“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float,
To gain all while you give,
To roam the roads of lands remote,
To travel is to live.”
― Hans Christian Andersen, The Fairy Tale of My Life: An Autobiography
It was really an exhilarating feeling when you plan something and end up doing it. It seems like there is no turning back but only moving forward. And yes, it is no wonder that I’m so excited to share the exciting adventure my friends and I have achieved, and that is to wander the beautiful region of Ilocos.
The truth is it was only on January that we decided to go to Ilocos, a sudden plan that we made into reality. From then, we searched travel agencies that offer cheap but nice accommodations. We compare packages from time to time and viola, we came across IExplore Travel & Tours. And after some clarifications and inquiries, it was decided that we travel from March 16-19.
On March 16 (friday night), we were met by Ms. Joy (the one in charge of Iexplore) at Farmer’s Market Cubao. The original time of departure was 9:00 p.m. but apparently, the assigned driver got lost somewhere so we depart thirty minutes later.
Setting aside that small glitch, we were just really excited, so off we go. 🙂
Our first tour started from the beautiful City of Vigan.
After six to seven hours of travelling, we arrived safely at our first stop: Calle Crisologo at around 5:00 a.m. It was still dark when we wander around the said place. But the lights are good for it adds beauty to the place while we captured some photos.
After which, we were met by our Ilocos tour guide, Ate Karen. But before we proceed to our next stop, we were told to take our breakfast.
This is one of the most famous churches in Ilocos Sur. Bantay Church is also called as the Saint Augustine Parish Church.
The said bell tower is located just a few minutes’ walk from Vigan City. It is one of the historic landmarks of the city. It sits on a hill overlooking a beautiful landscape. Here you can capture picturesque view of the beautiful city.
Also known as the St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is considered a major religious landmark of northern Luzon. I was amazed by the beauty of the said church as we traversed inside it.
We , then, proceed to Plaza Burgos. This plaza was built in honor of the martyrdom of Father Jose P. Burgos.
Meanwhile, this tourist spot was built to remeber the heroism of the Spanish conqueror, Juan de Salcedo. Here you can see dancing fountains at night and what struck me was lighted map of the Philippines sprouting from the reflecting pool of the area. It was really awesome.
This place is a must-see attraction of the city. It houses a mini zoo and it has a collection of different paintings and animals. It lies in hectares of land that stretches from the rolling plain towards the hills. Here, we paid P10.00 as a fee so we can rode a service car going up. There, we were able to see different kinds of animals roaming freely in the area. And on the top of it, we were able to enjoy the private collection of Mr. Chavit Singson.
After which, our tour guide informed us to take our early lunch in this beautiful place called Hidden Garden. This place is located at the heart of Vigan.
It is popular for its beautiful garden wherein you can find different flowers and herbal plants, along with different potteries.
My friends and i decided to try their very own bagnet sisig and sinanglao. The price is affordable and the dishes are delicious. Naimas!
After our lunch, we head off to Pagburnayan. It is the iconic pottery place in the city. They called these earthenware burnay. These jars are famous among foreign and local tourists for they are really skillfully made.
So to experience the so-called burnay-making, we pushed our friend Sarah to try making one. It was a real fun!
- Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail
Next, we head off to the famous Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail. This is where our late President Elpidio Quirino was born. This old jail turned museum displays different memorabilia of the former President, along with other national treasures of the Northern Luzon.
I was also amazed by the different paintings/drawings displayed on the museum because as our tour guide shared, those paintings hold a surrealistic story behind.
By afternoon, we proceed to the wonderful city of Laoag, Ilocos Norte.
The St. Augustine Church or most commonly known as Paoay Church is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. It is also a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.
I must say that the beauty of this church is so captivating. I was moved by how this old church stood the test of time. Upon entering the said church, I was easily at peace. It is really a must-see destination.
- Malacanang of the North and Marcos Mausoleum
Ilocos Norte also has its own version of Malacañan Palace. It is the Malacanang of the North or what the locals referred to as Malacañang ti Amianan. It is one of the important landmarks of the region as this has been the official residence/rest house of the late President Ferdinand Marcos and his family whenever they are in Ilocos. Aside from the memorabilia of the late President inside, this majestic mansion showcases different antique furniture and interesting art pieces.
Such a splendid view outside the mansion.
My Ilocos tour is one of the unforgettable moments in my life just because of this adrenaline rushing adventure which is the 4 x 4 ride and sand boarding in the stirring La Paz Sand Dunes.
The ride was really breathtaking (for the view of the place itself) and breathless (for the heart pumping tour going up and down the dunes). We literally lose our voice after the extreme ride but it was really awesome!
