My parents took me to the North, where we had a glimpse of the past and were awestruck with nature’s beauty.
I’ve always wanted my days of summer vacation to be epic and cool. I mean, who doesn’t, right? Weeks before the actual break from school, I actually make a list of the things I want to be accomplished for those days without classes.
My parents are probably tired of hearing my nags and begs for them to help me make the list come true. But I end up being stuck at home, spending the days in my bed, either asleep or binge-watching series on my laptop (not that I’m complaining, though). They almost always decline every request I had for something to buy or somewhere to travel to.
Well, a miracle happened last June. Mom told me we’re going to Ilocos, which was amazing because it’s one of the places I really want to see!
The Ilocos Region has actually four provinces and we went to two of them, Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.
So basically, we traveled from San Pablo (where I live) to Vigan (our first stop in Ilocos Sur) for roughly 12 hours. We departed our house past 8 PM and arrived in the city almost 8 AM. The traffic in Metro Manila really made the travel time very long (We were not moving for almost two hours!).
Hidden Garden of Vigan
But at long last, we went to have our breakfast in Hidden Garden of Vigan, a restaurant that’s really “hidden” within the suburbs of the said city.
Hidden Garden of Vigan is a big name in the tourism of Vigan, or perhaps, in the whole region. The guide told us that many local celebrities and politicians visit the tourist destination in the past years.
Their menu offering various Filipino food, including famous Ilocano dishes such as bagnet and pakbet. I chose to eat a breakfast of longganisang Iloko, a local version of the native sausage in the Philippines.
The restaurant’s design seemed to be a combination of great gardens, wooden and vintage table sets, and centerpieces made of metal & wood. Earthy colors dominated the whole environment of the place.
Aside from being a good place to experience Ilocano cuisine, Hidden Garden is also known for its landscaping services. You can know more about this in their website. They expanded their service from landscape designing and maintenance to selling pots that are for their clients’ gardens.
From food to gardens, I think the owners of Hidden Garden really stretched their opportunities in catering the tourists by selling some Ilocano delicacies and souvenirs such as small replicas of the kalesa (a horse-drawn mode of transportation) and miniature handmade pots (like the one below).
Now I’ve always heard of this zoo in Ilocos Sur. My dad went on about it and I think some of my professors have mentioned it.
The place is called Baluarte, a Spanish word that translates to fortress in English.
Basically, we didn’t really get to experience a lot in the zoo. I think it’s the exhaustion from the many hours of being in the van that made us a bit too tired to roam around. The scorching heat of the sun added to this.
But we still got to see some animals which were near the entrance.
The other thing that really caught my attention in Baluarte is the number of souvenir shops surrounding the venue.
You can find a very wide variety of things to buy for your loved ones back home. As seen in the image above, there are fans, scarves, and t-shirts sold by the locals of Ilocos Sur. There are also bracelets, charms, and keychains (of different designs and materials) available! The price range is quite okay and isn’t really problematic for our wallets.
Aside from souvenirs, some locals also sell homemade meals, Ilocano cuisine, and other items for tourists (like the selfie stick my mom bought for only 100 pesos or almost three dollars!).
I really hate it when I don’t get the full experience of going around this zoo. But hopefully, I get to have it next time!
This stop is probably my favorite of all the places we’ve been to.
I can say that I am one of those millennials who loves to take glimpses of the past and to learn more about it. That’s why it’s just makes me so glad and really awestruck when I walked along Calle Crisologo, in the busier part of Vigan.
This area of the city is probably one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Philippines. Calle Crisologo has several Spanish-style houses where, according to Vigan.ph, wealthy Filipino-Chinese traders once lived in. The place brings tourists back to the time of Spanish occupation with the vibe that Calle Crisologo has.
Art-lovers would love to appreciate the architecture and intricate features of the houses, some of which are converted into establishments like restaurants, bars, and stores.
Your visit being interrupted by traffic should not be a worry because vehicles are not allowed to drive along the street, except for the kalesas operated by the locals. Tourists can rent a kalesa for an hour and enjoy a quick tour of Vigan.
At first, I thought that I wouldn’t be able to get on the cart because of my weight (haha!) but luckily, the cart was actually durable.
We rode along the busy streets of the city and I was really astonished with how the establishments were built there. Every single store and fast food chain had an architecture resembling Spanish-style houses!
Elpidio Quirino Museum
The driver of the kalesa suggested for us to stop by the museum which had several memorabilia of former Philippine president Elpidio Quirino, who is oddly one of the former presidents I know little about.
Looking around, I discovered that the museum was some sort of a branch of the National Museum of our country! Funny enough, what made me believe this more is the same rules for tourists in the museum in Manila (i.e. no flash photography, no food allowed, etc.).
In the museum, a tourist guide, who is a tourism student of a local college, accompanies every group of visitors who goes in.
