Travel Diary: Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte

I could not believe I will miss Ilocos wholeheartedly.

After watching an episode of Amazing Race Philippines Season 2 last night, in which Ilocos is the venue, the thrill and excitement of being in the place ascended again. How will I forget its breathtaking coastline,white rock formations, golden sand dunes, nerve cracking 4×4 jeepney wheel drive, Agono trees and delicious Ilocano delicacies?

Beep. Beep. Boop.

DAY 1

The travel going to Ilocos Sur boundary takes nine hours from Manila with two stopovers. Our bus left at 9:00 in the evening and had our first stopover in Tarlac at about 1:00 midnight because we’ve been stuck in the traffic jam in Ayala to Ortigas. Our next stopover was in La Union at about 04:00 midnight.

We reached the boundary of Ilocos Sur at about 6:30 in the morning and had our breakfast at Villa Angela Heritage House in Vigan City. The villa offers dormitory type rooms, in which, according to the caretakers, is a favorite rest house of TV networks such as ABS-CBN and GMA when they do tapings. We got to explore the living room area where I found astounding old Ilocano painting hanging on the walls.

We continued the travel after fueling our tummies. We had a rolling tour of old churches and houses of the province. Every tourist spots in Ilocos are between long distance so it is really a must to have own vehicle or a service from a tour operator. Plus, the weather in Ilocos is extremely hot for two reasons: 1) its a lowland 2) its in North side of the Philippines.

Our next stop is the very known “Baluarte ni Chavit Singson”. Yes, it is owned by Chavit Singson which is apparently built so he will be tax exempted, or at least, have deduction on his tax.

Baluarte is a zoo open to all with no entrance fee. Upon entering, attendants will have you sign in the registration form first. Birds of different types and sizes will greet you in the entrance. They are so cute, giggling; I even talked to them wishing they will talk but I failed.

The zoo also offers free kalesa ride for those who would like to explore the field. I tried the ride to have a  near experience with the reindeer, horses and the likes. It was hot, the sun is really high but I have no choice because I wanted it.

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I don’t know if I’m too happy ’cause of the ride or I’m overwhelmed because of the heat 😀

 

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Sweet ride! 🙂

The kutsero (driver) took us to the camels named Mario (male) and the female, which by the way, I forgot the name. To double the fun, I fed Mario with mango leaves. He was rubbing his coat on the cage, I think it is his way of showing affection, he opened his mouth showing his huge set of teeth and grabbed the leaves. When he saw me handling another branch of mango leaves, he stopped chewing and waited for me to give him another. Sweet!

After the zoo tour, our group headed to Marcos Museum, Marcos Crypt and Marcos Photo Gallery at Batac City, where the remain of late President Ferdinand Marcos can be seen, and also, where people can score super delicious Vigan Empanada. Unfortunately, we were not able to enter the whole place because it was close. The caretaker said it is close because they are cleaning the place, but, some resources said it is close because there is an order from the President to confiscate the valuable paintings inside the museum. To avoid that to happen, Marcoses decided to close the museum.

We failed to enter but we did not failed to sneak out the group to eat Vigan Empanada! Yum! Success!

Before eating lunch, we visited another world heritage site, the Paoay Church. We were not able to enter inside because it is close. Just a brief history background, the whole church is made out of coral stones and bricks which is very visible when you closely check its enormous thick walls. It is one the UNESCO Heritage sites in the Philippines because until now the materials are still the same when it was built during Spaniards colonization.

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Taking pictures at 12:00 noon needs cover up!

Besides Paoay Church is the Herencia Cafe – the Home of Pinakbet Pizza. As far as I remember, the famous Pinakbet Pizza of Herencia’s was featured in Byahe ni Drew.  They have two branches: one is near Paoay Church and the other is 10 minutes away from Paoay Church.

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I’m an Ilocano. I love Pinakbet. I love fish sauce. 

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What about the food? Every Ilocano viand Herencias’s served is delicious! I couldn’t assess how happy my tummy was that time because I love Ilocano food and fish sauce.

And when we emptied our plates, they served us their Pinakbet Pizza. The pizza is attractive in color but there’s a little bit of awkwardness because the ampalaya (apple bitter gourd) and the other ingredients of Pinakbet are very visible on the top. So of course, I tried. I took a slice, the crust is so thin and crispy, I drizzled it with fish sauce and chili oil.  I took a bite and then I feel in love. It is so good! The saltiness of fish sauce, the mild kick of chili oil in your tongue, the bitter taste of apple bitter gourd, the texture of sticky melted cheese and the crispiness of the crust all in your mouth is so  bursting!

Burp!

After lunch, we went to Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel in Ilocos Norte to check in and spend the rest of our stay.

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Backpack is always my thing. I don’t want to carry heavy luggage when traveling.

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To be honest, it is totally hot! But, I have to wear my jacket because I don’t want to carry it. 🙂 

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There’s a corridor outside with perfect view of Fort Ilocandia.

 

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Fun behind the sun! 🙂

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Part of Fort Ilocandia is this view

Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel is a 5-star hotel historically built to accommodate guests of Aimee Marcos during her wedding. It has 2 kilometer sandy beach facing West Philippine Sea and 77 hectares of land. Can you imagine that?

