Monday, March 24, 2008

Ilocos Road Trip Part 1

This year, we took a 3days earlier leave from work prior to the holidays of the Holy Week. We initially planned to take advantage of our accumulated miles with a trip to Hongkong, Macau and China thru the invitation of my brother Edward. But Kuya Ricky & his wife Jhing could not make it.

So, we decided to take a road trip up North towards Ilocos Region. The goal is to reach Pagudpud, a beach, known of its long-stretch of white sand, and for its huge distance from civilization. A day before, I frantically researched the Web for the route, the must-see sights, and the best places to eat in the North. I don’t want to be caught information-deficient when Ted asks, nor waste time asking for directions, getting impatient in the process, settling for less than the best.

Besides, I know my husband! He has what you call an “analytic/ logical” personality. If you want to convince him where to go or what to do, give him the facts and the data. He is exactly my opposite, I’m more spontaneous and will be convinced with the reasoning called, “basta!”

March 17, 2007 (Monday)
We left the house at around 6am. Two kids and two helpers in tow, we set our sails via our Hyundai Tucson. We expect several stops along the way, with two restless sons. First stop was Gas Station in North Expressway for wee-wee , Starbucks, and to buy our map. I initially got the map on cities of la union, pampanga & ilocos. I made a mistake. It was too detailed. What I needed was actually a whole Philippines map with only the municipalities written. It’s a good thing I had it replaced.

The EZ Philippine map (90Php) was our bestfriend throughout the trip! It was so much fun tracking our progress and learning the names of the towns that we are about to enter. North Luzon Express Way is the best highway, in the entire archipelago! Newly-constructed, it’s a smooth journey all throughout.

We exited at DAU (toll = 144 Php) and continued through Mabalacat, Pampanga till the Sugar Cane routes of Tarlac. (Victoria, Geronia, Camiling etc.) We stopped again at Mc Donald’s Capas, Tarlac since Hans was complaining of hunger, he didn’t have breakfast. We let the kids play at the play area for about 15mins for them to expand some of their energies. . In my itinerary, our first stop was Gerona, Tarlac, where there’s a restaurant called Isdaan where we can eat. But we passed by Gerona, 9am, too early for lunch.

We reached Urdaneta, Pangasinan at around 10am. We continued to move up north, reaching La Union by lunch time. At the passengers’ seat, my goal was to take photos of the archways, that are the usual sights when you are entering a new municipality Since, I didn’t plan any stop in La Union, thus, we had to ask around for a good lunch place. Most are pointing us to resorts, since La Union is also known for its beaches & surfing. But we only have time for a quick stop. We settle for a place with available parking, called L.U. Hillside Center, San Fernando, La Union. I was a bit wary since we were the only customers & the restaurant beside it was full. But we were not disappointed. The food is good and reasonably priced! We had sinigang na lapu-lapu, beef with broccoli and spicy shrimps for only 333 php! This small restaurant in La Union is definitely recommended for those wanting a good meal but are tired of the usual fastfood chicken & rice fare.

Reaching Ilocos Sur, the rows of mint green and dark green Tobacco fields were a pleasing sight. We reached Vigan at around 4pm. We went around their plaza, whose main attraction is a pool of water with the statue of Elpidio Quirino, and huge clay jars or Burnay strategically displayed.

At the end of the plaza sits the imposing white structure of Vigan Cathedral. It's a beautiful old Church. Mcdonald's even copied its architecture.

To go around Vigan, it's best to take the calesa. The Kutcheros are trained to show you the sights of their town. It costs only 150Php per hour. Our 1st stop was the Bantayan Church Belltower. It's a beautiful brick structure, separated meters away from the main church. We were told that the movie, Ang Panday, was shot there. We went up to the tower, the staircase was cemented but higher up, it's just a wooden staircase, only Ted went higher up. The view is the whole of Ilocos Sur. We were told that the tower was constructed without using any cement, only clay, limestone and egg whites! According to Ted, that was probably the reason why Leche Flan was invented! To make something out of the egg yolks!

Next stop was Baluarte. It's a park cum zoo owned by former Vigan Governor Chavit Singson. There are no entrance fees. It's a very wide and expansive park where deers, ostriches and miniature horses roam freely. There are picnic areas. There are even tigers, snakes, birds, turtles, butterflies. The kids had a grand time! There are souvenirs shops outside the Baluarte. We thought it would be expensive there. No pala, since the stalls are also not paying any rent to Chavit.

