Explore the Ilocos Norte outdoors

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A series of awesome eco-adventure awaits you in Ilocos Norte…

Go fishing or birdwatching and bask in the serenity of  Paoay Lake.

Sweet Childhood

Discover the unique allure of Laoag’s La Paz Sand Dunes on a wild 4-wheel drive ride.

Get your adrenalin pumping while surfing the dunes.

Adore the sun, sea and sand in picturesque Pagudpud.



Be amazed in Adams, where nature is at its finest.

Rubber tubing

River crossing

Rock climbing



Falls hopping

Crossing the several hanging bridges that connect the mountains in Adams

Cliff diving

Extreme mountain biking

All these and more, like a string of rare gems, forever to be treasured.

Copyright © LEAD Movement™ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Mt. Palemlem AKA Pico de Loro — through the eyes of a nature lover


A full documentation of the first Mt. Palemlem mountain climbing exploration which happened on January 14, 2006 (the day Lukas Magnus Juan Leano was conceived). Reprinted from Blauearth’s files, an entry to the Philippine Star Lifestyle Journalism 2006, Create Your Own Topic.

The plucky 17 all set for the climbing venture

The plucky 17 all set for the climbing venture

Mt. Palemlem Exploration


Mount Pico de Loro towers above all the other mountains in the town of Adams, a little-known treasure of a place tucked away in northeastern Ilocos Norte.  Like a sentinel watching over the charming, quaint and picturesque little town, the mountain, known to the townspeople as Mt. Palemlem, soars to 1,294 meters above sea level. This is well above the other mountains in Adams as Mounts Linao, Burburan and Pao which all form part of the northern end of the Cordillera Mountain Range.

The Laoag Eco-Adventure Development (LEAD) Movement Inc., after exploring and scaling Mt. Pao, a rainforest with an extremely difficult, hardly-used trail, traversed by rebels in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and, perhaps, some seasonal deer hunters, were naturally drawn to the loftier Mt. Palemlem. As we asked the community elders for details about getting to the peak of Palemlem, they scared us with legends of monkeys attacking and bees swarming those who dared disturb their habitat.  According to the elders, not one from the outside territories has ever dared climb Mt. Palemlem. At first, we toyed with the idea of requesting the 505th PAF 5056th Search and Rescue Squadron chopper to drop us off at the summit then trek down to trail end.  It would have been the end of us, being advocates of responsible adventurism, had we reached the peak on such a whim. There was virtually no challenge in getting to the top on a chopper.  No sore muscles, no scratches, no dust nor mud on your feet, no sweat – no way. We just had to get to the top through the hard way. There was no stopping the adventurous spirit in each of the LEADers.  Fellow-LEADer, Paul Acupan, an Adams resident, coordinated the climb with the newly-formed AMO (Adams Mountaineering Organization) in Adams while Reny Tan, the LEAD Movement’s exploration team leader, led a series of pre-climb meetings in Laoag with our perennial trekking buddies, EJ Farinas and his group.  Anthony Agcaoili, Reny’s co-survivor of the 1996 Baguio-Sagada Mt. Bike Challenge, heard about the trek and hooked-up with us.

At 5:30, in the lovely morning of January 14, 2006, our four 4X4s took off at the Caltex station in Barit for Sitio Maligligay in Adams.  Extreme eagerness was written on the faces of the 17 brave souls.  I was the only rose among the thorns, namely: Reny, Paul, Anthony, EJ, Enrico Farinas, Arvin Alberto, Marco Flores, Allan Pagdilao, Kendrick Co, Ryan Castro, Darwin Manuel, Markee Valera, Larry Lagua, Lito Agustin, Norman Almazan and Celedonio Saturnino.  After a group prayer, at exactly 9:00 am, the challenge was on. The stamina of both spirit and sinew of each one on the team was soon put to test.

