It was late this summer when I decided to write about my travels. Which makes me backtrack some of those unforgettable ones, from way back 2015 and earlier this year.
So while I am preparing for my next trip in a few weeks, let me take you back to one of my most unforgettable and sweet escapades ever.
I sworn to myself, during 2016 new years eve, that 2016 will be my year of travel, and indeed it was.
February of this year when I went up north, to the land of the best culture and nature, and the heritage village of the Philippines, little did I know that it will start my feet to itch over and over.
I tried to make the most smart-valued backpacker itinerary for a 3-day-2-night trip to the north, as all I have is the weekend to do it. Since its going to be just the two of us, we decided to get a private car with a driver for rent, which turned out to be one of the best decisions that we made during this trip. We also took the bus going there, and took the plane going back.
Day 0: The start of the journey
We took the Maria de Leon bus from Sampaloc terminal going to Laoag which left at almost 9:00pm, the bus travelled via SCTEX and TPLEX, and just after a few hours, like almost 6 hours as I can remember, we were already about to alight in Vigan. That was during the wee hours in the morning at around 2:30am. Good thing that we already have a constant communication with Kuya Robert, our private driver for the trip, as he fetched us at the drop-off point upon entering Vigan City.
Kuya Robert was nice enough to approach us and invite us to spend the rest of the wee hours in their house few minutes away from where he fetched us, until establishments are ready for tourists. I was able to get some sleep for more or less 2 hours then.
Day 1: A reminder of the Filipino Hospitality
A true ambassador of Filipino hospitality, Kuya Robert and his wife pleasantly served us home cooked breakfast, which Jack and I loved so much. I wish I can cook as good as her. we felt like we were having breakfast as a family as we were having random chit chatting while eating.
Kuya Robert’s day job is in the academe, so he was really educated. Not to mention that he’s also a CPA! And did I already say that he’s also a part-time events photographer? His specialty falls usually on pre-nups and weddings, so perhaps you will have an idea hour our photos will look like. Haha! I did not bring my DSLR as its already bulky in my backpack and i need to save space. But Kuya Robert was generous enough to lend me his Canon EOS Camera! I guess that was really my lucky day.
They also suggested us to secure our baggage in their house while touring Vigan, and just get it upon our departure to Laoag, after dinner that same day.
Vigan: The Heritage City
We did not waste our time and started with our well-planned itinerary. Our target is to go around Vigan during our first day.
It is an 80-hectare free-roaming animal sanctuary owned by former Ilocos Governon Chavit Singson. He also has a Golden clad building as his resthouse residing within the park. It is maintained by the government. There were no entrance fee, but donations instead for maintenance of the park.
The Park also holds scheduled animal shows for guests to see, where the hosts showcase the talents and the different exotic animals that former Gov Chavit was able to hunt from all over the world.
I was not able to take good photos of the individual animals as were seated at the back for strategic reasons that were not ready to mingle with “Tiny”. Don’t know who Tiny was? Well, perhaps its for you to find out. Hehe.
What I wanted to see the most was the former governor’s Tiger, and his Li-ger, a crossbreed of a Lion and a Tiger. They were able to showcase it in the show, but I was too excited that I did not take a photo. Haha. I just got a snap of the Tiger which was inside his cage at that time.
He’s also got his Safari Gallery, where he kept the dead exotic animals that he was able to hunt to be glorified, together with the stuffed animals were his hunt photos of them. Jack enjoyed the trip to the museum, while I was nursing my own broken heart.I am no vegetarian, but I can’t stand seeing photos of animals being killed. It breaks my heart.
We are aware that our of all the tourists roaming around Vigan, it was only us who went to Vigan Airport. Thanks to Kuya Robert that after he heard that Jack’s first love was for airplanes, he took us there to see the planes and we were lucky enough to be permitted to get in and take photos.
