MiAdventures: Ilocos Norte Edition
Right after I had returned from Bacolod, I needed to settle some things at home but I had to leave right away. I needed to head on over to Cubao to take an 11 hour bus trip with my college friends to go to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. We went there in two batches. I was in Batch 1 and three of our other friends were going to follow the next day. Apparently, I felt as if I hadn't received enough sun from Lakawon (WOW ANG PUTI KO KASI) and went straight to Ilocos for even more beach time! Now, because I was with friends, I wasn't really planning to get any work done but I brought my laptop (just in case because... me).
I'm not going to lie, I was pretty much sleepwalking by the time I got on the Laoag-bound Florida Bus (the bus going straight to Pagudpud broke down and we needed to take a Cubao-Laoag Bus and then transfer to another Laoag-Pagudpud Bus). If you plan to go to Ilocos and you take the Deluxe bus (costing about PHP620), prepare yourself and wear a sweater and pants because it feels like a Game of Thrones-style winter in there. And thus, after having reached inside my backpack for a makeshift blanket (the blanket was actually a beach-mat-sarong-thing I had fortunately packed), off we were to another adventure!
The Overall Atmosphere of Ilocos Norte
We got to Pagudpud at around 7:00 AM (after transferring buses and riding a tricycle) and had some coffee. One of my companions had to do some errands back in Laoag and because we didn't have any plans til our 2nd group of friends arrived, we decided to make an adventure out of Laoag! Because spontaneity!
So aside from being able to see Pagudpud, we got to see Laoag as well! The last time I had been that far up north was with my parents, as a four year old toddler. So I can't really say if I remember anything from that trip (aside from riding a carabao and seeing lahar-stricken areas). My first impression of Ilocos was that it was faaaaar. I had never gone on a bus trip, to that far a province and I have to say that it felt quite different from where I had just come from. I was no longer in semi-familiar territory. This was terrain I had never seen before. But just like all the places in the Philippines that I have been fortunate enough to visit, everyone was warm, friendly and welcoming.
I think that's the great thing about domestic travel. I've been lucky enough to be able to go around the Philippines in the last decade or so, and one thing I notice is that wherever I go, there are always, always, always friendly people, strangers or otherwise. Being in Ilocos was no different.
After going to see my friends' relatives, they took us out to lunch! We went to a place called La Preciosa. We got to try Bagnet, Pinakbet, Tulia (sp?), Poque-poque (cue giggles, because mature), and Dinuguang Bagnet (OH MY LAWD WHAT A DISH). We were all so very hungry that weren't even able to take photos. But the food was authentic; it was delicious. It, all of a sudden, made perfect sense that we had to divert to Laoag.
After being bondat from all that glorious food, we made our way to Fort Ilocandia. Talk about The Shining of the North, you could feel the history of the place bleed from its walls. It was beautiful. Sure, the current political climate took a toll on the tourism traffic, but that didn't have much effect on the majesty of the place. The gardens were beautiful and we took a stroll down there, just to see all the hullaballoo of the place. Apparently, in the early 90s, it was abuzz with more people and more tourists.
Being in Marcos country, we obviously had to see Malacañan of the North. Being a history buff (of sorts), it was interesting to see an important part of history in the flesh. And though I'm not exactly a fan of this style of travel, in that, I try to avoid touristy spots that have crowds of people (I'm slightly introverted that way, if you haven't yet noticed), I was excited to see this historical site and read the various descriptions of a time that once was.
We made sure to check out Paoay Church, too. What a beautiful church! I love old churches! Going there reminded me of the first time I ever saw Manila Cathedral, towering, with beautiful Spanish architecture and cobblestone pavements. And like I said in my previous post, it's always a good experience to go to a place and feel as if you're transported to a different time. This is what Laoag felt like for me, as if I was transplanted from 2017 Manila and brought back to the Spanish colonial era.
Before heading back to Pagudpud, we made our way through the city center and found some Ilocos Empanada (!!!). It was a great way to end our spur of the moment, mini Laoag exploration.
When we got back to the hotel, I stayed in another resort's cafe (S/O to Apo Idon for having sockets and wifi and a generator!) and managed to work a bit. It was peaceful and quiet, with a nice unobstructed view of the ocean, which allowed my thoughts to meander. I sat there and wrote for a bit (the Bacolod post LOL, click here to view that post :D). Before I knew it, the night had come and it was time to turn in.
