Abra, the first province of the Philippines in an alphabetical list, is easily overlooked as a tourist destination. We don’t hear about it much, but it holds some interesting sites and experiences for the adventurous.
Billed as the Philippines’ Natural Dye Capital, the province is home to a number of plants from which natural dyes are extracted. These dyes are used in cosmetics, furniture, food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, and fabrics. The use of the dyes in native textiles also encourage loom weaving and embroidery industries to flourish. Other industries include crafts from bamboo and rattan.
Ilocano is the main language of Abra’s residents, with a smattering Itneg and Tagalog here and there. The capital, Bangued, is the largest and perhaps best-known municipality.
A rich cultural heritage is hidden away in Abra. Antique porcelains, jars, and gongs can be found here, relics of an oriental trade route from ages ago. You’ll also be able to enjoy the ethnic music that is still enjoyed by the indigenous people.
Abra’s Tourist Spots
Here’s a list of places and things to see in Abra:
* Don Teodoro Brillantes Family Museum in Tayum, one of the Philippines’ National Historical Landmarks, holds the Brillantes family collection that shows the influence of Spanish culture in the country
* Old Roman Catholic Churches – Spanish-era churches in Bangued, Tayum and Lagangilang (photo on top)
* Tugot ni Angalo (Footprints of Angalo) in Kabaruyan, San Quintin. Local mythology has a giant named Angalo as the Adam or First Man of Abra. Pools around Pinsal Falls (photos here and here) are said to be his footprints left behind as he knelt for a drink of water.
* Abra River (photo here) is the longest and most popular river in the province
* Boliney Hot Spring in Bani, Boliney, is ideal for hot and cold baths
* Libtec Underground River in Barangay Libtec, Dolores appears from the distance like a cave in an empty field. Underneath the surface is a flowing underground river with stalagmites.
* Kimkimay Lake and Limbo Lake in Villaviciosa
* Sibud-Sibud Cave
* Don Mariano Marcos Bridge along the Abra Kalinga National Road is the third longest bridge in the Philippines
* Tangadan Tunnel (above), a 40-meter tunnel along the Abra-Ilocos Sur National road
* Festivals like Arya Abra (March 9) and the Tingguian Festival
If you plan to visit, remember to consider that the dry months are from November to April. Expect to find rainy days during the rest of the year. To get to Abra, you can take a Philippine Rabbit bus from Manila to Baguio (7 hours), and then from Baguio to Abra (1 hour or less).