I-L-O-C-O-S

Hi! So here I am to tell you guys about my trip to the beautiful province of Ilocos last December 24 to 30, 2013. It was my first time to go on a trip and have a vacation for real.

I was stoked.

Period.

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Together with my travel buddies, Joyie and Joseph, who were my friends from way back elementary days, first off, we rode a Florida Sleeper Bus to Vigan, Ilocos Sur, our first destination. It could take around 20 or so people in one trip. It literally had beds on which you could sleep on. It was the first time that I rode a bus like that, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who’s up for a long trip. I was blue because half of the lights were blue, probably to evoke sleep from its passengers.

We were off to an 8 to 12 hour trip, only that it had been a 6 hour ride for us. We left Manila on Christmas eve, so.

I knew and didn’t know what I should expect with our trip. My mind was only set to happiness and relaxation and beyond. What greeted us there were the kindness of the locals and the breathtaking freshness of the place. We inhaled fresh air like a boss. I could not remember the last time I breathed such air as fresh as theirs. I was used to minimal pollution all the time.

It was around five in the morning when we arrived. I was dizzy because I was up all night. Blame it to excitement and such. Actually, I dozed off around 3.30 in the morning, and then the bus stopped at five. So I only had around an hour or so to get some sleep.

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We were greeted by a friendly tricycle driver when we got off the bus. The weather was pretty cold, and it was very windy. The tricycle driver drove us to Arcellana Lodging, where we made reservations. At the place, another friendly man answered the buzz. This was when it started to sink into my mind that we were at a place full of kind people. Again, I was used to holding my bag close to me when I was in the city. In this place, you could leave your things anywhere and go back for it in the same place. This was one of the nicest places I’d been, and I’d always remember everyone’s kindness.

I wasn’t able to take a picture of Arcellana’s Lodging House, but it was a very nice and comfy place. We were originally four trimmed to three, so we had three beds for all for ourselves. And fighting away the tiredness from a long trip, we took a bath and went off straight to Vigan.

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It was Christmas morning, and it totally made sense about the place being next to haunted. So we had breakfast at McDonalds. We succumbed to defeat. We didn’t get an Ilocano breakfast. Reality’s hard sometimes, but there’s always tomorrow. I was extra hungry so I had to eat pancakes and chicken and rice.

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This one’s a real souvenir shop:

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I honestly thought it was a haunted house.

So much for my imagination. It opened up the next day, much to my surprise. I almost convinced myself that Calle Crisologo was a haunted street, with ghosts chasing you while you were walking.

It wasn’t. It was way more than that. Not in a scary way.

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After breakfast, we decided to go to Baluarte first. It was a mini-zoo and a project of the famous Chavit Singson from the place. I had to admit that it was the best zoo I’d been to. That was the place where I saw many animals that I’d never seen before. Take this little fellow, for example:

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I forgot the name. I’d really appreciate it if someone would tell me what this animal was. He (I’ll assume that it was a he) was already tamed, so he could be held by the zoo visitors.  I’d also seen a lot of tigers. Chavit had a reputation for having tigers at his house. I’d tried to take a close up pic with one of them, but I wasn’t able to. The closest I’d been was near its face with a railing between us. Her name was Queenie. The picture was in someone else’s memory card.

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Those were from the butterfly haven. There were so many of them.

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After the trip to the zoo, we ate the famous orange empanada. It was weird when you were used to eating empanada that was small and had siopao-like taste. This one had beef, an egg, and vegetables inside. It was crunchy and new.

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We went to the Hidden Garden to grab some lunch after. That was the bagnet, the one that looked like meat. It was the other famous food from Ilocos. The meal was great, but I still felt full after eating that big empanada. Their halo-halo was to die for. It was probably the best halo-halo I’d tasted. Sadly, I didn’t take a picture and just devoured it as soon as I saw it. Just when I said that I was full.

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And then we went to Mira Hills Fil-Spanish Friendship Par and Buridek Children’s Museum. I like the wind here the most. It’s not bad enough to create a bad hairday effect, but cool enough to need a lightweight jacket.

I’m trying to recall everything here, having such a bad memory. I think after that, we went back to Arcellana and slept for several hours. When we woke up around 7 in the evening, we first saw Calle Crisologo at night.

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We ate dinner at a hot pot place.