Once Batch 2 arrived to join us in Pagudpud the next day, we were sure they were just as tired as we were from the 11 hour bus ride. So after fixing our hotel arrangements (we had a mini-fiasco at the first place we stayed), we finally had some beach time. It was a beautiful day at Saud Beach. Because it was a Thursday, during the off season, the beach was practically empty, save for some locals and just a few families, who were on their way out. We had a tent, the sun was out, there was cold beer and we were just playing music while listening to the music. It was perfect. We were also extra appreciative of the good weather because it was, apparently, rainy and dreary back in Manila. And also, before actually going to Ilocos, the weather forecast told us it was going to be rainy the whole time. And while it did eventually end up raining towards the end of the day, we were all pretty much burnt anyway.
That night, we were slated to meet the cousins of another companion. They brought us a banquet of sorts of all traditional Ilocano food! We ate this in darkness/candlelight (because there was a blackout due to the storm) but what delicious food it was! There was Dinakdakan, fresh sashimi and kinilaw and Chicken Adobo and Inadobong Pusit and fresh shrimps and all kinds of goodies! Nothing can ever beat a good meal by the beach, rain or shine. Shout out to Villa Del Mar! This was a great place to hang out in/work from. I tried working here, to no avail because I was really vacation mode, but I imagine if I was feeling a bit more productive, and if there was electricity, I would have totally brought out my laptop.
The next day of our trip was more action-packed than I imagined it could be. We got up and rode on the back of the pick-up truck of Andro's cousin, Edson, to explore the rest of Pagudpud.
First up, we wanted to see the Windmills of Bangui! I had no idea how huge these would be in person. Even if I was in full-on vacation mode by this time, seeing the windmills up close and in person, made me think of past and current clients (like Greenpeace and EPI, respectively). Coupled with the beautiful views of the rural countryside, it was a good a time as any to reflect on how things have come around full-circle since those early days that I started in media production.
After the windmills, we visited a few other tourist spots like the spring called Paraiso ni Anton with a Mother Mary grotto and the long, coastal Patapat Bridge, which was amazing to look at from the back of the truck. We also saw some random cows when we stopped in K&J Kambingan for lunch! It was a random rock formation (it had no names or anything) but it was so pretty, we all went down and took photos of the New Zealand-looking place!
Next up was going to Bantay Abot Cave, the famous, doughnut-shaped rock formation, which we were all able to successfully climb (and get down from, thankfully). I'm not much of a climber/hiker girl-person, as much as I love to travel and see lush greenery, climbing things and treks and hikes aren't really my thing, but I do enjoy the sense of accomplishment after doing things I wouldn't normally do, traveling on my own.
Last on our itinerary was to go to Kabigan Falls. This was an easy trek (I mean, come on, if I say it was easy, it means it was really and truly easy). It took us about 30 minutes and I have to say it was so beautiful and scenic getting to the waterfalls. Because we were a group of eight people and there was an easy trail to follow, we could walk on our own pace (and it was a miracle I was in the middle, tbqh). This walk really gave me a chance to reflect and really be thankful for this trip.
Nature has a wonderful way of doing that, I suppose, to force someone into introspection. While I was on this walk, I really felt so grateful to be able to just be there and be in the moment. In spite of all the stress I had waiting for me back in Manila, I was just so thankful to be able to breathe in the fresh air and see more random cows (because cuteness!!!) and be so far removed from real life. It was exactly what I had needed at the time.
After the long and refreshing walk, we headed back. The rain was about to unleash itself on us (remember, we were sitting in the back of the truck) and just when it hit, we just had the best laugh about the whole situation. You know the kind of laugh you can have when you just sigh at the whole ordeal and can't contain how much joy you're feeling at an absurd moment? That was the kind of laugh Phoebe, Kara and I had. It was a fitting end to such a refreshing day of adventure and new places. I wish I had taken photos (because pics or it didn't happen), but our phones would've been soaked and that wouldn't have been fun. Instead, here's a photo of the reward I gave myself after such an action-packed day. DESERVE.
The next day was our last and final beach day. We were packing our things up and some of us (especially mestizahin me WOWOWOW), wanted to enjoy Saud beach for one last time. The sun was shining and we had our last looks by the beach.
All in all, I would have to say that my journey through Ilocos Norte was incredible. We had some unexpected surprises, met some great people along the way and had a great time. I'm a big believer in removing yourself from the constraints of the drudgery of daily life and getting out of your accustomed habits and comfort zones. I think I should do this again one of these days. And trust me, I will. But until then, if you have any comments or ideas for the next place I should visit, sound off in the comments below and let me know! I'd love to hear your thoughts! :D