Wednesday, April 16, 2008

the great ilocandia escapade

what started out as a dream became a reality just a week ago - to experience ilocos. together with some equally eager friends, we travelled to this province of history, heritage, and beauty.

after a gruelling 12-hour drive and 2 gasoline full tanks, we arrived at our first itinerary, pagudpud. pagudpud is a sea-side town famed for its pristine beaches. dubbed as the "anti-boracay of the north" it is a good match to boracay, minus the night life and parties. it is about an hour drive from ilocos norte's capital, laoag city. we arrived at about 5:30 am and immediately proceeded to finding a good place to stay in. unfortunately for us, who took an advice from a friend who lived there, we got lost after not being able to locate the direction he's telling us. the darkness of the dawn made it difficult to see the markers and as the sun breaks in, we found ourselves a few towns away in the neighboring province of cagayan. exhausted and a bit exasperated, our group decided to stop over for a while to grab a quick breakfast where we also had the van's tires checked somewhere in sta. praxedes in cagayan. we proceeded back to pagudpud afterwards.

going back we asked for some directions from the natives who are all very congenial and helpful. we inquired for some nice resorts to stay in which led us to hannah's place beach resort in brgy. malingay, pagudpud. we asked about the place from the tour guide cum brgy. treasurer who's manning the outpost entrance to the said resort. we were not satisfied with the place so we scouted for another location.

this brought us to brgy. saud where the saud beach resort and hotel can be located. we found the resort nice contrary to the price of the room and cottage fees. we opted to billet ourselves to one of what they call "homestays" near the resort. homestays are private houses that can be rented

for P1,500 a day. with a little bit of negotiating, we managed to rent the house for P1,000. it has 2 bedrooms, 3 toilets/baths, living and dining room. an additional fee will be charged if you will use the oven.

after settling and a little rest, we started to stroll around. we found out that the public beach whose entrance fee is P20 and P50 for cottage fee stretches on to the private saud resort where entrance fee is P50 plus a mandatory P500 cottage fee. since no barrier is built, people can roam freely to and from the public and private beaches.

the beaches of brgy. saud are indeed very beautiful. sparkling clean, clear waters, white powdery sands shaded by rows of coconut and other trees caressed by the cool gentle breeze that makes the setting perfect. small fishes are visible on the shallow part of the water seemingly welcoming its visitors. one could not help but utter, "aaahhh... this is the life..." unlike boracay which has become too commercialized, pagudpud beaches are well preserved and maintained.

after swimming in the morning and having lunch, we decided to have some siesta. the adrenaline level resulting from the excitement has vanished and we started to feel tired. some of us slept at our rented house while i, together with two friends, decided to take a nap at our rented cottage by the beach. despite the discomfort of lying on the bamboo table, i easily fell asleep with the wind kissing my face and the gentle sounding waves being the lullaby.

at around 5 pm when the scorching heat started to mellow down, the people around started to flock in again. we strolled again along the beach taking some pictures before taking a dip. the sun started to set and the sight is simply awesome. perfect for a romantic moment.

the darkness started to envelop the place and we decided to satisfy our tummies to one of a few eateries nearby. foods are quite expensive so we brought along some canned goods and just asked the cook to at least heat it for us. we just ordered some rice and fried eggs to at least compensate for the amount of space we occupied. hehehe. after some long chats and good laughs together with the owner of the establishment, we headed home and just had some drinking session. a few hours later, we hit the sack and again eagerly anticipated for the next stop-over, bangui windmills.

early morning of april 7 we packed our things to set for another long journey ahead. after a quick walk to the beach for an early morning breeze and some photo shoots, we started our travel and decided to have breakfast somewhere along the way since the eateries are all still closed.

we headed to bangui, the town before pagudpud where the famed bangui windmills are located. there is a part in regine velasquez's video "byahe tayo" shot here. along the main road, one cannot see unnoticed the gigantic windmills standing majestically along the coastline of bangui beach. we turned right after seeing the signage, passed by a small quiet village, traversed along a two-way rough road headed straight to the beach.

we finally arrived and the sight is very much a scene to behold. these 15 23-stories high windmills standing side by side along the gray-sanded coastline attracts tourists for some photo opportunities. standing at the base of these towers and looking up high to see the propellers is really dizzying but that's nothing compared to the awesome feeling of getting to see the sight especially when you see the "giant blades" starting to rotate in unison. (trivia: these windmills provide 40% of electricity to the province). again after some wacky shoots and friendly chats with our co-tourists, we then proceeded to laoag for some breakfast before heading to vigan. took a brief stop over to the viewing deck by the highway to view the windmills from a different location and get a bird's eyeview of the town of bangui.

famous for its bagnet (somewhat similar to lechong kawali but a lot more tastier and delicious) and the ancestral houses, vigan is the capital of ilocos sur and is about some 2 hours drive from laoag. we bought bagnet from the market, (i was kinda surprised to see that the wet section of their market is located at the second floor and the dry section at the ground floor), drove around town then proceeded to the famous ancestral houses.

with the tourist information office fronting the famous street, we knew this is it. parking just within the vicinity, we eagerly started to stroll around.

the whole stretch of calle crisologo is where you can see the main attraction. vehicles are not allowed here so you have to park nearby and walk by foot. by the time you start walking along the street, it gives you a great nostalgic feeling as if you are being transported back in time. my imagination started playing tricks and started to hope i'd bump into maria clara somewhere behind the calesas but the maria clara i've bumped into was someone with a mega-gigantic, chemically-enhanced mutant breasts in microminis. i wondered if the katipuneros would mistakenly identify her for an alien with her way-too-far exaggerated "proudly japayuki" blonde hair. going back to my nostalgia, i've thought i should've worn a camiso-chino to complete the feeling of being able to feel what it's like back then.

most houses here were somewhat renovated where the ground levels converted into souvenir shops, cafes and other establishments. but there's still a few which were preserved from its original design. the interiors of the houses and compounds reflect a great spanish influence over the community. it is a meeting point of the past and the present where the old ages seem to manifest its presence in our modern day world. unlike other streets nearby where a few modern buildings are built, calle crisologo's heritage is much more preserved, and just rightfully so, so the future generations can appreciate and actually feel our great culture.

took some photos with my camera phone in sepia mode then bought some souvenirs and their famous korniks for pasalubong.

we then headed back to manila after a hearty lunch. all of us were happily recalling our experiences and rejoicing over the fact that we've finally made it through after almost not being able to go because of some last minute problems.

we had to cut short some planned itineraries due to time constraints and decided to settle for the main tourist attractions instead. some places we decided not to go to are those found not along the way like the tirad pass and mostly museums but maybe we can just go back sometime. when that time comes, we agreed upon travelling by plane where we only need 45 minutes to get there unlike the 12 hours of land travel.

the ilocandias are really a good tourist attraction. the unique sights and sounds prove to be an awesome experience which will make you want to come back for more. i strongly recommend you to come and visit these provinces up north to experience it yourselves.

as of now, we are planning for our next get-away. sometime soon.

arrived at manila by midnight. back to reality.

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