:: Touring Ze Norte ::

If last year gave me a trip down South Luzon, early this year we went to a road trip up North. It was a literal up yours este up North trip since you’d see the Babuyan Islands along the coast of Pagudpud.

Well. Nope. Not really.

Going there is not as easy as it looks. The maps I bought at National Bookstore are not as exact as it looks but it is still a good guide for the adventure-seekers, like me. If ever you get lost, there is the obvious clue that if the roads are getting narrow or if it doesn’t look like a main road, then you are probably lost.

North is heart!

Don’t worry about the dialect, people in the province understand Tagalog. Just be sure to locate its main town and you’re ok. OR look for the nearest Mcdonald’s, Jollibee, or Chowking; yes, they are everywhere.

It takes two hours from Manila to the tollgate of SCTEX and probably another hour at the SCTEX area going to the Tarlac tollbooth. If ever you think you’re lost in the area, don’t worry, you’d probably see at your right, “The End Is Near” or something in that sense. Oh, it would also be nice if there was a Los Angeles – Tarlac connection, they’d call it LATEX.

The only thing that bothers me is the idea of almost all the signs that we passed by provided us with a “going to Baguio route”. Yes, it might be helpful if we are going to Baguio, but alas, we’d like to go some place where the Koreans are diminutive in number. Though Korean marts are always welcome, thank you very much.

So, there are two routes coming from Tarlac to La Union. Since, I’ve only been to La Union once, and I rode a public bus that time, my experience going to Ilocos isn’t as good as the ice scrambol found in any mall, no one can replace the good ol’ Brown Cow. The Tarlac – San Carlos – Dagupan – La Union route looked shorter in our map and looking at some other maps tell me that we actually took the longer route, my bad guys. It should’ve been the Tarlac – Gerona – Urdaneta – La Union route. If you’d want to do a Lingayen Gulf pit stop then the route that we used is good for you.

Once you get to La Union, which is a rich province by the way, you can do a pit stop here in case you’d want to see the breeze of the waves, specifically in Sebay, which are a few towns after San Fernando. I’m just basing the pit stops on experience, so “parang awa mo na ako ay oso” or please bear with me. Oh, and it is actually impossible for you to miss the main road since they provided the cats’ eyes for everyone.

Cats’ eyes are those irritating small reflecting thingies on the road that makes small bumps for your vehicle. You’d see them at night because they sparkle like any of the vampires in Twilight or in this case just like your pussy cat’s eyes.

Beside it is John’s Resto. =)

After six to eight hours, you’d end up in Ilocos Sur and then a few hours more, you’d be in Vigan. Now, you’d probably ply around a mountain, ala Kennon Road, you’d have to wait for it of course and then just check out the left side of the road. If you’d see buses, then you’d probably see Marsha’s Delicacies They provide goodies for the travelers such as those local gummy worms and a very different Bibingka.


Vigan is a wonderful place not just for the historically induced Filipino but also to those Filipinos who’d want to re-patriotism-ate their lives; as it’s carried out by its local government: that the houses and buildings, especially in the main area, should look old or at least look similar to houses create in the Spanish era. Well, I guess Cher wouldn’t fit here.

It was nice that the people in this area are friendly. They are not just ‘just friendly’ since they know that we are tourists but I guess it has something to do with the feel and aura of the people. And in lieu of that, once we started to walk the streets of Calle Crisologo, a kalesa-driver, kalesa-driver is so sasshal, passed by. We rode the vehicle and it was a sort of instant tour for us.

I think they got this from one of J.R.’s works, Ibarra.

Even if it wasn’t an en grande tour, if the local government used these guys to improve the tourism it would’ve been more more sulit and it was sulit already since a calesa ride an hour costs 150 pesos only, our calesa-driver, let’s name him Fernando Alonso, and since we’re roaming an area that looks a lot like the 19th century, brought us to the following sites: a pottery slash souvenir area, Hidden Garden, and one of the oldest bell towers in Vigan or the Shrine of Our Lady of Chastity, found in Bantay, Ilocos Sur, as Fernando informs us, of course.

Oh Tangled, let down your hair.

