Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ilocos Norte and Pagudpud

If the omnipresence of grand houses among the rice fields of Ilocos Norte is an indication of progress then I can consider it as a good sign. But I would suppose that those beautiful houses are owned by the Hawaiinos (Ilocano immigrants of Hawaii) or OFWs. Since the few of the prominent elite families belong to the region’s political dynasties.
It is sad to note that hardly would you find an ATM machines or commercial banks along the highways and main poblacions of Pagudpud, Bangui and Burgos. I saw in Pasuquin a PNB ATM machine. It is such an inconvenience to travelers who would prefer using their cards instead of cash. As consequence the resorts and restaurants of Pagudpud does not have facilities for credit cards. This limit a traveler’s period of stay once cash runs out. Pasuquin or Laoag would be an hour or two to travel.
Visiting those beautiful places and attractions in the northern tip of Ilocos is a transport challenge for individuals or groups without their own cars. Transportation are not readily available to bring to those destination. For example Kapurpurawan Rock almost 2 kilometers away from the main road it would be a long hike and wearisome walk especially on a sunny day. The sign is even biased to only one side of the road, approaching the place from the opposite side you will not see the place anymore.
Ilocos Norte is such a beautiful place. I hope our government officials would look and address these concerns of bank and transport facilities. In other countries Tourist Information Kiosks are located at strategic places but I have yet to find one in the capital City of Laoag. The brochure that is given out is not so detailed especially its map. And even the road maps available mostly feature those of the cities. I hope that next time they make the map more comprehensive for travelers to access landmarks being highlighted. In the Ilocos Norte Tourist Assistance, Provincial Tourism Office brochure my hometown of Pinili was even missed out.
Ilocos Norte is indeed such a beautiful place distinct of its own history, culture and tourist attractions. But with all the rich Ilocanos and influential people, I wonder why its present state seems to reflect what the brochure says:
Welcome to our province…
where time stands still.
Travelling to Ilocos Norte
is like stepping back in time.
Although the intention is to feature its glorious past but it seems the welcome message is well meaning and true to form. As if Ilocos has been left behind by progress though its people are well known for their hardwork and industriousness. So much is to be desired for Ilocos Norte to showcase its real beauty and worth as a tourist destination. And definitely I am not in favor of gauging development of a city or province based in terms of the number of Jolibee stores and SM Malls but a development that truly benefits its people, humane, ecology friendly and sustainable.

Agbiag ti Ilokos, mabuhay, long live!
Day to day account of my vacation to Ilocos

After 5 years I had the chance to travel once again to Pagudpud, my second time. I saw this Cebu Pacific promo called Menos Gas’To! (Domestic Sale Seat) I and my good friend Marcel availed of the PhP 188 litefare to Laoag City. For our round trip plane fare we only paid for Php 1,322.48. A bus fare to Ilocos or Laoag for that matter would cost around PhP 600-800.00/person. Indeed it is a big saving. But when you take a bus that travels 8-10 hours Manila to Laoag you are not charge an airport terminal fee of PhP 200.00.
Since Cebu Pacific flies to Laoag on Monday-Tuesday -Friday-Saturday and Sunday it follows that our flight back can only be any of those days and it so happen that the return date open/available and covered by their promo was 6 days after. Since it is discounted we purchased it. So the date gave us enough time to spend in the beautiful beach of Pagudpud.
Day 1 Saturday – Laoag Internati onal Airport - Fort Ilocandia
Fort Ilocandia is now owned by a Taiwanese tycoon. They have a shuttle bus to pick up guests for a 15-20 minutes drive from the airport to hotel. The first time I was there was with friends taking photos of the hotel. This time I had a chance to sleep in one of its room and partake a “not so 5-star hotel buffet breakfast”, since the 3-star hotels of Hongkong or Malaysia for that matter serve more better food with their varieties of cereals, fruits, breads and meals.

Day 2 Sunday– Laoag – Batac- Paoay
After checking out I visited my sister-in-law in Laoag and was lent their old Revo to use to drive around Ilokos. A visit to the Apos’s Mausoleum was requested by Marcel so we went to Batac. After we proceeded to Paoay and paid visit to my pamangkin (nieces and nephews). Nana Charito was so eager to tell her stories and she showed us around her cooperative office. We stayed at Casa Dona Emilia just right across the municipal hall and close by the famous Paoay Church. Empanada was for dinner purchased on the street.
Day 3 – Monday Paoay – Pinili – Batac- Pagudpud
After breakfast, I got caught up with the live broadcast of Senate hearing on Legacy with two of its former top officials squealing on their former boss and implicating SEC Commissioner Martinez receiving bribes. One of the witnesses who made a statement was an Ilocana from Batac. Lunch was in Pinili with my parents. We passed by scenic Pangil Bay on the way home. Nanay prepared delicious laing, sinigang na bangus and halabos for lunch. The photo of dog and cat sharing meals is so admirable. Amon-ra was home with lolo, lola and tita cely (his surrogate mom) quarantined away from his siblings in San Nicolas who are suffering from chicken pox and mumps. After lunch we proceeded on our journey and made a stop-over in Batac to change tire. Then motored for Pagudpud.