“Mindoro Airport, also known as Vigan Airport, is located in Barangay Mindoro, Vigan City, and serves the area of Vigan City, the capital of the province of Ilocos Sur, in the Philippines. The airport is the only one in Ilocos Sur.” – Wikipedia
While were still on a high on airplanes, and while waiting for lunchtime, we then went to our next destination, the famous Pagburnayan Pottery to have a first hand view on how pots were made and to see that famous sequence in the movie “Ghost” was shot. Haha. I was just lazy to try it because its going to be messy, but I have a feeling that its fun!
It is located in Brgy. Pagburnayan Vigan. Pagburnayan is a place where they used the old and authentic methods in pottery. The root word “burnay” is an earthenware jar crafted by potter’s hands with the aid of a potter’s wheel. It uses fine sand (anay) as a tempering material and fired at a high temperature in a huge brick-and-clay ground kiln that make it is harder and more durable than other terra cotta. The local bagoong(fish sauce), sugarcane vinegar, and basi wine would not taste as good as if not fermented in burnay jars.
The entrance is also free. But of course sharing donations were encouraged.
Bantay Bell Tower
“A ten-minute ride away from Vigan is the historic Bantay Belfry, which sits on a hill. This towering structure is one of the sights that should be visited by travelers not only because of its historical and cultural significance but also because of its commanding view of Vigan from the highest portion of it that can be climbed. Some may even claim that they can see most of Ilocos Sur from this bell tower. It is called the Bantay Belfry because it is located in the Bantay district of Vigan along the national highway. It was said to be the people’s watchtower, part of the city’s defense that helps in alerting it against possible enemies. It was built in 1591.” – Vigan.ph
We were not able to climb up the tower as there are a lot of tourists that were there at the time. We just enjoyed our view of the tower and spent some time to relax and for some photography tricks by our mentor for the weekend, Kuya Robert. I believe we also paid a good p25 per pax for the entrance fee to the tourist attraction.
Lunch: Bistro 23 Restaurant
Then its my most awaited time of the day! Bagnet time!
Lunch went fast, and it was really refreshing. The food was too good that we were able to finish everything. And I didn’t feel even a simple hint of migraine after finishing the Bagnet.
As we have arranged with Kuya Robert, he will have to leave us for a few hours as he would have to accompany his family to their church activity that afternoon. We agreed that he will drop us off to the area we’ve been eyeing since morning, the Dike Boat Park.
But before that, we briefly visited 2 remarkable houses at Calle Crisologo, the Crisologo Mansion and the Syquia Mansion. Entrance is free of charge to both houses, but donations are highly encouraged for the maintenance of the properties.
“The mansion of the Crisologos is open for public viewing throughout the week. Visitors may find it in Vigan’s Liberation Boulevard. One may enter for free the museum and view the antiques, memorabilia and other prized possessions of the Crisologos steeped with history. Starting with the displays in the first floor, visitors will find an antique calesa that is still being used as film props and as a wedding carriage. There is also an old car where Floro Crisologo’s wife survived an attempt on her life while she was pregnant and serving as governor of the province. Her child was given the name of bullet because of that incident. The first floor also houses the library and study, where visitors can view the book collection and numerous news clippings about this political family, especially about their patriarch’s death. There is a central exhibit in the house that shows the bloodied clothing of the late congressman.” – vigan.ph
“The Syquia Mansion which houses President Qurino’s extensive memorabilia is actually owned by his wife, Dona Alicia Quirino. Her ancestor was a Chinese who made his fortune in the robust trading in Vigan. Sy Kia’s pride in his Asian heritage can be seen by visitors to the Syquia mansion where they can view a portrait of him with his braided long hair and traditional Chinese robes. His descendants adopted the hispanized Syquia surname later on. The first lady’s grand ancestral home was where some of the President’s functions were held during his administration so it is not only worth a visit for the presidential memorabilia but also for the feel of the magnificent and historical gatherings that have taken place amongst the elegant furnishings.” – vigan.ph
The Govantes River separates the poblacions of the city of Vigan and of the municipality of Bantay. In this gap, a dike was built to contain the flooding.
