In long past, some people branded Pagudpud, the famous beach town of Ilocos Norte, as Boracay of the North, because of its wide and long shoreline and its pristine white sand. Almost all write ups and promotional materials sold Pagudpud that way.
Many Ilocanos were thrilled with Pagudpud’s association with the more popular beach in the Visayas. Boracay, of course, was better known, more established, and was the place to be seen. Stargazing is also more fun in Caticlan as celebrities descend there, especially during summer.
Decades after, some still refer to Pagudpud as “Boracay of the North,” but a growing number of people are beginning not to be amused.
“Some say Pagudpud is the ‘Boracay of the North,’… But do we hear people say Boracay is the ‘Pagudpud of the South?’ Surely not,” laments Xavier Ruiz, who works with the Ilocos Norte Provincial Tourism Office. The BS Tourism cum laude graduate of Mariano Marcos State University explains that such branding is “an obvious acknowledgement that what we offer our visitors are only second best with no clear identity and are constantly clinging to more established destinations thinking it would be the best marketing strategy.” The young tourism professional says he thinks otherwise: “Our province is beautiful and astonishing.. I believe we can do better.” Ruiz’s boss, Ilocos Norte tourism head Ianree Raquel, agrees. “We always strive to give our visitors a unique taste of the North far from what they could experience in other destinations,” he says in an interview.
April Rafales, a reporter of the ABS-CBN regional station in Laoag City, shares the view of the local tourism professionals. “We cannot be a prototype of something; a place can only be its own best version, setting its own standards and offering what it can,” she says, and warns that comparing Pagudpud to other tourist spots can also set false expectations among tourists.
I share the same sentiments, dear karikna. I have been to both beaches several times, and I figured that each has its own beauty and charm. Each has its own selling points. Boracay is for bored people thirsting for excitement. Pagudpud is for the wary soul thirsting for serenity. Boracay offers an outrageous night life while Pagudpud offers intimate spaces for bonding with family and friends. It’s a choice between an overdeveloped resort and a relatively Spartan one. It’s not unlike a competition between a virgin and a hustler.
Moreover, you go to Aklan for the excellent beach. You travel to Ilocos Norte for awe-inspiring beaches and more—from heritage structures and historical sites to windmills and a lighthouse, from rivers and waterfalls to rock formations and a viaduct. And, oh, our gustatory delights which I will not attempt to enumerate.
It is different when you say Eddie Gutierrez is the Elvis Presley of the Philippines or that Anne Curis is the local Audrey Hepburn because those Pinoys intentionally copy foreign personas, but how could Pagudpud copy Boracay? I suppose God created the two beaches at the same time, or didn’t he?
On its own merits and not because of its similarity to Boracay, Pagudpud has been ranked by travel organizations, magazines, and critiques as one of the best beaches in Asia, and in the world. In Forbes Magazine’s list of top beaches in Asia, for example, Pagudpud’s Saud Beach is ranked number one not because it is like Boracay, but precisely because it is not. Forbes notes Pagudpud’s “2 km arc of blindingly pure sand bordered by the blue of the South China Sea.” It is “uncluttered,” the high-end magazine notes, “unlike that famous Philippines shore, White Beach on Boracay Island.” Forbes invites travelers to “beat the developers, the hair-braiders and sarong-floggers – head to Pagudpud now,” taking a swipe at overdeveloped Boracay.
I must admit that Pagudpud remains a work in progress, but it will never realize its full potential unless it capitalizes on its strengths, and go out of the shadow of that beach down South. Starting with us, Ilocanos, and for our own good, I hope we stop referring to Pagudpud as Boracay of the North. We have always been known to be proud and confident of ourselves, now is time to show properly some pride of our place.