Text and photos by Ma. Glaiza Lee
Although Pangasinan is my home province, I can’t honestly say that I know its every secret. There are still a lot of places to explore and discover. After all, Pangasinan is the third biggest province in the Philippines. The crescent-shaped province occupies 536,818 hectares of land area, almost half of the total land area of the Ilocos Region (composed of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union and Pangasinan).
The province got its name from “asin” (salt). The early settlers of the place were known for making salt. Hence, the name “Panag-asinan” or the place where salt is made. Over the years, the name evolved into Pangasinan.
Getting here is quite easy: From Manila, just hop on a bus heading north. The ride is only about four or five hours. Most major bus companies such as Victory Liner, Five Star, Solid North, and Partas ply the Manila-Pangasinan route 24/7. Bus fare ranges from P300 to P450, depending on which town you are heading to.
Buses, jeeps and tricycles are the most common mode of public transportation within the province.
Composed of four cities and 44 municipalities, Pangasinan is home to natural and man-made wonders. There are beautiful beaches, verdant hills, caves and waterfalls. Cultural and heritage sites featuring Hispanic churches also abound here. A few places have been known to be miraculous. Indeed, there’s something here for any curious traveler.
To get you started, here are a few suggestions on where to go and what to do:
- EXPERIENCE ISLAND HOPPING IN ALAMINOS
- DISCOVER PANGASINAN’S RICH HISTORY
- FEEL THE ADRENALINE RUSH
- LEARN HOW SALT IS MADE IN BOLINAO
- COMMUNE WITH NATURE
Mention Pangasinan and the first thing that comes to mind is the Hundred Islands, a group of 124 islets scattered around the Lingayen Gulf. The Lucap Wharf in the town of Alaminos serves as the jumping-off point for the Hundred Islands National Park.
You can take a tricycle from the town proper to the wharf. The fare costs P60 to P100, depending on your bargaining skills. To explore the national park, one has to pay an entrance fee: P40 per person for the day tour and P80 for the overnight tour. Prepare an additional P30 for the environmental fee and P10 for the 24-hour insurance fee.
Island hopping will set you back P1,400 for a boat rental good for five persons. A two-day tour costs P3,000. Boat rental for 11 to 15 people ranges from P2,000 to P4,500, depending on whether it’s a one-day or a two-day tour.
Day tour means exploring the three popular islands: Quezon Island, Governor’s Island and Children’s Island. Tourists can only spend 20 minutes on each island. Afterwards, they will be asked to choose which island they want to explore more. The boatman will then leave them to their island of choice, coming back a few hours later to pick them up again. The pick up time is discussed between the tourist and the boatman beforehand.
Visitors can also try the service boat, which covers all the islands including visits to the caves and the coral gardens. If you want a more adrenaline-pumping way to get from one island to another, try the zipline. There are two ziplines here: one on Governor’s Island (P250/pax), and another on Quezon Island (P100/pax). The former boasts a 45-feet-long, 546-meter-high zipline stopping on Virgin Island.
Various water activities such as snorkeling, helmet diving, and kayaking can also be enjoyed inside the park for a minimum fee.
To learn about the history and heritage of Pangasinan, visit the Capitol Complex in Lingayen. At the heart of this complex is the Pangasinan Capitol Building, which serves as the province’s seat of government.
Designed by architect Ralph Doane, the building has a neoclassical architectural style featuring concrete ornamental decorations and native motifs. Declared as one of the eight architectural treasures of the Philippines by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Filipino Heritage Festival, the building has witnessed the ravages of World War II and was partly destroyed during the Lingayen Gulf Landing in 1945. It was reconstructed in 1949.
Right in front of the capitol, amid the well-manicured parks and gardens, is an exhibition on the historic Lingayen Gulf Landing. The exhibit pays tribute to the Filipino soldiers who fought alongside US military forces led by Gen. Douglas McArthur. The famous American general and his men landed on the shores of the gulf for the liberation of Luzon.
Other interesting sites inside the capitol complex include the Urduja House (also known as the official residence of the Governor of Pangasinan), the majestic Sison Auditorium (dubbed as the Cultural Center of Northern Luzon), and the Narciso Ramos Sports and Civic Center which is the premiere sports and recreation hub in Pangasinan, among others.
Don’t miss the ancestral home of former President Fidel V. Ramos as well as the Epiphany of our Lord Parish Church, famous for its collection of church bells.
Learn also how the famous Lingayen bagoong is made in one of the town’s bagoong factories.
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The capitol complex is not all about Pangasinan’s rich history and heritage. It is also a place for those into extreme outdoor adventure.
At the capitol’s beachfront, challenge yourself to some land kiteboarding. This activity involves navigating with a gigantic kite on a longboard at P100 per person.
The Balungao Hilltop Adventure Park (P50 entrance fee for adults and P25 for children) boasts the longest zipline in the region. The 1.4-kilometer zipline starts from a hilltop passing through farms and thick foliage before ending at the park’s resort. The ride usually takes about one minute, depending on the rider’s weight.
Afraid of heights? Don’t worry you can still enjoy some adrenaline rush through an ATV ride. For P500 per person, the 15-minute ride comes bundled with zipline and bungee trampoline activities.
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Established in 1956, the Pacific Salt Farm in Bolinao is the perfect place for tourists to learn the intricate process of making salt.
The educational tour starts at the Sunrise View Deck, where tourists can enjoy panoramic views of the salt farm. Next stop is the ruins of a chapel, which is among the oldest structures in the farm. Don’t forget to cross the Love Bridge, named as such after a tension between the new owner Johnny Khonghun and the farmers was broken up by a goat giving birth in the middle of the bridge. Unsure of their future under the new management, the farmers tried to block Khonghun from entering the farm for the first time that one fine day in 1993.
Touring the farm, visitors learn the step-by-step process of salt production. The highlight of the tour is the locomotive ride, which is part of the three-kilometer rail system used inside the farm to deliver harvested salt from one point to another. The train goes around the large harvesting area before stopping by the salt warehouse, the salt art sculptures, and the washer area.
After the tour, you’ll never look at salt the same way again.
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Pangasinan has its share of amazing beaches and long coastlines: the beachfront in the capitol complex in Lingayen, Bolo Beach in Alaminos,Tondol White Sand Beach in Anda, Surip Beach in Bani, Cabongaoan Beach in Burgos, the Macalang and Tambobong beaches in Dasol, the Cabalitian Island in Sual, the Uyong, Tobuan and Laois beaches in Labrador; the Bonuan Blue Beach in Dagupan, the beach of San Fabian, among others.
Pangasinan also features many beautiful falls such as the Maranum Falls in Naividad, the Pinsal, Lipit and Parasapas falls in San Nicolas; Antong Falls in Sison, Babuyan Falls in Infanta, and Sawang Falls in Mabini, among others.
You can also take a cruise at Balingasay River in Bolinao or at Dawel River in Dagupan. While in Bolinao, have your lunch at Sungayan Grills where you can rent one of their floating cottages for P250 per person. Feed your hungry tummy, while also feeding your soul with the beautiful views along the Balingasay River.
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