Ilocos Norte 2012 || Last Day in Laoag

I tried to keep myself from posting this as if that in itself will lengthen my summer vacation. Although I am still literally on vacation, aside from the sweltering heat, I don’t feel like it’s summer as somewhere along the way, it stopped being fun and turned boring. Hence, to become somewhat productive, I went back to learning Spanish (Hola! Mi nombre es Teesh.) which I never really had the time to pursue in the past few years. One of the things that is on my bucket list is to be able to converse freely in at least four different languages and I already got to tick off two (Filipino and English). Dad bought me a conversational Mandarin kit, but I probably would try to learn Italian once I get past Spanish. If anyone here speaks Spanish, let’s talk. I need practice.

The first thing we did on our last day up the North is.. well, eat complimentary breakfast in the quaint dining area of Balay da Blas. Hot chocolate for the three pigs kids siblings. It’s not legit hot chocolate though, as I was expecting it to be. The best hot chocolate I ever had in Ilocos is served at Grandpa’s Inn in Vigan. Tapa for my sister. Hands down to whoever made the sauce that went with the meat, as it was flavorful and had just the right mix of salty and sweet. Corned Beef for my brother. Dad decided on having Crispy dilis. We all took a piece of it – and liked it – that we bought a kilo from the market to take home. I had Native Longganisa for breakfast and the first thought that came to mind when it was served was “why is it so tiny?”. And Daing na Bangus for my mom. Old wine bottles were ingeniously used to serve cold water.

After breakfast, we headed to St. William Parish where a mass was ongoing. Dad had us sit through the entire thing although he was the only one who understood, as it was in Ilocano (the dominant dialect in the North). It was Holy Week after all. Once the mass ended, we went and lighted candles at the parish’s Chapel of Candles.

From St. William’s, The Sinking Bell Tower of Laoag is a simple five-minute walk. As the name suggests, the Bell Tower is popular among tourists as it sinks right where it stand. No one is allowed to enter the bell tower as a safety precaution. When the tower was first built, men aboard horses can enter through this doorway. At the time we visited, even my sister would have to slouch real low to get in.

The Provincial Capitol is located near a lot of tourist spots among the city, namely, the Sinking Bell Tower.

Museo Vivo de Ilocos features a variety of bonsai trees. Behind the bonsai exhibit is Museo Iloco. The museum “building” was formerly a tabacalera (Spanish Tobacco Monopoly) warehouse, and the grounds within the vicinity is called the La Tabacalera Complex. The museum was supposedly closed for the Holy Week, but luckily for us, we toured on a Thursday and they were open only until 12 NN. The museum houses a lot of antique jars, clothes, weapons, fishing, and farming paraphernalia. I love how the mini two-story house part of the museum is a bit interactive. If you try opening wardrobes and kitchen cabinets, you’ll find porcelain bowls with labels among other things.

However, once you get out of the museum, you walk out in a fairly industrialized area. We ended the first half of our Laoag tour by going to the market to buy goods after eating our lunch.

The later part of our day started after checking out. My parents already booked us a tricycle tour with Mang Esmer (Esmer Santiago) and friend (sorry, I wasn’t able to get his name). Our first stop was Marcos Museum – Birthplace. And yes, this was where the late president grew up. This seems to be the starting point of most tours and half the tourists you meet here, you will bump into the rest of your stops. It was very unfortunate though, that the exact tour group composed of a big Chinese family (not being racist here as their language was a distinct identifier.). All the kids in the group were rowdy and kept pushing other tourists. There was even this one instance that I was trying to take a photo and this man stood in front of me and would not budge even if I tried to talk to him. However, in the Malacanang of the North, another man from the same group was taking photos while I was doing the same thing and kept saying “excuse me” as he insisted on taking photos of the same spot that I was in. Ugh, so annoying.

