Road Trip: A Northern Luzon Adventure  

Posted by Laya in , ,

One of life's greatest pleasures: a road trip!!!

It was with great anticipation that I awaited our company outing to the Ilocos with the rest of the Filnet/Wikipinas team... and this is our adventure.

(All photographs in the slideshow of this blog entry are courtesy of Jack Victor Nera.)

Our original destination was Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, located at the northernmost tip of the Philippines, about 12 hours away from Manila. However, we also decided to take in as much of the Ilocos as we could while we were there.

We left Manila at about 8:00 pm on the evening of April 30, 2008. All of us were a bit weary as we had put in a full day's work, but we were all eager for the sights and sounds of Ilocandia. We mostly dozed on and off inside the bus-- I was a bit peeved because it was pitch black outside and I couldn't even see what we were passing, except for two or three cemeteries along the way. Spookee! The road was long and winding and in some places bumpy-- sort of like riding a roller coaster with surprise bumps for 12 hours!! Argh! Anyway, we rolled into Laoag at about 5:30 in the morning of May 1. Pagudpud was still about 2 hours away, we were told.

Before going to Pagudpud, we went up this really narrow mountain road.

Surprise! At the top was the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, built in 1892, declared a National Historical Treasure. It's really old and somewhat shabby now, but we could still see that it must've really been beautiful in its day. We climbed up to the foot of the lighthouse tower -- even from there, the view was breathtaking. We could see the entire countryside, including a large part of the coastline. Bambie and Jess indulged their inner Charlie's Angels in the doorway of the lighthouse :p while Jack pretended to be a prisoner at the gate. :(

Next stop: the Bangui Windmills.

They reminded me somewhat of a child's toy pinwheel, except they had three blades instead of four. Seen up close, they looked like giant airplane propellers set on giant stems-- 6 meters in diameter and 50 meters high, whew! These windmills look like pinwheels for a giant child-- Jess looked really small standing next to one! I wouldn't have thought that something industrial could be beautiful, but those windmills proved me wrong. And the sound they made as they spun was strangely haunting, sort of a soughing sound that matched the sound of the surf breaking on the nearby beach.

This trip really brought out the model instincts and photographer's talents in some of my companions. Jerome made like a sunglasses ad, Jack tried to push the tower, and everybody else hammed it up!

After the windmills, we finally got to Pagudpud, where we relaxed at the Villa del Mar for a day or so of sun, surf and sand. The Villa del Mar was our home away from home in Pagudpud (complete with Wikipilipinas banner)! It's practically on the beach, so all we had to do was get into our swimwear and jump in the water! We went for long walks along the beach, too, a lot to see! There were a lot of peddlers selling accessories on the beach-- I got myself some coral bracelets (real red coral) and bracelets made of polished pebbles, 3 for Php100. It was in Pagudpud that we discovered what pinakbet really tasted like. Well, of course, it's an Ilocano dish, so where better to taste the original than in the heart of Ilocandia? Their pinakbet was crunchy and tasted different and way better than what we're used to... Papa Digs said it was due to the baknet, some kind of lechon kawali, that was one of the ingredients.

The next day, we went to Bacarra's St. Andrew's Church with its leaning belfry! Since the structure is no longer sound for climbing around in, we had to content ourselves with touching its bricks and having our pictures taken beside it. In the grounds of the church, behind what was then the convent and what is now a multipurpose hall, there were mysterious steps leading down into the ground, but we didn't have time to explore it any further because we were called to go on to our next destination.

The Patapat Viaduct, along the road to Cagayan. It's an elevated highway constructed along the steep mountainside. Someone told us that it was built to solve the problem of landslides and vehicular accidents along the original road, which was way overhead and looked super narrow! At least, the viaduct looked lots safer and made for a great view of what we learned later was Pasaleng Bay. A lot of people were also there, stopping on the viaduct to take pictures. Apparently the drivers who regularly passed along that highway were used to all those tourists taking pictures for they calmly steered a route through without a sound of protest.

On the way back from Patapat, we saw Bantay-Abot Cave and simply had to stop and take a look. To get into the "cave", we had to go over some rocks which were slippery with the waves washing over them! Super slippery! Chris tried to scale the cliff next to the cave. Minutes later, he's still trying :p while we decided to have our picture taken beside him :D Papa Digs got up on a rock... and everybody followed suit! It really began to look like a Wikipilipinas photo shoot!! >:) Meanwhile, Anwar did his best "Karate Kid" pose. It's the "Moment of Truth"... will he or will he not fall off the rock? (He didn't!)

After Bantay-Abot Cave, it's on to the Java Hotel, where we would stay for the night. I had noticed this hotel on the way to Pagudpud and thought it looked really intriguing. It looked to me like an eyrie, an eagle's nest, with its straw roofs and balconies. Like a village where bird-people lived in fantasy stories. Inside, it's all connected by bridges and ramps, including the restaurant, named, appropriately enough, the Eagle's Nest.

