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!