a journal on hiking and traveling around the Philippines

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

One Day at a Time – The Ilocandia-Benguet Experience


Here’s a rundown on my butt-numbing vacation up northern Luzon. Our original plan was just to go to our friend Monette’s house in Ilocos Norte and swim in Pagudpud but we decided to deviate from the plan and do a little exploring.


Day 1 – October 17, 2008 – Friday
Viva Vigan!
Travel Battalion : 3 and a half girls – That’s me, Connie, Monette and her 6 year old daughter Ira.
1:00 AM – Departure from Manila to Vigan via Partas bus (Fare 645 pesos; airconditioned; no restroom on board but there are about 2-3 restroom breaks); Terminal is in Sampaloc, Manila
Notes:
Travel time took approximately 9 hours
First thing we did was haunt for food! We asked the trike driver and he pointed us to an eatery called Jaizel which is a 3-5 minute trike ride away from the Partas Terminal in Vigan . Food was cheap – costs as little as 35 pesos per variand plus you have to pay for rice which was about 5-10 pesos ; serving size was small though but tasted good enough.
Crisologo Museum
After checking with the food attendant at Gaizel, we rode a trike to Crisologo street, that famous UNESCO Heritage site which has an entire street filled with ancestral houses dating from the Spanish colonization era; The tricycle ride took less than 10minutes and fare was 10 pesos/head ( I was told that it should only be 7.50 pesos each) Each trike can accommodate four passengers
The trike driver took us in front of the Crisologo Museum which is actually an ancestral house of the powerful Crisologo family – the famous of the bunch are Bingbong Crisologo and the late Congressman Floro Crisologo.
I love this museum because you can take pictures and marvel at everything inside it. It’s a museum that feels like home. One of the main attraction that’s inside it is quite gory though – the pants which Rep. Floro Crisologo was wearing when he was gunned down by an assassin who has not been caught until now. He was killed inside the Vigan Cathedral while a mass was ongoing. Try searching for Floro Crisologo in Google and you will find out that he is an uncle of Chavit Singson. You will discover a lot of political drama linked to Floro Crisologo’s death. Chavit Singson was actually one of the suspects in his murder. Juicy huh.
The Crisologo museum is free (but a donation is encouraged – there’s a small box by the entrance where you can drop off your donation ). Museum is open Monday-Sunday 8:30 AM-11:30 am and at 1:30PM-4:30 PM and the warm, witty woman by the reception – Ms. Remy is a loyalist of the Crisologo clan.
You can also buy some souvenirs here. They have the nicest magnets, keychains and picture frames – all sold at tourist friendly prices. You can also buy some shawls, table runners, interesting t-shirts – priced reasonably at 90-150 pesos.
Crisologo Street
Finally! My foot finally stepped on this famous street which has been fascinating me for years. I’m sure you’ve already seen pictures of this place around the net and on tv.
Souveneir Shops along Crisologo – I regret not buying a shawl here. They have hip colors which isn’t very common – neon green and fuchsia and it only costs 120 pesos at 2meters – after bargaining.
Guess what?! They also sell Havaianas here!
Part Two of Day 1 – Hopping to Laoag
From the Partas Vigan bus terminal , we rode the 1PM trip to Laoag ; bus fare was 137 pesos and it took approximately 2 ½ hours
From Laoag town proper – there are several familiar fastfoods like Jollibee, Mc Donald’s and Chowking where you can grab a bite or better yet, take a trike to Saramsam Café to experience Saramsam pasta – that pasta with mangos which I’ve been wanting to eat but wasn’t able to. (Next time my friend..next time).
Bullied by the waves in La Paz, Laoag
La Paz is Monette’s hometown and is also where the famous La Paz sand dunes are (where Panday, the movie was shot – FPJ version) hihihihihi. In the afternoon, after resting for a few minutes and putting down our stuff at Monette’s house, we got a glimpse of the sand dunes and the beach which was just a 10 minute trike ride from their house.
Did You Know : That there are land mines lying around the mountains near the beach in La Paz ? Don’t worry, the sand dunes area is generally safe. I was told that those land mines were set-up during the Japanese occupation. I freaked out when Monette told me because I just watched an episode of I Shouldn’t Be Alive - where one guy accidentally stepped on a landmine in Mozambique and one of his legs got ripped off. We also had to do a light hike trek to get to the beach and thank God that there were no major accidents.
They have some pretty strong waves in La Paz and none of us could get past the shore. I didn’t even try swimming because the waves looked like they were waiting for an annual sacrifice. I knew they were strong waves because I got thrown back to shore several times and this is me we’re talking about, 55 kilos of muscle and fat mass combined. We had a lot of fun though because we just sat near the shore and waited for the waves to lash down on us. The feeling is similar to getting a massage treatment except that you’re all wet. The shore is rocky but the stones were amazingly smooth that you’ll enjoy lying on it.
How to get to La Paz – the cheap way
From Laoag town proper, hire a trike and ask them to take you to the jeepney terminal to La Paz. Trike ride costs 7.50/head and will last approximately 10 minutes. The jeepney from Laoag to La Paz is 16 pesos/head and lasts about 20-30 minutes. I’m not sure if the jeep goes all the way to the sand dunes because we got off at Monette’s house but you can hire a trike once you are in La Paz or like what some people do, you can hire a tricycle straight from Laoag.
Day 2 – October 18, 2008 – Saturday
Pagudpud Day!
From Laoag town proper – there’s a mini bus that goes to Pagudpud town proper and ( you can just ask the trike driver to take you there). The trike ride to terminal costs 7.50 pesos/head
On your way to Pagudpud, look to your left once you get past the Bangui signage and from the road you can catch a glimpse of the Bangui windmills - rows and rows of magnicifent windmills. Also, from your right, after passing the Burgos marker, do watch out for the top layer of the Burgos lighthouse.
We stayed in Saud Beach Resort which reminded me of Coco Beach in Puerto Galera with its uniformed staff. They changed management already and the staff are quite accommodating and courteous. The open cottage costs 500 pesos for a day tour; Entrance fee is 50 pesos for adults and 25 pesos for kids. If you want less crowd, go here. Their food is more than what we were willing to pay for – quite pricey for me – you will be spending 200 pesos or more , so we walked a few meters from the resort and looked for a nice eatery.