There were available pedal swan boats for rent, and because I am craving for water activities, my co-pilot obliged to do it, haha!
We paid p150 for an hour boating around the dike. So we happily spent an hour of our lives sweating the Bagnet we ate during lunch while having fun!
A boat has a capacity of 4 persons max, so if you were 4 in a group, you will have to divide the hourly fee into 4 and off you go.
The Heritage Streets of Calle Crisologo and the Different Plazas
Because we are tired boating, we took the tricycle going to Calle Crisologo, for a walk. The street looks stunning and very well maintained. And I can’t help to have coffee there as the environment feels so cozy despite the tourists that were continuously walking back and forth the streets. Some of them are riding calesas which were the only means of transportation that is allowed to pass by the Calle.
We just took a walk along the streets of Calle Crisologo and visited the different Plazas as well, while waiting for Kuya Robert to go back.
I also stopped for a moment to pray at the St. Paul Cathedral to give thanks for our safe trip.
Kuya Robert went back earlier than expected. Maybe he missed us already. Haha! We tried our luck to go back to Bantay Bell Tower so we can climb up, but unfortunately, the tower closes as early as 5:30pm during that day.
Garden Fiesta Hotel
While we weren’t over yet with the amazing food that we got to eat for lunch, we have to decide again what to have for dinner. And because we are clueless on what we want, Kuya Robert then helped us and took us to one of the coziest poolside restaurant in the city. There we were able to again, pig out and chit chat more while eating our yummy dinner. This is where we enjoyed and made fun of Ilocos’ famous dish, called Poqui-poqui, as it was Kuya Robert’s favorite.
I have to admit its delicious.
The Dancing Fountains at Plaza Salcedo
I guess we planned our schedule for the day too perfectly that we arrived back in Plaza Salcedo in time for the Dancing Fountain lights and sounds show. Of course, as expected, it unleashed the kid in me and surprisingly, Jack as well enjoyed the show.
Right after the show was completed, we went back to Kuya Robert’s home to get our luggages. We are now getting ready for the second part of the trip.
We bid our thank yous and farewells to Kuya Robert’s wife, his mother in law and their adorable little boy. We then departed and braved the streets as we travel up to our next destination in approximately 2 hours.
We arrived at Laoag Renzo Hotel at around 10:30pm, and I didn’t waste my time and started to settle down and washed myself up. To my surprise that the day’s not done for Jack, as his cousin just lives in the parallel street, we met him for a few drinks of course together with Kuya Robert at Uncle’s bar and Grill. I just let the cousins have their bonding and called it a day at 1:00am.
Day 2: Welcoming the sunshine in the Sunshine City of Laoag.
We strictly complied to our scheduled wake up call. Surprisingly. Haha! Maybe because we are excited for our complimentary breakfast care of Laoag Renzo Hotel. And I was too hungry that I was not able to take photos of our breakfast buffet. We have to stuff ourselves with a lot of food as we are going to have another very long day.
La Paz Sand Dunes
The La Paz Sand Dunes or Bantay Bimmaboy consists of an area of approximately 85 square kilometers (52 square miles) of protected sandy coastal desert and beach close to Laoag City, the capital of the province of Ilocos Norte in the Philippines. The area is known locally by the name Bantay Bimmaboy, a name which refers to the common perception that the dunes resemble pigs in shape. The area is also popularly known as the Desert of the North and is a popular location for shooting films.
We were thrilled to try the 4×4 sand dunes ride and we made a way to cut down the cost in half, by negotiating that we will be also cutting down the duration of the ride in half. From P3000, we were able to get it at P1500. I think I almost lost myself to stress and nearing to heart attack because it was so extreme and we didn’t have seatbelts. One wrong move and I’m dead.
