Ilocos Revisited


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January 20th 2012
Published: March 2nd 2012
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La Paz Sand Dunes, Laoag City (Photo by Wendell)
Firstly, seeing Hollywood actors Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz on the way to the airport was such an amazing random chance to happen! They were filming a part of their upcoming movie ‘Bourne Legacy’; now I know what starstruck means.

Anyway, I was to travel out of town with a group of colleagues, most of whom have been my constant travel buddies - Janet, Martin, Wendell, Mae Ann, Joel, Erlyn, Muy, and Aly. Joel was supposed to be in a different airline but he missed his flight and had to buy new tickets so he’s now flying with us! The flight was eventually delayed for almost one and a half hours; jinx? (*I’m just teasing Joel.hahaha) Our supposed 19:05 flight was rescheduled to 20:30.

At the Laoag Airport, we were pleasantly surprised to find a free bus ride waiting for passengers outside as there was no such thing before. One of the officials in the bus even personally called our Guesthouse to let them know that their guests are on their way, I was further impressed.

We were to stay at Balay Da Blas originally built as a private residence to the Blas family until it was eventually opened to
our 4x4our 4x4our 4x4

La Paz Sand Dunes, Laoag City
the tourists visiting the city. We loved its charming country life appeal, the old style furnishings, and antique pieces exude a homely atmosphere. And for PHP2,550/night, we thought the one bedroom accommodation with kitchen, private bathe, and living room was more than we bargained for.

After everyone has settled in, we were ready to sample the local cuisines for our dinner, a fruitless attempt. Our choice of restaurants Saramsam Restaurant & Bar and La Preciosa Restaurant known to serve the local specialties were already closed, so we ended up eating fries and burgers at McDonalds. We decided to walk all the way back to the pensionne house after dinner, dropping by the city’s plaza and simply enjoying the cold fresh air and the peaceful provincial setting that readily eases all the everyday life stresses.

I was up by 08:00 the next day, took turn in the shower, had breakfast with the rest, and checked-out. We have arranged for our transportation in advance and by 09:00, our driver Kuya Jerry was already waiting for us at the front yard. The main event of the day was the much anticipated sand boarding at the La Paz Sand Dunes. It was supposedly our last stop of
up!up!up!

La Paz Sand Dunes, Laoag City (Photo by Janet)
the day before heading to the city if Vigan where we will be spending the night but since we were heading south, our driver suggested that it will be inadvisable to have it last as the location was out of the way - good thing our sand boarding contact was flexible enough to deal with the change of plan. By ten in the morning we were already riding a 4x4, cruising through giant sand dunes and driving up and down steep hills, and of course there I was alternately screaming my lungs out or letting out a nervous laugh, basically torn between "why am I doing this?!" and "this is soooo much fun!wohooooo!!!". I am never a fan of abrupt fall(s) but with the right travel companion and a little persuasion, I could somehow enjoy it. The playful sand boarding afterwards added to the fun, but with the sun gleaming brightly, the burning desert sand was becoming unbearable. If we had eggs we could almost certainly have them cooked by just burying them in, so we decided it was time to proceed to our next destination.

It was a short stint at Museo Ilocos Norte. The museum showcases the vast Ilocano
...and going down...and going down...and going down

La Paz Sand Dunes, Laoag City (Photo by Janet)
culture, traditions, and age-old pieces. The tour ended at the museum’s souvenir shop for some pasalubongs, and then we were already off to lunch.

It was a pleasant midday meal finally securing a table at La Preciosa Restaurant. Poqui-Poqui was the day’s pick – in the local language the term could tickle the mind of the green-minded, it is a local specialty of sautéed grilled eggplant in onion, tomato and egg – a personal favorite. I also loved their Dinengdeng (a.k.a. the Vegetable Soup), a bagoong (fermented fish or shrimps and salt) soup based dish containing several kinds of vegetables; and of course Bagnet (double-fried crispy pork specialty).

Surely, food is one of the things I love most during travels.

The next stop was the 5-star Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel. The prior Chinese New Year observance was still evident at the hotel grounds with its dragon displays, red colour paper cuts, red packets, couplets, and lanterns. Missing these the last time, I finally got to see their nice poolside garden and their adorable animals at the mini zoo. Then we moved on to the former President Ferdinand Marcos’ official Ilocos home Malacañang of the North and to his
...one sunny day...one sunny day...one sunny day

La Paz Sand Dunes, Laoag City
hometown Batac City for the viewing of his preserved remains which is displayed in a glass coffin.