We decided to rest at around 6pm and check in at the hotel. We stayed at El Juliana, a few steps away from the famed Calle Crisologo, the location of old spanish-style Vigan houses. Our hotel is also an "old house" but renovated. There's a swimming pool. The rooms are airconditioned. The walls outside are still made of bricks. They have an indoor "well." Typical of old spanish houses.

After freshening up, Ted and I had "couple time" together. We left the yayas & kids at the hotel. ted & I had dinner the Cafe Leona. A local restaurant known for its Ilocano Fare. Since we were both on diet. Me, I need to fit into my bikini for the summer! Ted, well, he needs to. He has a beer belly!

After dinner, we walked around Calle Crisologo. It's Vigan by night at its best. We took photographs of ourselves in the quaint facade of old houses, with antiques horse carriages outside. There was a very nice carriage, we posed quite a lot, only to find out that it's owned by the Funenaria Baquiran! Creepy!! There was a group of photographers. We noticed that they weren't using flashes on their cameras. So, we got the tip! Mas maganda pala pag natural light. Dramatic effect!

What a Day! Watch out for Part 2 of our Ilocos Road Trip!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ilocos Road Trip Part 2

March 18, 2007

The next day in Vigan, ted was asking if the kids wanted to enjoy the pool at the hotel. I told him we can't anymore since we have a full-day ahead. Ted wants a lazy-dazy schedule, while I want to cover lots of places. I know that there are so much to see and we have to be on-time, otherwise, we run the risk of getting stranded on the road by nighttime.

El Juliana Hotel is near Calle Crisologo. On the way to breakfast we took few pictures near the old houses, this time, in daylight. The old Spanish houses are really quaint, some with antique stores, or Vigan souvenirs items. We are not keen on local souvenirs when we travel so we didn't realy spend much time looking around.

We were told that the old Spanish houses, after the war were left by the Spanish Owners, and many enterprising Indios (that's us, Pinoys) occupied them, until they become the owners. They pass it on to generations. Before Vigan was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site, the old Spanish houses were spooky to the residents of Vigan, and they generally don't ply the street were the old houses were. There are about 140++ old houses now maintained for tourists pleasure. You can feel that Vigan people are really, really proud of them.

There are very few restaurants in Vigan that serves authentic Ilocano fares, saved for Casa Leona where we dined last night. We went around the plaza, it seems that Vigan folks don't usually have Vigan Longganisa for breakfast, their Carinderias don't have them! So, we looked and asked around the plaza and they pointed us to Ej's. It's a small carinderia at the back of Landbank. There we sampled Vigan longganisa. They're very small and dark colored, almost black. But since we hailing from Quezon Province, we love Lukban Longganisa more!

After breakfast we rode a calesa again to continue what we've left off yesterday. Our calesa driver is better this time. He gave a running narrative about Vigan and the history of the places that we are in.

We passed by the Penitentiary. Apparently, it's the same penitentiary since 1600s. Elpidio Quirino, one of Philippine presidents was born inside the penintentiary. His mother was visiting his father, who's the jail warden (not an inmate) when she had contractions :) Well, I'm sure she'd rather give birth there, than in their town Caoyan, which was 20 minutes away from Vigan proper.

Next stop was the Burnayan. Burnay is ilocano word for Jars. Burnayan is the place where they make jars. Nowadays, Jar-making is mostly ceramic and involves modern technology. There are now only 2 burnayans in Vigan that still retain the old ways. It entails the use of bare-hands in shaping the clay, and using feet to run the improvised rolling machine.

Once a jar is formed, it is air-dried for 7 days. Afterwhich, they placed it (along with all the other jars) in a huge makeshift oven. They use firewood to cook the "jars." The oven is so huge it's about as big as two nipa huts! As soon as the jars are "cooked" they wait another 2-3 days until the oven is cool enough for them to retrieve the jars inside! The Burnayans could use some reinvention when it comes to designs. They're very, very simple and no nonsense jars. Use mostly for gardens. Or for storing bagoong. It's a trade that can use a lot creative process.

After the Burnayan, we went to the traditional weaving industry, using old wooden looms. I got to the looms. Most of those doing the weaving are old women who listen to radio dramas while they're on it. They make the famous Ilocano blankets, table runners, shawls, table sets etc. The Ilocano blanket is usually cream or white. It's very cool to the touch. You can use it even to warm summer nights. We bought some small kikay bags for my officemates, blankets, shawls and a table runner.

Next we visited to houses of famous Vigan people in history. The Crisologos used to rule Vigan, before the name Chavit permeated the air. Bingbong's father used to be Mayor, Congressman, Governor, you name it, of vigan. We went to their old house. It's the first time I've seen a wooden refrigerator. They've preserved almost everything, even old perfumes bottles of Crisologo senior's wife. Even the car where he was ambushed was there with bullet holes in it. Tons of old books and newspaper clippings about the crisologos political affairs were preserved.

