Red Butterfly Travel Series: Ilocos

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It was my first time to travel way up north with my friends. When we got to Ilocos Norte, we tried the radio and were so surprised that we couldn’t tune in to any local stations. The radio was only able to pick up Taiwanese/Chinese stations which I find really crazy!

Another travel agency (Lakbay Turista Travel & Tours) arranged this trip for us. East Avian also has tours going to Ilocos but my friends and I decided to try another travel agency for comparison. The 3 days/2 nights package includes:

  • Roundtrip Van transfers (Manila-Ilocos-Manila)
  • Overnight accommodation at Java Hotel and Polaris Beach Resort (Polaris was fully booked so we stayed somewhere else)
  • Day Tours in Laoag, Pagudpud and Vigan
  • Land transportation
  • Entrance fees
  • Room with A/C and cable TV

All of these for only 3,800 pesos (81 USD) per person. The package doesn’t include meals so you have to have a budget for food and “pasalubong”.

We were all supposed to meet outside Trinoma around 9pm to go to Ilocos, so I was really surprised to receive a text message from our tour coordinator around 7:30pm asking where we are. The vans were already waiting for us at Caltex, North Avenue. I was like WHAT?! Nobody told us that we have to be there that early! I got there around 8:30pm. By that time, the other group was already complete. They were already inside the other van, waiting for us. Most of the people in my group arrived before 9pm so we weren’t late. They’re just too damn early! Excited much?

Day 1: Ilocos Sur Tour

  • Shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad (Bantay Church) – This church, established in 1591, is one of the 8 pilgrimage churches that Ilocos Sur boasts of. We arrived there around 5:30am. This is where the tour started.

Every Holy Week, my friends and I do the “Visita Iglesia” and since there were only two churches in the itinerary, we decide to split the stations of the cross in half.

  • Baluarte – This used to be the rest house of Gov. Chavit Singson. He turned it into a zoo later on. According to the website, it’s his gift to the people of Vigan. Admission is free.

The multi-level house is under construction. Yes. There’s a tree on top.

  • Crisologo Museum – Located at Vigan’s Liberation Boulevard, it is the century-old family mansion of the Crisologo clan whose patriarch, Floro S. Crisologo (known for his involvement in the establishment of Social Security System), got assassinated. Admission to the museum is free.

  • Marcos Museum – Going there during the Holy Week is a very bad idea. Too many people. Cameras are not allowed inside so I didn’t bother to bring mine. I got disappointed though when I saw other people snapping away. Saw Marcos’ wax corpse.
  • San Agustin Catholic Church (Paoay Church) – It is best-known as the “Earthquake Baroque” church here in the Philippines. Construction started in 1704 and was completed in 1894. The katipuneros used the belfry as a watch point during the war. It is included in the UNESCO World Heritage list.

We finished the other half of the stations of the cross here.

  • Malacañang of the North – the official residence of former President Ferdinand Marcos in Ilocos Norte.

After a very long day, we finally checked in to Java Hotel around 2:30pm for some much needed rest and shower.

It’s a really nice place with affordable rates. A Standard Twin room good for 4 people costs 1,980 pesos (42 USD) that’s only 495 per person (11 USD). The room’s very spacious. It has a cable TV, hot and cold shower, a small fridge, a minibar, a veranda and complimentary breakfast for 2.

They’ve got a swimming pool, a tennis court and a fitness gym which hotel guests can use for free. There’s also free wi-fi at the lobby and at the hotel restaurant. There’s something weird about this hotel though…

It’s located at a Caltex station.

Java Hotel
Fariñas Caltex Staion, Bacarra Road, Brgy. 55-B Salet, Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, Philippines
(077) 770-5996-97/(02) 246-1010 /+639175005282/ +639216109910
http://www.javahotel.com.ph

Day 2: Ilocos Norte Tour

  • Cape Bojeador Lighthouse – Built in 1892, it is the highest lighthouse in the Philippines.

  • Bangui Windmills – The first “Wind Farm” in the Philippines. These humongous wind turbines facing the South China Sea are considered to be the biggest in Southeast Asia. Why can’t we have more of these?!

  • Blue Lagoon, Maira-ira Beach – We were supposed to check-in at Polaris Beach Resort right after going to the windmills but since there wasn’t enough time, we went straight here to have lunch. There were so many people swimming I was lucky to get a shot of the beach without people.

  • Patapat Viaduct – The viaduct was constructed to solve the problem of landslides in the area.

  • Kabigan Falls – We trekked for about 30-45mins going to the falls. We were so tempted to take a dip but it was already getting late and we forgot to bring towels (LOL).

On our trek back, we passed by vendors selling “merienda” (snacks). Most of us had “Halo-Halo”. I had “Maruya”, I think.

After that, we checked in at Terra Rika Beach and Dive Resort. It was already dark, probably around 6:30pm, but that didn’t stop us from swimming at the beach. Well… if you call being bashed and thrashed by large waves, swimming.

Day 3: Vigan Heritage Village – They sell lots of different stuff here – souvenirs, food, etc.

We went to Vigan Cathedral (St. Paul’s Church) to say a quick prayer after buying “pasalubongs” and eating “empanadas” at the plaza.

WHERE TO EAT:

  • Cafe Uno at Granpa’s Inn – We had our breakfast here when we arrived from Manila. The food was ok. I had Longganisang Ilocos.

  • Eagle’s Nest Bar and Restaurant – Java Hotel’s restaurant. The food’s ok as well. A bit expensive though.

  • Plaza Empanada –  The empanadas were so gooooooood! And cheap too! The large ones cost 35 pesos only (.75USD).

  • La Helen Restaurant – Apo Idon’s restaurant. We had dinner here. The service was horrible but the food’s ok.

  • Casa Blanca Seaside Grille – Terra Rika’s restaurant. We had breakfast here since it’s the only place open before 7am. It would have been great having breakfast by the beach if the food didn’t arrive after 48 years! It took them an hour and a half to serve our food!
  • La Preciosa Fine Dining and Catering Services
  • Cafe Leona – Some people say the food’s horrible there. Some say otherwise.

My friends and I are planning to go back to Ilocos Norte just to swim (get thrashed again), relax and eat tons of empanadas! Can’t wait!

Lakbay Turista Travel & Tours
Phone: 044-7688182
Mobile: 09275116493 /09162285617
Email: phils101travel @yahoo.com

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