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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Journey To North: Laoag-Pagudpud-Vigan Trip 2012

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Despite the fact that  I'm a child at heart, I believe that I have an old soul. I just LOVE exploring houses, buildings and places that dates back hundreds of years. This love of the past made me want to visit this place for the longest time.

The funny thing is, I booked the tickets in advance February last year for my European trip that I was planning to do this year but then certain fortunate circumstances happened that I have to postpone it again to next year. I didn't want to go to another country thinking that the extra I had saved would go to my personal IMF (international monetary fund for Europe ). So, I started researching how to go to Vigan.

I've always wanted to go to Vigan because I'm in love with old houses especially those that were constructed during the Spanish Era. My friends and I have planned to go there years before but they have long since abandoned the idea and preferred places like Bohol or Boracay which is nearer to our city. I on the other hand, longed for an adventure. 

I found out that Vigan doesn't have an airport so for most travelers, they have to pass by Laoag City. Laoag City is in Ilocos Norte while Vigan is in Ilocos Sur. Travel from Laoag to Vigan takes 2 hours. As I researched, It is also stated that one of the most visited places in Ilocos Norte is Pagudpud. Pagudpud is the northernmost part of the Luzon Island. It's about an hour and a half ride from Laoag. 

I planned to go on my own but then I chickened out a bit and decided to buy my mother a ticket. Then when I told her about it, much to my surprise my father used to work somewhere near by Ilocos Sur when he was still single back in the 80s for a mining company in La Union. So then, I bought another ticked for my father- thank God for Cebu Pacific low fares! At first the plan was to take the airplane going to Laoag and then ride the sleeper bus back to Manila which would take 8-11 hours. I was very hesitant to do that with my parents in tow, seeing that they are of that age when they get tired easily so we booked a flight back to Manila. So our travel period was from September 26-September 29. We arrive at 8pm in Laoag and we left Laoag at 2pm the following Saturday.

Researching wasn't difficult thanks to PINOYEXCHANGE, I got a lot of useful tips especially the number of Kuya Arnel. Kuya Arnel is a freelance tourist guide (contact him @ 09265880666). I contacted Kuya Arnel and arranged to rent a van. For the price of PHP3500 a day (we rented for 2 days), we got a van exclusively to ourselves, driver (Kuya Joseph) and tourguide (Kuya Arnel). Since this was our first trip to Laoag we begged Kuya Arnel to include our airport transfer to hotel since Hotel Renzo charges 300 pax for the transfer. Kuya Arnel agreed and they picked us up. There is also a bus called "Sagot ni Manang Imee" this bus transports visitors to and fro the airport for free. We had heard of it but we've been worried that the bus might be full so we opted to ask for Kuya Arnel's assistance.

I had searched online for the perfect map but couldn't find, I find this map very helpful for first-timers, I got this one from the airport.

They dropped us off at Hotel Renzo, when we arrived we asked where we could eat dinner since we only had a Jollibee Cheese Burger before our flight. They told us that the nearest would be Raffy's and it's open till 12pm or so. The city was really quite, it was so unlike other cities. Smaller cities like Dumaguete is still very much busy at 9pm with a lot of people walking down the streets or enjoying drinks outdoor but Laoag was really quite at that time.


Sizzling Kinilaw

at the lobby of Hotel Renzo
Day 1 Laoag to Pagudpud

Kuya Arnel fetched us at 8am and we had a brief breakfast at Jollibee before we headed to Pagudpud. I was slightly drowsy and the weather didn't help. At that time Ilocos Norte was under signal no 1 because of  Super Typhoon Lawin who hadn't hit land but still manage to create weather disturbances. It was raining (moderate rain shower) and I was really worried that it would spoil my vacation. God heard my prayers when we arrived at our first stop- Cape Bojeador, the rain miraculously stopped. The advantage of having a Super Typhoon Lawin  nearby was that it caused big white waves that crashed through the rocks-which was really a sight to see.

Artifacts from the Lighthouse Museum

At Cape Bojeador, my parents opted not to climb the highest elevated light house in the Philippines. I know I'm not prepared for such excursion but this is a once an opportunity chance so I grabbed it. I had on an Oka B slip-on with about an inch and a half heel, despite this it managed to bring me up on the lighthouse. I did climb carefully though so that I won't slip since the railings are still wet from the rain.

The lighthouse in the midst of a gloomy weather

The climb to the top of the Lighthouse

When I reached the top it was still a bit cloudy and the view was quite hazy when suddenly the clouds seemed to open once I reached the top and sunshine bathed the land. It was such a beautiful moment. I felt like I want to cry when that happened, I just felt ashamed since Kuya Arnel was with me, guiding me on the climb and taking my pictures. 

That Moment
I am posting the picture here unedited or w/o photo manipulation (didn't even put  watermarks),also taken without flash. These shots are in sequential order so that you can see what I've had described above. :-) Excuse me for looking out of breathe and haggard.

Amazing View from the Top

We've also had the opportunity to meet and chat with the lighthouse caretaker, his family had guarded the lighthouse for four generations (he's the fourth). There were a lot of ghost stories that he told. One was when it's about 2pm in the afternoons, he could smell coffee coming from the lighthouse museum-as if some spirits are having their own coffee break. There are also times when he hears a child singing in spanish which we joked that he should learn the words so that he can sing along. Also, as I was going out of the lighthouse, my shirt got caught on the door, I tried to pull myself but I was scared of ripping my shirt and it was so hard that I had to call Kuya Arnel to untangle me-almost like the lighthouse didn't want me to leave.

Our next stop was the Kapupurawan Rock Formation. By this time my legs are trembling already so I have to walk slower. The crashing waves was really breathtaking. My mom got out her sweater and took pictures with her sweater on thinking she could play a joke on some of her friends since that kind of scene looked like it was taken from outside the Philippines. 

Traveling despite signal no 1 proved to work to our advantage as you can see, 
The big waves hit the shore like froth , the rock I'm leaning on is a leftover from the set of the latest
Enteng and Panday movie that had a shoot in this place a few weeks/days before we came.

Our third stop was the Bangui Windmills. Just as we closed the door of the van to leave the place heavy rain poured, thank God we were riding a van. Other tourists around the are were in tricycles-I'm pretty sure they got wet and also the driver.

For lunch we stopped by Berg Blick,

The food was yummy and the presentation is beautiful, it's such a refreshing take on local cuisine by the foreign cook who also owns this restaurant. He was very pleasant , he greeted us and also asked how the food was-definitely value for money.

to be continued....