The next morning, we set out for Vigan and the World Heritage Village. On the way, we stopped at Paoay to see the famous church, and indulged our longing to climb the belfry. The steps were really rickety, and some of them were thin or even prone to break in places-- I hope the people in charge of maintaining the site replaces or repairs those stairs soon, otherwise, with the number of people who try to conquer that belfry every day, they might find themselves with an accident on their hands. Even then, the interior of the tower reminded us of the movie National Treasure, and Tin also commented that she remembered Crispin and Basilio in the Noli, who must have been bell-ringers in a similar tower. Thankfully, everyone was able to make it back down without mishap!

We got to Vigan by noon, and ate at Max's. We wanted to eat at Cafe Leona's but it was super crowded, especially as it was the Binatbatan Festival in the city. Anyway, all the restaurants in the place were in old buildings, even the McDonald's! The guys amused themselves with taking pictures from the upstairs windows and balconies of the restaurant while we were waiting for the food to be served. They got some good pics, too!

Afterwards, we explored Calle Crisologo and looked for souvenirs to take home. There was this shop, halfway down the street, that looked like any other souvenir shop except that our boss, Mr. Gus Vibal, discovered that it also sold old books, from the collection of the proprietress' uncle who lived in the States. In the loft of that shop were a lot of books on history and culture and literature. Although they were a bit pricey for the average shopper, the collection was amazing! (I was so, so sorry my budget was limited, as there was a volume on Scottish Folk Tales I was itching to read!) Instead, we bought bags, and Ilocano hand towels and blankets (Anwar even got a box of hand-rolled cigars), and a lot of other things. I got this precious purple banig carryall with a ribbon for only Php150. We wanted to look around some more, but so far only the Calle Crisologo portion has been restored. The other buildings are still mostly dilapidated. Tin and I thought that it was a pity, because all of those buildings, genuine bahay na bato, must have been splendid in their day. I hope they restore more of the old houses soon! Maybe by the time I can come back to Vigan (fingers crossed)!

Then the parade started. Since Vigan was into nostalgia, there were no motor vehicles in the parade-- all the floats were calesas, decorated with recycled or indigenous materials. My personal favorite was the float of St. James Hospital-- even the horse wore hospital scrubs!! The most applauded float, however, was Jollibee's-- you could hear the chanting straight down the block "Jollibee! Jollibee!" which shows how popular that fast food chain has become. Go figure.

After the parade, we headed back south towards Manila, but not without dropping by Vigan's Bantay Church. The minute I laid eyes on its tower, situated all by itself on a little knoll, I thought it looked like Rapunzel's tower in the fairy tale. All like-minded, when we got out of the car, we all ran like crazy, over the grass and winding steps, to get to the door of the tower first. This time, the going was easier and we got to the top of the tower without any mishap. From there, the guys who seemed to be caretakers of the tower and its grounds said, we could see most of Vigan and clear to the South China Sea. A very effective watchtower it must have been in its day! No wonder it's called Bantay!

Finally, we headed home, passing over the breathtaking Quirino Bridge that spanned the Abra River. We still saw much of the countryside before it got too dark, and stopped in Candon City for kalamay and other kakanin, including a giant package of their famous kornik. We also stopped here and there for garlic and onions (the Ilocos are famous for these spices) and other local specialties.

But just when we thought that our lovely sojourn in the North was over, we had another surprise coming. We stopped at Gerona, Tarlac, at the Isdaan restaurant (I admire the genius who conceived this creation!). It's a restaurant that's almost a theme park, where we dined in a floating pavilion (I mean literally floating, as in on a raft) on ponds filled with colorful koi. We also checked out the place, from the "tacsiyapo" wall where you can pay to smash crockery and vent your anger to your heart's content; to the famous bridge that was no wider than the wall of a rice paddy, that whoever crossed it safely got a free kilo of fresh fish; to the Buddha pavilion at the top of a series of tall stairs. We also saw the spitting monkeys (again, a kilo of fresh fish to the one who could elude these gargantuan statues' emissions), and the curious bike made from faucets. Finally, we dined on sisig, kare-kare, broiled fish, and pusit, until we were full. Yum-my! By the time we got back to Manila, two hours later, we were all very sleepy and tired, but it was a different sort of tired. It was a tiredness that felt at the same time content and fulfilled and happy with the world.

Thanks to Vibal Publishing, especially to Mr. Gus Vibal, for the great experience, and thanks to my officemates, too, for all the fun we had. Looking forward to the next time!

This entry was posted at Monday, May 05, 2008 and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

1 people cared

hi laya, bilis mo mag post :) hope u enjoy the vacation and the rest of the team.

May 9, 2008 at 11:05 AM

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