Whew! Just got out of Ilocos Sur and boy was the place great. Bad news is I’m back driving on the road, the good news is Laoag City is only about 80kms from Vigan City. So it’s like a scooter ride compared to the grueling 400kms from Manila to Vigan. Not long after leaving Vigan we reach the Ilocos Norte provincial arch.
First on the itinerary was the sleepy town of Badoc. Badoc what? Is there really such a town in the Philippines? I guess so, if there’s a macabebe town or a tikol town, I’m sure there must be a Badoc somewhere. Now quickly name me five (5) national heroes of the Philippines… jose rizal, Andres bonifacio, Emilio Aguinaldo, apolinario mabini and maybe ninoy Aquino right? Well Badoc is the hometown of one of our national heroes, who may not be on your top 5 names, Juan Luna. That guy with the moustache we read in history class when we were younger, who we were told painted the masterpiece Spolarium, that Juan Luna. Not the street in Binondo okay, but Juan Luna the Man!
Going in the Juan Luna Shrine I initially thought you can come from the most humble beginnings and yet can be capable of the most amazing things. I imagined the place circa 1870s when he was a young boy, streets were not paved and not as wide, population must have been low, transportation only on horse’s back, and how far must Manila have been during that time. To put it bluntly he came from nowhereland and yet achieved honor everywhere.
Inside we see the artist’s works including his masterpiece “the Spolarium”. You can also see four of his actual palletes used in painting and also find his brother Antonio’s uniform during the war. You could see the Luna family tree and some artifacts used during Juan Luna’s days.
As I get to tour the entire shrine, slowly my initial perceptions of the artist’s humble beginnings begin changing. It dawned on me that the house was definitely not a bahay kubo, the lot is big and made of concrete and it even had a garage.
If at first I thought Juan Luna was poor, at the end of my visit I could safely conclude that Juan Luna is from a prominent family. That explained how he was able to study in Manila, take up hobbies that were for the rich. Though it didn’t change my impression that he was a good artist and a national hero, I guess at least it put my image of him in the right perspective.
A few meters after leaving the Juan Luna Shrine, I glimpsed upon a church. Now you see, after seeing Vigan Cathedral and Bantay Church, my eyes had become aware of what a “beautiful church” is. With that slight glimpse I thought I saw one. So I parked in front and left wifey in the car and armed with my Panasonic Lumix LS-75 I was ready to conquer this church.
It turned out that this church’s name is La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc. It is said that the statue of the Virgin Mary is miraculous.
Inside, I was greeted by the churchkeeper and he told me to place the candles in front of the image and pray my wishes. Of course, the candles were not free.
The church’s exterior white paint at first can be considered mismatched with the belltower’s rustic finish. But the mismatch eventually grows on you and after awhile you can’t deny its beauty. As I was leaving the gate of the church, the bougainvillea flowers caught my eye and I thought it might be nice to shoot it with the church as background. The result was quite nice.
After Badoc, it’s time to search for the town of Paoay, famous for another UNESCO world heritage site … the Paoay Church. As with most tourist spots, the toured place will normally be fronting you as you arrive as if welcoming the visitors. But with Paoay Church, what will greet you will be its rear part. Not knowing this, we excitedly parked. But then again there was this basketball court at the rear part, so unconsciously I might have ignored which part of the church we were in. Anyway as I again went to shoot some hoops, a kid with a ball greeted me and showed me P50, asking me to outshoot each other for P50. I graciously turned it down coz I didn’t want to get beat by an 11-year old.
It was 12pm. The problem with shooting photos during this time of the day is that the sun will create shadows on your face so it was a challenge trying to come up with our “been there” shots. We just tried posing under some tree’s shadows and fired the camera’s flash. It somehow avoided the shadows on the face alright but I guess balanced lighting was not achieved.
The thing I loved with Paoay Church is the serenity of its surrounding environment. Roads are wider in the vicinity, streets are clean, not too many commercial establishments for crowds to gather in. Overall one can sense the peacefulness and tranquility of the place and maybe the people too.
Paoay Church is a thing of beauty one needs to appreciate in his lifetime.
We were supposed to go to the Malacañang of the North but our hotel in Laoag City kept calling asking us if we’ll be availing our reservation with them. So we decided to check in first and come back to Paoay if we still had some time on our hands.
After about 30 minutes we were in Laoag City, dropped by the local tourism office first for some brochures and checked-in with the hotel. I think tourists should always visit the local tourism offices for brochures and recommendations, we also did this in Vigan where its local tourism office was located in Café Leona at the end of Calle Crisologo.
Isabel Suites is highly recommended for every traveler. Our room rate was only P1,000 a night with free breakfast composed of longsilog and the rooms are great. Interiors and colors were very modern and staff were courteous. It also sits right besides a Jollibee branch.
By now we were starving, so we went to Christine’s Miki House just a couple of streets at the back of the hotel. It’s a small restaurant but sources from the internet say that it has the best “miki” or (pasta noodle) this side of Ilocos. We had a hard time finding it coz the signage was painted on their gate and when we passed by the gate was swung inward so we couldn’t see the sign. We ordered the miki, siopao and halu-halo and were quite satisfied with our late lunch. I knew it had a cult following coz tourists from Manila aboard a Fortuner and another group aboard a Starex were also eating there.