The bell tower towers, duh, over the Vigan area, it is quite breathtaking especially for acrophobics. Hidden Garden is a good place for the green thumbs out there. Too bad, the trip’s going to kill plants and flowers that my mom would probably love. And you’d see a doppelganger of Patrick Swayze pottering around the pottery slash souvenir area near the main area of Vigan.

Owned by Hidden Kho. Duh.

Fernando dropped us off at the Sy-Quia mansion, or the residence of President Elpidio Quirino. It was just timely since we were all starving for more places to sightsee. The museum is full of history and it was interesting since our tour guide is an old guy dressed in woman’s clothes, if you get my drift. From the moment we stepped on the living room, you’d see a beautiful replica of Juan Luna’s Spoliarium and beside it is an 18K gold-framed full body mirror. Our tour guide says, let’s name him Giovanni Calvo, that it produces double exposure, I say it was like that eerie scene in The Ring where the a lady looks at you from the mirror while combing down her hair. The same room produces a vase from one of the last dynasties that was gifted to the rich Syquias.

Old-school Crown Imperial car, a horse-driven car, go figure, and more Syquia facts can be found in this manor. It also acted as one of the mini-Malacanangs in the Philippines. As President Ferdinand Marcos once used this place when he won the presidency the first time against Macapagal.

Oh, look ma! Thestrals.

I finally got to taste THE authentic Ilocos Bagnet. It was kind of awesome in some sense. Yes, it tastes like Lechon Kawali but this one’s different, they call it Bagnet. Huh. Then, there’s the Vigan Longganisa, which they actually call Longganisa only. And it was always weird because when we stepped out of Vigan, they call it Vigan Longganisa again. I wonder why. Cue X-files theme.

Instead of Bagnet, I christen thee, Begnet.

As I’d like to taste the vulgar food found in the area, they have the local patola called kabatiti and the tortang talong called pukipuki, I opted not to since embarrassed cheeks is not my idea of fun sometimes. I opted for something local like one of the rice-made malagkits that are cooked inside a rattan-looking type of wood. It was good and it was a fail for me since I forgot to eat it, a few days after it smelled bad maybe because of the coconut. Sad.

I also tasted the famous orange empanada. Initially, I thought it was some sort of fruit empanada ala crepe, I found out that the crust looked a lot like the ones used with tokneneng. In case I go back to Vigan, I’d like to see the Vigan Cathedral, the Archbishop’s Residence, Father Jose Burgo’s Residence, Plaza Salcedo (Fernando was telling us that Gabriela Silang died in that area), Baluarte, Plaza Burgos, and the Crisologo Museum.

Ilocos Norte, day 1:

After our side trip in Vigan, that is definitely a side trip yo, we opted to go to Fort Ilocandia. And since this is a road trip, we got lost, I think it was my fault again, LOL. Now getting lost is usually a piss offering for any traveler. Lo and behold, we stopped near the house of Juan Luna.

Hey, that looks like a cut-out a.

His birthplace is wonderful even it is small. It was made of bricks and I’m sure the big bad wolf would choose to stay away from this place, imho. You’d see palettes, replicas of his paintings and the good thing about this is the place is free. Also, Imelda Romualdez is related to the Luna, so I guess it’s cool, sort of.

And since we are in a very tourist mood, we went to Paoay and visit Apo, as one of the local’s form of respect to the deposed leader, Ferdinand Marcos. It was kind of awesome and kind of sad when we went there. It was awesome since I actually saw his exile letters and sad, because there was a shooting nearby. As much as I’d want to say that there were actors and actresses, it was not the case. There was a land dispute and every one was running away from the nearby street from where we are.

Bang-dead catz.

To summarize what happened, we didn’t enter the Marcos mausoleum.

One of our co-tourist’s wishes was to see the Sand Dunes and that was the next destination: to see the Dunes. It was kind of awesome again since we didn’t see it and we got to see The Church of Paoay along the way. It marveled the area with its huge wings and a wide front that it would really take you a lot of steps to take a picture of the whole frontal area of the church.

Oooh oooh! Look for the cat in the picture.