Slow Progress

After a few yards of paved road, we turned left to cross the Maligligay Creek, the start of what we expected to be a long and agonizing ascent.  My backpack seemed to be getting heavier with every step I took.  I thought it must have been ill-packed. My BMC (Basic Mountaineering Course) taught me to evenly spread out the weight of the contents inside the pack, a technique that makes the load never bothersome, as if it was just a hump on the back; to carefully choose the size of the backpack to suit one’s figure; and to pack light.  I might have packed too light that my water bottles slipped to the bottom causing my funny and unbalanced gait that I fell off a huge slippery stone into the stream.  I waited to get the feel of my dangly load.  When we got to the first 70 degree slope, my back pack dragged me down.  I couldn’t climb.  But I was firm on reaching the summit, so I decided to hand my backpack to one of the guides who did not mind carrying an additional pack. I was then ready to climb like a steeplejack. The trail was slippery as it was still early. I prayed hard for good weather all throughout the climb.

The author and Allan not seeming to mind the tough ascent

The author and Allan not seeming to mind the tough ascent

Inspired by Nature

The untouched beauty of the terrain distracted me from my feeling of near exhaustion. After hours of scaling varying degrees of inclination, it was a relief to see a view of the Pagudpud coastline through an ample space between the hills nearby, a sure sign that we have climbed far high.  I wasn’t aware of how long we have been climbing as I refused to check my watch regularly.  Knowing that you have been trekking for hours only adds to psychological exhaustion.  We then took our first long rest — long enough for a quick snack while enjoying the picturesque view of Pasaleng Bay.

My AMO guide, Teresa, a talkative, frail looking woman, maybe in her late 20s, regaled me with stories of her childhood spent mostly in the highlands.  She knew the local name of every plant and tree that grew on Palemlem. I had Botany 101 right in the woods.

Found only at the summit is a rare plant specie locals call pitselpitsel

Found only at the summit is a rare plant specie locals call pitselpitsel

Three hours on the trail and we could no longer hear EJ’s group in the lead. Reny found a wide shady portion at the trail for us to prepare and eat lunch. Upon reaching Adams, prior to the climb, I already ate half of my packed lunch. My full stomach added to my sluggishness early on the trail, so I planned to just snack on M&M’s until the peak. Teresa ate just a hardboiled egg and refused to have rice for lunch.  She, too, seemed anxious to get to the summit for the first time.  The two of us left the guys catnapping.

Brush alternated with soft slippery soil.  Our trail was getting more demanding.  We crawled under fallen trees.  Teresa’s specific instructions helped me handle the difficult slopes with confidence.  At a certain point, our trail which rested on a ridge with a vertical drop has become so narrow that only one climber could pass at a time.  In some instances, I thought that nature jokes too, just like when I needed either handholds or footholds only patches of thorny plants or loosely embedded tree roots were available (definitely better than having none at all).

Like a trail into a lost world

Like a trail into a lost world

I knew we were almost at the top after we passed by a space on the bushy ridge to our left.  It gave us a magnificent view of Adams at the middle of what looked like a green carpet covering the land as far as we could see.  I could not get enough of it, I gazed in awe at the skyline as the freshest cool air breezed through me.  Arvin, Marco, Lito and Larry were able to catch up and proceeded to trek ahead of us.  Meanwhile, I heard Reny’s voice from below. I had to wait for him because he was carrying my camera – I did not want to miss the chance of having my arrival at the peak undocumented.

A view into the pristine mountains of Adams with the poblacion at the center

A view into the pristine mountains of Adams with the poblacion at the center

Towards The Sky

As we ascended, the slants were getting steeper and the forest was getting thicker.  At one point, the space between the trees on both sides of the trail was narrower than our bodies we had to pass through sideways. Anticipation started to build up upon hearing faint voices from above.  My cell phone rang and it was our lead man Paul on the other end checking if I was okay.  I learned that the bunch before us were now at the peak. The faint voices became recognizable as we hurdled more intimidating slopes.

The final uphill push to the top was the most thrilling portion of the trek. My reward at the summit was waiting.  My arrival at the peak was greeted with cheers from the guys who looked like proud champions in the Olympics.  As I basked in my own triumph, all the drama was rudely interrupted by a welcoming limatik (mountain leech). The dreadful blood-sucker was squirming on my left arm while I was freaking out.  Paul came to my rescue with a squirt of alcohol from a tiny spray bottle.

