Ilocandia road trip (Ilocos Norte)
Ilocos Norte is the northernmost province in mainland Luzon. You actually get radio signals from Taiwan, that is if you’re still using a pre-historic walkman with FM band. The province got a long stretch of coastline with the terrain mainly slopes and hills. The northern tip of the province is Pagudpud, a small town covered with a crumpled blanket of hilly jungle. They even tag the Pagudpud beaches as the “Boracay of the North”.
There are buses going to Pagudpud from the city center of Laoag. Travel time is around 2 hours, unless you got a private van and a driver who formerly worked with Partas (bus with a death wish) who can zoom to Pagudpud in less than an hour. From Pagudpud town you can get a tricycle to the beach of your choice, we recommend Saud.
Another popular road stop is the lucrative Fort Ilocandia. Facing the South China Sea, it is located in the heart of the city of Laoag and the capital of Ilocos Norte. The resort is a complete service complex resort hotel. It’s a 10- minute drive from Fort Ilocandia Golf & Country Club in Paoay and from the Laoag International Airport. All these being said, don’t be surprised with the rates.
Another interesting spot in the heart of Laoag is the Sinking Bell Tower of St. William Cathedral. It’s a massive 45-meter bell tower said to be one of the tallest bell towers in the Philippines and was built by the Augustinians in 1612.
The tower has earned its “sinking” reputation because it is so heavy and it was built on sandy foundations that it has consistently sunk into the ground (estimated 1 cm yearly). Stories mention that a person on horseback could enter the tower with ease back when it was built. Now, a person of an average Filipino height has to bend down just to enter the vaulted entrance.
The town of Burgos has a heritage structure called the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, also known as Burgos Lighthouse. It is the highest-elevated lighthouse in the Philippines and the northwesternmost in location. Built in 1892 and still standing today, a perfect setting for a high fashion photo shoot with a Rapunzel peg. The climb up the hill will take around 15-20 minutes, climb up the tower’s spiral stair will cause 10 minutes of dizziness.
Having a quiet moment up the light house is priceless. We wished we could have stayed longer to just sit and stare blank across the scenic view of Cape Bojeador, the landscape looks something like that in Scotland.
Ever seen the Department of Tourism video where Regine Velasquez is strangling herself with an organza shawl? Behind her are the windmills of Bangui. These became popular mid 2000 among shutterbugs because of its strong visual impact. Bangui is a small 4th class municipality before reaching Pagudpud, and this wind farm is currently supplying 40% of electricity in the province.
Paoay is popular because of two prominent feature of the municipality. First is the Paoay Lake. Legend has it that it was the site of a baranggay filled with wicked people underwater after ignoring the warning of a mysterious old woman who came to the place. On the shores of the lake lies a mansion that belongs to the Marcoses. Second, the Paoay Church, one of the four Baroque churches that are inscripted as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Known for it’s sturdy coral stone structure and unique facade. Right across the street is a restaurant where you can eat Pinakbet Pizza (Oh yes, you read it right, monette will post something about it, soon!)
One of my favorite stop is the Kabigan Falls in Pagudpud, I’ve been reading and hearing a lot of things about this hidden gem in Pagudpud. We will be posting a separate story about this eco path.
We suggest that you drop by the town called Pasuquin for the local bakers treat, the Biscocho, available in soft and toasted variety. My favorite is the soft Biscocho, the moist bread got a hint of earthy taste and spice of some sort, which made me thinking and figuring-out that distinct aftertaste all through-out the trip. Another must try is the Empanada of Batac. Batac’s version is waaaay better than those in Vigan. Whole egg, garlic-y longganisa, cheese and fillers wrapped in a hand pressed soft dough and fried to perfection. Batac got the most wicked empanada in this part of the world, they even have this street treat in their town seal—Now beat that!
Ilocos Norte is one of the provinces where you need to get down and dirty when you do a road trip. There’s a lot of things to see and do, a weekend isn’t enough. To fully understand and experience the beauty of the province, you may need to take your time, talk to people, stay longer and walk off the beaten paths. The roads may be winding but it will always lead you to where you are heading, that’s for sure.