Thursday, December 18, 2014

Top Things to Do in Ilocos Provinces (when you're in a hurry!)

Did you know that I'm so fond of Top 10 lists? I always enjoy reading them on trivia sections of magazines and watching them on YouTube. To finalize my Ilocos provinces vacation posts, I wrote this Top 10 List so I can someday remember what we did while there, and what we've missed and would try to do should we come back again. Take note, these are the things we tried to squeeze in just two days.

1. Walk thru Calle Crisologo.

You haven't been to Ilocos Sur if you haven't walked thru this cobblestone street lined with centuries-old Spanish houses. We checked it out past 3PM and left after about an hour.

What we will do next time: Visit in the morning and come back later at 5PM. They said Calle Crisologo is more picturesque at night. Let's see some other time.

2. Savor Ilocandia's famous cuisine.

Eat bagnet. Just at least once in your whole life. Or while you're in Ilocos Sur. This sinfully (to the health) delicious, crispy deep fried pork made me forget the promise I made to myself that I won't eat (too much) pork again.

Also, I've drank way too much rice coffee every morning I was there - and several more weeks after because I brought bottles of it here in Riyadh. Fred, on the other hand, enjoyed the empanada from Vigan and easily finished three in one sitting! On our way to Manila, we bought Vigan longaniza and a vinegar from Ilocos - such perfect combination!

What we will do next time: When we reached Vigan on our first day there, we were so hungry that we forgot to check out Cafe Leona. Our friends who have eaten there highly recommended their food. Next time, promise!

Although I know how to make rice coffee, we still want to see for ourselves how Ilocos Norte's Banna Blend's Rice Coffee is produced. 

3. Book yourselves in a well-known beach resort.

That's what we did because we didn't search online and book in advance for accommodations. We found Hannah's Beach Resort, tried to haggle with the front desk clerk because of their exorbitant peak rates but to no avail, and ended up splurging and staying in the family suite because it's near the swimming pool and beach area.

But if you love to have your pictures taken with giant cast movie character figures such as Jack Sully and Neytiri of Avatar or Shrek and his family, then you will love staying in Hannah.

What we will do next time: Opt for a homestay! On our way to the resort, I've seen houses with For Rent or Home Stay signs. I do not know yet how the houses look inside but if staying there spells adventure and more savings, then why not?

4. Enjoy Pagudpud beaches.

If you're like us who work abroad and who has a host city that is hundreds of kilometers from the beaches, then by all means enjoy the sea while you're in your home country. If Fred didn't tell me a couple of weeks after, I wouldn't know that Pagudpud is located at the northernmost tip of the Luzon Island and the sea we were facing then was connected to South China Sea.

Did you know that we were nearer K'en-ting, the southernmost part of Taiwan which is just 399 kilometers by sea than we were from Manila which is more than 400 kilometers away by land?*

What we will do next time: Because Pagudpud beaches are so inviting, we would enjoy what nature has to offer to our hearts' content. I would swim, walk along the beach and feel the communion of sand and the sea on my feet, eat seafood at the restaurants with the sun setting at the back of the mountains as our backdrop. How I wish we lingered longer, and maybe stayed from morning to the following day. Maybe, next time.

5. Pet animals in Baluarte!

Had it not for the sweltering weather, we would have stayed a little longer in Baluarte. It was an experience seeing the animals roaming freely. The ostrich walked faster when it noticed that Fred was walking beside him. The llama approached and almost licked us! The perched colorful parrots didn't mind the numerous camera shots.

What we will do next time: Check out how to get inside the mansion of Ilocos Sur's former governor, Chavit Singson. And while there, gape at its grandeur.

6. Glow with Kapurpurawan Rock Formation!

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation is one of the tourist spots Ilocos Norte is known for. Our Ilocano friend told us that kapurpurawan means white in their dialect. Some locals told us that because of some graffiti on the vicinity and even on the rock itself, the local government may cordon off the rock formation. I hope they won't. And I hope tourists would be responsible enough to just enjoy the beauty of nature and leave it as it is.

What we will do next time: Touch the rock!

7. Visit the Ferdinand Marcos Museum and Mausoleum!

It was never in my my travel itineraries. I didn't dream of visiting it. I only know Ilocos provinces for its famous Spanish houses in Vigan and white sand beaches in Pagudpud. So when the chance of visiting the Ferdinand Marcos Museum and Mausoleum presented itself (thanks to our Ilocano friend's wife who made the itinerary), we grabbed it and enjoyed history mounted on a well-curated museum.

What we will do next time: Linger for just a little longer.

8. Check out the old Syquia Mansion.

View from the veranda of the Syquia Mansion

One of the stunning Spanish mansions in Vigan

We learned a bit of history from the tour guide of the Syquia Mansion. History we wouldn't have known and read from textbooks. We're glad we chose to explore it first over the other mansions.

What we will do next time: Check out other mansions!

9. Feel wind power in Bangui Windmills!

Contrary to the museum in #7, the Bangui Windmills has been in my must-visit Ilocos tourists spots. And I dreamed of seeing it for years. I'm so glad I finally did, thanks to our friends in Riyadh who invited us to join them and also to our host family in Ilocos Sur.

What we will do next time: Again, linger a little longer and explore the place. If I have more time, I would walk that beach from the entrance to the farthest windmill then back. Really, why not?

