The majority of North Luzon is either rocky shoreline or drab strips of sand that can’t compete with the dazzling white sand beaches and aquamarine waters that the Philippines is famous for.
But Pagudpud (pa-good-food) of Ilocos Norte is one of few exceptions, particularly Saud Beach!
My jaw dropped when the ocean came into view, and again when I stepped into the water and saw all of my chipped red toenails magnified through the crystal clear water.
As local legend goes, the rocky shoreline and choppy waters around North Luzon were once occupied by mermaids and other mythical beings. The people of the sea were blamed for sunken ships and lost sailors, and generally feared for their seductive powers.
One day, Serena, the queen of the mermaids, decided she wanted to present the humans with a gift, to show her kindness. She transformed herself into a gnarled old woman and crept onto land.
The old woman walked all along the coast of North Luzon, barefoot, toothless and half blind, but no one offered help, no one offered food or shelter. People shooed her out of their villages, not willing to help a strange old crone, and children pelted her with rocks. Her clothes became ragged, her frame skeletal, her gait slower, and still no help came.
After weeks of walking, the old woman was just about to give up hope. She sat down to rest her tired body on a rock a short distance from the ocean, in the small village of Pagudpud.
By chance there was a kind-hearted maiden walking along the sea, looking for clams and mussels in the tide pools. Canuyan was the maiden’s name, and the instant she spotted the old crone, Canuyan rushed over and offered the stranger food and drink. As the crone ate, Canuyan offered the old woman a place to sleep at her home, for however long as she needed.
The queen of the mermaids was touched by the kindness, and asked the maiden to help her to the ocean. Canuyan did not hesitate, and did as she was asked.
The old crone slipped into the water and transformed into Queen Serena, which startled but did not scare Canuyan. The queen offered the maiden, in payment for her kindness, anything her heart desired.
Canuyan replied that she was not interested in material things, and that she already had everything anyone could need. After some thought, the kind-hearted maiden asked for a seashore of sand, to be appreciated by generations to come.
With a smile and a wave of her hand, Queen Serena transformed the rocky shore into a beautiful, white sand beach, and the water turned into liquid glass.
In comparison to other Philippine beaches we’ve been to so far, Saud is something of a hidden gem, to be appreciated only by the hardy few (foreign travelers). Getting to Pagudpud from Manila could take up to 12 hours of bus travel, but it’s only 3-4 hours north of colonial Vigan; or if you’re coming from Tuguegarao, it took us a little more than 5 hours.
Though there are quite a few resorts and homestays to be found, tourist shops aren’t ubiquitous yet, and the beach is blissfully isolated. Even more so since it seems these days most people opt to spend their vacay time at the nearby Blue Lagoon. I especially appreciated how resorts didn’t sprawl onto the beach, leaving the natural beauty of the palm-lined coastline intact.
There seems to be a beach-going fee—the sign listed $1 per foreigner—though we breezed through the gate without anyone enforcing it. However, we found an alternative entrance that the locals use, and it happens to be behind THIS sign.