Sta. Monica Church

Unfortunately, it was closed when we got there. Too bad since I really wanted to find out what the Whisper Wall is. I find old structures interesting because of all the untold stories within it.

The Ferdinand E. Marcos Presidential Center and Marcos Mausoleum had the most tourists of all the places we’ve been during our stay up North. Once we got in, I kind of felt suffocated with the number of people inside. Visitors are not allowed to take photos while inside the mausoleum. Rumor has it that the body displayed there is not the actual body of the former dictator, but who knows, right?

For me, the highlight of our Laoag tour is the Church of Paoay. The church and its grounds are breathtaking. It is also one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites as it is one of the best baroque churches in the country. The details that have surpassed more than a hundred years is what makes it stand out for me.

Next stop was the Paoay Lake. The legend surrounding the lake is similar to those of Noah’s Ark, however, whispers among the locals is that the lake is man-made, contrary to official claims. This might stem from the fact that the Paoay Lake serves as the splendid view from the Malacanang of the North. Only Tin and my dad went down to the actual lake shore to take photos. I just can’t stand walking on hot sand.

Honestly, I was expecting more than barren land from the Sand Dunes as I’ve seen it on Temptation Island. According to Mang Esmer, you’d really need to avail of the 4×4 to get to the actual desert. My parents wouldn’t allow us to ride the 4x4s as they think it was too dangerous (my sister is considered small for her age). Now I have a reason to go back to Ilocos Norte. Sand boarding is also offered here and both services cost Php 2500 per hour.

Our second to the last stop was Malacanang of the North itself. Visitors would have to walk through the long driveway to get to it. And the backyard, which had a sprawling garden. I wonder how rich I’d have to be to get a majestic view like this from my balcony. And I probably would buy a jet ski that I could use during weekends. Haha! The biggest bed I have ever seen in my entire life. It is bigger than the king-sized beds normally found in hotel suites. A lot could be said about Imelda Marcos, and one of those is Imeldariffic “classy”. I’m not really a fan (I never got to experience the Marcos regime but know that their regime has a lot of deaths left without justice), but she does pull off wacky photos (there are around five in a separate bedroom of hers). Haha!

To wrap off our Laoag tour, Mang Esmer and friend brought us to Fort Ilocandia. As our luck goes, my camera’s battery ran out and mom’s camera got no more space left. Our flight home was scheduled for 9 PM, but we were dropped off at the airport by 5 PM. Dad and I availed of the airport masseuses and had four different massages. As a notorious sleeper, I could seriously sleep anywhere. Even in uncomfortable plastic chairs.

I can’t wait to get back up North. I hope you guys enjoyed this series of posts! 🙂

Ilocos Norte 2012 || Laoag

Let’s move from Pagudpud to Laoag! Luckily, we did not have to wait a long time until a Laoag-bound bus arrived. Mang Rene and Mang Windel even got the bus to go back since it was so fast, it went right by us. I know this may seem silly, but I have never had a bus move in reverse for me for any reason. Usually, I would have stayed awake to watch the view change as the bus speeds by all those amazing scenery.. but an hour after riding the bus, I was jolted awake by my sister when we got to Laoag. I was exhausted from the tour and all I really wanted to do is take a nice long bath before going to a deep slumber. You all might be wondering what my title has to do with this post, but it turns out that the term Laoag is Ilocano (the native dialect) for “light” or “clarity” (Wikipedia). Now I see the light/Laoag! Cheesy, I know. *awkward silence* However, before we go to where we are staying, we decided to eat merienda first. My family loves food, I tell you. We ended up going to this quaint pizza pasta place, C & E Pizza Pasta. The place felt similar to Balinsasayaw Restaurant in Palawan as if it is a really small part of the restaurant. I guess my mind associates the two either because of the nipa huts or that it was also one of those long vacations (my definition of a long vacation = 3++ days and we were there for a week). I half expected to find turtles swimming around here. One of the downsides of eating here was that it was not air-conditioned. It was sweltering and I could feel my braided hair sticking to my skin every time it comes in contact with it.