Sand boarding was fun, too. At first, I do not attempt to try it because of fear that I will be out of balance (after reading other blog posts regarding this activity). But after watching others do it, I decided to try it.
I really enjoyed all the activities here and if given the chance, i will surely go back and try again this extreme experience.
We ended our first day tour right after the extreme sand dunes experience. After which, we took our dinner along the way and proceeded to Century Garden Hotel, our assigned lodging.
Century Garden Hotel
I love watching sunrise. This one’s taken behind our hotel room at Century Garden Hotel.
The next day, we began our Pagudpud tour. Along the way, we saw the restless South China sea.
Situated on a rocky promontory near the town of Burgos is the historical Cape Bojeador lighthouse. It was said that the lighthouse was known for its ghost stories but we can’t keep ourselves from seeing this attractive place.
Climbing up, it was very peaceful. I can say that the blue sky adds to the magnificent view of the lighthouse just as you look upward.
- Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
Right after Cape Bojeador, we went straight to Kapurpurawan. Located on the rocky coast of Burgos, Ilocos Norte,the Kapurpurawan rock formation is known for its creamy white and unique limestone formations, which have been sculpted by different oceanic and weather forces.
We walked for about 10-20 minutes just to see this unique rock formation and I will say that even with the scorching heat of the sun, the effort was worth it. So when you plan on visiting this place, I remind you to bring water, hat/umbrella, towels or even fan.
Our next stop was the famous Bangui Windmills. One should never miss this extremely enormous blades rotating in the sky. I was astonished when I first saw these giant turbines because I really don’t have any idea how big they are. It is really quite a sight for tourist. Our tourist guide also warned us to stay away from the shore, which is basically the South China sea, because of its strong wave current.
Beautiful windmill souvenirs.
We took our lunch after which, then we go along the Patapat (Bridge) Viaduct.
One of the most photographed destination of Pagudpud, this bridge connects the Maharlika Highway in Laoag to the Cagayan Valley.
We only stayed here for a while but it was the scenery of the place that was so hard not to notice.
Our next itinerary should take us to Hannah’s Beach Resort (Blue lagoon), but apparently, our tour guide knows the best resorts in the place and she led us to Saud beach Resort.
One of the well-known resort in the northwest of Luzon, the place was breathtaking. We also enjoyed the blueness of the sea and its white sand. It was spectacular.
We left the said resort at 4:00 p.m. because the ride going back to our hotel will take us long.
But along the way, we were able to take a picture in the famous Pagudpud Arc.
Along the way, also, our tourist guide suggested that we bought our dinner in this grilling place she knew. Her suggestion was superb because the foods there were truly delicious. We decided to buy inihaw na pusit and liempo. And we ate our (last) dinner in our hotel rooms.
We woke just as the sun was rising. It was a heartwarming scene but at the same time, heartbreaking, knowing that this is our last day in Ilocandia. But still, we need to keep on moving and so we just enjoyed our last day in the alluring region of Ilocos.
We first headed to the Ilocos Norte Capitol.
Ilocos Norte Capitol is situated just near Laoag City’s main tourist attractions, namely, Museo Ilocos Norte, Marcos Hall of Justice, the Abolition of Tobacco Monopoly Monument, Sinking Bell Tower, and Cathedral of Saint William the Hermit. Here, we took our time taking pictures of other famous attractions near the area.
What left me stunned was the colorful umbrella canopy in the streets beside the Laoag City Hall and Marcos Hall of Justice. It was a real beauty. Those eye-catching interconnected umbrellas somewhat provides positive vibes to whoever take a sight of it.
After our tour to Ilocos Norte capitol, Ate Karen bid farewell to us. It was an amazing experience with her as our tour guide. I like her because she is really knowledgeable about the place, foods, and other sort of things. She is really good. It was a privilege knowing someone like her.
For our last stop, we returned to the place where we begin — Vigan. We just bought souvenirs and other pasalubong here.
It was a great and unforgettable adventure knowing the beautiful region of Ilocos. I’ve got to know lots of stuff, history, culture, traditions and gems of the said place. It was astounding!
For three days and two nights, Ilocos has taught me life itself — that there is beauty in discovering something you don’t know, and in seeking for the unknown, you will realize that there is more to life than just looking. In the end, you need to find what you are looking and be able to appreciate it. Because there are hidden jewels in this life that is so precious and significant. It is the kind of treasure you will carry all throughout your life and that is experience.
Ilocos is a real gem. Ilocos is love. Go see it yourself! 🙂