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Their frozen lemon tea was remarkable. The tastiest and most refreshing lemon tea I’d tasted.

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This was the picture that reminded me of Paper Lanterns. I was thinking about the story while walking down that street.

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A huge and patriotic Christmas tree.

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After walking a little more around the place, we went back to our lodging house and that was day one.

After a goodnight’s rest, we were full of energy the next morning.

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See? We were jumping.

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We went to Fr. Burgos Museum first. He was one of the Gomburza, the men from our history book. A tour guide told us his story, as well as those of the Luna brothers. The famous men from Ilcoos. The Luna brother’s mother was called as the mother of all mothers, because her sons made history in our country and abroad.

Fr. Burgos suffered a tragic death in the hands of the garote. It looked like this. It was so sad to think that people were tortured with this before.

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I really enjoyed the tour and applauded the effort done by the tour guide, especially when he threw jokes around. I really wanted to laugh, but I was the last one who got what he meant.

Who wants to do some manicure the old way? Just kidding. I was really doing this the tour guide’s way. And yes, I believed him at first when he said that this was for manicure. What did I know? I was the only one who nodded my head in agreement, before he said that it was a joke. Yup.

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This were their water dispensers before. Hot and cold.

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This was how they washed their faces. I seriously couldn’t life the green jar for the water. I’m thankful that I didn’t have to live in that century. I wouldn’t be able to wash my face if then. So sad.

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And should I start printing my book with these. I’ll be through on 2020. Grab a copy! Haha. But for the record, it used to print 75 pages/minute. What a way to do body-building during the ancient times.

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Pretty scary, even if it was already from the old times. I hoped the bones weren’t real, though.

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This one’s still beautiful, even if it was technically a defect.

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These ships were prototype of the one used for trading before. At the bottom part of the ship, there were stones; some could still be found in the museum. They said the the stones were to keep the ship balanced. After getting goods from the Philippines, they left the Filipinos those stones behind. Maybe the forgot that we couldn’t possibly eat stones and had too many of that in our country already.

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I’d totally appreciate it if someone would remind me again what this machine was for. I could only remember that a carabao would spin the whole thing.

Right outside, if you would look from this direction, there was the warden where former Pres. Elpidio Quirino was born. His parents worked in the warden. He wasn’t rich, obviously, but he married the daughter of the richest family in Ilocos during that time, the same one who owned the following museum below, the Syquia Mansion.

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We were this hungry that we wanted to eat Mr. Gingerbread Man?

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We walked a little more after and successfully grabbed some lunch.

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Look who’s having fun with her new hat:

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Then we were off to another museum, the Syquia Mansion. The one who toured us around was the fourth generation. He was an old man who fascinated us with the things found in the mansion.

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Former Pres. Elpidio Quirino and her daughter, Vicky.

First off, the vase given as a gift to the Syquia family from the Emperor during the Ming Dynasty. It was a twin dragon vase, both having the seal of the Emperor. Pretty amazing seeing something that was created during that time in flesh. It was a token for helping the Chinese province they were from before moving to the Philippines.

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And then there was the 18k mirror. Wow.

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Then these three girls, for some reason, caught my attention.

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Another museum, which name I regrettably forgotten, was the last museum we’d been to.

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This one’s a really old refrigerator.

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And of course, a really old iron.

Next one on the list, the Jar Factory.

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They were able to try pottery making. I got lost during that time. How could I have gotten lost in that place, beats me.

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We also went to the Bell Tower. And if only I wasn’t wearing a skirt, I would have gone to the top. It would always be my regret, enough to make me want to come back to that place soon. The winds were so strong at the top and it was as if it could throw you away effortlessly.

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Nonetheless, we made another jump shot at the place.

Of course.

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And then souvenir hunting!

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Just another friendly reminder, buy all the souvenirs in Vigan. Trust me, you will regret it (like we did) if you would go empty-handed (almost) to Laoag without buying anything. Try the kalamay, longganiza, royal bibingka, the kakanin cooked in bamboo sticks, and the rice coffee. There was this one store who sold a 2peso sugar and hot water.

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We witnessed the water dance show that night. Beautiful. Very entertaining. There were around 1000+ people waiting for it at the plaza.

The next day, we regrettably said goodbye to Vigan and headed off to Laoag. Going north.