Upon payment, we were asked to sign a waiver, that in the event that they will not be liable on anything happens to us while on the ride. I willingly signed then, excited for the upcoming thrill, not knowing that I can lose my life during the ride. But nonetheless, the experience is still so fun and I will definitely do it again.
After the ride, Jack sandsurfed his way down and I walked out of the zone on my way back to the car because of too much stress. Haha. Recalling myself back then makes me laugh as well. I even cried out of pity to myself because Jack was not holding me. Wahahaha! Pathetic little crybaby. But of course, the argument did not show in the photos.
But a short clip that Kuya Robert took did. HAHA!
I also felt bad when I lost my cap. But Jack said its a blessing in disguise, coz’ he loved the hat I bought after.
Good thing we were able to resolve it quietly while on our way to the Marcos Museum.
For our video and my rock and roll scream.. check this out..
As we are approaching to our next destination, I am getting more and more excited as I will get to see my all-time favorite president’s remains, the one they call as The Dictator, Mr. Ferdinand Marcos. In the Marcos Museum, his good life, his career and his works were evenly showcased that I got to admire him more.
Then its time to see my favorite president.
And entrance fee of P75 pesos was collected from us per head as a reasonable amount for them to maintain the museum.
Then chika amiga after.
Malacanang of the North
Meanwhile, the Malacanang of the North seemed just bare. It gives you the feeling of Nostaglia from the Marcos era, but the emptiness of the mansion feels sad, IMHO. For them to keep the house clean, an entrance fee of P30 per person was collected as well.
When Jack was a little boy, his family frequently goes to Fort Ilocandia for summer. That is why we stopped over the most prestigous hotel in Ilocos and took a walk around.
Lunch Stop Over
As promised, we went to Jack’s aunt’s place for lunch. Jack used to live in that house for a few years while he was in highschool as they always tell me. I still regret that I didn’t get to have a photo taken with his aunt.
After the delicious lunch, we are ready to continue on our next destination, the northern tip of Ilocos, the home to the Blue Lagoon, Pagudpud.
“The 66-foot-tall (20 m) octagonal stone tower, the most prominent structure in the vicinity, can be seen from as far away as Pasuquin town in the south and Bangui on the east on a clear day. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the highest-elevated nor tallest lighthouse in the Philippines. But the highest elevated still original and active Spanish era lighthouse in the country.” – Wikipedia
I admit that the place was a little bit scary. And I think I can’t stay alone in that place in the night time. Not to mention the Filipino horror movie that was showcased in a lighthouse, which I was reminded because the way up to the light was locked and tourists were not allowed to enter.
But then of course, we have to have our pictures taken. Oh its really good to have someone with you who is very passionate in taking photos.
The wind was cold up there. And seen from the top of the hill was the Pagudpud beach, which made me anticipate the beach more and more. we can also see the high current of waves continuously splashing the rock formations. So we then head on to the white rick formations itself.
Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
“The Kapurpurawan rock formation is located on the rocky coast of Burgos, Ilocos Norte. It is known for its creamy white and streamlined limestone formations, which have been sculpted by different oceanic and weather forces. Burgos is located on the northwestern tip of Ilocos Norte.” – The Top 10 Philippine Gems, http://www.pwc.com
There is an entrance fee of P30.00 per head for the maintenance of the tourist attraction. From the jump off point, you can ride a horse going to the rock formation, but we opted to just walk our way since I looked bigger than the horse.
“The windmills, officially referred to as the NorthWind Bangui Bay Project, were a project by the NorthWind Development Corporation as a practice renewable energy sources and to help reduce the greenhouse gases that cause global warming. The project is the first “Wind Farm” in the Philippines consisting of wind turbines on-shore facing the South China Sea and considered to be the biggest in Southeast Asia. The project sells electricity to the Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative (INEC) and provides 40% of the power requirements of Ilocos Norte via Transco Laoag.” – WikiPilipinas
On our checklist was to hug the neck of the windmill. And Jack was scared of the blade. So I went close to the windmill and did it!
