Clockwise from upper left: 1. Old Spanish-style homes on Calle Crisologo remind me of New Orleans; 2. Very old door on a home in Vigan Heritage Center give off an old country vibe; 3. St. Paul's Cathedral bell tower on Plaza Burgos; 4. St. Paul's Cathedral on Plaza Burgos.
Left : Calle Crisologo at night is an enchanting sight. Right: A shot on Calle Crisologo.
Visit Baluarte, a community zoo funded by the City of Vigan. Clockwise from upper left : 1. a potbellied big enjoys his lunch; 2. Sleepy Bengal tiger naps in between photo ops at the animal experience section; 3. A butterfly sips some nectar in the butterfly sanctuary; 4. Posing with the macaws.
Bantay Bell Tower and Apo Caridad. Clockwise from upper left: 1. Logging in my prayers for Apo Cardidad to give me a miracle; 2. Inside the church of Bantay; 3. Chapel by the Ruins behind the church; 4. The Bantay bell tower also known as San Agustin Bell Tower. The tower is bigger than many church towers because it was used as a watch tower by the Spanish during their occupation.
Pagudpud is really just a two hour drive from Paoay. But if you do it like us and stop at Ilocos Norte's famous landmarks, it will probably take anywhere from four to five hours depending on how much time you spend at each stop. We took pretty long so that by the time we saw this archway, we were ecstatic. Mr. Diaz quipped "by the time you arrive, you're both pagod and pudpud."
We chose to stay at Kapuluan Vista Resort instead of the popular Hannah's based on the recommendation on an article by Drew Arellano. It was a very quiet place to stay with charming cottage rooms and an organic garden from which they harvest the eggs and produce they serve to their guests. Come here if you would like a quiet retreat and seasonal organic food -- the peace and calming ocean sounds will do the trick for souls that are weary of city noises
The waves on the shoreline of Pagudpud are strong! When taking little children with you, keep and eye on them or hold them close. As the tide draws back into the sea it can pull you out. The resulting incoming waves, though, are big and beautiful -- which is why surfers are drawn to this part of the world. In fact, Kapuluan is also a surf school. Although when we were there, it was so so cold that there was no swimming or surfing to be had (unless you were a polar bear).
Being in Pagudpud, as far as I was concerned, meant that I was practically at the edge of the world (if it meant that my world was The Philippines). I looked out to sea and imagined aspiring sailors in the olden times wondering when they would have their chance to venture beyond the shores to discover new lands. The world seemed larger then, but looking out, I didn't feel less small. The Earth really is full of wonder, and for once, it isn't cliche.
When it got slightly warmer the day after we arrived, we walked on the shore and found these two perfect corals. I picked them up and took them with me to remind me that I found paradise in The Philippines.
When I read up on a Northern Luzon road trip, most references pointed to attractions from Laoag en route to Pagudpud. So when we had our chance, Mr. Diaz and I made sure we had time to hit each location. The effort was rewarding and resulted in feelings of patriotism. No kidding.
1. Cape Bojeador, Burgos, Ilocos Norte
About 42km from Laoag City in Burgos, Ilocos Sur stands the Bojeador Lighthouse (also known as the Burgos Lighthouse) which marks the Northwestern most point of Luzon. In its time during the late Spanish period in the Philippines, it welcomed galleons and warned barges to steer away from the dangerous rocky coastline. Today, it is still a functioning lighthouse powered by solar energy.
When you find yourself on Cape Bojeador, take pictures. But also, buy an ice cream from the Selecta vendor there just take in the rocky shoreline and look out into the West Philippine Sea. Realize that what you are looking at is the outer edge of the country... the way it is drawn on the map.
2. Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, Burgos, Ilocos Norte
Just a few kilometers away from the Burgos Lighthouse is a magnificent white rock formation. I speak no Ilocano, but I've read that it's name, Kapurpurawan, means white.
The road ends a little short of the rock, so you want to wear comfortable wallking shoes because it's a short trek (although others can also take a short pony ride to site). Kapurpurawan is a must see especially if you are like me who is a bit of a stranger to North Luzon.
3. Bangui Windmills, Bangui, Ilocos Norte
As you continue on your way to Pagudpud, the famous Bangui Windmills will need no announcement. You will see them to the North side of your drive, a row of enormous white wind turbines that provide clean energy to the Ilocos province. Mr. Diaz and I only made it to the view deck, but if you are attentive, you will see a directional sign pointing to the wind farm for a closer view.
4. Patapat Viaduct, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
The Patapat Viaduct, according to my reading, is the fourth longest bridge in the Philippines. It connects the Maharlika Highway from Laoag to the Cagayan Region. It is built on the side of the Cordillera Mountain Range and offers the best, unobstructed view of the West Philippine Sea. It is located on the Northernmost Coast of our country.
Many who have passed through and blogged about these landmarks have said that these sights took their breath away. Mr. Diaz and I are no exception. We left on this trip for a honeymoon, but we got more than that. We got to know our country a little more intimately, learned to appreciate parts of Philippine History, and created memories that we will cherish for years to come.
The great thing about an Ilocos road trip is that you get to drive along the most beautiful coastline looking out into the West Philippine Sea. After a quick stop in Save More in Santa Maria for a few drinks and yogurt, we went on our way along the Manila North Road and had to stop for this view on San Esteban and took a quick photo of this lovely sapphire coast. Except for cropping, this photo didn't get any enhancement. The water is really this blue. Beautiful!
