What’s the first thing that comes to your mind whenever you hear about Ilocos?
Vigan? Pagudpud? Windmills? Empanada? The land origin of Marcoses?
Well, me? I’ve always thought of beaches and the Spanish-era structures built in the area.
I don’t know about me, but I never really thought of Ilocos as one of the largest regions in the Philippines until I set my foot in it.
So when I had the chance to channel my inner lakwatsera, I was able to enjoy myself for a moment in a northern escapade.
We booked an out-of-town tour package throughout the whole Ilocos region, courtesy of Byahe ni Juan. My officemates and I, together with my officemate’s barkadas, traveled as a group in a joiner tour towards the north.
The journey was a little bit rough. We departed at around 10 in the evening and slept our way through the whole drive. The road leading to our destination made my neck hurt a little because of the many blind curves and zigzag roads upward. But guess what—it was worth it.
Around 7 AM when we arrived at our first destination in Ilocos Norte: The Paoay Church. It was calming to witness one of the oldest churches we have in the country. The sun shining towards the grass perfectly mixed with the blue sky’s serenity, complementing the antique beauty of the place. It was a good morning, indeed.
We also went to the sand dunes of Ilocos Norte. People had the chance to experience a 4×4 ride and the adrenaline rush of a roller coaster-like thrill in a sand dunes adventure.
As for me, I didn’t get to experience this rush because—wait for it—I don’t really like being shaken up to the extremes. It seemed like a fun ride, but that day, I’d rather much watch the people riding the 4×4 and just contemplate about my existence at the far side of the sand dunes.
Next up was the Malacañang of the North. As most people know, Ilocos is much like a baluarte of the Marcoses. Not only because it’s the land origin of the family, but also because many people there are fanatics of them.
So, yes. We were able to set foot in the sophisticated then-house of the renowned family. We even got the chance to take photos of their old furniture and clothing.
Their mansion is overlooking a scenic view of the lake nearby. It’s almost infuriating that this antique and wonderful house is owned by the late dictator’s family.
From Paoay, we also drove up to Pagudgud to swim in the Blue Lagoon.
After some hours on the beach, we drove our way towards our next destination: the Bantay Abot Cave.
The tour also included a trip to the Bangui Wind Farm. The waves of the shore nearby were calming music to my ears. It reminded me of one of my favorite Paramore songs, Pool.
After a moment of peace along the shore and the wind farm, we went for another drive towards the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse.
It was already dark when we got there. The ambiance of the formerly active structure radiated creepy energy as we roamed around the area and at the foot of the lighthouse. Tourists even made jokes about seeing ghosts and asked the caretakers about the spirits wandering around the historic Spanish-built structure. Being thrill-seekers as always, my friends and I tried taking group photos to see if we could spot some creatures in the photos only a camera lens can capture, LOL.
Right after a whole day of adventure, we eventually checked in to our respective transients and recharged for more adventures the next day.
The second day of our tour consisted of touring around Ilocos Sur. After shopping some Ilocos-branded pasalubong like the sukang Iloko, longganisa, bagnet, and many more, we then proceeded to visit St. Augustine Parish Church and its old bell tower that’s become a tourist spot.
Of course, the Ilocos tour wouldn’t have been complete without the ever-famous Calle Crisologo in Vigan, Ilocos Sur.
It was almost the last stop for our tour. Before we were off to the next spot, we had the chance to stop by a mesmerizing view at the Banaoang Bridge.
It was truly a great summer I never knew I could have this year. I even met new people and shared with them the memories of traveling up to the farthest points of Ilocos Norte down to the local dried fish stores in La Union.
It was the farthest I’ve ever been in the Philippines’ north region, beating my high school escapade in Iba, Zambales way back 2013.
If I’d be asked if I would recommend Ilocos as a travel spot, I absolutely would.
You’d totally love the Ilocos empanada and bagnet.