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The bus took us to the Partas Terminal in Laoag, where we saw this guy. I should be talking about the place, but I (we) saw this guy. Okay, so he stood out while he was getting his things, and I stared at him from the bus. He was American or European, I couldn’t tell. I never heard him talk. And I stared at him and my friends had to call my attention, because we were the only ones left in the bus. And then we saw him everywhere, from Laoag and all the way to Pagudpud. It was, like, at every stop, he was there. Which was funny. My friend and I wondered if he noticed us the way we seemed to notice him. And yes, again, I tend to think too much.

The tricycle dropped us off at Starlight Lodging House. We wanted to save money, so we asked the tricycle driver to take us to the cheapest but most livable place. It was pretty nice for something worth 450 pesos a day haha. A fan room and cold weather, perfect!

The first thing place we visited in Laoag was the Fort Ilocandia Hotel.

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There was nothing much in the place aside from the ocean near you and a really vast open ground. I was getting used to amazing at this time.

Then we were off to the Malacanang of the North! It was one amazing place. The lake behind the mansion, the legendary Paoay Lake, and as said by the tour guide, was a product of a volcanic eruption. No one would guess that.

It was… perfect.

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Before lunch, we goofed around. There were too many people eating in the cafe. We watied for empty seats and tried having pictures the ‘Japanese-school girls’ way!

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Don’t ask what we were doing. We ran out of script, and we were laughing too much. It was so much fun that the behind the scenes were even funnier that the actual shots. We were laughing the whole time, under the noontime sun and with hungry bellies.

After lunch, the tricycle driver took us to the sand dunes. And just when we thought our day couldn’t get more exciting, we rode a 4×4 vehicle. I’m the kind of person who loves adventure. So the sand dunes experience was definitely unforgettable.

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We sandboarded.

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We survived a sandstorm.

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My camera made a blooper.

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And we saw a beach a little way near it.

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They said that we went during a very nice weather, because it just rained. The sand was easier to walk upon. I couldn’t imagine the ‘usual’ for the place, but I wanted to see it myself. I’ll definitely take a pair of sunglasses with me! Don’t forget.

It still puzzled me why a place like that was formed. I’ll probably Google it later. Plus, there was a rollercoaster ride on our way back. We rode up and down the sands. It was amazing and one unforgettable experience.

And at Paoay Church, we were haggard and thirsty.

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Nevertheless, we ate the Pinakbet and Ilocandia flavored pizza from here. It’s a must try! Different, but in a good way.

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Having a goodnight sleep after, we headed off to Pagudpud! Up, up, up! We were almost at the tip of the archipelago. It was mind-blowing thinking how far we’d been. *thinking of going to Batanes next time ;)*

A 2hr ride from Laoag, the road went up and down, in a zigzag pattern. But thankfully, there were no cliffs.

It was still a tricycle driver who took us around the place, the beautiful Pagudpud. You could go on an Ilocos trip without a van or a vehicle of your own, because the municipal government already assigned tricycle drivers/tour guides in every town. Their rate was 400-600 per day. A tricycle could take 3-4 persons per ride. They could take care of finding you a nice place and taking care of your things.

In Pagudpud, a tour spot to another has around 15km in between. The 600 peso fare around the city for one day really makes sense. One thing that took my breath away in the place were the beaches. I can’t find the words to properly describe it. It was beyond what I’d always known. We couldn’t help but take a swim, although I couldn’t swim. I just let the waves eat me alive. It was a good place to surf. Not that big waves, but good enough for learners. There were a few surfers we spotted. We stayed at Cathy’s Homestay, and it was right beside the Saud Beach. It was a lovely place, nothing I’d expected (not that I expected many things) and it was like the place was sparkling if that even made sense.

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Up above was taken on our first morning there. It was very windy and the weather’s cold.

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BUT the weather did get a lot better the next morning.

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We went south first. The weather was foggy so we couldn’t go up north. It was cold. Very.

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I asked my friend, “Where is the Kabibe?”

She answered, “I’d bet it was the first place we’d taken picture with.”

Makes sense. It was a huge shell.

Tired from a rough bus ride, we had no choice but to go to the famous Windmills with this kind of mindset. But after getting to the Lighthouse, I think my mind got cleared enough because, again, the place was spectacular. And the wind was strong. It kind of blew away all the dizziness I was feeling.

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At the View Deck, we were so close to you, windmills!