We went to another house, the ancestral home of Elpidio Quirino's wife. Elpidio was a former schoolteacher who married a congresswoman. The lady descended from a Chinese Trader whose trading business did very well, making them one of the richest families in Vigan. The Syquia mansion, owned by the family of the wife of Elpidio Quirino is very well-maintain by the katiwala, a friendly dude named Rusty. A beautiful painting of the lady of the house was done by Mananlasa.

We feel that we've seen the best of Vigan, so we decided to check-out of the hotel and continue our Ilocos Journey...

Watch out for Ilocos Road Trip Part 3 ! (Off to Laoag!)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ilocos Road Trip Part 3

We left Vigan for Ilocos Norte, a little after lunch. Along the way, we made several stops in small towns, most of which have historical significance. We also took the opportunity to do our Visita Iglesia. A Visita Iglesia is a traditional Holy Week tradition of praying the Station of the Cross at 7 different churches. Well, in our case, it's just praying...none of those prolonged station of the crosses, while the kids are pulling our shirts, impatient to leave.

One of the best things in an Ilocos Road Trip, are the littles stops along the way, before you reach your final destination, in our case, Pagudpud. If you are a history buff like me, you will enjoy this route.

Badoc Church, in the town with the same name, is one of the quaintest church whose facade I fell in love at first sight. The church is just small, and "nakakasilaw ang puti" in the noonday sun. The patron of the Church is Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

The old man tending the candles, ask about our whereabouts, and when we told him we're just passing by, on the way to Ilocos Norte. He gamely told an anecdote about their dear Patron. (it was the usual tale, about the statue being suddenly lost, and then being found somewhere else, and/or ten men trying to carry it to move to another church, but are not able to do so.. a sign that the icon won't leave their church..) Quite a character. I bet if you go there today, he's still there.

Badoc town is also the hometown of the famous painter, Juan Luna. We visited his huge bahay na bato (stone house), beautifully restored by the National Historical Institute. I don't really mind paying for an entrance, for these kinds of places. They have a donation box, where we willingly put our share for its upkeep.

It was very evident that the Lunas were rich in those days. In the absence of modern-day cars, the status symbol in those days, were the caruajes (kalesa). They have a garage for one or two caruajes. They also have a prayer room in the terrace and their own "balon" or well. Aside from his photos, and that of his family, some memoirs, there are also replicas of his famous paintings like the huge Spolarium, and the renowned Parisian Ladies, which years ago created a stir when it was brought by GSIS using members' funds from Christie's of London. But I'm deviating....

The Queen of all churches in Ilocos Norte is, of course, Paoay Church. Anywhere you aim your camera, it's a postcard-friendly, feast for the eyes. The architect of the church must have planned the church to be something "to behold." There is an immense space in-front of the church. That distance, allows the visitor "to behold" the grandeur of the church, as one approaches it. Really beautiful! This scene alone is worth the trip!

Across the plaza is a small restaurant that sells Pakbet Pizza. Having several doses of pakbet awhile back in Vigan. We didn't have an appetite for anymore of it, more so, in our pizza. We, instead, had the local Lomi. Sticky homemade noodles. Ilocano Lomi has some achuete, so the liquid is reddish. Quite yummy! We ran out of memory in our camera, and we didn't bring our laptop. So, we looked for an internet shop to download them in our memory stick.

Internet cafes are not hard to find, since Paoay is a university town, because of the presence of the region's biggest university Don Mariano Marcos University, named after the father of the former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.

Speaking of Ferdinand Marcos, our next stop was his hometown of Batac. Batac is now a city, thanks, of course, to the numerous tourists visiting the tomb of the former president. I've been here during my college days courtesy of my roommate from laoag, reylah espiritu. But I noticed the exhibits have taken-in the minimalist style. Gone are the houseful of Marcos' life-like mannequins, all wearing various ceremonial outfits. What's left is a few exhibits of the bills he passed, huge photos of his handsome young self, and needless to say, his air-conditioned tomb.

some marcos' nonsense sayings outside his tomb:

The scene is quite eerie because of the carnival-like atmosphere. It feels like going inside a horro house! Unfortunately, photo-taking is not allowed. One enters the dark chamber smelling of sampaguita, with eerie music in the air. Then, at the center of the room, is the tomb, and the wax figure of Marcos lying on top of it, with a solitary spotlight. Eeew. the stuff that nightmares are made-of. The place reeks of negative energy.

