Abra… cad… Abra!

We were in the group of Patis Tesoro and the other members of the “Katutubo” Foundation… 

We thought we had seen Everything in Vigan and in Laoag…

But faraway Abra was quite a revelation…

I noticed that many Abrenas were very pretty.  The “Tingguians” — the original inhabitants of Abra — were of Malay and Chinese descent.  The racial mix was further improved — improbably — by the arrival of the American engineers, teachers, and other professionals during the first years of the American regime in the early 1900s.

The Abrenas were pretty and insouciant — possessed of a “joie de vivre” that was still distinct from that of the “je ne sais quoi” of the Vigenas.   We were told that the Abrenas were the “Bacolodnons of the North” and that Abra was the “Negros of the North” in the sense that the women and the province effortlessly paralleled the social, chichi behavior and the ease of life of that famed southern province.

Even the food in Abra was a cut above traditional Ilocano fare.  The various “Lechon” served to us — at Governor Valera’s, at the Bobila Sisters’ resthouse, and at the Bobilas’ residence in town — were all memorable because the pigs were young, the rind incomparably crisp, the pork flesh tender and devoid of any odors, and the taste sweet and milky.  Truly unforgettable!!! 

In those days, The delicious “Lechon” of Abra was only Php 500.00/xx.  So many people in adjacent Ilocos Sur would travel to Bangued in Abra just to get their “lechon”…

We were treated by Governor Valera to authentic “Jumping Salad” [ of big live shrimps ] in Ilocano vinegar along the banks of the wide and very picturesque Abra River.  But we were prohibited from jumping into the river because of the presence of poisonous river snakes…

We were reminded by Patis Tesoro that the legendary couturier Ramon Oswalds Valera was from Abra Province…    

Abra Governor Vicsyd Valera and his wife Maria Zita Claustro Valera.

“La Soeurs Bobila” The Bobila Sisters.

We could never forget the Bobila Sisters as they hosted an elegant dinner at their home.  They were dressed in couture long gowns, the various tables were beautifully set with elegant china, crystal, and silver and the room was airconditioned, and before the dinner they occupied themselves with “hostess duties” — the myriad details of the party such as appetizers, cocktails, the appropriate wines and liquors, the correct glassware, etc..  All that cosmopolitan chic in faraway, bucolic Abra!!!  

Marilyn Carino Dent-Smith.  She was a 1960s girl…

She was so Hip!!!  She was the epitome of Abrena Cool. 

“O. Valera” Hotel / “Oval Era” Hotel, Bangued.

Our hotel room’s bathroom was very memorable because when one opened the faucet, the shower would run, and when one opened the shower, the toilet would flush.  When one flushed the toilet, the faucet would run, and so forth and so on… We finally made a game out of it.  It was delightfully Surreal!!!

A “Bal Populaire” at the Bangued Town Plaza.

Lady Valerie, herself an Abrena.

There was this young, small, gay choreographer who really, really danced to the groove…!!!

The Gabriela Silang Museum, Tayum.

One could really feel the centuries past as everything was thickly coated with dust.  

The “Palacio Carino.”

We met the cosmopolitan gentleman Rosarito Antonio “Chato” Carino and his wife.

My good friend and I were pleasantly disoriented as the gentlemanly and hospitable Mr. Carino elegantly offered us expensive vintage Chateau Margaux in antique crystal glasses on silver trays amidst old paintings and antique European furniture on the ground floor of their palace-in-the-works in faraway Tayum, Abra.    

We were stunned to realize that The “Palacio Carino” was the only place in the Philippines that could rival Dr. Eleuterio “Teyet” Pascual’s magnificently-crowded, Mario Praz-style Makati pied-a-terre…

Years later, Rosarito Antonio Carino’s brother Jose Maria Carino would write the authoritative book on the artist Jose Honorato Lozano, who specialized in the rare art of “Letras y Figuras” in 19th century Filipinas. 