Setting camp at the summit’s Camp Gazebo

Setting camp at the summit’s Camp Gazebo

After the last guy on the trail arrived, we set camp. The summit looked pristine and untouched with no telltale signs of previous inhabitants or visitors.  It looked small for all of us that the guys agreed to clear out the underbrush between the age-old trees. As soon as my tent was pitched, I took a rest until I fell asleep.  When I woke up, it was getting dark that I had to postpone claiming my reward at the summit’s edge.

Under the full moon, amidst the wilderness, we swapped accounts of our uphill trials over a dinner of freshly cooked rice and Ilocos longganisa. All of us, chilling and dog-tired, retired into the warmth of our tents.

Teresa staring at the spectacular Ilocos skyline

Teresa staring at the spectacular Ilocos skyline

Like a Kaleidescope

Recharged for another tough day ahead, we headed towards the scrubby edge where a fine vista awaited us.  From there, one could have a full view of all the splendor of Ilocos Norte between the emerald vastitude of the Cordillera mountains and the turquoise waters of the South China Sea.  One could also clearly see the 15 tall and mighty windmills of Bangui, the long and sinuous Bolu River and the Kalayan group of islands (through binoculars).  The glorious display was just too much to take in that I could hardly contain the inexplicable surge of emotion within me, but I, still, could not find my purpose beyond merely exploring Mt. Palemlem.

A view from the top, the Ilocos Norte coastline

A view from the top -- the Ilocos Norte coastline

After a hearty breakfast of warm mountain rice and red eggs with samatis and lasona, we prepared to leave the summit campsite, which we named Camp Gazebo. We found the nomenclature to be apt because the tree trunks looked like posts with the lush leaves serving as the top cover, like a real gazebo.

Keeping One’s Eye on the Ball

Going down the same paths we covered throughout the uphill slog the day before was an easier task, but required just as much focus plus a combination of quick wits and good reflexes. With barely a rest in between drops, I made it to Maligligay Creek in just half the time of my summit ascent.

After I buried the old man’s tale of the monkeys and the bees of Palemlem at the end of the trail, I rested and stared at the water. It was exhilarating!  I saw a familiar image – it  was me.  Only then did I realize that the ultimate reward one gets for exploring a land as old as time is the chance to have discovered one’s own self as well. Treading the paths within an unfamiliar territory is like beating life’s adversities – one never knows what comes next. Nothing defeats the power of sheer determination, I am convinced. The countless steps each of us made to conquer Mt. Palemlem started with that single, toughest step – taking its challenge.  Indeed, all glory comes from daring to begin.

Now that I am back in the urban jungles facing life’s different challenges, I can always easily draw out strength and inspiration from our Mt. Palemlem foray which has been imprinted on my mind for ever.

Photos by Blauearth, Allan Pagdilao, EJ Farinas and Paul Acupan

The LEAD Movement conquers the Mt. Palemlem summit

The LEAD Movement explores the Mt. Palemlem summit

Click to view the first tv media documentation of a Mt. Palemlem Climb. Taken and shown by ProbeTV’s Gameplan hosted by Ms. Wowie Meloto.

Unchartered Territory: Linao Pond

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Linao Pond 952 m ASL, Adams, Ilocos Norte. Photographed by Lester Susi

Linao Pond - 952 m ASL - Adams, Ilocos Norte. Photographed by Lester Susi

Linao Pond





bloated bloodsuker

bloated bloodsuker


Thank you to Lester Susi for these beautiful photos.

Adams Apples: Ripe for the picking

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From the LEAD Movement Files

December 23, 2005 (Published by the Ilocos Times)

The apple trees that the LEAD (Laoag Eco-Adventure Development) Movement planted in Adams, Ilocos Norte are now bearing fruits that are ripe for picking. The LEAD Movement, a group of adventurers with a common passion for nature, the outdoors and adventure, was formally formed on October 16, 2004 with a goal of promoting responsible adventure tourism. Sometime in November 2004, LEAD Movement with the Pinay 7 Summits mountaineers explored the virgin forests of Mt. Pao and were captivated by the natural charm of this hidden town in the northeastern side of Ilocos Norte. During subsequent exploration treks in Adams, they found a treasure trove of rainforests with rare flora and fauna, centuries-old trees lining a canopied-walk, 8 breathtaking falls, each distinct from the others, the Bulo River, stretching all the way to Bangui town, the unique culture of the people of Adams (a mix of 3 tribes), the quaintness of the poblacion, the pleasingly cold climate, all perfectly complementing each feature to make Adams a potential adventure and sports tourism center. After unearthing Ilocos Norte’s treasure that is Adams, LEAD Movement, set its sights on spearheading the transformation of this quiet upland town into a unique paradise of adventure.

