Monday, April 01, 2013


This is another guest post from a friend, Patty Soliman. All photos from her too. Enjoy.

March 25-27, 2013

Patty Soliman

The long wait has finally come after 2 months of preparation when we boarded 7PM Florida Bus going to Pagudpud last March 24, 2013. My cousin, Lizet, requested me to arrange an Ilocos Tour for her and 3 children. As a return favor, she included me and Noly in this escapade. For a mom working abroad, to bond with their children is the best way to catch up for lost times. I wanted so much to bring along my children but their work hinder them from making this trip. Ate Lizet gave me a specific budget and the rest was all up to me planning for this tour. Like always, reading blogs from previous travelers gave me an idea on how to begin my planning. For a date traveling on a Holy Week, it was quite challenging to get the best and yet reasonable place to stay. Almost every best resort in Saud Beach was fully-booked as early as February. The finer the sand from its beach front, the more expensive the accommodation would be in Saud. I didn’t waste time and booked Madrid Beach Resort immediately after knowing that they still got room available for 6 persons. Madrid’s beach front is rocky and so, room rate is cheaper.

Ilocos Norte's northernmost municipality
My next agenda is to hire a van that would bring us to places and sites in Pagudpud, Laoag and Vigan. I inquired to about 3-4 prospect guide that would offer good price. I end up hiring Ricky as the lowest bidder and immediately made our down payment through Western Union. It’s the same process booking Madrid Beach Resort. For our Laoag destination, I requested, a friend from high school, who is based in Laoag, to help me inquire for rooms that can accommodate us at Northview Hotel. I find this hotel fitted to our budget. At that time, I was having hard time calling the hotel through long distance. Just when I’m about to ask for follow-up, I was surprised and grateful of her for covering the expense. I really appreciate the gesture. As for Vigan tour, I prepared our itinerary and bus to take us back to Manila. I think Partas Bus is the only reputable commuter that can take you to and from Vigan. After more than a month of inquiries, bookings and reading blogs, I gave the itinerary and estimated expense to cousin Lizet.
Pagudpud beach, Ilocos Norte
The trip going to Pagudpud took us 11 hours to reach. We arrived 6am on a clear morning sky. Ricky was already waiting for us when we got there. I informed him earlier about our estimated arrival and he offered to bring us to Madrid Beach Resort. Upon dropping us off at Madrid, we briefly discussed our routes and itineraries that would start at about 9AM. Heading to our room, we checked our beds and of course, the bathroom. I could not expect more if the rate is not that much. All I can say, the price is good. I ordered breakfast for us through texting Ms. Ana, the owner of Madrid, night before we left Manila. And yes, as expected, there is the famous Longganisang Ilocos on our table with fried eggs and hotdog and the unlimited fried rice complimented with 3-in-1 coffee prepared by the resort’s kitchen staff, Manang Lei. Not bad for a P100/head meal. Right after breakfast, we prepared for our Pagudpud North and South Tour with our shades and cameras ready.

The author with husband Noly, at Cape Bojeador lighthouse, Ilocos Norte
Our first destination was the majestic Cape Bojeador, a light house that was built 1892. The view of South China Sea from its step was breathtaking. Reaching the top was quite difficult for Noly but just the same, he wouldn’t miss this awesome site. Our photo shoot started when we saw antique brick walls and rustic windows of this light house. Miguel and Nicole were excited taking shots of their sister, Jaja and their mom. As for Noly and me, we pretended as couple on their pre-nup shoot. Noly has been patiently teaching Miguel and Nicole on how to use their Nikon camera, from the opening, angle and speed. Posing for a creative shot was beginning to be fun. 

Then, we head to Kapurpurawan, a limestone rock formation by the shore. Heading near this awesome rock formation would need horseback riding. Noly and Ate Lizet decided to appreciate Kapurpurawan looking at it from the view deck. And the rest of us took our horses and off near this fascinating rock formation. The natural beauty of this site is really amazing. For the longest time, I began to enjoy taking pictures again, just like in my college days from my photography class. It was really fun holding our cameras as we capture the beauty of this place.