We took an afternoon nap and when it was almost sunset we decided to look for the “Sand Dunes”. Our car’s fuel indicator is already bugging us to refuel, but I went on. I didn’t know it was farther than I thought. It made my navigator wife nervous that we might not be able to come back and be stuck right in the middle of the sand dune desertI didn’t intent to go there just before sunset but in hindsight I’m glad we did coz it made the photos very dramatic.
As evening fell, we stopped by Dap-ayan ti Ilocos near the capitol for our dose of ilocos empanada. Dap-ayan is a foodcourt compound offering barbeques, empanadas and other Ilokano cuisine like the Igado and puki-puki. The thing I noticed with their empanada, it is still better than that of Vigan’s. I inquired the manangs why do they think they have the better empanada, they said that it’s because in Vigan they use repolyo while in Laoag they use papaya. It also helped that the Laoag version had a more generous serving of beef inside.
After dinner, we dropped by Fort Ilocandia Resort to book my family’s reservation for the following day and also to get familiarized with the route going there. After that we had to call the day off. I asked wifey to wake me up around 5am so we could have a headstart on our way to Pagudpud the following day.
By 6am we were already leaving Laoag and going further north to Pagudpud. It is 80kms away so assuming I’ll be driving at 80kph, we’ll be there by 1 hour, so off we go.
After 30 mins on the road, we reach the town of Burgos. We had to stop at the town’s pride the Burgos lighthouse or more officially known as Cape Bojeador Lighthouse. If I thought I was early to be there at around 6:30am, I was wrong. A couple of groups were already there before us.
I later realized that being this early was not good for the photos shot of the lighthouse. First, sunlight was not yet as bright yet by those times making shots dimmer. Secondly, when you shoot the lighthouse which is high atop the hill, the sky that serves as background to it is still not as blue yet. It was a liitle gray that time creating no contrast with the subject. This is totally different with shooting let’s say in Boracay early to avoid the tourists being captured in the photo. Here I learned that shooting early may be good in Boracay but not in Ilocos, meaning it may depend on the subject.
That’s why after leaving the lighthouse, the next stop would have been the windmills of Bangui. We skipped this and proceeded straight to Pagudpud coz I knew shooting that early will create dimmer photos.
We only dropped by Pagudpud to book a room for the following day, the day when we’ll meet the other families from my father’s side. Afterwhich, we proceeded to look for the slowly-becoming-popular “Blue Lagoon or Maira-Ira Beach”. It was about 20minutes away from Pagudpud and we noticed that a lot of resorts are being built all at the same time. My prediction is that it’s going to catch up with Pagudpud’s tourism draw very soon.
On our way back to Laoag, that’s when I decided to visit the Bangui windmills. At first I got lost trying to get close to it, ended up in a quarrying site. But it got me to a place where I got to photograph all the 15 windmills from that quarrying site. When we finally found the right route, it was all worth it. The windmills supplies 1/3 of ilocos norte’s energy requirements. These windmills makes sense since wind energy is abundant in our country and we won’t have to rely as much from oil with these operating.
Getting close to these windmills can get kinda scary, I tried getting under one and when I heard the noise from the windmill it really scared the hell out of me. I immediately tried to create distance between me and the windmill. Imagine the gore if the fan blade detached from the pole. I’m not joking, try getting under them and I’m sure you’ll know what I mean.
We got back to Laoag after that, and had to meet the rest of our family at Fort Ilocandia Resort. We booked them over the internet for a family package of P10,000 for a 3 days/2 nights stay inclusive of 4 free buffet breakfast. It was a steal since there were 6 of them that stayed inside the room so it really was value for money and they got to enjoy the resort’s facilities. FIR is the only 5-star hotel up north and has a casino catering mostly to Chinese neighbors from Taiwan and China. The thing with this resort is that you get to enjoy so many things like swimming, mini-zoo, all-terrain vehicle ride, archery, golf driving range, a lagoon boat-ride, beach, beach water activities and many more. So for those looking for an all-in-one stay FIR should be on top of your list.
On our last day, we spent an afternoon in one of our uncle’s brother in Dingras, Ilocos Norte. It is about 45-minute drive from Laoag. The hosts treated us to lunch and all 30 of us ate to our heart’s content. They suggested that we try out swimming in either Batac River or what they call Karingking River in Solsana. We chose the latter since we were told that we wouldn’t be as exposed to the sun there. Off we went, took us about 30 minutes since a good part was in dirt road slowing us down. But it was all worth it. My son, Jaden even got to spend some bonding time with his grandma and the water was crystal clear. The river was a little rocky but the background was just breathtaking.
We also passed by Dingras Church which is another one of the great churches in the Ilocos region. That’s why many devotees make their “visita iglesia” here in the region wherein they travel to 14 different churches. It make sense and it’s like hitting two birds with one stone, you get to observe your holy week penance and yet get to see these great churches the region has.
WOW! All these in just 5 days. It was a hectic schedule but as you can see it was all worth the 11-hour drive. It would have been nice to just hop on an airline and land in Laoag and borrow a friend’s car for getting around. It would have spared us from the long drive and we would’ve more time on our hands to go to other tourist spots. That’s all for now and hope you catch my take on Zambales soon.
So in behalf of Apo Lakay, agkikita tayun tu manin!