What was even more spectacular was visiting the Kapurpurawan or the White Rock Formation. It was a paradise. It had everything, and it could be a mash-up of a beach, rocks, and a very beautiful landscape. I’m still in the middle of mind-debate which was the best place we’d been. This was probably it. On a scale of 1 to 10, this surely got 11. Others were a perfect 10.

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Last stop for the day, we visited the famous Bangui Windmills. They were spinning, because it was December and it was windy and cold and felt like we’d be near freezing anytime. We didn’t, though. We just took our jackets with us and sniffed a lot that night. So, back to the windmills. What could I say? Aside from being a wow! thing, they were massive. So huge that getting up close felt like they would eat you. Or I was just hungry. But I couldn’t remember my stomach during the whole trip, probably because my mouth always had something to eat at whatever place or I was just that fascinated with everything. It was a little of both. Or huge of both.

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Our nicest room must be the one at Pagudpud. The one near the beach. Okay, maybe it was mainly because the beach was just a few steps away and that the foods from Evangeline’s Restaurant were the best. Overall, even with no pics, Cathy’s Homestay was worth the stay. We had an air conditioned room, but we didn’t have to use it or we’d freeze in our sleep and no one would wake up for the last leg of our tour. That would be tragic. So we had all windows locked and yet felt like the room was very much air conditioned enough to make us wake up with two blankets firmly wrapped around our bodies.

So it was the last day and it felt like I was not that excited to go home. But I missed our dog so much. There were many dogs in Pagudpud haha. So yeah, the last leg of our trip was going around Pagudpud itself. The weather, for some reason, cleared after four days of glacial climate. It was cold in the morning, but sunny enough in the afternoon—a no jacket weather.

First off, we went to the beach. It was another beach, but as beautiful as where we stayed the previous night. Pagudpud was truly the Boracay of the north. White sand. It was an untouched Boracay, I could tell. So the name was Blue Lagoon. I googled it haha. The water was warmer compared to Saud Beach, and I’d love to tell you guys why but I had no idea.

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We went to Bantay Abot Cave! A spectacular land formation. A kid took us around and told us where to step and not, so as not to regrettably slip off towards the rocks down below. Wear slippers or sandals. Do not wear your favorite doll shoes while touring around Pagudpud. Leave the doll shoes for Vigan only. That’s a very friendly reminder from yours truly.

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I bought shells from the little boy’s sister. They very much looked alike, so I had no doubt that they were related to each other. He said that he had four more siblings. I also wondered if it was their mom who sold me the shells at Anton’s Paradise, because she said something about a 20 peso smaller bag ones. Or maybe it’s just my ever curious and exaggerated imagination.

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So that’s the famous Bantay Abot Cave.

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We went to Patapat Viaduct next and Anton’s Paradise.

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We weren’t able to go to Kabigan Falls because the road was being repaired that day. Also, I realized that we missed the Timmagatang Rock, although we did see it from afar without realizing.

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It was that rock out there! IT was that little round rock out there! So close.

We also weren’t able to go to the Dos Hernanos Isands and Agua Grande. We didn’t have much time, because we were heading back to Laoag to catch our 10pm trip. I’ll come back again to Ilocos just to visit these places again and make a proper itinerary a day before. A girl can dream. I did dream of this for years, and it came true.

We arrived back at Laoag around three in the afternoon, too early! We couldn’t really go back, so we just went to the market, bought longganiza to take home with us, and freaked out about my bag that wouldn’t open up all of a sudden. My charger and cord also gave up on me that same day. Isn’t that funny? Maybe they were cooperating with my unwillingness to go home and end our vacation.

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We also saw an uncommon fruit in Laoag. It was the first time I saw it in flesh. So I bought one and we ate it at McDonalds.

Around 9.30 in the evening, after our dinner at Laoag and watching an acapella band performing, we rode the sleeper bus again back to Cubao. I wanted to come back home, but a part of me was held back by that beautiful province. I’ll always miss it. I keep on thinking about how beautiful the place is. And with the pictures, I keep it all in my thoughts, hoping to come back when the time comes.

So this had been my trip. I hope I convinced all of you to go to Ilocos soon! The long trip will be worth it.

This is Freesia Lockheart wishing all of you a very happy new year! What’s up to your 2014? How’s the first day going? Mine with books: Eleanor and Park & Fangirl. A very good way to start the year and keep that burning love for books alive. ❤

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