We were on the road for the next one and a half hours on the way to Vigan City, South of Ilocos. Our accommodation was the Spanish Colonial Era designed Grandpa’s Inn, only that we were demoted to the annex since the rooms in the main building were all fully booked – we don’t really recommend this. We had such spacious room in Balay Da Blas that the cramped room we were given was a little of a disappointment, I’m sure the rooms in the main building were so much better. I loved their breakfast and their antique decorations though.

We were finally able to wash off all the sand and dust that we’ve collected during sand boarding, and by 20:00, were already having dinner at Max’s Restaurant located at the cobbled street Calle Crisologo. Then it was time for some seriously sweet treats from the nearby Dulcelise Dessert Shop after the night’s meal, leisurely eaten at the city’s plaza (Public Square). A little drinking session and the amusing Chinese Year of the Dragon Horoscope reading came next at Café Uno – it
cruisin'cruisin'cruisin'

La Paz Sand Dunes, Laoag City
seems to be a good year for the Rats…hmn.

Kuya Jerry (our driver) was ready to drive us back to Laoag by 09:00 the next morning. But before heading back for our evening flights, we made our last stops in Ilocos Sur. One of those was the Syquia Mansion, the original Malacañang of the North. This was the residence of one of the Philippine’s former President, another prominent Ilocano, Elpidio Quirino and his wife, a wealthy Chinese woman Alicia Syquia. Thanks to the Department of Tourism’s official Kuya Ferdinand, the uninteresting looking house turned out to be an educating stop for us. One of the late President’s grandsons even popped out of nowhere and left us a bit starstruck – part of the house is still being used as a private residence to the family.

The animal land Baluarte Zoo came next where we got to meet the Siberian Bengal Tigers again, pet free roaming animals, and personally handled a huge Albino Burmese Python.

It was a fresh atmosphere during lunch at the Hidden Garden. Amongst the bonsais, orchids, floral collection, and several other plant assortments, is a restaurant serving good food in an affordable price (although I prefer La Preciosa’s version of Poqui-Poqui). Then we were on our way back to Laoag after the midday meal.

Joel and Aly were again on different flight schedules earlier from the rest of us so they’ve checked in ahead while we went back to the city for dinner (finally making it to Saramsam Restaurant). I had my first malunggay (moringa leaves) sorbet with lime fruit for flavor, which I quite enjoyed. When it was time for us to check in, surprise surprise! Joel was still at the airport waiting for his much delayed flight. Such a lucky guy, we even boarded our plane before he did!

Something I noticed about this trip was that Ilocos seemed to have gone under a ‘face lift’. The thing I remember during my previous visit was that the streets seemed to be crowded and disordered, but this time everything appears to be on their proper place. There was even that free ride from the airport, the Malacañang of the North and Baluarte Zoo cleaned & polished, and the late President Marcos’ viewing room somehow doesn’t have much of the eerie feel anymore. Most places seem to deteriorate in time but I guess
The Classic Jump ShotThe Classic Jump ShotThe Classic Jump Shot

La Paz Sand Dunes, Laoag City
the officials in Ilocos are doing an excellent job preserving the province’s beauty.

We went back to Ilocos especially because of the San Dunes that we missed the last time; it surely did not disappoint. We got what we wanted and more!

The 2010 Ilocos Trip : To the North we go.

Fun is not where you are, it’s who you’re with. I feel too lucky to have travel friends who can laugh (almost) anything/any circumstance off.




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La Paz Sand Dunes, Laoag City (Photo by Wendell)
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La Paz Sand Dunes, Laoag City (Photo by Janet)
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La Paz Sand Dunes, Laoag City
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La Paz Sand Dunes, Laoag City
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La Paz Sand Dunes, Laoag City
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La Paz Sand Dunes, Laoag City
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La Paz Sand Dunes, Laoag City
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La Paz Sand Dunes, Laoag City
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Balay Da Blas, Laoag City
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Balay Da Blas, Laoag City (Photo by Janet)


6th June 2012

Ginutom ako
How I miss PoquiPoqui, dinengdeng and bagnet! I should check out Hidden Garden next time. Exactly where is it?
6th June 2012

Hi Tita Lili, you should! but I liked the PoquiPoqui in Laoag more...Hidden Garden is at Brgy. Bulala in Vigan...I think the kalesa drivers would know ;)

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