Basically, the museum told the life and accomplishments of Quirino. The rooms were arranged to replicate those in his old house. There’s also Quirino’s old possessions, like his suits and top hats, that are present in the place. His actual canes, which symbolized his high class in the society, are displayed in the museum.
The redesigning of the old Ilocos Sur Jail somehow resembled a very minimalist aesthetic, with only whites and browns as the color for everything in the building.
I suggest that if you want to visit the museum, take a ride on the kalesa in order to get there! This would really make you experience Vigan better.
Entrance fee for the museum is only twenty pesos (less than half a dollar!).
In the afternoon, we went to the northern province of Ilocos Norte. One of the stops we made was the famous church of Paoay.
Well, I didn’t really have much to say about the place but that it was very peaceful inside the church and that it is a good place to connect with your religion, if you’re Roman Catholic. If you’re not, then I suggest you still visit the place for the historical background of the church.
Paoay Sand Dunes
The sand dunes is one of the major attractions of Paoay, Ilocos Norte. In the area, tourists enjoy activities of sightseeing on the beach, 4×4 rides, and sandboarding.
Luckliy (and with no regrets), we got to experience all of them!
Let me tell you, the ride on the 4×4 vehicle was awesome! I think it’s kind of an extreme ride because you have to hold on the metal tubes in the back of the vehicle and you have no other support when the 4×4 goes fast along the dunes.
You know that feeling in your chest or stomach when a roller coaster rockets its way down? I got that feeling so many times during that 4×4 ride! It’s definitely a must-try for tourists!!!
My mom was at the back with me and she is not used to anything extreme, so it was not a surprise that she went hilariously hysterical every time the vehicle goes fast and plummets down the dunes. Meanwhile, I have gone on some extreme rides in amusement parks but I still scream when I’m on them!
We also tried sandboarding, which was riding this metal board down a steep dune! You can try doing it while sitting down or standing up. This was free because it was included in the payment for the whole adventure.
The drivers of the 4×4 vehicle were kind enough to stop by the beach, so we could have a photo op. (The walk on the beach was all great until my white Chucks got wet!) Below is an image of the 4×4 vehicles we rented with my Mom’s friends (our travel companions) on them.
The 4×4 ride lasts for an hour but I think our ride went exceeding that time. The whole adventure in the dunes is PhP 2500 (53.09 USD)for one 4×4 vehicle, with five people riding. Obviously, the price is quite high. That’s what we thought so, too. But when you’re done with the ride, you’ll know it’s really worth it!
This bridge is said to be the fourth longest one in the whole country. Tourist vans stop by here because of the great view of large waters and the photo ops to be done!
Lunch by the Beach
Our next day’s lunch was held in a local eatery in Hannah’s Beach Resort, Pagudpud. What we ate was just simple fish sinigang (Filipino stew), buttered shrimp, and coconut milkshakes.
Although very simple, I think the sinigang we had was the best one I have ever tasted! The sourness was very present but it did not overpower the whole taste of the dish. The buttered shrimp was exceptional and very fresh and the coconut milkshakes were so good that I finished drinking it before anyone else did.
I’m very sorry, though, that I didn’t get to take pictures of our lunch. I guess I got so hungry that I forgot!
I guess the humongous windmill farm of Bangui is another attraction that makes Ilocos Norte famous. The twenty units of windmills in Bangui Bay harness wind energy for the area.
Surrounding the windmill farm are several souvenir shops and eateries. There was also an ice scramble vendor who sold the sweet snack with tapioca pearls.
By the way, did I mention that the Bangui windmill farm is located right by a beach?
Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
This lighthouse with a museum inside, serves as the guide for boats and ships since 1892. Being an example of 19th century architecture, it was declared as a national historical landmark in 2004.
In order to get to the place, you can ride a tricycle or be by foot. The tricycles can be seen near several souvenir shops and food carts. If you wanna buy souvenirs for a low price, I suggest you buy in the dozens of stores here. You can also buy Ilocano-style empanadas and other food items in the stalls! I actually bought many windmill key chains and a couple of empanadas which were so delicious!
Vigan at Night
So my parents were begging our driver to stop by stores of the local sausage and empanadas to take home. The driver suggested that we stop by Vigan to buy those things and witness the fountain show.
Our trip from Ilocos Norte to Vigan took several hours and by the time we arrived there, we were welcomed by the night sky and the show was about to start.
Initially, my Dad and I stood in the farther part of the plaza, where the fountain show was gonna happen. But we a bit nearer to the center, so we could find my Mom.
It was a good thing that we did that! We didn’t know that there were some fountains right where we stood on earlier. We could’ve been really wet!!!
The waterworks were accompanied by modern and classical music.
So that sums up our trip to Ilocos! I didn’t get to feature some places because I was a bit sick to go there. Some other parts of our trip were also not mentioned because they weren’t much interesting. LOL. Anyway, I hope we could go back here! I’d love to discover the region more. I bet we missed some other great places to go to.
More photos of the trip below!
All photos taken by me and three by my Mom. All pictures taken with iPhone 5s.