Hello! Ilocos Norte! – Day 1

I have never been to Ilocos Norte and I was very happy to be invited by Mon to stay in the place where he grew up. According to him, it was approximately a 9-hour night trip and I knew that Bonamine would be my best friend again. We arrived in Fariñas Bus Transit near UST, Manila because our bus was scheduled to leave in exactly 9:00 PM. We were seated directly behind the driver and we had enough leg room to even put our bags on the floor. It was at Php 750 per person because they had an on-board comfort room! No more waiting for the stop over. It was difficult to sleep, though, because I was really suspicious of the people getting in and out of the bus. I fear for the sake of the duffle bag on the overhead compartment.

Laoag Bound - Fariñas Bus Transit

Around quarter to 6:00 AM, we arrived in Fariñas Terminal in Laoag City, where we were met by Mon’s aunt, who will be accompanying us to the house. The air was so cold and FRESH that the difference between city and rural atmosphere could not be starker. Reaching their house, Mon’s mother greeted us from the veranda and the next thing I know, I was being finally introduced to his grandmother. =D She was still full of energy at her age, and I was really delighted to see her. One by one, within the next hour, most of the people in the house began waking up. We had to eat breakfast before going to the cemetery to visit their grandfather’s grave (Mon was the first-ever grandchild), which was followed by a mass because it was Palm Sunday.

Mangoes directly from the tree

Mon visiting his late grandfather's grave in the cemetery

The mass was delivered in Ilocano and I could not understand a single thing. LOL There was also a sinking bell tower right across the street. They say that one can make a wish whenever visiting a church for the first time — I just did that as well. =P After the mass, Mon and I separated from the group to buy things from the market. I also needed my quick fix of coffee and we found one near PureGold, Laoag City.

Palm Sunday mass in Laoag, Ilocos Norte

Sinking Bell Tower in Laoag city center

Before lunch time, we went home to fix our things because we will be going to the river! I forgot the name of the river but it only took us around 30 minutes to get there. As soon as I saw the rows of nipa huts, I knew I was in for a treat. =D

A view of the river directly from the water's surface

Look how clear the water was? Amazing!

River from Ilocos Norte

But before anything else, we had to eat our lunch and I was surprised to see that the watermelon we bought from the market did not have a red flesh inside. LOL A lot of Ilocano dishes on the table as well, and I was particularly pleased with the longganisa and pinakbet. I think bathing in a river was an ingenious way to start the summer season!

Colorful watermelons! I never thought there were yellow-fleshed watermelons

LOL

I think after the lunch was over, I was one of the first people to jump right away to the water and was also the last one to get out. LOL That was how river-deprived I was. The water was not that deep, though, as the deepest part was barely above my waist. It was a good thing especially the place was packed with families with little kids.

Enjoying the cold river water

Mon's sister, Anne, striking a pose

I think these girls were looking for fish and shells to play with

Then at around half past 3:00 PM, we decided on a whim to head to Batac and visit Ferdinand Marcos’ body preserved in a mausoleum. We were not allowed to use our cameras inside and the guard was watching our every move, trying to catch people violating the rule. We were inside for less than two minutes as we only had to walk around the casket.

In Batac, Ilocos Norte after visiting Ferdinand Marcos' body on display

Then for a late merienda, it was a perfect opportunity to eat empanada! After a five-minute drive, we reached this area, with rows of stalls selling food. We sat down in Glory’s Empanada and I finally  had my first ever empanada from Ilocos. LOL

Finally! Got to taste empanada from Ilocos Norte - Glory's Empanada

 

After that quick snack, we went to Paoay to visit St. Augustine Church a.k.a. Paoay Church (“Paoay! Kumakaway!”), a UNESCO World Heritage Site built primarily with coral blocks. We got there late in the afternoon, so naturally, we were not able to see the church lit-up. which was too bad because I was sure it would have looked heavenly in person.

Paoay Church (St. Augustine Church), Ilocos Norte

 

Peculiar material of the structure - coral bricks

 

Tourists in Paoay - Paoay Church, Ilocos Norte

 

 

And in the nick time, just before sunset, we went to Fort Ilocandia’s beach just to literally take pictures. There were also a lot of people and the beach itself was quite OK. We would have loved to swim as well, but we were not to go to the beach until Pagudpud on Tuesday.

Dropped by Fort Ilocandia beach

 

Literally dropped by to take photos

 

Getting our feet wet, but no beach until Pagudpud on Tuesday

 

This amazing race in a day made me love Ilocos Norte very much. =D It made me realize I should be really going around the country more than outside because we have an amazing share of wonderful spots — without breaking the bank. Tomorrow would be a less eventfuly day because Mon and I still haven’t properly slept because of the bus ride! One regret: I should have bought at least two more empanadas to take home with me!

Ready for the longest bus ride of my life!

 

I haven’t posted anything in days even if I wanted to. I was so preoccupied with fixing photos and prepping the items I’d be selling on Ebay. I decided to finally start selling internationally and hoping against all odds not to have an unpleasant experience in doing so. But of course, Ebay has been teeming with lots of scammers (yes, some buyers are scammers too!), I’ve been extra cautious.

