Sunday, May 2, 2021

Ilocos Region: The Adventure to the Great North

Ever since I started working, I have traveled to various countries–South Korea, Australia, Canada, Japan, and Indonesia, to name a few. It gave me a broader perspective on life. I got introduced to unfamiliar cultures, met new friends along the road, and explored the underrated cities. But I'm going to tell you a secret. I haven't explored my home country much, and it's a shame.

The Philippines has much to offer, from highlands to islands, from the towering verdant landscapes to the turquoise and cerulean waters. It was a personal choice not to explore my own country because I thought I had already known my home country. The truth is, I barely scratched the surface. Every region is unique–culture, language, and food. Years after traveling abroad, it felt like I had become a stranger in my own country. Now it is about time to get reacquainted with my motherland. With my friends, I traveled to the north to visit the Ilocos Region, my paternal grandfather's hometown. It's a shame I don't speak their language, and my knowledge of this region is limited. Welcome to the Ilocos Region, the best of culture and nature, and the heritage village of the Philippines.

Laoag City, the capital of Ilocos Norte region. The quaint and historical city of the north is 480 km from Manila. There are two ways to get there: by air or by land. Of course, we chose the latter since it's the scenic route. Okay, scratch that. It's a scenic route and a cheaper way to go there. It took us more or less ten hours to reach Laoag City, with a few bathroom and snack breaks in between. Before this trip, the province of Baler was the farthest I'd visited, 8 hrs away from Manila. I have heard so many great stories about this region. This trip is also close to my heart since it's my paternal grandfather's hometown.

Along NLEX

Dawn is breaking at NLEX.

This was somewhere in Ilocos Sur.

After passing coastal towns, countless rice fields, and mountains, we finally arrived in Laoag before three in the afternoon. Upon arrival, we ate some of the best local cuisines of the region–empanada and pancit Miki. As night fell, we toured around downtown Laoag City. Here, you can see the typical setup of the plaza: a church, a government building, and an open space near the busy street. When in Laoag, don't forget to visit The Sinking Bell Tower. The mysterious bell tower continues to spark the curiosity of people visiting Ilocos Norte. Its tale traces a long story of occupation, struggle, and survival—much like the tale of the country's rise and wane under Imperial Spain. The booming city of Laoag continues to undergo tremendous structural changes. The cathedral was recently repainted beige and yellow (much to the locals' dismay), but the old, gray sinking bell tower still stands, tarnished only by time.

The Sinking Tower

The Provincial Capitol

The following morning, we went further north to visit Patapat Viaduct, Pagudpud Beach, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, Bangui Wind Farm, Paoay Sand Dunes, and Paoay Church. As the entire Ilocos Norte faces the West Philippine Sea, the coast enjoys year-round windy weather with big waves perfect for surfing. I dislike beaches, but visiting Pagudpud on a weekday was great. Fewer people were around, so we had the entire beach for ourselves. Spending an hour at the beach was therapeutic. We deserved this short break.

Shores of Patapat Viaduct

Bue Lagoon, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

The beach god, lol

The Bangui Wind Farm is located in Bangui, Ilocos Norte, Philippines, at the northwest tip of Luzon Island. The turbines face the sea from where the prevailing wind blows towards the land. Its location along the shore is optimal due to a lack of windbreaks and limited terrain roughness. The site consists of 20 Vestas Wind Systems stretching 9 kilometers (5.6 mi) over the bay's shoreline. The location of the Philippines near the Asia-Pacific monsoon belt is ideal for installing wind turbines.

Bangui Windmills

With my homies!

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, also known as Burgos Lighthouse, is a cultural heritage structure in Burgos, Ilocos Norte, established during the Spanish Colonial period in the Philippines. The lighthouse overlooks the scenic Cape Bojeador, where early galleons used to sail by. After over 100 years, it still functions and serves ships that enter the Philippine Archipelago from the north and guide them safely away from the rocky coast of the town.

Posing at the foot of the lighthouse

The view of the West Philippine Sea

We didn't care how hot it was, as long as we'd have a great photo together.

Spanish architecture

Are you looking for an extreme ride? Head on to Paoay Sand Dunes. Adventure junkies will surely love this place. Here, we rode the 4x4 jeepney as it rolled its wheels on the rugged terrain. I tried my best to keep my balance as I captured photos and videos while struggling at the back of the vehicle. We also tried sandboarding. I have never tried this before. They say that it is like skateboarding sans the wheels. I got on the board, bent my knees forward like the guide had instructed, and put my game face on. Halfway to the landing zone, I lost my balance and faltered, landing butt-first. I made another two attempts but still struggled to maintain my balance. I would love to return here and try it again to redeem myself!

LOL, I fell twice.


Buckle up!

The golden orb.

The Saint Augustine Church, commonly known as the Paoay Church, is a Roman Catholic church in the Municipality of Paoay, Ilocos Norte, Philippines. Completed in 1710, the church is famous for its distinct architecture,  highlighted by the enormous buttresses on the sides and back of the building. It was declared a National Cultural Treasure by the Philippine government in 1973 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the collective group of Baroque Churches of the Philippines in 1993.

Paoay Church


Sunset at Paoay

Traveling always resensitizes my soul. It awakens my dreary spirit. It gives me the right direction. When I was younger, I wanted to travel to as many countries as possible. The farther, the better. But that is not the whole point of it. I finally realized that I was starting to drift away and settle into something unfamiliar, yet I became a stranger in my motherland. Visiting my grandfather's hometown made me feel connected to him. It took me a long time before finally visiting this part of the Philippines. When I was there, people turned their heads around. They look at me weirdly. What makes me look different from the others in my home country? Because I don't speak their language, I surmise. To quote Ibn Battuta, "Traveling. It gives you a home in a thousand strange places, then leaves you a stranger in your land." I still have a long way to rediscover myself, but this is a good start.

HAHAHA, ano ba?

Drinking our favorite coffee before hitting the beach!

The girls chose not to swim because...


Tired boi

Mestizo boi

Calle Crisologo, Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Itim ko na!

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