My companion was my driver while I direct and take pictures along the way. One of the stops made was in Burgos for the famous Cape Bojeador. It was closing time when we arrived at the summit and Mr. Jun Abad was about to leave his workplace but was gracious enough to allow us to take photos and go up the light house.
Another stop was in Bangui for the Wind Mills. It was after sunset, the moon was shinning already and about to shower. They look like towering electric fan of giants, the noise it produce was not very loud at all.
It was dark when we reach Saud beach and decided to stay at Villa del Mar. Although there were other cheaper places but not the magnificent view of the beach. New resorts are being built and improved in the area. I can foresee that the place will soon look like congested Boracay 4-8 years from now, ughhhh… I hope they regulate the building of structures and make the place more eco/sea-friendly .

Days 3-4-5
Villa del Mar resort has a wifi access good thing I did not bring my laptop with me otherwise I will just get hooked online. Indeed staying by the beach was such a relaxing experience as if “time stands still”, Hakunamatata – trouble free philosophy, no cares , no worries (except for the lack of credit card facilities when cash runs out). By the beach reading a negative utopia novel of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World was very appropriate. Watching the ebb and flow of the sea as break makes my focus of the grim realities of a controlled society, the blue sky, sea and white sand are good enough “soma”(name of the drug in the novel for tranquilizer/hallucinogenic).

Then watching and filming fisherfolk doing their livelihood. For a very hard work they shared among themselves just a handful of small fish from their meager catch. They catch in the morning and afternoon. I observed when driving out from the resorts gate, these fisherfolks live among rows of huts just outside the resort’s gate like informal settlers of Manila. I wonder if they were displaced from the places now occupied by resort owners by the seashores.

The Blue Lagoon beach is located at the northernmost tip of Ilocos close by the first town of Cagayan where the famous Patapat bridge connects the two provinces. In the 70’s and 80’s several lives have been claimed I that dangerous section of the road. I would hear a cousin’s doing business in Cagayan of stories of busses that falls the ravine or plunged to the sea.

Blue Lagoon does not have much established resort houses, Hannah is the biggest of the resorts there. Although some house owners were asked by the Dept. of Tourism (DOT) to accommodate guests under its homestay program.

Day 5 – Good bye Pagudpud
Travelling back to Laoag we made two stops at the Burgos Viewdeckoverlooking a panorama of valley, mountains, beach, and those imposing windmills. There were ominous crosses on the walls of the viewdeck. We later found out that the road is an accident prone area where several deadly road mishaps had happened.
Kapurpurawan – rock calcified that continues to be smoothened by the wind and sea water breeze. Very far from the main road and mainly dirt road to the edge of the sea. There’s s a DENR sign board to promote Bakawab and a question mark below it what it is. Bakawan is mangrove. Definitely the view to Kapurpurawan is worth the visit. Careful though, and know the low and high tide of the place.

Take time to cool down at Villa Lita’s River Resort. The river scene is beautiful. The place is up for sale for PhP 25 M. I suppose more guests would go to the place if there are more river activities that the resort can offer. The river resort is an alternative t o the beach scene.
La Elliana Hotel was the place we booked for that day arriving in the sunshine heat of Laoag City. The hotel was not there during my high school days but today there are more than 15 hotels just within the Centro (center of Laoag) are existing, when back then, only Texicano Hotel was there to go.
Took some shots of the city scene, especially Laoag’s famous landmarks – the Sinking Bell Tower Close by the controversial Laoag Central School which is planned to be the site for a mall. Calesas are also a common sight which took my fancy taking foto.
Arriving back to Manila are realities of life: that the airport taxi concessionaire does not allow other taxi drivers/companies to get passengers who does not want to ride their taxi, as if they own the road to the exit gate of the arrival area of the airport. And so if you are wanting a metered taxi then you are punished to climb steps to get your taxi, outright discrimination and also a violation of the accessibility law, of people with different abilities to negotiate or climb such steps with their luggage. Well traffic, getting used to the slow paced life of Ilocos is disconcerting coming back to congested Manila street. The weather, although it is warm in Ilocos but Manila heat with all the dust and smoke is wearisome.
But then I should be glad and be happy to be reenergized by that short and wonderful break, so I should stop complaining… savor the memories, reminisce with the photos I’ve taken…
Definitely it is a must for all Filipinos to visit Ilocos and Pagudpud, if you aim of visiting other countries, there's no excuse why you should not visit Ilocos. Spare some savings to visit other parts of our country and Ilocos is truly a place to go... “Napintas nga Ili”, a beautiful place.

Related post/reading:
Very nice infographics by Anton Diaz here:


Cher@Surviving Korea said...

i envy you big time, i've always wanted to go to pagudpod and vigan, i think the place is absolutely breath taking

Pete Erlano Rahon said...

kahiya kasi yung banyaga sa sariling bansa to think it is the province of tatay. Katawa nga kasi most Korean friends tell me about Pagsanjan Falls and I've not been there although have been to most parts of Laguna/ST. Hey are you familiar with this: http://plurk.com/peterahon/invite

Anonymous said...

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