Northern Exposure!

Trip Start Jan 31, 2006
Trip End Feb 03, 2008

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Flag of Philippines  ,
Monday, June 5, 2006

Our journey up north took us a lot of planning as we intended to go on a roadtrip to explore what lied at the northern tip of Luzon.  As we ventured into all the possibilities, we finally agreed to leave on a Wednesday night.  We also decided that our itinerary will be as follows:

Manila- Pagudpud (2 nights)- Vigan (1 night)- Pangasinan (1 night)- Manila Total: 4 nights & 5 days (make that 5 nights including our travel period)

We traveled to Pagudpud throughout dawn as we were advised to escape daytime traffic along the long stretch of national highways that were going to tackle - a smart tip! As the normal travel time by private car/van would take about 12 hours, we got ourselves ready for it. At 11:30pm that Wednesday night, we set off for the north.

Our handydandy E-Z MAP PHILIPPINES TRAVEL ATLAS led us there.  Getting to Ilocos Norte does not require a keen sense of direction. You should just simply know the all the provinces you will pass through just so you don't end up someplace else. Passing through Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Sur and finalmente... ILOCOS NORTE. Not so fast.. and you think you are already close? Think again! We were headed for the tip of Ilocos Norte. Two more hours from Laoag! I swear the roads were endless. 

We finally reached Vigan, Ilocos Sur at around 6:30am. We made a quick round of the city and had our breakfast stopover there at the Vigan Plaza Hotel near the Burgos Plaza . Then we set off again towards the direction of Ilocos Norte. Two hours later we reached Laoag City. As it was already midmorning, our excitement to get to our destination kept snowballing. We couldn't wait to get there. "We've come this far!!!" We thought. As we noted the countless arcs welcoming us to each town, we knew we were close.  So we slowed down our traveling pace to enjoy and savor the impeccable view.  

One has to experience the northeastern coastline of Luzon to appreciate it. No picture can do justice for it. For me, it was incredible. Up at the Bojeador Lighthouse (built in 1892 and still functions), the view was even better. It was more than breathtaking. It looked like a postcard. We toured the lighthouse and even braved the stairs that led to the lantern itself. What a wonderful place. It felt good reaching the top. For some really did.

It was time to move on and continue the roadtrip. A few minutes more. The four of us, were so ecstatic! We reached the arc that said "WELCOME TO PAGUDPUD". We had to get down and take a picture. It was an achievement.

After traveling for so long, we finally reached the municipality of our destination. Time to look for the place we made reservations with. POLARIS BEACH HOUSE, owned by Mean & Steve Santos.  (Steven Santos - 0920.239.6138 / Mean Santos - 0919.307.8803) . Saud Beach, a strip on white sand. . Very warm and accommodating. Ms. Mean and her staff are very, very friendly to guests. 

The next day, we went for a banca ride to wherever that fisherman said he was gonna take us to, relying on our atlas and the little that we could decipher from his Ilocano dialect. Within the 45-minute boat ride, the fisherman brought us to Maira-ira Point (where we bought fresh live lobsters from the fishermen huts by the shore), the Blue Lagoon, Dos Hermanos Rock Formation, the Bantay Abot Cave (with a church inside).
What magnificent sights. Vigan oh Vigan! How historic! How interesting!

On the third day, it was time to move on. We headed south and went back to Vigan, Ilocos Sur. We settled in an old Mansion owned and run by Mrs. Singson called, Vigan Heritage Hotel. It sits right at the corner of the infamous cobblestoned street, Calle Crisologo. No cars allowed to pass this street, calesas only. This hotel has a deck where you can enjoy at night. 

Our activity for the day, was to tour the city onboard a calesa. It was a two-hour trip.
The cuchero who doubles as a guide takes you back in time. Allowing us to take pictures at every stop. The tour brought us to the pottery center of city .PAGBURNAYAN.

Former Gov. Singson's Baluarte is a must see. The cuchero gladly took us to the famous animal paradise. It felt like we were touring Jurassic Park minus the dinosaurs and raptors. Instead, we were amazed by the Gov's well-treated pets. Tigers, ostriches, deers, monkeys and snakes. Some of those animals I haven't seen in the Manila Zoo. An animal haven, really. I think it is also a sincere gesture to let the public enjoy viewing his animal collection. 
I need not say more about the city of Vigan. The pictures say it all. It has been declared a National Heritage Site and I hope it will be preserved for years to come. This is a place we can take our kids to for a little of "Show and Tell."

Nightlife in Vigan is bustling. Since it is a favorite tourist spot, at certain occasions they have street parties near the Burgos Plaza. Also, a lot of quaint cafes and restaurants are open for people to enjoy a combination of Ilocano & Spanish dishes. BAGNET baby! Can't get enough of what we call a "Cardiac Delight!" Oh and the never-ending Pinakbet too. The iressistable Vigan Longganisa, the empanadas and everthing else.

Our overnight stay did not suffice; there was still much more to see and learn about. Next destination was Pangasinan. Passing through La Union - another wonderful place - it will be our next target destination. Known for beaches and surfing. La Union, wait for us. We will be coming soon.

Off to Pangasinan.  After careful research, we decided to look for San Fabian, Pangasinan. Right by the Lingayen Gulf, where it is said that Gen. Douglas MacArthur docked. What a disappointment. If we arrived there fifty years earlier it would have probably been a nice spot. The place was totally upsetting for our group. We booked a resort that according to some travel blogs was the best but when we got there.... the place seemed like a wet market. Totally thrashed! Jeepneys, tricycles and other vehicles roaming the sandy beach. It seemed like 10 million people gathered there. Hordes and hordes of people all over the place. The water was brown and murky. The sand was dark as earth. Unimaginable rubbish all over the place. We could not even bear to take pictures of ourselves. The only thing that caught our interest was the shallow water of the gulf. After blaming each other for this disappointment, we cancelled our booking and headed to Pampanga. The other alternative. 

Clarkfield, Pampanga was fully-booked that unfortunate night. An event was taking place. After calling all our contacts in the place. The only lodging that could accommodate us was a dingy motel. Names will not be mentioned. We had no choice. We just did not want to go back to Manila yet. Besides, it was almost midnight. We had to rest too.  The once American-frequented strip outside the air base is a redlight district. I think it did not look like one, but nonetheless, it is. Alas, morning came. None of us could wait to get of the place aand cruise along what used to Clark Air Base. Searching within the compound of the base we chanced upon the Clearwater Country Club. We were so happy to Vincafe. An alfresco fine dining upscale restaurant.  A perfect place to end our road trip. With the greenery that surrounded us and the good food, it spelled out ....GOOD TIMES.
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Where I stayed
Polaris Beach House
Vigan Heritage Hotel

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