We decided not to look for the Dunes since streetlights are scarce in Pagudpud. And true to my word, sunset came and darkness almost enveloped the rest of the ride. It was quite cold in the area maybe because of the winds coming from China and all the other countries north of the Philippines.

No, not really.

We settled in North Ridge, along Saud Beach. You might get lost if it’s already dark. The signs aren’t that abundant but worry is just for the faint of heart since Globe and Smart is available in the area. Call the owner and ask for directions. Also, the area is a wi-fi zone, hi-tech!

Ilocos Norte, day 2:

Saturday is a market day for the folks in Pagudpud. It means that if you’d want to go on a market day Sunday, you’d end up with something foreign-y fresh such as spam and corned beef. If you’d want to make paluto, you’d have to be early in the market. You might miss a lot of the goodies of the sea, cause we did. And we found some interesting food in the area, such as a cute upo, its cuteness made us all awww, and green eggplants.

The beach is definitely a long stretch that looks like a sickle. Since it is still the first quarter of the year, the tourists were not that much and you’d actually enjoy the beach on your own. And I am actually a weird person since I only stepped on the beach and didn’t do any swimming. I decided to do a walk on the stretch. After an hour or two, I found a family of ducks, saw Emilio Estevez too, and two big-ass dead snakes.

Remember the beach scene in Saving Private Ryan? It DID NOT happen here.

The afternoon provided us a trip to the Blue Lagoon. Contrary to popular belief, the lagoon is a beach. Weeeehhh. It was kind of funny when we arrived since it was kind of signal number three in that area and it was sunny in our part, Saud Beach side. So, what do you call a meal wherein you got the food from Saud Beach? Saud Beach Diet of course.

Dude, ze winds are going the other way!

Luck is still on our side. Even if we weren’t able to enjoy the Lagoon slash Beach. We saw a double rainbow. I mean, in your lifetime, you’d always ask, “What does it mean?” I guess Hungrybear9562 can only answer that ultimate question.

And since we still have time to roam the area, we looked for the Bangui Wind Farm. Our Atenean friend informed us that those man-made rotating producing machines are wind turbines. So, please call Wind Turbines from now on.

They have big-ass E-fans in Ilocos noh?

The power source is definitely one awesome sight. I’d like to ask the people in that area if ever the winds die down but I didn’t and instead we found the Dunes nearby. There was a café in close proximity named Kangkang Windmill Café and wtf, right? And take note that they only provide cold beverages only, hot coffee ran out when we got there. I guess it was time to go when we couldn’t take the cold breeze any longer.

Ilocos Norte, Day 3:

As we went bye bye to Saud Beach, our next stop was the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse. It was probably a first for me to walk and play, well not really play, around the lighthouse and it was really magnificent. Even if the actual lighthouse itself was closed, its gigantic tower-y shaped landmark that looked like the ones you probably saw in the second Lord of the Rings movie, we still enjoyed taking pictures in the area. It was also amusing since one of the caretakers, or we’ll just call him Chuckie Dreyfuss, informed us to bring back the news in Manila that the British are coming, the British are coming. Or just tell our friends in Manila about the place and hopefully it goes viral.

Oh-hoh-cean drive…

In case of a repeat, I’d like to go to Fort Ilocandia, the Laoag Sinking Bell Tower and the Sta. Monica Church Complex.


I included this one mainly because of Isdaan restaurant. It is a big place in Tarlac where they offer a lot of activities inside and extended choices of food in their menu. Well, the food is usually good here but the attractions created the character of the place. There is a part where you have to avoid the spit and piss of giant monkeys and you’d win a kilo of fish. Near it is a long stretch of what seems to be a narrow “bridge” that you need to cross. If you cross it, you win a kilo of fish, if not the piranhas on each side of the area’d eat you and leave your you-know-what ala Jerry O’Connell in Piranha 3d.

Hulk shouts back ‘Taksyapo!’ at you!

The main attraction that I am familiar with is the Taksyapo wall. Basically, you pay for stuff that you’d want to throw and break when it hits the wall. It was sort of fun since its main concept is to throw it directly at your enemy or something in that sense, which is of course a lie.


To ze trip-mates, I hope you enjoyed the trip. Till next time!


~ by targrod on February 9, 2011.

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