Pagudpud and the Beach Frustration
It was around 5:30pm when we reached Sabrina Beach Homes, our booked hotel for the night, it saddened me that it is impossible to take a late afternoon dip because of the super cold water and the scary height of the current.
Thank goodness for good company, a sumptous dinner and a surprise that my good friends way back college were also in the nearby hotel! We met at their hotel and spent the rest of the night catching up with of course, some drinks.
We went back to the hotel at around 2:00am. Yes kinda late, as you won’t mind the time when you are having fun. We were able to sleep at once though.
Day 3: The Blue Lagoon, Separation Anxiety and the Promise to Return
After checking out and eating our complimentary breakfast from Sabrina’s, we then went on our way to the Blue Lagoon for Jack’s moment of the day: Zipline. We stopped over the famous Bantay-Abot Cave to appreciate the rock formations from the sea, and of course to take pictures.
Blue Lagoon and Zipline
When I saw the crystal clear blue waters from Hannah’s resort area, where the Zipline was situated, I felt guilty that I did not book our hotel near that place. I just appeased myself to the idea that atleast I got to catch up with my college friends at the other side of the town.
Then its time to be the supportive GF of the year. Jack’s now ready for his first zipline for the year.
we still have time after Jack’s zipline. so we went to the shoreline just for me to feel the lovely sea breeze. Just enough for me to experience it.
Right then we had to go ahead and say goodbye to the Blue Lagoon. But I promised to come back. When? I don’t know.
On our way back to Laoag, in preparation for our flight back to Manila, we stopped over the Patapat Viaduct.
The Patapat Viaduct is a viaduct at the municipality of Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, a coastal resort town on the northernmost tip of Luzon Island in the Philippines.
The bridge is elevated 31 meters over sea level. It is a concrete coastal bridge 1.3 km long and connects the Maharlika Highway from Laoag, Ilocos Norte to the Cagayan Valley Region.
And on our way back, we tried to catch the road on tape.
(Video to follow)
We had our lunch at the Kangkang Windmill Cafe, located at the Bangui Windmill farm. I also tried their Kangkang brew. It didn’t taste different than other brewed coffee though. It just had more kick. IMO.
Birthplace of the Young Ferdinand
We still have time before snacks and souvenir shopping schedule, so we stopped by Sarrat so we can see the Edralin house, the birthplace of the young Ferdinand Marcos.
Santa Monica Church – Sarrat Church
It was the last Spanish church built in Ilocos Norte and considered as the largest church in the whole region. Its bell tower which was severely damaged during the earthquake is now fully restored. The church has a 137-meter nave which is the longest in the country. This is acknowledged by the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Encyclopedia of Philippine Art. The convent, known as the Casa Parroquial, served as the presidencia municipal and the seat of the church’s civil government.
Dap-Ayan Laoag Souvenir
Of course we had to stop for pasalubong. Actually I didn’t have to coz’ I was able to get biscocho already at the famous Pasuquin Bakery on our way to Sarrat. Only Jack had to buy stuff for his friends.
Then for merienda, in preparation for our flight back, we ate the famous Ilocos Empanada. I am personally not happy with it because I don’t appreciate those kinds of food. But it was Jack’s all-time favorite.
No matter how we try to avoid it, we really had to bid our farewell to our dear Kuya Robert. We just left him with a promise, that we will never forget him and that we will come back soon.
It is very important to mention, that most of our photos here were taken by the great Robert Regala. He calls this a pre-prenup shoot. Lol. So perhaps you might want to have those photos taken like that too! *winks*
Then landscape and other photos are taken by your truly 🙂
To contact Kuya Robert, you can find him in his Facebook Photography Page.
If you are also interested in our actual itinerary and expenses, you may refer to below details.