My family has annual vacation trips around the country. And this time, it’s the provinces of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. LONG DRIVE, I know.
On 15 the of September, with no itinerary where to go and to stay, we left Valenzuela City around 5 in the morning and went straight to Malolos City to pick up my uncle and a cousin. We left at 7 o’clock and start the long drive. We passed through NLex, SCTex and TPLex. At around 11am, we made a stop in Gerona, Tarlac at Isdaan Restaurant. It’s a man-made floating restaurant that is filled with gigantic statues of buddhas, animals, and cartoon characters. Kid friendly and perfect for picture taking addicts out there.
At 12:30pm, we left the resto and went back to driving. We dropped off my uncle and his daughter at an intersection (I didn’t know road names) where they will catch a bus to Baguio and then us continued the drive to Vigan, Ilocos Sur. We passed lots of road and bridge constructions. We didn’t expect we will get stuck in multiple heavy traffics going to province. Also, you’d get creeps by passing roadside cemeteries but counting graveyards is a real fun activity.
We arrived in Vigan at around 8pm. Outside the city, we found an affordable place to stay for the night, Jaja hotel and resort. Some of the rooms were occupied but we felt like we rented the whole resort because no one was in the swimming pool area but us. (I’m sorry I didn’t have any decent photo of this place. It was late and we’re tired.)
Next day, after our breakfast, we went to Vigan City hooo! Not the whole city is stuck in the 1940’s but just the long stretch of Crisologo Street and some establishments near the plaza. We got there early and there were few tourists around. We got to check antique and souvenir shops. As we go walk down the street, I swear, I imagined myself living in the past. You know, in baro’t saya riding in a luxurious karwahe. *slaps myself*
I was in awe looking at these old houses. We’re in the modern era now but I want this place to stay the same in the next years or decades. This street may be just little piece of the province history but this keeps the place more interesting and its people modest and proud at the same time. Ilocanos are one of the friendliest and accommodating people in our country.
We wanted to explore more but we have to go to Pagudpud City which is 5 hours drive from Vigan. But before we left, we bought some treats to bring to our 2nd day road trip, but now, to the beach (I love beach. Beach is love).
After hours of driving, we have finally arrived in Ilocos Norte. You could feel the ocean breeze and hear the waves hitting bayside rocks. And when we finally saw the full ocean view, we just gotta stop.
Man, that’s just… AHHHHH. At this point, I was so ready for the beach. This was just an amazing view. Everyone of us was so hyped up. We continued our drive and after few more minutes, we noticed these gigantic windmills.
We asked around and we were lead to Kapurpurawan Rock Formation. It’s not exactly where the windmills are. We actually thought we would see the windmills located on seashore just like what we saw in old kalendaryo but that’s the Bangui windmills. And this is different. Who’s up to see rock formations and trekking?
We didn’t regret visiting this place as well as the trekking. We got to experience the beauty of nature. It’s by the sea and also below mountain. There’s also a lighthouse but we didn’t get to see it up-close. All in all, the experience was great and it’s must-see place in Ilocos Norte.
Back on the road and we’re all ready for Pagudpud but the road are too curvy and steep. Well, both Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte have dangerous curvy roads but this one going to Pagudpud is much more accident prone. After few more kilometers, we found ourselves passing through this really long bridge, the Patapat Bridge.
We were absolutely amazed how long that bridge is and we kind of suspected that we missed our way to the beach. We have confirmed it with some DENR people at the end of the bridge. We went pass through the Patapat Bridge again and made our way to where the white sand Balaoi Beach is.
It was almost sunset when we arrived there. We stayed at Blue Lagoon Homestay where we also ate delicious sea food as our dinner. After our meal and before the end of the day, I, together with Ced, my brother, went to the shore and attempted to go swimming but water was cold. It was a fail.
Third day of our trip, we woke up to this beautiful orange sky. This beach has wide sea shore and very fine sands. Right after breakfast, we went for swimming!
It’s expected to rain that day but didn’t happen. We enjoyed the water without direct sunlight because of the weather. No obvious tan! Also, it’s just chest deep water up to 10 meters from shoreline, at least that time of the year. Perfect for those who practice swimming and can’t swim. It’s September and just very few people visiting the place. I bet it’s crowded when summer. And that Banana boat ride was my first time. We got 3 rounds and sore arms later. It was hella fun. After those tiring beach activities, we went for a walk around this little community.
Before noon, we packed our things and left this little town. We wanted to go to Paoay but we didn’t have much time to drive home. I’ve saved that city on my list for next time. Before we finally drive home, we made a few stops. We had our lunch at a place where they serve authentic Ilocano food (I forgot the name).
We tried dragon fruit for the first time and it was the worst thing I did in this trip. No one liked it but my dad. He bought some more for pasalubong. And then we went back to Vigan to buy more pasalubong. It was a bit crowded since it’s afternoon. We were ready to go home but we saw Street Food Festival near the plaza and we’re not going to miss it.
There’s shawarma, pastas and pizzas, frappucinos, those varieties of street food. There are Ilocano foods – empanada, bagnet, longganissang Ilocos and more. And when we finally have full stomachs, we started the drive going home. From Vigan to Valenzuela was more or less 9 hours drive. We arrived home safe and sound.
If you are planning to go on road trip to Ilocos, let me give you some tips.
- Plan ahead but make it like a guideline. Check how many hours you will be on the road. Check where the lodges or inn in one city to another. You don’t need to make booking ahead of time. Just check what’s available. In our case, we didn’t research about Ilocos at all. We didn’t know we would arrive there at nighttime and we know nothing about where to stay. But don’t make the plan as the PLAN. What’s fun for some missed outs and little adventures of figuring out.
- Enjoy the hours seating in the back of car with fun little games and activities. You get it. No need to elaborate. We counted cemeteries and churches we passed by. We listened to our parents trip to memory lane and of course, music.
- Try authentic food and treats as much as you can. If you want to taste the best, most authentic food of Ilocos, don’t eat at fancy restaurants. Embrace the locals. Go eat at carinderias, buy pasalubong from street vendors. We really did these. Some of us really pushed the experience through and ate with their hands.
- Be nice to locals. Ilocanos are very friendly. You don’t set your foot to their city if you’re going make fun of them, especially their accent. Their dialect is a music to my ears. And don’t be surprised if they ask their dogs to do some tricks, in Ilocano.
- Be responsible tourist. If there’s a sign ‘no parking’, you look for other place to park. If you don’t see trash bin around, bring that ice cream wrapper with you. Don’t trash the place. Respect.
- If you’re going to where we’ve been and stayed at. Here’s a little amount break down- Isdaan Restaurant, we spent a little over 6k for the boodle fight meal. busog. but it’s kinda too much cause we didn’t get to finish it all. Jaja Hotel and Resort, that’s 3k for a room of a queen bed, one double deck and two extra bed foams and unlimited access to swimming pool area. Calle Crisologo, Vigan City. no fee. Walk around all you want or you can ride kalesa for 150php/2people. They will tour you around the city and see other places Vigan offers. This fare may go up on peak hours or days. Kapurpurawan Rock Formations, we got to pay 15php per person as entrance fee. But when I checked on the internet later, all of the reviews, said no fee. I’m not sure if that’s a recent implementation in that place but whatever. Pagudpud-Balaoi beach, I think there’s environmental 25php fee per person. Blue Lagoon Homestay, it’s 2k for a room of 3 queen beds.
So there. This trip was an exciting and fun one. I hope to visit these provinces again and see other things they offer. I know this post is really late, we didn’t have internet connections for days, thanks for reading my entry anyway. And let me know if you visit these places.