Quattro Pizza, 13 inches (Php 430). Frankly, I’m pretty sure we could make a better pizza at home but when it’s hot and you’re tired, you’ll eat anything. Fortunately for my parents’ pockets, none of us had much of an appetite and all we did was use dibs to decide on who gets to use the shower.

Dad can speak Ilocano since he studied in Baguio from high school up until college. This turned out to be an advantage since he converses freely with the locals. We found Balay da Blas Pension House quite easily because of it too! We had to wait a while for the receptionist, but no hassle checking in since mom’s quite a planner. She already paid our accommodation a month before we were going to stay.

Going up the stairs, towards our room, it’s hard not to feel the rustic vibe of the place. I have a fascination for miniature models of just about anything, and here is a miniature “Old Sautee Store”. Our room was thankfully situated on the second floor. The room is big for its price! Here is the “living room”-slash-Tan and I’s bedroom. Haha! The kitchen and dining room, where you cannot cook fish. I, for one, would not cook fish indoors if I was on a vacation. Even though you obviously can’t smell photos, I would not want to stink! The bathroom contains a generous amount of shampoo, soaps and bath towels. The bedroom, and the only air-conditioned room at that. It is okay though because Tan and I had an electric fan to ourselves and the television. The staff provided us with an extra mattress and turned this chair to my sister’s bed.

Dad and mom bought take out food for dinner because the three of us were too lazy to go out with them to eat. It also doesn’t hurt that ANTM was currently being showed on one of the channels, and sufficient to say, I was glued to the television. Haha!

Ilocos Norte 2012 || Pagudpud

Unemployment got me bumming it out that I almost forgot that I have the rest of our trip to immortalize in my blog. I do admit that I love having no worries (most days), although I still wake up early to go either jogging or biking which I never really had the chance to do the past years. Moving on, we woke up early after passing out on our beds due to exhaustion. Our two-day Pagudpud tour had to start early since we were going to do it all in one day.

Meet Mang Rene (Rene Calivoso, 0920-853-2047), our tour guide-slash-tricycle driver extraordinaire. 🙂 We actually had to “rent” two tricycles since there were five of us. Tristan and I were Mang Rene’s passengers while the parents and Tin rode with Mang Windel. We found it much more convenient to have a tricycle tour with Mang Rene since it meant that we didn’t really have to make an itinerary and they know how to go from place to place. We did make a list of places of interest, but their “insider” knowledge provided us with more. The sky was dull and it was starting to drizzle when we went out which was a complete contrast to the sunny days prior to our Pagudpud tour. However, we still pushed the tour through.

Bantay Abot Cave

Our first stop was Bantay Abot Cave. It is a “cave” situated where sea waves crash into a rocky wall. When a cave is described to be in this kind of setting, the first image that comes to mind is the cave where Voldemort hid the locket horcrux. Haha!

It was a gray morning.

See that rocky path, wet from the rain and huge waves from the sea? That is where you have to walk to reach the cave. I actually thought that we’d only take photos from where the tricycles are parked but it turns out that we had to go down for it.

Mang Rene guided us towards the cave as Mang Windel stayed with both the tricycles and our things. My knees were wobbly while going down the stairs, and all I could focus on is not slipping on the wet cement.

I felt like I was in a movie, with rain drops constantly hitting my face while walking on a rocky shore.

And to make it more movie-like, we found a sea snake nesting among the rocks. Mang Rene flung it away using a long wooden stick. Great. Aside from worrying about slipping and hitting my head, I need to think of sea snakes coiling their slimy bodies on my legs when waves hit the shore.

We were mostly worried about mom. She had a reputation in slipping on flat surfaces, and she almost did. Fortunately, someone got a hold of her. Tin and I were the fastest to traverse along the shore and reach the “cave”. The wind got my hair whipping on my face, along with raindrops falling from the sky.