Kapurpurawan rock formation, Ilocos Norte

We had our lunch in a native restaurant beside those gigantic Bangui Windmills. Looking from pictures before, I didn’t expect these wind turbines to be this huge. Right after lunch, I invited Noly to join me get closer to one of those 20-piece turbines facing the South China Sea. It was where Noly noticed that I am beginning to have red nose from sunburn. 

The author at Bangui windmills, Ilocos Norte
Kabigan Falls, Ilocos Norte
Ricky brought us to Kabigan Falls. After registering ourselves and paid the minimal tour fee, our guide, Manang Flor, helped us trekked 1.5 km to get to Kabigan Falls. I’m a bit apprehensive to take this walk with Noly on a very hot afternoon. But how could we resist the sound of the water stream on our right, and enjoying the rice fields on our left? Despite its long walk and rocky steps and passing through improvised small bridges, we still enjoyed listening to the water stream and birds chirping from the rice fields and trees as we head up to the mountain. The large sound of water falling from the mountain was so inviting. The cold water gave me an ease from the long walk. Noly was coaching me how to take shots of the falls.

Mesmerized from the cold water of Kabigan Falls, we went back to our van for our next destination. Ricky drove us to Patapat Viaduct where it was said to be the 2nd longest after San Juanico Bridge. Patapat Viaduct is the connecting route to Cagayan from Pagudpud. We had fun taking our shots in the middle of the road while taking proper timing not to get hit by passing vehicles. We had good laughs here. 

Patapat Viaduct, Ilocos Norte going to Cagayan
And then we head to Blue Lagoon. We passed the Timangtang Rock and Bantay Abot Cave as the natives would call Couple Rock because of its shape. Blue Lagoon is the Boracay of the North. And just like in Boracay, there are white sand and crowded people on the shore. The waves were so inviting but due to time constrain, we preferred to just appreciate the place for more picture taking and simply enjoy the wind and its waves. 

It was already past 5PM, and buying food in the market was our concern. We opted to buy our dinner here to stretch our budget. Restaurants in Saud are bit costly. We were hoping to take glimpse of the sunset from the Saud Beach but it was already dark when we got back to our resort. We requested Manang Lei to cook the food we bought for a minimal fee. Her Pinakbet and Paco Salad matched the roasted chicken we bought on the road. As soon as we settled in our room, Jaja and Miguel started uploading their pictures, all 400+ pictures just for Day 1 in one camera. The wind from the resort’s balcony was cold and quite strong that we decided to call it a night. 

On our second day, we checked-out around 9:30AM and started to hit the road to Laoag. We said our goodbyes to Pagudpud by taking another picture from the Pagudpud Arch. The sun was so hot that I could feel a tremendous heat from my sunburned shoulders. 

The busy streets of Laoag welcomed us as we enter the premises of St. William Cathedral. I took picture of its facade and the Sinking Bell Tower just across the road. We checked-in at Northview Hotel courtesy of our Laoag host, Christianne. The hospitality was greatly appreciated specially that these teenagers enjoyed WIFI from their room. As for Noly and me, our room has a massage bed, a perfect spot for our legs and back to get a soothing relaxation. To eat lunch at La Preciosa was indicated in our itinerary. After reading good reviews I decided to include it during my planning. The antique interior and its ambiance had a compelling mood to relax. Though the taste of food we ordered was just ordinary. 

Ricky brought us to Fort Ilocandia. The place, again, gave us time to take more pictures of its chandeliered interior and bougainvillea gardens from outside. Posters of the former Presidents Marcos and Arroyo, other foreign dignitaries and beauty contests that took place in Fort Ilocadia were hanged from every wall. The place reminds me more of the old Coconut Palace as I enter the premises. After awhile, we head to the Malacanang of the North. As we get to the entrance of the palace, we saw guard wearing the old constabulary uniform similar from the Marcos regime. As we enter the palace, we saw the huge Paoay Lake from its veranda. We roamed the entire palace looking at the Marcos’ Memorabilia. I requested Nicole to take picture of me with the painting of Madame on my back copying her pose. We requested a PSG in old uniform, inside the palace, to have a souvenir photo shot with us. By this time, I could sense that Noly is beginning to feel tired from the afternoon heat asking him again and again if he’s OK.

