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Ilocos Sur/Norte: 1,300KM, 10 Destinations within 57 Hours

I really have no idea if what are the factors needed to be called a certified travel addict?  I am travelling the country for a year now and I've been receiving a lot of feedback saying that I am a travel addict because of the stories that I've been posting here in my blog.  But for me, I am just curious about the hidden wealth that the Philippines have.  And this post will be the craziest travel experience of 2013 that I have so far.  It's an honor for me to visit this place because it's part of my list since last year and Imelda Marcos is one of my must-meet personality.  So, read our story here and imagine yourself as part of our journey.

April 20, 2013 was the most remarkable and unforgettable travel that I have.  Imagine this, for that day after shift, my original plan was to have a Mt. Guiting-guiting Post climb in Mt. Batulao, but due to some issues, I wasn't made it to be there.  But, an urgent decision was made 3 hours before the Ilocos Getaway organized by some office mates and friends.  I was already invited here before, but due to some schedule interference, I didn't said YES.

Since that day was supposedly the post climb, I already brought my mountaineering stuffs in the office, so that right after shift, I'll be going to the meeting place directly.  But, everything was changed not according to my plan.  I went out early in the office to change my mountaineering stuffs into travelling essentials.  Good thing that I always separate my travel essentials to my daily stuff, so it wasn't a challenge for me.  For more info and photos of each destination, just click the phrases written in yellow.

Meeting Place: Tiendesitas, Pasig City; Meeting Time: 4:00PM

We rented a van with 18 capacity (including the driver) and all the participants were 17 plus the driver, so it's equal to 18 people.  Let's include the bags and other things that we brought, so the set up inside the van was a total challenge.  And let's include the travel hours from Pasig City to Ilocos Province, so it's equal to a REMARKABLE experience.

We left Pasig City passed 4PM and the ambiance inside the van was full of excitement.  The noise, happiness and the extra ordinary feelings were there while we were on the slow moving traffic of the metro.  Since it was a saturday, the streets, road and highways that we took were not that combusted, as a result, we enjoyed the whole journey.

We passed on the highways of Quezon City, Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Pangasinan, La Union and Ilocos Sur then Ilocos Norte.  Imagine, you're sitting in a close van with a limited space within 9 hours, 5-10 minutes bio break every 2 hours (depending on the situation.) 

By 8PM, we were in Gonzales residence at Pangasinan and we had our 1-hour dinner there.  I noticed that while on travel, all were silent and forcing themselves to take a short nap.  So, when we've reached Gonzales residence, their faces were changed into a different mood.  Some were already awake when we arrived, but some just woke up because the sound produced by the van's door.

When I went out the van, I easily recognized the peaceful community and Gonzales family members welcomed us with smile and happiness.  They were so accommodating and was hospitable to us, I truly felt that when we're there.  There were plain rice, grilled bangus with stuffings inside, oyster kinilaw, fresh mangoes and other local delicacies.  Our starving stomach were filled with sumptuous deli, so when everyone gained their energy, I easily noticed the positive aura in their faces.  After dinner, I washed my face and wore my sando instead of shirt.  I was totally refreshed that time. Special thanks to Gonzales Family in Pangasinan.

When everything was okay, we left that house with a newborn energy.  Like what happened when we left the meeting place, the van was filled wtih positive energy.  But, that energy just expired and all fell asleep, except the driver.  I woke up when a birthday song was played while taking a clear highway. It was a unique birthday celebration prepared for Tin.

After five hours, we arrived at Alfiler Residence in Narvacan, Ilocos Sur.  I drunk three cups of coffee then I was lying down when I saw the bunch of mangoes.  The place was peaceful, the weather was great, the ambiance was amazing and the people were so kind and hospitable.  We gave the driver an hour to take a rest, coffee and bio break.

By 2:30AM, we left the house, some of our loads were left in the house to save more space.  We travelled four hours going to Cape Bojeador Lighthouse (Burgos Lighthouse) located in Burgos, Ilocos Norte.  No need to worry the road from Narvacan to Burgos Lighthouse is made up of concrete.  This century old tower is just one of the heritage sites that the province is proud of. 

Next destination was White Rock Formation, few minutes drive from Burgos Lighthouse.  After getting off the van, I easily recognized the sound of the waves hitting the coastal shore Burgos.  The management also created a cemented pathway going to the spot where the rock formations is located.  The goats, cows and horses were present everywhere.  The monument of Biag ni Lam-Ang - an Ilocano epic, can also be found before reaching the white rock.

If you're in Ilocos, you can't miss the Bangui Windmill located in Bangui, Ilocos Norte.  It's more than an hour drive from White Rock Formation.  This tourist destination is part of every Ilocos getaway because of it's amazing art that given by the gigantic wind turbines facing the South China Sea.  That turbines convert wind energy into electrical energy that is useful to the residents.

After the first three destinations, time to refresh ourselves in Blue Lagoon, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte - our fourth destination.  From the name itself, it's very self explanatory that we're talking about a body of water here.  Blue Lagoon is a half-circle like beach, with white sand and crystal blue waters.  The area is surrounded by green plants and trees that add shade to every tourist.  It's also the home of the longest Zip-line in the country.