Nice cheap food at Rocky’s EateryTo get there : If your back is on the Saud beach resort entrance, cross the street and turn to your left and walk a few meters. There’s a noticeable sign board of Rocky’s eatery and here you can order food or if they don’t have anything cooked, just buy canned goods from their store and have them cook it for you. Our bill was 250 pesos which included 1 Liter of Pepsi, 6 cups of rice (for 3 girls to share), fried tokwa, 2 small cans of tocino meatloaf, 1 small can of regular meatloaf and I small can of sardines. We were more than stuffed when we left their place. This was actually were Henry Sy used to eat and here you will meet the owner – Ate Helen who is oh so friendly and warm.
VERDICT ON PAGUDPUD : Water in Pagudpud is really very pretty and the people are amazing but there’s tons of resorts and homestays in the area already so I didn't enoy it that much. I was looking for something more remote. I would love to go back though and check out Maira-ira beach or more popularly known as Blue Lagoon.
Day 3 – October 19, 2008 – Sunday
Exploring Baguio Plus Ogling at the PMAers
2:00 AM – from Laoag Partas Terminal, we boarded the first trip to Baguio. Fare is at 466 pesos. This time, only me and Connie proceeded with the trip. Monette and her daughter had to go back to Manila.
8:30 AM – Arrival in Baguio City.
Destination : Tam-Awan Village
To get there the easy way: from Baguio city public market, hail a cab and ask the driver to take you there. Ride will last 10-15 minutes and will cost you about 70 pesos or less depending on traffic. Getting back to the public market is easy – Just hail another cab passing the area or ride a jeep.
I initially thought that Tam-Awan village is in the outskirts of Baguio. The place is actually fronting a residential area. Here’s their website : http://www.tamawanvillage.com
Entrance is at 50 pesos for adults; 30 pesos for students and senior citizens and 20 pesos for children
It has a restaurant, lodging facility, seminar areas, museum and souvenir shop which sells handicrafts designed/made by their artists. You can also buy the paintings in the museum. I got this nice necklace which was designed by Art Lozano and I love wearing it. It gives me great vibes. Ahehehe!
The Finale – Shopping for a wedding dress in SM Baguio
Hehehe! I mentioned in my previous blog that I’m stressing over what to wear in my friend’s wedding this Saturday so to get it out of my work week, I decided to buy one in Baguio. It was also the last day of the mall-wide three day sale of SM so the place was packed. After 1 and a half hour of searching, I finally chose a dress. It’s dark green, goes down to my knees so that my big leg muscles are showing and now, I need shoes to suit it. I got it from Bayo and it’s not actually a formal dress but could pass for one given the right accessories and shoes. It’s so not me and I’m not really excited to wear it but what I love about it is its color and the feel of the fabric, plus the fact that it’s really loose around the tummy area so no need to restrain myself from devouring the wedding feast. Hahaha!
Pizza Vollante – after going around the mall and at the public market, we tried out this 24-hr pizza place in SM Baguio. Connie ordered chocolate milkshake, pasta while I opted for the lemon grass iced tea (tasted like the yellow Halls but I enjoyed it) and shared with her the pesto pizza. Everything was yummy! It was priced like Ave Neto and they don’t charge you with service tax.
Aside from all the wonderful things in Baguio, there’s another refreshing vista for the eyes – the well-toned body of PMAers milling the mall. Sunday is probably their family day or something because we saw a lot of them there. Hihihihi!
What I love About Baguio and Why it’s one of my Favorite Places: The cold weather, the friendly, smiling people even though most of them walk a bit slow, the cheap taxi fares – flag down rate is at 25 pesos, the cheap durable silver and the food! If you drop by their public market, do check out the flavored crinkles by Baguio Pines. It’s good! They sell it in pandan, ube, strawberry and the classic chocolate (3 for 100pesos). I also saw some flavored Lengua. Would you believe the Lengua De Gato now comes in strawberry? I went to Baguio last 2006 and they didn’t have that back then. I love innovation!
By the way, beware of pickpockets in the area.
End of Day 3 – Ride Back to Manila
Connie and I took the 3:45PM Victory Liner bus which was around 467 pesos (basta, less than 470 pesos) for a 6-hour quick ride back to Manila (Pasay-bound). The Victory Liner bus is a 5 minute walk from SM Baguio.
Whew! So that's it. I love the Ilocos region and Benguet as well - there's just so much to see and so many things to learn. I am definitely coming back. One thing that really amazes me about Ilocanos is how they manage to keep their surroundings clean. Amazing! It's something that the rest of the Filipinos should emulate. I also noticed that the woman always look presentable and smart.
Reasons to Go Back to Ilocos : Saramsam pasta in Laoag, Malunggay Ice cream in Ilocos Sur (I now know where to find it. woot woot!), Pinakbet Pizza in Herencia Cafe, Paoay

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