Then, Ricky drove us around Paoay Lake as we head to Paoay Church, the place where Irene Marcos-Araneta had her wedding. Just like in her wedding, where it was adorned with Sampaguita Flowers, the entire church garden was filled with Sampaguita plants. Right after taking a brief shot of the church, we went to the famous Marcos Mausoleum. It was already past 4PM and we were in a hurry beating time, the mausoleum closes at 4:30. No cameras allowed and cannot stay long. There was a tingling feeling passing my back nerve, and goose-bumps as we enter the place on black granite walls, dim lights, sounds of Gregorian Chants and in the center, body of the Old Marcos sealed in full glass. Then we were ushered to see the Marcos’ Gallery. The entire place was wall to wall photos of Marcos’ history. We end our Laoag Tour by eating the famous Ilocos Empanada in Batac. 

We head back to Northview Hotel by 5PM where my friend-host was waiting. We had long chats about family, work and whereabouts of other classmates, excited being reunited after more than 20 years. I could have invited her to join us for dinner but she too has dinner appointment on her hectic schedule from work. Our group decided to try Northview Hotel Restaurant instead of heading town for dinner. In my personal taste palette, I enjoyed our food here rather than what we had during lunch. Night swimming at the hotels’ pool was my last activity for the day with Jaja and Nicole. The three of us enjoyed chatting as we dip ourselves in the pool as the moon watches us from the sky. 

Day 3 was our Vigan exposure and the culminating day of our Ilocos Tour. As we reached Ilocos Sur, it was an astonishing site to see hectares and hectares of tobacco plantation on both sides of the road. Not rice fields, but tobacco and corn fields as far as your eyes can see. Bantay Bell Tower was the first site we visited in Vigan. We had funny shots playing poses with this Bell Tower courtesy of the manong from the Tourist Center as he tells us about this bell tower’s history. Again, there were steps that made Noly difficult to reach the top. With patience and my shoulders to hold, he was able to reach this bell tower. The magnificent panoramic view of Vigan can be seen from its top. There were 4 small bells on its side with huge one in the center with different purposes. Those small ones were used for Baptismal, Wedding, Funeral and Angelus and the huge one is for Masses and Processions. 

As we reached the Heritage Village, we had our lunch at Bistro Amarillo, again, learned about the place from the blogs I read. The air conditioned restaurant relieved us from hot temperature from outside. Again, we had Bagnet and Longganisang Vigan and Sinigang na hipon. My verdict, well, similar to Laoag, but the Longganisang Vigan were spicier this time. We head for Calle Crisologo to see more Spanish houses. We enjoyed walking on its brick roads despite the head aching afternoon sun. I was fascinated with the way they maintained the architectural structures of this Heritage Village, more so, for making commercial structures such as McDonald’s or Max’s or even National Bookstore similar to the Heritage Village. The 3 teenagers went to explore the place by themselves, while, Noly, Ate Lizet and me, hired Calesa to roam as around Vigan. Manong Norbert, our “kutchero” showed us around telling us stories of each place. He even brought us to “Pagburnayan” where I got to experience pottery. But for a beginner, my pot was not a success. I was trying to make a vase which turned out to be crocked pitcher. But it was fun though. 

The rest of our afternoon was explored in Baluarte ni Chavit. Gov. Chavit Singson’s collection of zoo animals caged in this huge place, showing off to tourists for free. I wished Sky was with us during this trip. For sure, he will be more amazed to see them all, most especially those miniature ponies with Calesa, the Ostriches that freely roam around the place, caged tigers and birds. Exhausted and tired from the afternoon sun, we prepared for our trip back to Manila. Before heading home, we bought our Longganisang Vigan and Bagnet in the public market. Last 30 minutes before we buy our tickets back to Manila was spent in sourcing for “pasalubong” in Calle Crisologo. I also bought something for little Sky. We didn’t have much time to eat at CafĂ© Leona as indicated in the itinerary that I made, so we opted to buy empanada at Irene’s for our take-out dinner instead. 

Our 3-day Ilocos tour end as we board the 8PM trip of Partas Bus to Manila brought home with us the Sites, Sands, and Sun of Ilocos. For Noly and me, we are grateful to be invited on this trip. And for Ate Lizet and her children, for first time travelers, I can say this is, Priceless.
See also:

North Phils., Feb. 2002 (part 1), November 20, 2005

Laoag-Pagudpud, June 22, 2006

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