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Mayor rebrands Narvacan town

Story & photos by Mau Victa | Correspondent

MORE than 10 years ago, Mayor Zuriel S. Zaragoza thought of creating a brand for Narvacan town. It was an old town; its parish church, established in 1587, is one of the oldest in the Ilocos region.

Located in a valley, it is also one of the oldest trading centers in the North. Among the goods traded with the Tingguians of Abra and the Ilocanos in upland Ilocos Sur were gold, tobacco, rice and timber.

Zaragoza knew that dwelling on the past would only get the town so far. Although his town is indeed beautiful, he thought of going beyond cultural tourism. Narvacan is a huge valley surrounded by mountains. It is also bounded by the West Philippine Sea on the west, but its beaches, though picturesque, are less swimmer-friendly than the neighboring towns.

Narvacan, however, has Bantay Abot (literally Hole Hill), a hill about 1,000 feet high that has a huge hole from top to who-knows-how-deep. Because of its overpowering presence and its proximity to the beach, Zaragoza decided to make Bantay Abot the anchor for its ecotourism development.

It was five years later, in 2012, when he decided to shift instead to adventure tourism. The first they did was to call the whole package NOAH, or Narvacan Outdoor Adventure Hub, with its headquarters at Barangay Bulanos.

In October 2012 Zaragoza launched the more than 500-meter zipline that would take more than 45 seconds to traverse. Later, he built “Arko”, using about 30 container vans. Arko has a restaurant, roof deck, huge restrooms, outdoor drinking place, conference room, locker room and bar. Since then, the activities kept on growing.

Part of the Narvacan dunes was remodeled to become a race track for all-terrain vehicles. Via Ferrata was formed as an extreme trail with rock climbing, trail walking and reconnoitering. A downhill course for mountain bikes was also established and later became part of the Philippine downhill bike circuit, with riders from all over the country participating in the annual event starting last December.

The trickiest part of the extreme adventure is paragliding. The summit of Bantay Abot was set to be the launch pad for paragliding. Buko Raymundo, an Asean Games medalist for precision paragliding, was taken as consultant to establish the Narvacan flysite. Raymundo, who is based in Sarangani, said that, unlike there where paragliding is theoretically available 300 days a year, Narvacan has a smaller window for flying because of the typhoon season. He, however, said the view in Narvacan is more spectacular because of the beach and the rice fields. In February Zaragoza reopened the NOAH, incorporating earth, wind, water and fire as the guiding symbols.

Jose Cuerdo, the business development manager of NOAH, said, “Earth is the mountain with complete cable-protected climb At all times you can be connected with the cables that can bring you to cliffs, to the stiff side of the mountain, up vertical section and you’re still on the cable, the swift part of this mountain on your way down you will go on a zipline.”

“Wind here is a very safe wind. Many ocean breezes, at some point the wind is outward and that is dangerous because the wind can blow you in to sea,” he said. “Fire is engine. Its motor sports. Very perfect because there are sands here, off-road adventure and it’s not technical. Hindi nakakatakot to a point na tataob ang sasakyan mo, we can give you a vehicle to drive alone, although the driver is beside you and motor is running.”

And, of course, water is the beach. Windsailers from Anilao Cove in Batangas were hired to teach the natives for two weeks and let them, in turn, become trainers. Aside from windsailing, tourists can try parasailing.

Image credits: Mau Victa

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