Ilocos Travel Diary: The Long Journey Up North

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Our recent trip to Ilocos was a tiring 11 hours drive (one way) but it doesn't really matter because the journey is the destination. Ilocos Norte is such a fascinating place with a lot of natural wonders that would definitely leave every tourist breathless, with its timeless appeal and captivating beauty. I've gathered here my top favorites in Ilocos Norte and i'll try my very best to write down separate entries for some of it in the succeeding blogs. (I need grace!)

Our Ilocos adventure started in Laoag, going up north to Pagudpud. If you haven't check my DIY itinerary for this trip you may check it here.


Juan Luna Shrine, Badoc Ilocos Norte


Upon arrival at Ilocos Norte and grabbing a quick breakfast along the way, our itinerary started at the town of Badoc to visit Juan Luna Shrine. As we all know, the patriot Juan Luna is a well renowned artist, painter and political activist who has been an instrument of putting the Philippine arts and culture in the world map. His creations are truly magnificent and well-loved around the globe. 





During the time of our visit his house is under renovation and so we weren't allowed to get inside. But we were entertained outside by a (let me call him) historian (because he seems to be so knowledgeable) and he expounded interesting facts about Juan Luna, his life, the controversies behind the death of his wife and the significance of his paintings like the Spolarium, which has a replica outside his house. 





The shrine is a two-storey house made of clay bricks and molave wood. Its recreation has become a repository of his paintings and other significant memorabilias. I love how it looked so polished on the outside and the architecture design of the house really stands out with a wide garden of greenery and the bronze statue of the patriot.


Marcos Museum and Marcos Mausoleum, Batac, Ilocos Norte



Following Badoc, is Batac, the next on our itinerary. The peaceful town of Batac was known to be the "Home of Great Leaders", as it is the hometown of many significant figures in the history of our country and among them is the former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. I came here just for one thing, and maybe it's a common desire to many- to see the remains of the late president which was said to be lying STILL inside the mausoleum.



With so much excitement and anticipation i hurriedly bought the tickets to get in, and just as we set foot on the 2nd floor, the lights went off! (Toinks! Walang power! Haist!) We are in high hopes that the power interruption will be just a quick one but its taking too long already and we're afraid we might not get on time to Pagudpud that day so we went out and ask for a refund of our entrance tickets and they gave it back instantly, hoping we can get back there before heading home on our last day.



Still, we didn't managed to install it on our succeeding  itinerary. Good thing i had a photo outside the museum and that's all i got from there!

Immaculate Conception Church, Batac Ilocos Norte

Frustrated, we went back to the nearby church, the Immaculate Concepcion Church where we parked and dropped by at the famous Empanadahan to buy some Empanada which was said to be famous in town.



Batac Riverside Empanadahan


Cape Bojeador Lighthouse


Cape Bojeador or Burgos Lighthouse is a cultural heritage structure in Burgos established during the Spanish period. For over 100 years it still functions as a welcoming beacon to the international ships that enter the Philippine Archipelago from the North. This place is really my favorite and i'll be talking more about this on the next blog!


 Kapurpurawan Rock Formations


Still at the rocky coast of Burgos, just a few minutes away from Cape Bojeador Lighthouse is the Kapurpurawan Rock Formations. Another natural wonder that left me breathless and i got so many photos for this favorite that i will be sharing on the next blog! (Now, that's two more installment for this endless Ilocos Travel Diary)


Bangui Windmills



As we get closer to Pagudpud, the sights are more likely to bring excitement to any traveler. And one that fascinated everyone of us in the group is the Bangui Windmills which are just so tiny from afar but is so huge in a closer encounter, it has really an astonishing height! The 20 units of gigantic wind turbines that were arranged in a single row stretching along a 9 kilometer shoreline of  Bangui Bay facing the West Philippine Sea has a capacity of producing electricity-  40% of which is sold and used by the residents in the area.


The place where the windmills are located is open to the public. You can get closer to this turbines so as to appreciate the beauty and the entirely different vibe of giant electric fan-like structures. The wind on this part of their so-called "windmill farm" is storm strong and we just loved it! This is a perfect playground for photoshoot! Lol!





The windmills claims to be the biggest wind turbines in Southeast Asia and any Filipino could feel so proud for having not just an enthralling site but also a structure which utilizes renewable energy resources to reduce the causes of global warming. 


Pagudpud





The sleepy town of Pagudpud remains to be a favorite among backpackers, high end tourists and even local travelers. Witnessing our arrival a meter away caused me a sudden burst of energy like i was about to jump on a cliff. Why? Because finally! Andito na kami for crying out loud sa mahabang byahe! And i couldn't afford to leave it all just that without stopping by and having our photos on this arc! 


Saud Beach



Saud beach is where you can find a handful of resorts that offer both a budget, average and posh accommodations depending on your preferences. The place can get crowded during peak seasons but if you want a more secluded place, there are other options that are quite expensive but more likely to offer privacy if that is what you wish. We enjoyed our short stay here and i'll show more of our photos on the next blog! ;-)


Patapat Viaduct



As we are keeping traces from the south to this northern part of Ilocos we finally reached Patapat Viaduct- a long winding bridge elevated at 31 meters above sea level. It is a 1.3 km coastal bridge that connects the Maharlika Highway from Laoag, Ilocos Norte to Cagayan Valley Region. (Konting kembot nalang Cagayan na?!) And it was noted as the 4th longest bridge in the Philippines.



This spot has become a favorite photo stop for tourists. No wonder why, because the entire view is just so amazing! The long white and winding bridge, with the views of the ocean, the rock formations, the sound of the big waves, the magnificent sunshine and the tall mountains at the backdrop just seems to be a perfect synthesis.