  1. dexter cate said,

    September 1, 2008 at 6:00 am

    ♥♥♥ visit kau sa bangued!…..♥♥♥

  2. dexter said,

    September 1, 2008 at 5:59 am

    i’m proud to be taga abra…hehehehehe

  3. July 5, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    saludos mga kababayan. wonderful to find your blog. nice to meet charming people who appreciate bangued. “iso na laeng ta narugit onay ken dika pay makapagna iti daldalan ta nagado onay iti tricycle. no laeng koma agfootingda instead nga ag tricycle” and they said the gasoline is expensive.

  4. July 5, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    hi. this is elma from spain. you’re right!!! the bobila sisters are fantastic, especially manang vicky and bel, my former classmate in high school. that´s acosta blood. they are magnanimous. i also experience their hospitality when my sister tess, from canada, and i go for holidays in bangued. fantastic!!! regards to you nang vicky… from elma and nang gloria bañez.

  5. December 10, 2006 at 5:22 am


    Thank you so much!!!

    It’s nice to know that your sisters Marilou and Bel are currently residing in Bangued, Abra. You sisters are certainly among the most cosmopolitan and stylish of Abrenas.

    Your province and hometown are so beautiful. So unspoilt by the wrong kind of modernization!!!

    New York is so much fun!!! Of course, it’s far busier than Manila and of course, Bangued. But it has its own thrills!!!

    Thank you for enjoying my silly blog. I am actually amazed that most of my readers — and there are sooooo many of them!!! — are in the United States and not in the Philippines.

    Warmest regards.

    Toto Gonzalez

  6. Maria Victoria C.Bobila-Purugganan said,

    December 7, 2006 at 2:16 am

    Toto, hi! Anytime you decide to go, you are always welcome! However, I am presently here in New York and probably will be staying for a couple more years…but my sisters Marilou and Bel are still in residence there and looking forward to your next visit, whenever! Or, you can wait for me till I’m back,hahaha!
    Your site is really fantastic! Keep up the good job. Good luck.


  7. December 6, 2006 at 6:43 am


    We could never forget the elegant, stylish, and fun hospitality you extended to our group [ Patis Tesoro / “Katutubo” ] both in your Bangued, Abra residence and in your resthouse outside the town. We could never forget your great style!!!

    We were so impressed with Abra, its beautiful landscape, history, and of course the Abrenos and their hospitality to boot. It was really a different league from the rest of Ilocandia. We will make sure to visit it this year. Thank you for your invitation. We cannot come for the 01 January 2007 affair, but would there be another good time, perhaps the annual town fiesta or provincial fair???

    Toto Gonzalez

  8. December 6, 2006 at 6:32 am


    My friend and I could never forget the frankly European splendor of your palace-in-the-works in Tayum, Abra. It was so European in its essence, unlike so many new mansions in Manila which are crammed with European furniture and objects but which still come across as “Asian” and “Filipino.” Yes, I remember that we wanted to visit your splendid villa in the mountains, but we had unfortunately run out of time.

    We were much impressed with Abra. And we will make sure that it is in the list of the places we are going to visit this coming year. Thank you so much for your invitation.

    Toto Gonzalez

  9. Maria Victoria C.Bobila-Purugganan said,

    December 5, 2006 at 4:52 am

    I just want to reiterate the invite of Chato Carino to Abra. The other Bobila sisters are still there and would be very happy to have you go back for the Lechon and re-experience a picnic in the farm. The Bobila family will be giving the “traditional holiday sharing” with the kids who live in the farm on January 1,2007. We will be happy to have you back!

  10. Maria Victoria C.Bobila-Purugganan said,

    December 5, 2006 at 4:43 am

    I just want to reiterate the invite of Chato to Abra. The other Bobila sisters are still there and would be very happy to have you go back for the Lechon and re-experience a picnic in the farm. The Bobila family will be giving a traditional holiday sharing with the kids who live in the farm on January 1,2007. We will be happy to have you back!

  11. Rosarito Antonio A. Carino said,

    December 2, 2006 at 4:22 pm


    The one you met in Abra was me Rosarito Carino my brother Jose Maria Carino is the one who wrote the book you mentioned and he has actually come out with another two books. I am glad that you still remember your visit there as from what I read you went there a long time ago. I came across your blog by chance I hope you will still come and visit Abra again. If my memory serves me right you also wanted to visit the villa we had in the mountains I hope to be able to invite you there one day once we have finished the necessary repairs and construction.

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