course, the people that I got to meet in the Pagudpud Ultra Marathon have a lot to do with me being tireless about this ultra adventure. 
The BP with Sherryl Obispo and Romil Francis.
BP with Randy Ratcho, Kate Cruz and another Ilocos-based runner.

In addition to the aforecited Sheryll, Romil, Kate and Randy, I had the pleasure of getting acquainted with the group of Lyndon Datu. This group of runners have been having a grand time joining distance events in far away and beautiful places in our Philippine archipelago like Batanes and Ilocos. Running is their good old excuse to tour. 

Group photo of Manila-based runners who joined the Pagudpud Marathon & Ultra Marathon. Dr. Elvis Ponce, Dr. Evelyn Ponce, Alberto Cervante, Sonny MC, Victor Ting, Bicolano Penguin, Victor Urgel, Ruben Veran and Lyndon Datu.  Seated are Levie and Girlie Arendain.   
Solidarity of two ultra runners.  One got injured on the trails and the other one never left the injured behind. 

BP with Romil and Maricel Resquites after the dip in the water. 
Of course, there were old regulars like Vic Ting and the Arendain couple present in Pagudpud.   Master Vic booked his 74th full marathon in Pagudpud.  While Girlie Arendain got a  1st place finish (Ladies category)  in the 50km ultra to the delight of hubby Levi. In the latter and difficult stages of the ultra marathon, I had the good fortune of pacing  with two intrepid runners - Sonny of Metro Manila and Roehl Tams of Pagudpud.  
The Arendain couple on the way to a podium finish by Girlie.
My two companions in the last 10 kms of the ultra:  Roehl Tams ...
...and Sonny MC. 

Also, got to talk to the Race Director - Randy Abasolo.    Observing how he operated, I can truly say he is passionate about running and his organizing race events is an extension of this passion.  His operation is a family affair and he makes sure his runners are taken cared of as the head of the family would do.  That is why his hydration stations does not only contain water and gatorade but also welcome food like boiled egg and tasty water melon. One suggestion for improvement in his Pagudpud Ultra Marathon would be the provision of race photographers situated in a handful of the scenic vantage points in the race like the Patapat Viaduct and the hills surrounding the Blue Lagoon. This is a minor point and overall assessment for this race and the race director is net positive. The Bicolano Penguin would be recommending the 2nd edition of the Pagudpud Ultra Marathon to our running friends. I'm confident the other pioneering participants will too.  I certainly wish there is a second edition and more.            
Race Director Randy Abasolo with some of the participants in the after race revelry.
Successful finishers enjoying the beach

Having a support vehicle is a big help in surviving an ultra marathon and Dohn Bulosan from our Burgos project team had knowledge of the local area which proved very beneficial during the race. Even after the race, his local intel allowed us to pick a very special restaurant in Pagudpud - BergBlick Restaurant. There was no crispy pata which is my go-to after-ultra meal but the baked pata was a welcome new meal for me. We got to meet the chef and owner of the restaurant, Mr. Detlev Cotte. He is formerly from Bayern, Germany who settled in the northern province  after being enchanted by the beauty and charm  of an Ilocana.       

With Dhon Bulosan, the very helpful  support vehicle driver. 

You wouldn't expect a German restaurant along a provincial road up North but there is. The BergBlick Restaurant. 

The tasty baked pata.  Looks to be a healthier option to the crispy pata.

BP with the German chef Detlev Cotte.

Ilocos Norte has a lot to offer that will surely charm the hearts and mind of visitors, be they ultra runners or your garden variety lakwatseros. Too bad, I only had 24 hours  in this province. Most of the day was spent running the ultra marathon and then driving back to Laoag where the airport was. But since I was tireless that day, I still got to squeeze in a tour of the provincial capitol grounds in Laoag plus some much-needed buying of souvenirs for loved ones back in Metro Manila and Bicol.
Laoag's impressive plaza. 

Pasalubong for the loved ones back in Metro Manila
Souvenir items showing  boundless variety of colors.

Truly the Bicolano Penguin was tireless in Pagudpud and Ilocos Norte the  beauty of which knows no bounds. 

P.S. Some of the photos taken from the facebook pages of Victor Ting, Roehl Tams, Sonny MC, Romil Francis and Lyndon Datu. 





  1. Oh such a nice story especially from one who share the the Hardship and the Joy of this Campaign. Hopefully we will meet next time, run together and share some nice stories.

    1. Thank you Poncecutor for reading the article. Thank you for the kind words. Are we facebook friends?

  2. Pading BP, two thumbs up on this write up...detailed and enjoyable to read...hope nex yr. Row 5 Runners, Bicol can enjoin...more power...c u at Mayon 360 Run nex month...

    1. Salaamat nin dakula Allen sa pagbasa mo kang istorya ko. Magayonon talaga sa Pagudpud. Looking forward to our Mayon 360 adventure this April.