June 11-13, 2012 – Ilocos Norte, cradle of natural and man-made treasures way up north, was our destination last week. Together with two friends and Moche, I went back to Pagudpud, Laoag, Batac and Paoay to revisit places that I have already seen but will never grow tired of.
It was Babe’s 2012 beach trip so when we were brainstorming on where to go, I immediately suggested Pagudpud, knowing it to be a fail-safe location for fun and summer sun. So, we booked a flight from Cebu Pacific for P2210.88 each (only to have the price go down about 50% lower the following day) and counted ourselves lucky that it’s not so much more expensive than the 12-hour-long bus ride that would cost us P1400 back and forth.
Accommodations were much trickier to book as resort owners don’t seem to be too keen on checking their emails. I was originally rooting for the Polaris Beach House as this was where we stayed last 2008 when I first went to Pagudpud. I kept trying to reach them via mobile because I still have the number I used four years ago. It’s the same one according to virtually everywhere on the internet, but no, even their other numbers were always unattended. Plus my email to them went unanswered for weeks. When I finally reached Mean Santos, she did confirm that she hasn’t checked her email in a month but promised to text me a proposal on how we could go about our trip under their resort. Not only my cellphone load was wasted on that call but my time as well as I never received any reply from them, despite several follow up texts indicating our trip details.
And after asking around for alternative accommodations, we ended up booking at the Pagudpud Rinnovati. We took their standard room for 4 (P2800 per night) plus the one-way airport transfer that they offered (P2500). During my short phone conversation with Mean, she told me that buses and jeepneys no longer ply from Laoag to Pagudpud so late at night (ETA was 21:15) so we made sure that there was already someone who’d deliver us from the airport to the resort.
Our 20:10 flight to Laoag had been hassle-free, made even more convenient by the web check-in service. But since our departure had been so late into the night, the airport concessionaires were no longer open and we flew hungry.
Upon arrival, we noted how bare the Laoag International Airport was. The exterior side facing the tarmac looked a bit grand, but the insides had not much to offer. So we proceeded to the parking lot where our transfer was waiting.
His name is Manong Jun, an ex-PNP officer who spends his retired days driving his UV express around town. And whenever Rinnovati has guests, he’s the one that they call. On our way to the resort, we asked him to make a stopover at the first (and only) McDonald’s that we saw since we were yet to have our dinner and almost all the stores were already closed for the night. While the other three were getting us nourishment, I had a chat with Manong Jun and I asked him if he would drive us around during our stay and how much it would cost. We agreed on the following rates:
P2,500 for Pagudpud North Tour
- Kabigan Falls
- Patapat viaduct
- Paraiso ni Anton
- Agua Grande
- Timmantang Rock
- Bantay Abot Cave
- Blue Lagoon
P3,500 for Pagudpud South Tour + Laoag + Airport Transfer
- Bangui Bay Wind Power Project a.k.a. Bangui Bay Windmills
- Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
- Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
- Batac Presidential Center
- Paoay Church
- Malacañang of the North
- Fort Ilocandia
Babe was initially suggesting that we just take a tricycle to tour Pagudpud but having been there already, both Moche and I insisted that we take a van instead. The roads are dusty and bumpy and rides in between spots are long so an open and slow tricycle ride is not the way to go. Also, we would be charged P600 each and we would need to take separate rides since they only allow 2 riders per tricycle. Besides, I think he already offered us a good deal.
Our Standard Room for 4 at Pagudpud Rinnovati was supposed to offer us the following:
- cable TV
- hot and cold water
but what it really had were:
- channel 5 and ETC
- the neighboring resort’s locked wifi
- very weak water (but when the water is ok there is hot ;p)
We were supposed to get the superior room but it was already booked, and according to the ever-accommodating Rochelle, the only difference between the standard and the superior room is that the former is more cramped than the latter. But maybe there were more channels there, or wifi, or stronger water pressure, or maybe just a working toilet flush.
We had our breakfast the following day at the nearby Casablanca Seaside Grille. Here is their menu.
I ordered their Continental Breakfast after finding out that the Ilocano one is not available, and I was very amused when the waitress set this out for me:
It was my first continental breakfast that had rice instead of bread.
We were running a bit late, meeting time with Manong Jun was supposed to be at 8am but we actually left the resort at 9am. And our tour began!
The Kabigan Falls was actually the first waterfalls that I ever saw. It was a good 1.5km walk from the main road, passing through some breathtaking scenery. According to the tourguide, his minimum talent fee is P100 so we gave him that and a P20 tip.
Due to some girl issues, I was still not able to take a dip into the plunge basin but Moche and Babe gave it a go. How I envied them so!
This 1.3 km concrete coastal bridge connects Ilocos Norte to the Cagayan Valley. It is also the 4th longest bridge in the country and provides an awesome sight.
Paraiso ni Anton
I’m still not sure why it’s call that, but the place is really about this very clean and drinkable water that flows down from the side of an elevated terrain.
This is where the river meets the ocean. We no longer went inside the resort because we found the entrance fee a bit steep.
It is that rock formation that looks like a dome. It is also a drop off point for divers.
Bantay Abot Cave
Bantay Abot should literally mean “hole on the mountain” and it is really that.
Guess what, I did not take any pictures here! Haha! We were already really hungry when we got there so we ate at one of the Paluto restaurants where they grilled us some liempo and fish and cooked this sinigang. No picture of even those. One thing that really got on my nerves though was the swarm of flies that plagued us while we were having our lunch. It was so annoying, and really disgusting.
Just the same, we were very lucky because the sun was shining so brightly and the water was calm. We swam around for a couple of hours. We even watched the fisherfolk haul in their net. Unfortunately they did not have much of a catch.