In a joint-effort with the LGU of Adams and the DOT regional and local offices, LEAD Movement sponsored a BMC (Basic Mountaineering Course) to train interested Adams locals as trek/tour guides. The graduates then formed the AMO (Adams Mountaineering Organization).

Rubber-tubing or kayaking at the Bolu River, trekking at Mt. Pao or Pico de Loro, rock climbing, rappelling and falls hopping to Pao, Aki, Anuplig, Sisilugan, Mareprep, Kanayupan falls, bird watching at Pico de Loro, mountain biking or dirt biking to Sitios Bokarot or Malaggao, picture-taking or picnicking at the vast Lovers’ Peak (which gives the best panoramic view of the mountains surrounding Adams), souvenir hunting (Adams locals are good basket-weavers), shopping for mandarin oranges, seasonal lanzones and rambutans, juicy dwarf pineapples, tapuey (rice wine), Adams coffee and mountain rice are among the bests that Adams can offer.

The Department of Tourism Regional Office saw the potential of Adams and included it in “The Philippines Bests Program”. For WOW Philippines, a unique and colorful sports and adventure showcase, aptly dubbed “The Best of Ilocos Region… more than you can imagine”, was unveiled at the Clamshell I Pavillion in Intramuros on December 5, 2005. Adams was the highlight of the entire showcase. A walk over the hanging bridge entrance to the mountain replica, complete with 2 waterfalls and a cave, depict Adams. Visitors were raving about the originality of the concept and its artistic merits. It was designed by another pride of Ilocos, Architect Rex Hofileña.

Discovering Adams: Mt Pao Exploration


The LEAD Movement discovered Adams on a trekking adventure to Mt. Pao on December 11, 2004. Two members of the Pinay 7 Summits, Gia Atienza and Nina Danao and the LEAD Movement’s Tina and Reny Tan,  Bob Hoover and Allan Miguel were easily enamoured by what they discovered in Mt. Pao– a treasure trove of clean and fresh abundant water sources; intact dipterocarp forests; a variety of rare flora like the Ventricosa or pitcher plant, exotic ferns and orchids, giant mushrooms and wild fauna like monkeys, cats, snakes, birds, insects, and chickens they don’t normally see elsewhere. They saw the great potentials of Adams for ecotourism. The mild-mannered nature of the townsfolk added to the charm of Adams. They hardly smiled at first, but they were accomodating; and as they started to warm-up, you could see the genuineness in their hearts. Contrary to the town’s image of being a rebel-infested area, due to its proximity to the Cordillera Region, the group did not feel a bit of fear in Adams; the group’s jeeps were left unlocked and unattended when they went trekking up the mountains, and when they came back, the things left inside the jeeps were untouched.

After that initial exploration of Mt. Pao, the group set its sights on putting Adams on the map. Immediately, it tied-up with the Municipal Government of Adams, through then-mayor, Hon. Wilma Dupagen. It paved the way for ecotourism development in Adams. They worked closely with the Department of Tourism (DoT) and the Department of Natural Resources (DENR) to position Adams as a key ecotourism site in the Ilocos Region.

Adams, being a former rebel area, was isolated until about 1997. Another factor that contributed highly to its seeming non-existence in the minds of the majority of the Ilocos Norte populace was its inaccessibility due to its rugged terrain. The old road leading to the town was very bad it was inaccessible most of the year due to landslides caused by heavy rains. Banking on the uniqueness of Adams and the emerging ecotourism trend all across the globe, the LEAD Movement has very high hopes for the future of ecotourism in this town. Sharing Adams to the rest of the world is the LEAD Movement’s way of paying homage to the last show window of remaining Old Growth Forest in Region 1.

the Bobman gets amazed...

the Bobman gets amazed...

tina and nina's heaven on earth

tina and nina's heaven on earth