My first time to go to a “beach” wearing a cardigan.

Mang Rene volunteered to take photos of us and guided us on where to stand.

Blue Lagoon

After Bantay Abot Cave, we proceeded to Blue Lagoon. It’s famous for its pristine blue water and waves suitable for surfing. A number of resorts already populated the beach, including one owned by Jericho Rosales (according to my mom).

Blue Lagoon is supposedly a picturesque beach but since the weather seemed determined to spoil our day, the drizzle turned to rain as we approached Blue Lagoon. The only bright side at arriving there early (along with the rain), is that we did not have to pay any entrance fee to view the beach.

According to Mang Rene, Hannah’s Beach Resort is the biggest resort in this beach.

Patapat Viaduct

Patapat Viaduct is the bridge constructed above rocky shores, and beside the Cordillera Mountain Range. We actually passed this bridge on our way from Cagayan Valley to Ilocos Norte.

And behind us is the South China Sea. I feel at awe with the fact that I’m literally at the north end of Luzon.

Agua Grande River Park

Agua Grande River Park is a mini hydro-electrical power plant that serves as a form of alternative energy. We did not bother inquiring about the entrance fee of the place as the only activity you can do here is have a picnic and take photos.

Plus, by simply looking at the snake-filled sign, you cannot pay me enough to go down a snake infested picnic park. Haha! I am not afraid of snakes, mind you, it actually fascinates me. However, I fear an early death and snake venom might pave a way for that (yes, I am paranoid at times).

Paraiso ni Anton or Anton’s Paradise

Before heading to Kabigan Falls, we made a stop over in Anton’s Paradise. There was a shrine of Mary on top of a staircase, with water flowing straight from the mountains which you can actually drink (gather it before it reaches the pool though), according to Mang Rene. Of course, you’ll have to drink it under your own discretion. For the record, I didn’t do so in fear of diarrhea. Golly, I fear a lot of things, don’t I? Tristan and I soaked our feet in the cold water. It was so refreshing!

Kabigan Falls

To reach Kabigan Falls, one must walk/trek nearly two kilometers of rough road with a tour guide. The tour guides in Kabigan Falls actually have a queuing system so that everyone gets equal shifts. According to our guide (I forgot to write down his name), during peak season, he only gets to do a tour two to three times a week, since there were a lot of tour guides. Even with the ongoing drizzle, we could still walk/trek to the falls even if it made the ground wet enough to be muddy. I do live in a province but people washing their things in a stream or a river is a rare sight. Most of the trees you’ll pass on your way to the falls are marked with signs with information regarding it. We actually got a chance to see another carabao up close led by a farmer, on our way back to the tricycle. The weather started to get confusing as it was drizzling, even with the sun glaring down at us. At this point, we have only walked less than 500 meters. I was lagging behind as I was trying to capture a lot of photos. Mom, the siblings, and the tour guide are mostly unseen in this photo. The tour guide also taught my sister how to get mushrooms from the wood, however, the mushrooms here are still little. We were informed that mushrooms only need a few days to grow and by the next day, it would have already grown to its biggest size.

Behold, the Kabigan Falls. Luckily, we almost had the whole place to ourselves. The only other tourists around was a small family of four, swimming under the falls. Me, together with the siblings, went down and took a dip in a shallow area.

Pagudpud Town Plaza

After the tiring Kabigan Falls trip, Mang Rene, and Mang Windel brought us to the Town Capitol for lunch. As usual, I was too hungry to take food photos and the only photo I ever got is the rice. Haha! After eating, Mang Rene pointed the direction of the Town Plaza and we walked there. Mang Rene and Mang Windel followed with the tricycle and our things in it.