Ok. Dinner time!

If I was amazed by the taste of Pinakbet Pizza, I was beyond amazed when I tried the food in Saramsam: Ylocano Restaurant. The restaurant served us Saniata, Lauya a baka, Saramsam Pasta, Crispy Dinardaraan, Nalentangaikan, Poquipuqui, Kalti and Baraniw. Among the food, I was hooked by Saramsam Pasta and Poquipuqui. Saramsam Pasta is made of Angel hair pasta topped with ripe and green mango, green and red bell pepper, fresh tomatoes, onions, cilantro and shrimp drizzled with chili oil and fish sauce. Poquipuqui, however, is made of smoked mashed round eggplant, tomatoes and onions drizzled with fish sauce. Super yummy!!!

 

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Saramsam Pasta! Two thumbs up! 🙂

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DAY 2

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Fresh!!!! 🙂

Our second day in Ilocos Norte has been a long drive. We left Fort Ilocandia at 9:00 in the morning going to Burgos Light House which took us almost an hour drive. From the entrance, we need to climb up for approximately 15 minutes going to the light house. We can pay for tricycle, but, our group decided to walk. It is very exhausting because the temperature is high, the air is thinning, plus, we are walking against gravity, so, we really did had a tough time reaching the place.

In all honesty, I do not know what to feel because I want to pee but there is no restroom and my body is really sweating. I took the challenge of climbing up as an exercise to lessen the calories I got from eating too much.  After 10 minutes we reached the top, but, we still need to climb up few more stairs before reaching the surface of the light house. Since I am really exhausted, I stayed on the ground and relax to the view of West Philippine Sea which is the background. The stretch of the sea is really calming and blessing because God allowed me to see how amazing He is.

After visiting the Burgos Light House, we headed down to White Rock Formation. Another burning hot place, yes! I am really exhausted but left with no choice but to go down because my colleagues are pulling me to go down our ride. Seeing how far I should walk just to have a near view of the rock formation stopped  me from walking. Instead, I satisfied myself afar and sit in a nipa shed while waiting for them to come back. The breeze of the wind and the sound of the wave makes me want to lay down and sleep for a while. I can stay there for long time.

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White Rock Formation

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Thanks God for this nipa shed! 🙂

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Yey! Going up!  I could already see the Windwill Power Plant 🙂

Rolling, we stop by Bangui Windmill Power Plant. I already seen those huge power plants several times, but, they still amazes me because they totally look beautiful and windy. Downside there are souvenir shops where I bought muscle shirt.

LUNCH TIME AGAIN!

We had our lunch at Hannah’s Beach Resort in Pagudpud but no swimming was allowed because it is not part of our package. From Bangui Windwill Power Plant, it took us an hour going to the resort because it is in Pagudpud. Pagudpud is the Boracay of the North but is not really develop because the government and the locals are afraid it will become dirty like Boracay. The resort is so wide, it is perfect for company outing and team building. They already have built-in obstacles and activities that are ready to use.

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AFTERNOON FUN.

So, this is the very fun part of the day. We went to La Paz Sand Boarding Adventures before sun sets where we tried the 4×4 ride. God, Ilocos dunes is so gorgeous! The sand and the sun set is so interesting to look at.

La Paz Sand Boarding Adventures offers sandboarding and 4×4 jeepney ride. You really can’t leave Ilocos without trying one! Because we are extreme people, we tried the 4×4 jeepney ride experience. The driver asked us the level of adventure and screamed “EXTREME!!!”. So yes, we got a totally extreme ride. I tried to video capture the adventure but I failed because as soon as the engine start and the wheels rolled we got bumpy. The course in the first two minutes is already nerve rushing. The next minutes were totally nerve rushing. The driver took us to the highest slope of sand, fall us to the deepest slope of sand and slant us to the most slanted slope of sand. We could not stop screaming! Before going back, the driver took us to the coastline to relax and went our way home to a totally nerve cracking sweet ride!

We are all satisfied with big smile on our face and bruises on our body. I, personally, will go back there to ride again.

 

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DAY 3

GOING HOME! TATAH!

Before heading home, we stop by at Malacañang of the North (Balay Ti Amianan). Just like Malacañan Palace, the Malacañang of the North is also surrounded by water/ lake. Story says that the lake is a barangay that was turned into a lake because late President Marcos commanded it. His adviser told him that if he will situate a house, building or office there should be a surrounding water for him to be lucky.

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Our last stop is at Vigan City before going home. I totally love Vigan City! First is because it is a history, second is because I love the romantic vibe of the place and third is because of the souvenir shops! You cannot go wrong in Vigan City whether you want to relax, want to transport in different era or you just want to dine in.

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Sit with me!!!

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Always partner in good crime 🙂

That is how I spent my vacation in Ilocos. For those of you who also wanted to visit the place, I suggest that you bring sunscreen. Look at me, I look like I’ve been in beach because I got tanned! 😀

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And here is my group. Animo Lasalle!  🙂

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