Now who can resist to do some cam-whoring at this part of Ilocos? I would definitely snap away with the shutter every second just to get the perfect shot of this captivating masterpiece. A collaboration of nature and modern architecture in the surface of Ilocos.


Bantay Abot Cave



WARNING: Photo Overload
From Patapat Viaduct we made a u-turn to get back to Brgy. Balaoi targeting a few more stops to complete our northern tour and that includes Bantay Abot Cave which means "a mountain with a hole". According to story tellers, Bantay Abot is not really a cave but a hill that was wrecked by an earthquake in the 80's leaving that hole in the middle. The cave is enclosed with red rock formations from the inside and wrapped by green shrubbery on the outside. This is where the waves hits the cliff, a perfect place for romantic photoshoots. (Feel ko lang yun!)









One needs to go down a stairway and cross a short trail of shallow waters to get inside the cave. And the whole place offers breathtaking views of the waves flashing through the rocks and the coool breeze coming from around the mountain sides.













However, the place is not advisable for swimming because the waves are really strong in this part and they might just sweep you away towards South China Sea. My family enjoyed taking a lot of photos here and my kids even climbed up with their Dad on the rocks for souvenir photos.


Blue Lagoon


This beautiful and famous paradise lies at the Maira-Ira Point in the northern tip of Ilocos Norte and from Bantay Abot Cave we drove a little farther till we reached the beautiful coasts of white sands and the busy summer beach. I suppose this is what they oftenly call, the Boracay of the North, minus the loud and noisy night life, sand bars and the congested beach fronts. 



We had a short stop here, just across the famous Hannah's Beach Resort to take some photos of the beach. It is a long stretch of pure white sands, kissed by crystal clear turquoise blue waters. And it was really a stunning view!


Hubby with our friend and partner Dexter
If only the midday sun is not too harsh and if given more time to spend a few hours at this part of Pagudpud, i would love to take a dip at the waters, for sure its going to be a great swim!


Kabigan Falls



After the short visits from different tourist spots at the northern tip we drove back targeting the south. But before we had another long journey going back, i felt the need to insist that we have to visit Kabigan Falls or else this trip wouldn't be complete. So from Blue Lagoon we turned into a passage stopping by at Kabigan Falls' drop off point. Kabigan Falls is surrounded by thick forest and well known for its concaved basin, located at the eastern part of Barangay Balaoi, about 1.8 kilometers away from the national highway. And i'll be blogging this wonderful experience on the next installment! Bear with me please! 


Pasuquin Bakery



Stopping by for a short while when you reach the town of Pasuquin wouldn't be a big inconvenience at all. You might just want to think that this trip wouldn't be full without having a taste of the famous Biscocho from Ilocos Norte and it can only be available, freshly baked at Pasuquin Bakery, just a few tumbling away after reaching the town, on the right corner going to the South. 



We have also found out that "chichacorns" are crispier and more flavorful when you buy it here. And the soft Biscocho is really something that you should try. I'm a lover of bread and this one is something for the foodie to try - soft, dense, milky and yummy. I paired it with coffee and its good! 


Laoag City





We barely scratched the surface of Laoag City because we are eyeing Paoay before 5pm that day. So we just had a very quick photo stop at the City of Laoag and took some photos of the Sinking Bell Tower from afar. Officially, Laoag is the first class city and the capital of Ilocos Norte. It is accessible by land or by plane from Manila to Laoag Airport.


Malacañang of the North



From Laoag City we traveled for another 30 minutes until we reached the town of Paoay, Ilocos Norte, where prominent destinations like Paoay Church, and Paoay Lake are situated. If i wasn't mistaken, there are 2 arterial roads that you can access from Laoag going to Paoay, both are just of the same distance but for a smoother journey we opted to take Darayday Road as far as i can remember. We headed straight to the Malacañang of the North, the official residence and rest house of the late former President Ferdinand Marcos and his family. This place provides a glimpse of the lavish lifestyle of the Marcoses during their leadership and i'll be sharing more of the photos I've collected from this trip on the next blog. (Again, i need grace for this!)


Paoay Church



After discovering so much of history and culture from Malacañang of the North the next stop is Paoay Church. St. Augustine Church, commonly known as Paoay Church is the Catholic church of the municipality of Paoay. 




It was completed in 1710, the church is famous for its distinct architecture highlighted by the enormous buttresses or counterfort on the sides and back of the building. It was declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the Philippine government in 1973 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the collective group of Baroque Churches of the Philippines in 1993.


La Paz Sand Dunes



The last but definitely not the least on our itinerary for that day is the most awaited 4x4 ride and Sand Boarding experience at La Paz Sand Dunes. Before, i was confused as to why some call it La Paz Sand Dunes, or Paoay Sand Dunes and then when we reached the place it was Culili Point Sand Dunes. Okey, let me just call it Paoay Sand Dunes and Sand Boarding at Brgy. La Paz, which lends the site its name. So far, this is a one of a kind experience and definitely one of the highlights of our journey up North. And since i got a handful of exciting (kinda) stories about this place, i'll be sharing more of it on the next blog soon.

Some people doesn't like the idea of long drives. Well, yeah it's a real pain in the ass (literally, the long hours of sitting can be painful) though it can also be a fun way of discovering something new along the way, while testing your driving skills. It's also the best way to assess if your car (whether new or old) is in good, steady condition. 

For me, the idea isn't just fun- it's something that i really do enjoy especially when the destination is someplace that can set a perfect mood to a wonderful journey. But then, maybe it was just me, trying to convince you that long drives are fun. But as long as i am able, i will do the things that i love so that when the time comes that i am old and disabled, i can look back and just say, "Ah! I have lived a life! Been there, done that!"

Till my next blog!


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