We left the place immediately. We are now traversing the route towards Laoag. We can see the beaches on our left side, and the mountain ranges, on the right. Hey, this is what we studied about Ilocos Region during my high school days. The lack of tillable land made the Ilocanos, what they are now, not kuripot but "matipid."

What happened in Laoag.. did not stay in Laoag. It's up next!!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sunday Afternoon in Luneta

Hans has been bugging us for quite sometime that he wanted to fly a kite. So, this morning when Ted had an errand in Manila, we took the time out to visit Luneta Park, and have a Kite Flying Day! In fact, he was the one who coined the word, when we told him that, we might have a chance to fly a kite today! He said, "wow, mom! Kite Flying Day!"

I bought him a cheap rainbow-colored saranggola only 45Php. Ivan, as usual was attracted to balls. I had to buy him one, kahit na meron na sa bahay, because he kept on pulling the plastic balls on display by the vendors.

There's a slight breeze enough to blow the kite. But Hans, Johnrick and my two helps, Amy & Carol, can't sem to get the hang of it. Hans wants to fly it by myself, but as soon as the fly takes off, it barrels down to the ground again. Hay, poor boy. He needs 5 more years to be able to pull this off.

Luneta is a still luneta, with a few major changes. For one, the grass near the grandstand, seems to be hopeless in becoming green again. It's almost brown because of the number of people trapsizing on it. There are so many people. Bad trip lang yung ibang dahil naninigarilyo.

Rizal monument is still the same. When Ted told hans that, the spot on the left (Tableu) is where our National Hero Jose Rizal was killed, Hans asked, "Where's the blood, Daddy?" :) No, Son. It happened a long time ago. They already cleaned it up.

It's fun to go to Luneta Park again and visit this old haunt when I was still a child and teenager. I remember Ate glo and Ate Dhel used to bring me there with my cousins Steven, Steward. Our baon is usually pan de sal with peanut butter. We would bring mats, and set-up under a coconut tree near the breakwater. Ngayon wala ng halos mga puno. They're building a new complex called Manila Ocean Park. It's already opened but the facilities are not yet finished, so we'd rather visit it some other time.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Ivan the Early Bird & Hans Bottle-lover

Kakatuwa sobra ito si Ivan. He's the first person to wake up in our home! At exactly 5am, you would hear his voice, "huh.huh.." calling you from his territory on the floor beside our bed. He sleeps on the opened sofa-bed on the floor. Ang aga magising! He wakes up his daddy, then Hans. I had to call his yaya, to bring him downstairs for us to get some sleep till about 6am.

They go downstairs together and play at 5am! He sleeps too early kasi, sometimes 630pm, when i come home from work, tulog na. Hans naman sleeps at 8. If he's not sleep at 8, and still watching TV, maya-maya lang, tantrums na, antok na kasi.
Hans is sobrang difficult to wean! Until now, he wants a bottle to lull him to sleep. Hindi makatulog. Eh di ba ubos na nga yung ngipin. So, the dentist advised as na sobrang labnaw na lang yung dede. As in, one scoop for 6 ounces! Wala syang pakialam kung matabang. He just want something to suck on before he sleeps.
I swore to myself, I will really put siling labuyo on his bottle para matigil na, pero di ko magawa. Naawa ako. minsan suka, so, hindi sya magdede. pero, next day, dede na naman. hay..

Ivan eats everything you give him. Whatever you're eating, he wants a bite. Kahit gulay, or tsitsiria. Basta, he will ask and taste it. Hindi naman uubusin. Nguya-nguya lang, then spit. So, cute. He now knows where we keep our food. He opens the fridge, looks around inside. Gets his G3 bottle. He loves the G3 juice, from my company nu skin. He's the only one in the family who finishes 2 bottles a month! Minsan naman, he points to the cabinet where we keep all the junkfoods, etc. Ginagaya yung kuya nya, parang nagsasabi, "Mom, can i see? anong meron?"
I'm so happy how my two little boys have gotten very close to each other. When ivan wakes up, he always want to cuddle with his kuya, and his kuya too hugs him and pats his head. So Cute tignan! Even ted & i are touched when we see them. Si hans naman, wherever he is, upstairs or downstairs playing, he wants Ivan with him. When his Dad brings him to school, he wants Ivan to go him them in the car. When they reach school, he wants Ivan to play in the school slide. We did it once, when Ted waited for us. He was so proud to show-off Ivan to his classmates. I'm so happy na wala na yung dating jealousy stage ni hans with Ivan. We always tell kasi that he's the big brother, he should take care of his baby brother...