It was supposed to be a solo trip. My plan was to go directly to Pagudpud, tour around for 2 days there, then go home to Ilocos Sur to visit my parents. But a few days before the trip, my friend L found out about it and she immediately asked her soon-to-be husband R if they could go with me. Later, I received a call from R suggesting that we’d go on a road trip instead. He said we’d be using L’s brother’s new Montero and that R would drive. Cool! I could sleep comfortably whenever I wanted to. I just needed to look for additional heads to join us so there would be more of us to share on gas expenses. Good thing my friend J, who usually stays home during the holy week, suddenly agreed to join us.
L and R ( who by the way are very close friends) told me that it would be their first time to visit Ilocos and that they wanted to visit as many spots as we could on this trip. So that was the plan. But with only a few days left plus all the things I needed to attend to in the office before we hit the road, I didn’t have much time to work on an itinerary. I just printed all the information I could find in the internet and thought we’d just talk about it on the way.
First Day. To avoid the rush, R suggested that we would go on Wednesday morning, and that they would pick me up from the office after my shift. At 9:00AM that day, I received a text message from them telling me that they were already on their way to to the office. I immediately logged out and went down from the building to wait for them. I saw some sunglasses being sold in the streets for P50.00 and decided to buy one. I normally lose or break my sunglasses whenever I go on a trip so I stopped buying the more expensive ones. I was trying to choose which one I liked the most when one of the men on the street told me that there were people calling me. I looked around and I saw L and R waving at me. I paid for the sunglass I liked and immediately ran to the car. As soon as I was inside, I was told that they’d been there for a while and had been watching me. They began to mock me and tried to mimic how I looked while I was trying on the sunglasses.
We dropped by my apartment to get my backpack and other things we needed for the trip. From there, we proceeded to Bocaue where we would pick up J from the expressway exit. J was already there waiting for us. Along the way, the three of us were busy chatting and it was too late when we realized that we had already passed by Bocaue exit and had no choice but to drive all the way to Tabang, make a U-turn and go back to Bocaue where we encountered heavy traffic. Oh no! It was a waste of time and gasoline, and we had to pay the toll fees twice! It was almost 12 noon!
After that, everything went smoothly though. When we reached the town of Gerona in Tarlac, we all felt hungry so when we saw an empty lot on one side of the road, we pulled over, parked the car and ate our packed lunch under the trees.
After lunch, we continued to drive taking every bypass we knew with the help of the built-in car GPS device. We stopped by SM Rosales to buy some butane gas. I brought my portable gas stove with me because we had planned to cook. I was able to reserve accomodation at Wally’s World Homestay and I found out that that we could cook there but we needed to bring our own cooking gears as they would not be able to provide us any. Wally told me that they’d be using all their cooking materials to prepare food for their other guests.
By 5:30PM, we finally reached my home in Sta. Cruz, Ilocos Sur, where we planned to spend our first night. We took a rest for a while, drank a couple bottles of beer, sang a few songs from my mother’s videoke machine, had dinner, took a shower and then went to bed at 8PM. Tommorow would be a long day.
Second Day. We woke up at 4AM the next day, took a quick shower, had coffee and by 6AM, we were back on the road. A couple of hours later, we reached the Quirino Bridge in the town of Bantay and we decided to stop for picture-taking and to enjoy the view. The old bridge which became a popular landmark of Ilocos Sur province is no longer passable.
After taking a few “I was here” pics and some jumpshots, the road trip continued. Although Vigan was just a kilometer away from the Quirino bridge, we decided to skip it and would just go there on our way back.
We headed farther north until we reached the San Augustine Church or more popularly known as the Church of Paoay.
Declared as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Site, this 18th century baroque church was built and designed primarily for earthquake protection. On each side of the church are massive yet beautifully designed buttresses which are meant to protect the walls against earthquake damage.
The church is one of the few remaining coral churches in the Philippines. Its construction commenced in 1604 and was completed in 1704. A separate bell tower was added nearby in 1793.
We all wanted to see the sand dunes but we did know exactly where the best spot was. All we knew was that it stretches from the municipality of Curimao and winds it’s way to La Paz in Laoag City. Along the way, we passed by Paoay Lake and we stopped to enjoy the view.