Before heading to our next destination, Mang Rene made a stopover at the huge Pagudpud sign with a clam. We weren’t even aware this exists as I haven’t seen a travel blog with a photo of it. This shot was hilarious since Mang Rene stood in the middle of the road to take a nice photo of us, and suddenly a bus drove by. Fortunately, he’s still alive and breathing! We also made another stopover in a bridge for another tourist photo with the welcome arch of Pagudpud. We even chanced upon children climbing up the bridge to jump off it and straight to the water.

Bangui Windmills

Aside from the mini hydro-electric power plant in Agua Grande, another source for alternative energy in Ilocos is the windmills. It is a series of windmills places on the shore and it is so effective that Mang Rene’s electric bill amounts to only around Php 100! Pagudpud is a surfer haven. Almost all the beaches we’ve visited exhibited huge waves. It doesn’t look like it’s windy, but it is. It feels like the wind is pushing you, and walking towards and along the shore will hurt your legs as the wind is strong enough to whip your body with sand. You won’t even be able to see the sand hitting your legs with your naked eye, but you’ll feel it for sure. Fortunately, I decided on “pants” instead of the dress that I was supposed to wear. The windmills may look thin, but it’s huge. Fine sand and steep slopes do not go well together. Mom and I had an awfully hard time trying to get back up since we kept on sliding back! I have thick and heavy hair, but still, the wind managed to blow it all away.

Bangui Point

Another stopover prior to Kapurpurawan Rock Formation is Bangui Point. A lot of souvenirs can be bought here, from fridge magnets to miniature windmills and lighthouses. For the best view, you’d have to go down a hill (of some sort). Mom wasn’t up for it, hence, we didn’t go down.

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation

If there was a “highlight” of our Pagudpud tour, this is it for me. As I have learned throughout the day, the wind here is unforgiving. If you have long hair like I do, better tie it up if you don’t want messy hair in photos. I did not get to tie it up as my hair got so tangled I can’t manage it. All I was able to do is make it look okay, even if it already got dry and unmanageable. In order to get to the rock formation, you’d have to walk around two kilometers. We had a lucky streak here, as there were only one other group of tourists when we got there. And similar to what happened to Kabigan Falls, on our way back, lots of tourists started swarming all over the place. Huge waves crash onto the shore. If you get here late in the afternoon, you will be advised to not push through since the water level tends to reach high levels. There were a number of yellow flags for safe paths towards the rock formation. One of the people who manages that place helped us cross. He also volunteered to take our photos with the rock formation. I can’t believe how lucky we were that there were only a few tourists with us! Once tourists started appearing, the rock became so crowded.

Here we are, standing in a limestone formation. Even under the scorching heat of the sun, the formation still felt cool. However, the texture becomes powdery when rubbed. Hence, the management marked some places people aren’t allowed to go to anymore to avoid people falling from it if ever the rock gives away.

Dad and I went ahead and climbed the top. The way was nerve-wracking (I had to hold on to sharp rock/surface or I’ll fall, since the space to walk in is minimal) but the view is priceless. We felt sad that there were some people who wouldn’t even bother throwing their trash on the trash cans available (we saw two, on near the rock formation and the other near the stairs). I am thankful my parents trained us to keep our trash in our bags until we get to a proper trash bin.

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse/Burgos Lighthouse

Our last stop is the lighthouse! I was excited for this one, coming from the amazing Kapurpurawan experience. I expected something similar to the Capones Lighthouse. Oh look, I finally got to brush my hair! I did so while climbing the stairs leading to the lighthouse. At the gates of the lighthouse. I wonder why most lighthouses seem like an appropriate setting for a horror movie (or an episode of Supernatural). But no, it wasn’t the Capones Lighthouse experience due to the fact that no one is allowed to enter the lighthouse. I almost regretted going up the stairs since I was so tensed while going down. The handrails were too low for me to reach, the stairs too steep, and the wind seems to want to push me down the stairs. To make up for the fact that we won’t have any lighthouse adventure, we took lots of photos around the place.