Since we already refreshed and already changed our outfit, it's time to visit the ancestral house of Marcos Family located in Batac, Ilocos Norte.  This ancestral house served as the office of Don Mariano Marcos during his term as a congressman; Imee Marcos when she was the congresswoman of Ilocos Norte and Bongbong Marcos when he was the governor of Ilocos Norte.

Beside the town of Batac is the town of Paoay, it is less than an hour drive from Batac itself.  Paoay is the home of the Paoay Church which is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Philippines.  This well-known church is one of the example of a Baroque design.  Its groundbreaking was in 1694 and was completed in 1710.  (please see the photo on the top of this post)

Another tourist destination that Paoay can be proud of is the Paoay Sand Dune just few minutes drive from Paoay Church, no need to worry about the right way, because ever corners has marks going to this spotActually a lot of local movies were shoot in this part of Ilocos Norte.  The wind creates a wave-like formation in the sand that adds shadows in the picture.

After the adventures we had for the first day, it's time to have a break.  From the town of Paoay, we travelled almost two hours going to Vigan City to have an Empanada break.  You're Ilocos escapade can't be completed without trying the Ilocano food, empanada.  It's made up of egg, meat, vegetables and other spices wrapped by flour then fried.  We were there for almost an hour.

So, we're done with a sumptuous dinner, so let's go back to heritage site.  Next location we had was the famous Calle Crisologo just a hundred meters from the St. Paul's Cathedral.  This is one of the pride of Ilocos.  It contains old Spanish-inspired houses then converted into antique shops, souvenir shops, and hotels.

All the destinations written in our itinerary was properly followed and our first day journey just ended to this heritage site.  But, right after Calle Crisologo, we went to a store that sell local delicacies like empanada, casava cake and many more.  By 9PM, we reached the Hacienda Alfiler in Narvacan, Ilocos Sur and we had our late dinner.  After the delicious meal prepared by Alfifer family, time for socials.  We enjoyed the vodka party.  Then, time to take a rest.  Special Thanks to Alfiler Family!

Second Day - I woke at around 7AM, then took a shower and did some personal stuff.  Then took our breakfast: with egg, longanisa, rice, bagnet and fresh fruits.  After breakfast, we prepared ourselves for the next destinations, so that time, we expected a long travel again and again.

Our first destination was the Tangadan Tunnel.  It's a 40 meter tunnel along Ilocos Sur National road.  It serves as the popular benchmark and welcomes all the visitors that entering the province of Abra.  As we travel from Narvacan going to this tunnel, we enjoyed the gorgeous mountain formations along the highway.

After long winding road that we took from the tunnel, we had a short break and bought Sukang Iloko (vinegar from sugar cane) and Basi (wine from sugar cane.)  The stores are very accessible because they can be found anywhere in the whole province.  The stores are also selling some other local products like bagnet and longanisa.

Next will be the largest water fall in the province of Ilocos, the Pinsal Falls located at Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur.  The 85-foot water falls has its unique beauty that captured the eyes of some film directors and producers, like the movies of Fernando Poe Jr., they were filmed here. As the water fell into the ground, because of the current, it creates an artistic formation on the rock.  That's why, since it was summer when we went here, I easily recognized the gorgeous color and appearance of this water fall.

The heat of the sun added an additional effort for us.  So, we have no choice but to leave the gorgeous water falls.  We reached the house at around 11:45AM, then the Alfiler family were already there and preparing for our lunch.  The foods were absolutely amazing and the taste was remarkable.  We filled our empty stomach with delicious delicacies of Ilocos.  And after the meal, time to pack up.  After packing up, time to say good bye to the family who accepted us.

I was sitting on the front seat and I saw the wealth that the province have.  The tobaco and corn can be found mostly in every sides of the highways.  The artistic old houses, the modern designed house and the arches were all amazing.  That's the open proof that Ilocano's know how to cherish the wealth that their province have.  The travel time from Ilocos Sur to Manila will be within 8-10 hours, so good luck to sleepless US.  And within that time, we only have five minutes for every bio break that we had.

Our long break was in Villasis, Pangasinan when we bought the famous tupig.  Tupig is a native delicacy from Pangasinan, made up of ground rice and coconut strips; then wrapped in a banana leaves and cooked in a burning coal (looks like grilled.)  Beside Villasis Public Market, are the tupig shops that smells delicious.  While the others were in the tupig shops, some of us were eating balut (a boiled, fertilized egg)  just few meters away from them.

After that long break, we finally left that place and proceeded driving.  But, after few minutes, I fell asleep, I didn't know why, maybe because I ate two balut and I have a record of hypertension.  Everything was happened according to plan, I mean their plan, because I am unprepared for this travel.

Our Ilocos travel was absolutely amazing and unforgettable.  So again, we went to Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur, Norte and entrance of Abra.  The whole trip got a total 1,300 kilometers, total of 10 destinations within 57 hours (including the travel time back and forth.)  We still missed some tourist spots in the province, so we are not closing our doors to visit this gorgeous province again.  Special thanks to Sabinorio Family of Calaoagan, Pangasinan and Alfiler Family of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur.  They were so accommodating!  See you soon!

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