Five hours later, we were at Paoay. The first order of business was lunch and so we stopped at Herencia, a retaurant fronting the historic Paoay Church. Their sign said it was the birthplace of the Pinakbet Pizza that everyone talks about so, we decided to order that. Pinakbet pizza, at first glance, is just an ordinary vegetable pizza. But what makes it is the bagoong that they serve on the side. Now a few drops of bagoong plus some hot sauce turns it into a unique Ilocano pizza experience. Taste to believe.
Aside from the pinakbet pizza, we ordered Ilocandia pizza (longganisa and onion), more logganisa (because we're in Ilocos!), and poqui-poqui (eggplant, tomatoes, onions). Of these dishes, the poqui-poqui was a quick favorite. It reminded me of my mom's sarciado without the fish getting in the way of the sauce (my favorite part).
After lunch, we crossed the street to see the historic church which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This baroque Augustinian church was built in the 1700s, but knowing nothing about architecture, what struck me most was it's sheer size. Great stone blocks and concrete, scrolls, and turrets make it a sight to behold. Do not miss it if you find yourself in the nearby city of Laoag.
About 10km away from the church is the Malacanang of the North overlooking the magnificent Paoay Lake. This was Marcos' dream home set upon the most valuable real estate in the province. The marble floors, and huge hardwood staircase are impressive, while the sprawling lawn space at the back is stately. I couldn't help feeling a little queasy, though, knowing how this house was funded. Still, the lawn was good for a happy shot.
We stayed the night at Plaza del Norte Hotel and Convention Center, a sprawling Spanish style compound. Each room in our wing was overlooking a large blue pool and each balcony was trellised with bouganvillea vines. So very charming.
We stayed for just a night and started for Pagudpud with plans to stop by a few popular destinations en route. It was turning out to be a wonderful trip!
After a month of being married, Mr. Diaz and I were finally able to pack our bags and get on the road to Ilocos the way we'd always planned. It was a cold Tuesday morning when we set out with our Agoda vouchers on hand and adventurous hearts to guide us. Our first stop: the shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag to pray for safety and for blessings on our marriage. But that wasn't before we were pleasantly surprised by this flock of sheep crossing the road in Paniqui, Tarlac.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag can be accessed via Urdaneta City through the Urdaneta-Manaoag road. I knew we were close when several very astute locals directed us towards a parking space behind the church. (Should this happen to you, resist the urge to follow. They will charge you for the parking or ask for a tip for helping you). It's better to go around and find the entrance of the church where parking is really free.
For her huge reputation as a grantor of miracles, the church is very simple and old. But blessings are greatest in the simplest of things and I couldn't imagine Mama Mary happier in a grander home. Mr. Diaz and I took our candles and prayed for all our loved ones' intentions before going in to hear the 11am mass and having our religious items and car keys blessed. We left with a small image of Mama Mary and a rosary bracelet that I could wear to remind me to ask for God's grace. After that, it was time to move towards La Union through the most picturesque countryside I could ask for.
We arrived at Kahuna Beach Resort and Spa at around 2:30 pm -- after a 9 hour journey (with stops) -- and had dinner at Urbitztondo Grill House, a restaurant that bloggers insist is a must. It turns out the menu was so-so but does the job of filling the weary traveler. We retired early the first night and it wasn't until the second the day that I got to appreciate the resort and the nearby city of San Fernando.
Clockwise from top left : 1. Our garden room at Kahuna Beach Resort and Spa; 2. The resort's infinity pool overlooking the beach; 3. Kahuna's Surf Cafe; 4. Rolling waves of San Juan, La Union
In San Fernando, must see places are the Ma Cho Temple (which we got to see) and the Poro Point light house (which we didn't get to see because of construction blocking the access road). Then we spent the afternoon on the beach and had some fun playing with the sunset (literally).
When the sun finally went down, we had dinner at Kahuna and packed our bags. It was going to be a long trip to Laoag in the morning.
5 : Arrived at Caticlan Airport and took a speedboat to Boracay Regency Beach Resort and Spa. Checked in our room and left valuables in the room safe before having lunch at the resort's Sea Breeze Cafe. Posed for a customary "arrival" shot.
4 : If you enjoy seafood, eat a lot of it. It can't get any fresher than if you caught it yourself. But if you're like me and you don't like seafood, sit with your family and watch them devour it with gusto. Spending time and eating with family is guaranteed good times! (Photo from my sister's iPhone)
3 : This Boracay holiday is my dad's big birthday blowout. But for this lucky girl, it was a mini-moon too! So I forced my new husband, Mr. D., to pose for a mandatory newly-wed couple selfie with me.
2 : Passing around a football on the beach makes being friends with Mr. D. super easy. He allowed me to take this photo of him when I promised to play. Unfortunately, I pulled my back too far catching a fast throw and ended up in the bed the rest of the day. But I *did* catch the football which makes for a very proud Mrs. Diaz!
1 : Take an artistic shot of Boracay Beach no matter how unsophisticated your camera is. Trust me, it's hard to take a bad photo of something so beautiful.
0 : Book your accommodations for next year!