Cagayan + Ilocos Norte 2012 || Going from Cagayan to Pagudpud

I seriously loved our stay in Cagayan! I have never felt as energized when I woke up that morning, partly due to the comfortable bed which was a slightly better version of mine. Haha!

We started the day with our complimentary breakfast in the resort’s “western” restaurant. They also have a Chinese restaurant in another part of the resort that we did not get to visit since no one was really in the mood for it. Here’s the only shot with the interior of the restaurant.

Unfortunately, Tin’s breakfast wasn’t free as we only had four complimentary breakfast. She got the same plate for Php 200. The serving left a lot to be desired for the price.

Eyebags! Tan and I stayed up watching movies in our room. Tin and mom did the same in theirs, and dad was left to watch in the living room. Haha!

We checked out of the resort by 12 PM. Next stop: Pagudpud! Mom actually checked the map and saw how Cagayan and Pagudpud seemed nearby. However, she was not able to count on the fact that there weren’t any public vehicles’ routes aside from the one that leaves at 2 AM, that goes directly to Pagudpud from Cagayan.

OFF TOPIC: See that green bag beside me? That’s where all my stuff was. One more thing I loved about our recent trip is that my parents finally deemed my siblings old enough to carry their own stuff. I used to hate travelling with them since Tin and I often end up sharing a bag which was my burden alone.

The villas on the left side are the Ocean Front villas that costs Php 17,000-18,000++.

Goodbye, Cagayan Holiday and Leisure Resort. I will surely come back for more. We might also go back for Anguib Beach, the “Boracay of the North”. Rumors of pristine white sands have reached us and dad met one resort owner at the casino who offered us free accommodations. We already made reservations though, hence, we were not able to take on the offer.

We took the tricycle back to the market and then rode a van headed to Tuguegarao. Unlike shuttle services in Manila, the van leaves exactly on time, much like the GV Florida bus. The van left by 11 AM, and we were told to get off at Magapit City which is two hours away from Sta. Ana. It was funny how we arrived almost exactly by 1 PM. While we were getting off the van, the bus to Laoag was already starting to leave. We started running to try to catch it, but we were not so lucky. Hence, we started to decide to eat here while waiting.

Thankfully though, we didn’t have to wait long! A bus soon came in around 20 minutes and we were able to get on another three and a half hours bus ride. Mom already made arrangements with our tour guide and tricycle driver extraordinaire, Mang Rene, and he informed us that we have to get off at Baduang where he will pick us up and bring us to where we will be staying for the night. Mang Rene also made the reservations for us at Cathy’s Homestay at the “end” of Saud beach. Honestly, I had a “back to basics” feeling when we got to Cathy’s Homestay. We didn’t have a television here, and we just got back from the fabulous Cagayan and Holiday Leisure Resort. However, we weren’t really going for luxurious accommodation in Pagudpud since we’re only going to sleep in it and leave the morning after. I don’t have photos of the room, but it had three queen-sized beds in it, air-conditioning and a decent shower and toilet. Plus, Ate Cathy is nice and the rooms are clean and decent. You could also ask Ate Cathy to cook your breakfast.

By 5 PM, we still haven’t had any decent lunch so we went out to eat. If you want pricier accommodations during your stay in Pagudpud, a lot of hotels and resorts line Saud beach such as Terra Rika..

Ate Cathy pointed us to the direction of Evangeline’s Beach Resort to eat. She told us that she observed that most guests find it filling and worth the price.

View from our table

Some kind of Bagnet which was so tasty!


Grilled platter

The serving doesn’t look a lot in photos, but we were not able to finish everything! 🙂 While we were eating, the sun had started to set and the staff distributed this cute lamps in each table.

Saud Beach before sunset..

..and during sunset.

I didn’t get any nice photos during sunset. Kain muna! bago mag-picture! Haha!

..and that’s it for Day 2! Day 3 and 4 is much more jam-packed, so watch out for that. 🙂