10. Drop by Burnayan Pottery!

We wouldn't have found the Burnayan Pottery hadn't the calesa driver pointed it to us. It is secluded in a dark, aluminum-roofed frontyard and you would have to pass by stalls of Ilocos products to reach it. When most of the tourists were distracted by the colorful keychains, hats and bags and the appetizing Ilocos delicacies sold by the enterprising locals, we weren't. We were there for the culture and the potter gladly answered questions some of the curious tourists threw at him.

What we will do next time: Ask the potter for a trial!

There's just too many things to do and too many places to visit in Ilocos provinces. Next time, after trying to do those What We Will Do Next Time items, we also would like to check out other tourist destinations we've missed like the Paoay Church (and marvel at its architecture), the Bojeador Lighthouse or the MalacaƱang of the North.

Two days are just not enough when you're having fun! And in Ilocos, we just had that.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Rock Formation and Windmills

The Eid Al-Adha vacation this year passed by so quickly! As usual, I didn't use my eight-day rest to do all the things I wanted to do. I didn't clean our cabinets and pantry. I didn't iron as much clothes as I can so I wouldn't have to iron them when work and school starts, and I didn't declutter our room. We just went to the beach which was more than 400 kilometers and four hours away from Riyadh and stayed there for a day, watched movies when we went back home, ate and slept the vacation away which made me guilty but happy at the same time.

But there's one thing I promised I would do this week and that is to finish the Ilocos provinces posts. Let me start with Kapurpurawan Rock Formation.

When I first saw it featured on blogs and travel websites, I knew I had to see it in person. I honestly didn't know it was included in our itinerary so I got excited when I knew it was.

The roads leading to the municipality of Burgos, the most northwestern part of Ilocos Norte where Kapurpurawan Rock Formation is found, were asphalted and lined with stores for quick refreshments. I've read in an article before that one of the reasons traveling in the Philippines is difficult is the distance of tourist spots from one another. But when those distances were lined with stores, quaint houses and interesting people, the journey from one destination to another won't be a bore and a burden. It's just a matter of how you view things.

Take Fred and me for example. Fred was in awe when we reached the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation. I wasn't. He took as much pictures as he could. I didn't. I know I just told you that I was excited when I knew we would be checking out the rock formation. But when we got there, I lost that excitement and continued exploring the area just because we were already there.

Maybe, it's the marsh. Call me whatever you like but I just don't appreciate them. I don't like looking at slimy, greenish and brownish deposits on rocks. But please don't let my preferences affect your plan of visiting the rock formation. Believe me, the whole place is beautiful!

We reached the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation on foot but didn't get too near to touch it. We didn't have enough time because we still had to check out the Bangui Windmills.

At last, I saw windmills! I haven't seen one in my entire life and it made me regret that I didn't go there on a morning when the sky isn't overcast and the waves aren't too strong.

The waves that afternoon were too strong that I almost died when I saw Sunday and her friends chase their slippers which were taken away by the waves. They could have drowned right there and then. I was so thankful that Fred was near to get the kids and their slippers back. It was a tragedy waiting to happen. And I was so thankful that God took care of us then.

I told you, stores are just everywhere here. We ended our trip to the rock formation and the windmills by buying souvenirs from these stalls. 

Entrance fee to Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
Children: P5 / ¢10 / SR0.5
Adult: P15 / ¢35 / SR1.25

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Musings and a Museum Visit

When I posted our visit to Syquia Mansion, I was raring to blog at least three times a week because we've been to a lot of places while we were on vacation in the Philippines and I only clocked five hours each workday last Ramadan here in Riyadh. What's the excuse for my absence?

I have many but this one topped the list. A dear friend passed away. He died of a massive heart attack and our family and other friends were stunned by his sudden death. The kids grieved because they lost a happy, thoughtful Tito (the term my children use for our male friends). He drives them from school to our house and they fondly remember how kind their Tito was to them. Every payday, he would treat the kids to McDonald's Happy Meals. When we learned about that a month after, Fred and I told him to stop buying the kids treats because we know he's receiving a salary just enough for his family in the Philippines. But he said that it was his joy to see the kids happy. Fred and I grieved because we lost a very dependable friend. He was always there when we needed him, especially when we were just starting out here in Riyadh. He helped Fred buy appliances and furniture and brought us to supermarkets for our groceries because Fred didn’t have a car then. He patiently encouraged Fred to practice driving and accompanied him on his free time. He is so dear to us that it took us a while to stop thinking of the loss.

Moving on, our first stop on our Ilocos Norte itinerary is the Ferdinand Marcos Museum and Mausoleum. Visiting museums should be an engaging experience and I regret that we didn't have enough time to read the posters and know some of our country's history.

Ferdinand Marcos was the only Philippine president who declared Martial Law. During those times when military reigned supreme, a curfew was imposed and those caught violating spent a night at the police station detention cell or rendered a community service. But because I noticed that I always have this "Did you know...?" portion on my posts lately, let me continue that here. Did you know that my unassuming mother, pregnant and heavy with me at that time, was caught and detained at the nearest police station because she was still outside, past the curfew time, waiting for my father to come home? Yes, that's how horrible the situation was at that time. No one was spared. Not even a pregnant woman. She didn't spend the night at the cell though and was released after a few hours. When I heard that story, I immediately thought that at a very young age - prenatal, developing, and all - I was already detained! Such an interesting story to tell, right?

Below are images of what's to check out in the museum. When you visit it, be sure to read the posters because you will surely find lots of fascinating facts!

Note: I didn't take pictures of the mausoleum because photography was prohibited.

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