After the tour, we went back to the resort and walked more than half the length of the Saud Beach. We wanted to get to the little hill in front of the Polaris Beach House where we hung out before. Like before, the waves were still raging! Too bad we couldn’t find surf instructors. It would’ve been great if we could surf those waves…
Dinner was at the Apo Idon Restaurant. Obviously, our resort only offers sleeping quarters so we had the option to look around for places to eat. A good thing about that is that we got us some wifi!
After dinner, we freshened up a bit and after some time we decided to check out if the Emohruo Beach Restobar outside was still open. We wanted to try the Pagudpud sling – a rum-based concoction with coconut meat – and also experience what “night life” Pagudpud has to offer. Unfortunately, the Evangeline Beach Resort was entertaining a package group so we could not be accommodated. Bummer. There was also no Tanduay Ice available at Apo Idon (the only one left open at 9pm!) so we went back to our room and called it a night.
The next day greeted us with slight rain showers. It made our room extra cold but we had to get up, eat, check out and start the tour. We had breakfast at Apo Idon, but again I was not able to eat the Ilocano breakfast. Only Babe got the honor of having the only one left and I had to content myself with a danggit breakfast.
Bangui Bay Wind Turbines
It’s the second time I was seeing these beauties, all lined up along the coast, arms swinging round and round gracefully. Yet, they never cease to amaze me. A renewable source of energy. The first time I saw them I was thinking “Kaya pala ng mga Pilipino ‘to“. But then I realized, that yeah, we really could do a lot and much more. If only we put our hearts and minds on it. A little government funding and support wouldn’t hurt either. Yes, we were made to achieve great things.
One downer though was that when we asked the souvenir vendors in the area about the power project, they told us that the windmills will be acquired by Meralco soon. Also, they think they are paying the same amount for the power they get from the windmills. Some even think they are paying more than if they just use regular electricity. Oh, well.
Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
Next stop is this curious rock formation that, to me, resembles a ship with its oars out. Must be reading too much of the Game of Thrones series. To get nearer to the rock formation, we had to walk around this stretch of dried up sea bottom.
Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
The last stop of the Pagudpud leg of our tour was the lighthouse in Burgos, another cultural heritage. It was declared National Historical Landmark in 2004 and a National Cultural Treasure in 2005. It functions up to now although we were no longer allowed to climb up inside it like we did last 2008.
After the lighthouse, we zoomed to Laoag for our lunch and to buy some pasalubong at the market. This pasalubong shopping had mostly consisted of Babe looking for the ever famous ilocos longganisa and for chichacorn for the rest of us. One kilo of the longganisa was P280 and chichacorn was P70 each or P200 for 3 bags. I say we were ripped off!
Batac Presidential Center
I was too young when I first visited this place but I still remember some of it. There is a mausoleum that houses the “refrigerated corpse” of Former President Ferdinand E. Marcos as well as a museum that educates guests on the merits of the former dictator. It was forbidden to take pictures inside the mausoleum but if memory serves me right, the figure inside the glass box is not the same as the one I saw as a kid. Or they moved it. I remember that the first time I saw that body, the hands were folded across his chest with a piece of cloth covering them. I remember this because a man commented that it was that way because the hands have already started to rot. But now, the hands were laid out straight against his sides and the whole thing looks more like a wax sculpture than anything.
Inside the museum (P50 entrance fee) were various plaques displaying the achievements of the former president and dictator. There was even a room where a television was playing a video of everything related to him. The upper floor contained an exhibit again detailing past achievements. Off to one side are some of the gowns that his deluded wife, Imelda Marcos, wore at various occasions. Upon seeing these gowns, I remember the Imelda movie wherein one couturier commented that during the Marcos rule, several girls were made blind because of Imelda’s impossible demands of lace gowns to be had in less than 24 hours. Meanwhile my friends were disappointed because they did not see any of her shoes. Hehe.
Styled in what is called “earthquake baroque” to withstand one of the country’s most frequent natural disasters, Paoay Church is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also one of the oldest Philippine churches and it still stands majestic, decades after it was first built.
Across the church is Herencia Café, claiming to be the birthplace of Pinakbet Pizza. However, we changed our minds and ordered the Ilokandia Pizza instead. Yum!
Malacañang of the North
Unfortunately, we arrived too late here so we were not able to storm the place. T__T
Fort Ilocandia Resort
Fort Ilocandia Resort brags as the only 5-star hotel in northern luzon. I have some childhood memories here, of having lunch at the Café Ilocandia and eating ice cream and that’s it. We got there late in the afternoon and both the café and ice cream corner were already closed. So we had to content ourselves with checking out the sights as well as the mini zoo that they have there.
Back to Reality
After Fort Ilocandia, we went straight to the airport, much to our dismay because we were already hungry again and airport food was too expensive and did not really look too appetizing. We also had a bit of trouble at the final baggage scan because the longganisa was supposed to be checked in. But since we did not have any check in baggage and that lady at the x-ray machine was really nice (or Babe was that charming?), she let us hand-carry the whole thing, wrapped inside the pink Jansport bag.
The trip has ended and although it was more of a revisiting for me, I was still really happy we went. It was the first time that I traveled with AHM and I still saw something new (the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation). It was a really fulfilling vacation for all of us – sunshiny day at the beach, cool evenings and great company. ♥
Ilocos Norte Trip Expenses:Airfare: P2210.88 Pocket money: P5859.25 Taxi fares: P184 (P84 to and P50 from Makati) Misc. airport fees: P240 (P200 Mla, P40 Lao) Accommodations: P1400 Tours and airport transfers: P2000 + P50 tip to the driver Food and drinks: P1385.25 (includes airport food at NAIA Terminal 3) Entrance fees, etc: P110 Pasalubong: P540 Total: P8070.13