Anyway, we will be finally going to Ilocos Norte today and I was just waiting for Mon to arrive at our house before we leave. It took me several hours to make up my mind what to bring in what would possibly be the longest bus ride of my life! If I’m not mistaken, the trip will take almost 10 hours! When we went to Zambales last September, the trip one way was about 8 hours and I had a constant case of “Are we there yet?” for each latter half of the trip.

Hot mess known as packing

 

I’m so excited to go to Pagudpud and also to swim in a river! I Just realized that I only have a pair of board shorts since I don’t really go to the beach a lot, so my gray and white pair will have a repeat performance again. =D I had to prevent myself from constantly packing unnecessary  things I won’t be using (i.e. clothes) but I think I had it easier now than our last trip (to Seoul, where I brought lots of junk).

 

Ready for the longest bus ride of my life --- Givenchy duffle luggage, black Prada nylon messenger, Prada saffiano trick and a camera tripod

 

It was hard to leave the tripod behind, even if it could no longer fit into the luggage bag. I wanted to take good pictures of our trip, and I don’t have the most stable camera hands to yield non-out-of-focus shots. I would just have to carry it freely because I also wanted to try photographing the night sky, free from light pollution!

We will arrive tomorrow at around 6:00 AM in Laoag and we will be staying there until Tuesday night. Most of Mon’s family are already there, and I can’t wait to see the place where he grew up. Manila, see you on Wednesday! =D

2013 Travel Plans: PHILIPPINES!

Contrary to past years when we planned our travels outside the country, Mon and I have already worked on our trips within the Philippines until November. It might be long overdue but it is time to go around the country more frequently than before. =D

2013 travel plans in the Philippines

For the end of this month, I will be going with Mon’s family to Laoag, Ilocos Norte and I look forward seeing the Bangui Windmills, swimming in Pagudpud and, most of all, bathing in a river since I haven’t done such activity in almost two decades. When I was still young and we just moved in Marikina in early 90s, we had to chance to bathe in the river for several summers. It was a highlight of our summer vacation and we, little kids in the area, had a blast chasing each other in the clear water of the Marikina River. Well, due to the increasing number of subdivisions upstream (e.g. Montalban), as well as population explosion, our waters became murky and muddy. And to experience swimming in a river again, I have to go to Ilocos Norte and I will surely be taking lots of photos.

Then in July, I will finally bring Mama to Puerto Princesa because she had been hinting how much she wanted to visit the Underground River. Well, the original plan was to bring Mon’s mother to Hong Kong with us, but as his youngest sister would definitely throw a fit within those few days, the most feasible thing to do was just go somewhere here in the Philippines and tag her along. Everyone, then, will be happy!

But October, well, is a different story. Last Tuesday, Faye and I had been talking over plans to travel together outside company-initiated trips because we were hoping we could at least go somewhere before we leave the company soon. LOL Then on a whim, we booked tickets to Kalibo via Zest Air, along with Mon and seven other officemates for a few days in Boracay.

I never thought there would be a problem with this arrangement but apparently, this Friday morning had its dose of surprises. Last Monday, my sister informed me that my brother’s wedding will be slated on October 26 as it was aligned with the day of their (brother and fiancée) anniversary. So I was then confident with booking on an October 12 trip with my friends on the seat sale. Then over breakfast this morning, I was informed that it was moved to October 12 instead, because there were no available/good schedules for the 26th. O_O

The wedding will be at 4:00 PM in October 12 and there’s no way we can go to the airport  before our 5:45 PM flight. Mon and I’s Plan B will be just to rebook our flight on the earliest schedule the following day at almost 5:00 AM. LOL The catch is, we had to pay the rebooking fee and other possible fees, which might amount to more than what we paid for the original ticket. If thaw will be the case, then we might as well rebook anew and save a couple of pesos. =/

I was furious with my brother because it was difficult to plot our personal plans with the everchanging wedding schedule. They supposed to get married this May, then moved to January 2014, then on October 26, 2013. I did my best to contain my disappointment, though, and was relatively calm with the text messages I had sent him. When I eventually collected myself an hour after, I just looked at the positive side of things. As Faye correctly prophesied while we were booking, if something will happen, then the cost of the ticket will be relatively less heartbreaking. Who would have thought that that something will happen three days after. LOL I was thinking more of erratic weather conditions, because Octobers should no longer be rainy. Anyway, I just hope that the wedding’s schedule will definitely be FINAL because I would no longer know how to react if they were to change it again, with all the hassle of rebooking from Zest Air.

Our 4th year anniversary cut short (Potipot Island, Zambales)

We were on leave from Wednesday to Friday because of our trip to Candelaria, Zambales. I have to admit, I haven’t been feeling well since the weekend and I started seeing rashes on my legs last Tuesday when I took the bath. I just did not want to disappoint Mon about cancelling our trip, and I also wanted to go out of town for this long-awaited, post-exam, relaxing trip. But turned out, it wasn’t.

We booked last Friday, a double, poolside room from Dawal Beach Resort, costing Php 1,600 per night, which we would be renting for two days. But before reaching the place, we have to, of course, commute from Victory Liner in Caloocan (to take the Sta. Cruz-bound bus). The air-con bus was Php 451/pax up to Sta. Cruz and has a Wi-FI available for passengers.

Victory Liner - Caloocan

Victory Liner – Caloocan

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