‘LITTLE BATANES’. Tourists flock to the hill facing the Bagbag Beach in Sual town in Pangasinan to get a photo at the “Little Batanes of Pangasinan” after it went viral on social media. The tourist spot is now gaining more visitors but is currently open only for residents of the Ilocos Region. (Photo by Hilda Austria)

SUAL, Pangasinan – The Bagbag Beach in this town offering white sand shore with rock formations and a nearby hill that overlooks the islets at the Hundred Islands National Park is now an additional tourist attraction in the province of Pangasinan.
 
It has trended in social media after a netizen uploaded a video taken while at the top of the hill and likened the view to Batanes hence, it has been dubbed as the “Little Batanes of Pangasinan”.
 
Netizens agreed that it resembles the famous features of Batanes, a view of the vast sea from the top of green hills, and they were quick to share the videos and photos that spread its popularity online.
 
Some bikers from Barangay Capantolan in this town, just a few kilometers away from Bagbag Beach at Barangay Baybay Norte, admitted it was their first time to visit the ‘Little Batanes’ despite its short distance to their residence.
 
Bikers from Manaoag town said it is enjoyable to travel to the place as the roads, including that of the interior barangays, were concreted and shaded with tall pine trees and bamboos along the way.
 
“It’s like traveling to Baguio City because of the zigzag roads and pine trees,” said Fidel de Guzman, a resident of Dagupan City.
 
The parking areas in the place are situated in private lots charging between PHP20 to PHP100 depending on the type of vehicle.
 
The residents make sure the parked motorcycles and vehicles are secured.
 
Before enjoying the view at the top of the hill, one must hike at the beach area and at some point trek in a forest-like and rocky portion of the Bagbag Beach.
 
The rocky portion of Bagbag Beach at Sual town that one needs to pass through before reaching the top hill view of Little Batanes of Pangasinan. 
 
It will take 20 to 30 minutes of trekking and climbing depending on one's pace, with rests from time to time to take photos of the scenic view.
 
Bagbag beach offers two areas, one where fisherfolk gather fishes and seashells and the second area where tourists camp at cottages set up by the residents that cost between PHP200 to PHP300 per day.
 
Residents also benefit from the influx of tourists as they sell foods and drinks to visitors. 
 
Thse cottages can such be rented for PHP200 to PHP300. 
“I liked the place because it offers an adventure. It is not boring. I loved the experience of going around a tall rock formation and leaping from one rock to another to reach the destination; that is the view of the Little Batanes. We also came across old trees and bamboo and plants, it’s like an enchanted small forest plus the smell of the plants as we go up the hill was pleasant,” said Lorenzo Austria Jr., a resident of Malasiqui town.
 
Engaged couple Dan Benigno Dacayanan of Bani town and Marjorie Reyes of Alaminos City held their prenuptial shoot at the Bagbag Beach.
 
“It’s two in one. You get the view of the beautiful beach and the ocean, and then the mountain. And we need not spend much to go here,” Reyes said.  
 
The top hill view at Bagbag Beach overlooking the vast sea and the islets at the Hundred Islands National Park is likened by netizens to Batanes. 
 
While the municipal government of Sual town has opened its tourism only to residents of the Ilocos Region, it urged tourists to strictly implement safe tourism.
 
“Tourists should wear face masks and face shields. And please maintain physical distancing,” said Alexis Grich Verzo, engineer 1 of the municipal planning and development in this town. (PNA)