Ilocos, a province in the northern Philippines has a lot to offer for tourists. My college friends and I have been planning on going even before we earned our degree. And here we are, two years after our graduation, finally living up to our dream of visiting this wonderful place.
Day 0 – Laoag
Our flight was delayed for 1.5 hrs. We landed at Laoag International Airport around mid-9PM. I did not charter any service van to get us around the place so we went to the tricycle terminal and rode to the city for P50 per head. It was a challenge getting all our baggage inside and I ended up sitting behind the tricycle driver.
Note: Laoag’s tricycles are rather small. It doesn’t have any handles outside so you have to lean and really sit tight. Roads are paved well, thank God for that. 😉
We checked in at Laoag Renzo Hotel. I booked a room for three via Agoda for P2,000 (incl. taxes and fees). This comes with one queen size bed, one single bed, a hot and cold shower, cable TV and breakfast buffet. Not bad eh?
The hotel is situated a few blocks away from the capitol, at the heart of the city. Once you go out, almost everything is out there – a tricycle terminal, Vigan empanada stalls, fast food chains, grocery stores. The genuine hospitality of the local residents captured us most. After my not-so good experience in Baler, Laoag has been a breath of fresh air.
Day 1 – Paoay, Batac and trip to Pagudpud
Our day started early. After a few hours of sleep, we geared up for the long day. With a heavy breakfast, we traveled to a nearby town called Paoay via tricycle. We rented the vehicle for P900 which includes a tour around Paoay, Batac and a service to the bus station going to Pagudpud.
Our first stop was at the Paoay Sand Dunes. This is not initially part of the itinerary we have. I don’t know what happened but I just found myself climbing up the 4×4 and screaming at the top of my lungs every time it plunges to a sand depression. We spent P1,500 for a thirty-minute 4×4 experience.
As our adrenaline rush was slowly declining, we reached Malacanang of the North. It opens at 9AM. This is the residence of the Philippines’s first family before Martial Law. There are students who served as tour guides. Trivia overload!
It is highly recommended that you take a guided tour of the place to appreciate it even more. The house structure is still at its finest. Remnants of the residents’ possessions are still there (some are just replicas). And, of course, the beautiful Paoay lake viewed from the veranda is breathtaking.
Next stop is the UNESCO World Heritage site, Paoay Church. This has stood the test of time. The church was built in the early 1600s. I remember one of my courses in college, Philippine Economic History, where we discussed the parish-pueblo system. Since the Spaniards who conquered the Philippines for 300 years are Catholic, the political system was highly influenced by the church, hence the need for it and the capitol to be situated near each other. It’s amazing how this has been preserved until today and we have seen this across the towns we passed by and visited.
After a few moments of silence with God, we keep ourselves glued to our seats as we look around the authenticity and feel the history of the place. Also, there’s a wedding happening so we waited for the bride to walk down the aisle. I haven’t seen a wedding ceremony in a while so I was really happy to witness one of the sacraments at that moment.
It was almost 11AM when we decided to leave Paoay. We need to be back in the hotel before 12NN for our check-out. But we did a side trip to Batac to visit the mausoleum of Marcos. We paid P50 each. Cameras are not allowed inside so I only have pictures of the museum.
Since Ilocos is Marcos’s “baluarte”, his history is all over the place, both political and personal. I myself admire his stint as our president except for the latter years when it all got complicated. So it’s fun learning more about his life without any prejudice.
We didn’t stay long in Batac. I was seriously scared of the Gregorian-ish background music when we entered the mausoleum. We arrived at our hotel 15 minutes before twelve noon.
After freshening up, we hit the road again, now going to Pagudpud. We ate a nearby carinderia before hopping into an ordinary bus. There are no buses with air conditioner from Laoag to Pagudpud. It’s part of the adventure!