Saturday, September 17, 2016

Ilocos Norte: Gem of the North

Traveling in a big group has its perks, you could just rent a van and let your driver take you to all the nice places. Our group only had to plan for accommodations and I am glad to have met a group of frugal friendly travelers who were up for anything. For a three-day trip, our contribution per person for the land arrangements, breakfast, and homestay was only 2,200 pesos, and this also includes our short stint in Ilocos Sur. Anyhow, for the remaining two days we took our time on seeing some of the most popular attractions in the different areas of Ilocos Norte.

ilocos norte

For our first day in the province, we toured around Pagudpud, a municipality famous for its beautiful beaches and resorts. The name itself is actually quite interesting, it made us curious the trip here would make us pagod (tired, I'm bad at puns) by the end of the day, and we sure did.

refreshing view in Pagudpud
pagudpud falls

From Vigan, it was still a few hours trip and it was already noontime when we reached our first stop. It was too hot by then that I didn’t really believe our driver when he said we would be trekking for about an hour to reach our destination. Wait, can’t you just take us there? T_T tamad eh. Anyway, it was still a scenic “walk” and we kept ourselves occupied through random chitchats and taking pictures along the way. We went there during dry season so the waterfall doesn’t look as imposing as I expected. It’s a good idea though to take a breather and dip your tired feet in the cold water of Kabigan Falls.

kabigan falls

kabigan falls ilocos norte

We managed to pass by Patapat Viaduct but it started to drizzle that time so we didn’t even try to leave our van and just decided to move on to Bantay Abot Cave before the drizzle eventually becomes rain. Surprisingly, we didn’t go inside a cave because we didn’t even see one. Turns out, Bantay Abot is a hill that developed a massive hole from being destroyed by an earthquake. To explore Bantay Abot, we had to tread carefully because the land got really slippery and muddy. This was where I almost dropped my camera. Oopsie.

bantay abot cave
Tita of Manila get up

We decided to save the best for last, which for our group was just chilling out at one of Ilocos Norte’s most talked-about beach, the Blue Lagoon of Pagudpud. I was expecting that we would be the only visitors since we went to Ilocos around the month of July, but turns out, people like beaches anytime of the year! It was not super crowded though, so we still enjoyed the area sans the usual “footprints” like litters from junk food wrappers, missing sandals, etc. Blue Lagoon indeed has fine white sand and it was relaxing to just play with it and feel it in your feet.

pagudpud ilocos beach

ilocos norte beach

pagudpud beach

We started our last day in the province with a hearty breakfast and another long-ish van ride to the municipality of Bangui to see the very famous Bangui Windmills. We were certainly blown away! They were extremely massive! I thought they were pretty from afar, but they look powerful once you actually get close to one. We were told there were around 20 units of these powerful wind turbines that stand strong with the help of the 70-meter tall vestas. This is an amazing feat and I think renewable energy should be promoted more by the government.

wind mill ilocos
it was a hard task trying to fit all this into the prime lens. :P

ilocos norte burgos

bangui windmills

This trip happened way back in 2011, and back then, we were still allowed to go nearby Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, located in Burgos along Bangui Bay. I was told by a friend three years later that the local government now has limited the exposure of the rock to tourists to preserve its condition and to prevent the area from vandalism. I guess we were fortunate enough to be able to see it up close, but that doesn’t mean that you should skip this rock formation carved by the strong forces of the wind and the sea for thousands of years. This elegant white rock formation was aptly named as ‘Kapurpurawan’ coming from the local dialect meaning white.


kapurpurawan ilocos

ilocos norte rock formation

Still in Burgos, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse is one of Ilocos’ beautiful cultural heritage sites that dates back during the Spanish occupation. It is one of the few remaining lighthouses, together with Cape EngaƱo Lighthouse in Palaui Island that were built during that time that is still operational today. It is currently being managed by the local government and Philippine Coast Guard. It was declared National Historical Landmark and National Cultural Treasure so you must not miss this, especially if you like looking at old, scary looking architecture. This looked like the perfect setting for a horror movie!

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

ilocos norte lighthouse

At this point, we needed to leave Ilocos already since we still have a very long bus ride to catch since me and my friend needed to report to work the following day. So we only managed to go buy few pasalubong to catch the last afternoon trip with Farinas. If we stayed with the group, we would have been able to see San Agustin Church or commonly known as Paoay Church, one of the oldest churches in the country that was also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also declared as National Culture Treasure. It is known for its Spanish colonial baroque architecture especially the thick buttresses that highlights its beautiful design. I regret not seeing this church, especially now that I have my new found love for religious architecture.

lighthouse ilocos norte

If I have any  regrets, that would be not having more time to see and do more. I think we missed some interesting sights around Ilocos Norte and Sur, but despite that, I am pretty satisfied that we got to experience Ilocos for a few days and meet new friends in the process.

bagnet FTW

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