There were available policemen nearby who were on duty to assist tourists during the holy week. We asked where the best place is to see the sand dunes and much to our delight, we were told that we just needed to drive a few minutes further from where we were and we would see a road sign that would lead us to the area.
Although it was only half-an-hour past 10AM when we got there, the sun was already shining so fiercely, it was difficult for us to walk farther from where we parked.
My companions stayed under the shade of a few agoho trees nearby while I tried to walk closer to better spots. It wasn’t easy to walk on the sand. It would have been better if we rented an ATV but that wasn’t part of the plan. The scorching desert heat was too much for me, I thought I could easily die from heat stroke! I finally gave up after a few minutes and went back.
Our next top was the Malacanang Palace of The North, the family residence of former president Ferdinand Marcos in the Ilocos Region. It was later transformed into a museum where visitors could see the late president’s memorabilia.
This beautiful structure is a true representation of the old-rich Spanish architecture of the province. A grand living room greets the visitors on the first floor.
An impressive wooden stairway leads to the second floor. J who is an engineer was particularly impressed by the materials used on the second floor. He said it was made of solid long and wide narra wood. “First class! Si Madame Imelda lang ang meron nyan!” he quipped.
Among my favorites is a portrait of the former first lady who is floating beautifully in the ocean surrounded by sharks, having fun singing probably her signature song, “Dahil Sa Yo,” and in the background is a small lovely island with a big shoe. I turned to J and said ” Anong sinabi ng mga diva-divahan natin sa Pinas. Kahit si Mariah, di kaya yan. Yan si Madame. The one and only true diva!”
Both floors have beautiful verandas overlooking Paoay Lake where the former president used to jetski in private.
We continued to drive towards the north until we saw a sign on the left side of the road leading to Fort Ilocandia, a 5-star deluxe resort hotel in the Northern Philippines.
We only stayed here for a few minutes, enjoyed the beautiful view, took some pictures and then proceeded to our next destination.
After approximately half-an-hour of driving, we arrived at Cape Bojeador in Burgos, a 19th century cultural structure set on a hill overlooking the south China sea. The lighthouse is still functional and serves as a station point for ships veering towards the Pacific Coast heading towards the Babuyan Channel. Unfortunately, much to my disappointment, it was closed during our visit.
Since the lighthouse was closed, we moved on after taking a few pictures. Besides, our stomachs started to grumble. Along the way, we found a small carinderia with a beautiful view of the sea. We decided to stop or lunch.
After lunch, we drove to Kapurpurawan Rock Formation. From the parking area, one needs to walk for approximately 15 minutes to get to the rock. Kapurpurawan which means very white in Ilocano is a hill of limestone rock which rises majestically from the sea and is said to be carved beautifully by strong winds and waves. From afar, it doesn’t look extraordinary and one may feel that it wouldn’t be worth the effort to go there.
My friends tried to convince me not to go anymore but having seen pictures of it before the trip, I knew better. I proceeded alone without looking back and left them to wait for me in the parking area.
I didn’t expect the area to be so wide and one could easily climb the rock to reach the top. I was the only one out there at first. Luckily two guys came later and I politely asked one of them to take pictures of me.
I felt sorry for my friends and I thought I would go back and convince them to visit the spot. It was too beautiful to be missed. I wouldn’t mind walking back if they finaly decided to go.
But no matter how impressed they were with the photos I took, it wasn’t enough to change their minds. We all got back inside the car and proceeded to see the Bangui Wind Mills. “The Bangui Wind Mills were built by the NorthWind Power Development Corporation to take its share in reducing the emission of harmful greenhouse gases (GHGs) causing global warming and to accelerate the rural electrification of the goverment.” It was a very impressive site to see as they stood massively tall facing the South China Sea.
It was almost 5PM when we reached Maraira-ira beach or more popularly known as Pagudpud’s Blue Lagoon where we reserved a nipa hut accomodation at Wally’s World Homestay.
After we have placed our things inside the hut, we immediately headed to the beach. As expected, the beach was too crowded. We went swimming, but we couldn’t stay long in the water as we felt cold due to the wind.
We just sat and relaxed on the beach and when it got dark, we went around looking for a nice place to eat. There weren’t many to choose from. We found one infront of Hanna’s beach resort. While we were having dinner, the electricity suddenly went out. TO BE CONTINUED>