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Going back to basics

A Trip up north teaches me how

Author

Nikki Boncan-Buensalido

I can finally say I have reached the tip of the Philippines (well, almost). A trip that I made recently was ostensibly for a site visit of a beach resort in Pagudpud, which is accessible by a plane to Laoag, or a 10-hour road trip from Manila. What initially started off as an ocular ended up with my party being added to the list of resort owner Tita Bing’s growing family of “adopted children.” Which was fitting: the place felt like a home away from home.

Pannzian Beach Resort is a haven that allows you to connect to the essentials that might have been forgotten, disconnecting you from all the things that keep us so preoccupied that we forget to stop and smell the rose. There is no TV here, no Wi-Fi, no mobile-phone signal—well, save for a weak one from Smart that can only be accessed under what I call “The Tree of Life.” One is encouraged to abstain from the electronic toys that distract us from the real meaning of downtime. What I loved about the property was that it has a seaside and a mountainside, giving you the best of both worlds. Interestingly, I learned how the property, which has been passed down through generations, started out as a private seaside family escape that eventually opened up to visitors looking for a respite from life’s hurly-burly. Its organic growth around the beach and the river has its own distinct charm.

After all these years, the resort is still run by the same family, thus the services provided are informed by love and happiness. These genuine qualities shared with us by Tita Bing, along with the natural beauty of the place, are like an anchor to the soul. It is refreshing, relaxing and recharging. Where else can you sit at the edge of the cliff with a view of the sea as far as your eye can see? Or where else can you watch the tides flow and ebb against the calm of a river?

Since the 1800s, the place has been kept more or less the same—untouched, pristine, light, airy and, most of all, soulful. I always enjoy the beach and the sense of serenity it brings, but there was something different about this property. It felt like it had been cared for and nurtured. The property radiated happiness and satisfaction, offering proof that nature will take care of you and provide for you if you do your part in taking care of it as well. The beach property is vast but it feels private nonetheless, with views of the northern tip of the country toward the West Philippine Sea enveloping you. In the distance, you will hear the cries of fishermen echo signaling the sighting of fish near the shore and in an hour, the entire village reels a huge net filled with the ocean’s bounty. I joined them as they hauled in the catch and as a reward, they gave me a whole fish, much to my surprise. The mountains, on the other hand, surround the other side of the property. They are dotted not just by farms but also rice paddies, hidden springs and towering waterfalls. My adrenaline for thrill and adventure was pumping.

Tita Bing’s son Ken was more than happy to take us around and show us how to disconnect oneself from urban distractions. They brought us back to nature and introduced us to various plant and wildlife species. Adding to the excitement, the food served at Pannzian is homegrown, organic and cooked with love. It was another treat for the senses as most of the ingredients came from their own backyard.

Tita Bing’s cooking is sumptuous and creative, and she sees the value in introducing guests to what the locals eat—mostly fresh seafood and vegetables, which is how I like it. I distinctly remember the taste of her mongo soup, her puso ng saging kilawin and her pancit sisig paired with a basil and kamias shake whose ingredients she had picked off her garden. The pancit sisig was delightful as she used vegetables instead of the usual pork ingredients.

Apart from the elements of nature, the resort also offers a variety of rooms for a family or a group to stay in. They have simple but spacious and comfortable rooms, and they even have a camping site for the more adventurous travelers. I challenged myself to stay in a tent on my next visit as the camping grounds are situated under a lush area covered with trees just a little off the shoreline. One can even opt to have a bonfire to keep warm at night as this area in the north can get chilly. We had a bonfire going one night while we were there, and Tita Bing served us kinilaw na kuhol and fresh steamed curacha by the beach.

What really piqued my interest in this pocket up north was how all of the family’s efforts led toward the development and betterment of the community. Developments nowadays tend to create their own communities by creating a wall that separates the locals from their envisioned space. It is rare that we come across a family that believes the continuing growth of one’s business doesn’t have to be at the expense of the community. Most of the staff of the Pannzian are from neighboring barangays. They are the ones who serve, cook, do the landscaping and maintenance. Some even serve as local guides. These include fishermen gracious enough to teach you how to catch fish—and even share their bounty with you. Tita Bing said the community plays a big role in the success of this resort and the owners acknowledge everyone for that. Ken said that their goal is to strengthen a sustainable tourism economy and instill a sense of pride, livelihood and ownership in the community. This is what makes this resort stand out from the rest. It has no frills because there is no need for them. Here, nature is the star of the show and provides all the excitement. The sea and the mountains do the work for this family, and in return, the family cares for the treasures that nature provides.

Certainly, in this type of environment, going back to the basics is not such a bad thing after all.

Guidelines


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Pannzian aims to keep our surroundings clean -- that means cooking inside is not allowed. Bringing in of food and drinks is strictly not allowed. We also do not allow placing food in our refrigerators.

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We have no television sets. GLOBE, SUN and WI-FI signals are not yet available at Pannzian Beach. However, we do sell SMART sim cards if you are still itching to stay connected with the city. Getting in touch with nature means no distractions.

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We do not have a swimming pool. Instead, Pannzian offers you the Paselang Bay and the Pannzian River as fun and natural alternatives.