We woke up quite late today. My legs ached a bit from yesterday’s biking and I even had to use Omega painkiller on my legs. After our lunch, we’ll be driving a lot to first visit Dingras, and eventually to a cultural park south of Laoag. Tita Doris had been wanting us to visit Nueva Era Eco Cultural Park.
It has been almost two years since I last visited Laoag City. However, instead of taking the bus from Fariñas in Sampaloc, we opted to take the plane from Manila to Laoag City via PAL Express. We booked the flight last December 30 and it cost cheaper than Cebu Pacific (which was a surprise). The same roundtrip flight for both of us were around Php 10,500, while the same route was for Php 6,800 in PAL Express. O_O It was our first time to both take PAL Express and visit the Centennial Terminal. I underestimated the traffic situation as I thought it would only take us 20 minutes to travel from Makati, but in fact, we traveled for about 45 minutes. We were still early, though, and we still had time to correct our return flight schedule.
One word I was most excited for today — WATER; be it from water coming atop the mountain or the northernmost body of water of the Philippines, I definitely soaked up the sun! As we would be facing a very busy day, we woke up before 7:00 AM, barely an hour to prepare before leaving Laoag City to go northward to Bangui and Pagudpud.
Driving to Bangui, we had to stop several times because I have been enthusiastically oriented by Mon’s family members to several famous spots, as well as momentary glimpses of both the West Philippine Sea (see what I did there =D) and the Luzon Strait. When we were already in Bangui, I was in complete awe to see the windmills. I knew beforehand that they were big but they were much bigger in person than I had expected!
We spent almost an hour taking pictures and perusing over the souvenir shops by the beach. We then went straight to Pagudpud where both Agua Grande and the white sand beach awaited us. But first, we had to cross the Patapat Bridge (or Patapat Viaduct), known as the 4th lognest bridge in the country and connecting Ilocos Norte to Cagayan Valley. Personally, I had no idea that it was a tourist spot but the number of vehicles stopping so that passengers can take a picture was evident enough of how famous the place was.
Barely a quarter of a kilometer away from the end of the bridge, we arrived in Agua Grande as it was our stop for lunch. It was where the lonely river flows to the sea (to the sea LOL) and the rushing water from the mountain was extremely cold. I have never bathed in a place full of boulders and it was indeed a geological wonder. =D I was really happy in Agua Grande and I can honestly stay there the whole day. I forgot how much the entrance fee was, but it was barely Php 40 per person. They also have a restroom near the entrance (Php 5 per usage) and a cottage could be rented for Php 300.
After eating a very quick lunch, we immediately took the plunge and let ourselves carried away by the water. I also felt like a kid carefullyjumping and crawling from one boulder to another, just to reach the spot where the waves crashed against the rocks. When Mon’s cousin and brother was there, I managed to take photos of them with a 15-foot wave in the background. When it was our turn, the winds might have died down a bit and we barely had a good one. It was still an amazing moment, though,
Netx destination, the white sand beach! Entering the area from the highway, we had to pay another entrance fee. It was Php 20 for adults, Php 10 for children and discounted rates at Php 16 for senior citizens. Driving a couple of minutes from the “entrance”, we dropped by Bantay Abot Cave (which was not really a cave) to take pictures one by one with the rock formation. I think the less-than-an-hour stay there gave me the ugly tanline on my feet, where the thongs of my flip flops were “imprinted”. I should have put sunblock. LOL
After leaving Bantay Abot Cave, we could see Saud Beach below and the white sand shore sent tingles down my spin! LOL The last time I was near the sea was more than six months ago in Zambales, where we did not enjoy the vacation because of my medical emergency. They dub this place as the “Boracay of the North” but I wholeheartedly agree with what Laylay said (she was a Tourism major after all). It should not be tagged in terms of other places because it has lots of charms on its own. I definitely hate when people/places are dubbed as the next-whatever.
Arriving in this place full of establishments, our vehicle was halted and told off by some police officers as we could not just park and swim on the beach because we had to pay for a cottage costing at Php 600 minimum (come to think of it, it was not even a nipa hut cottage but a table with a giant umbrella if I remember correctly). Oh hello capitalism! There was no way we would pay Php 600 for that! We just left and went to a place just outside that area, where we saw a signage on wood saying a Php 250 rental for a cottage.
Granted that we were not in the beach front of that overly-commercialized area, but we loved how slightly alone we were in our own little part of the beach. It has the same sun, sand and waves so I personally did not care. After drinking a big gulp of already warm orange juice and putting on sunblock, I immediately ran to the beach with Mon, his siblings and his cousin. ^_^ The waves were no joke and I had to twice pull myself out of the water because the incoming ones were sucking up the water.
Mon’ sister, Anne, did not bother getting in the water at all. Good call and she just contented herself with the waves crashing beneath her feet. After I got tired dealing with the waves, we just played with the sand and acted foolish in burying ourselves and building ugly sand castles.
We had a 9:00 PM bus ride back to Manila to catch so we left the beach at almost half past 3:00 PM. But barely leaving Bangui, our vehicle broke down. We were in the middle of nowhere and the car had no tools inside for emergency. Mon’s uncle had to hitch a ride on a motorcycle, who graciously took him back to wherever there was a mechanic in Bangui.
After several attempts to repair it and make it run again (which also involved the car acting up midway on the climbing road), we finally made it to the viewing deck where we can see have a good view of the windmills. This is where we significantly spent most of our time and where the darkness fell. We got in the viewing deck just before vendors selling food packed up their things, and even if I were happy with the glowing Moon, we can’t help but feel worried with the whole ordeal.
Almost four hours when the car FINALLY got fixed, I was really engrossed in taking pictures of the night sky, with my camera propped against a bunched up face towel. That was when things got a little creepy because of this shot of the Orion constellation:
Mon and I were just sitting on a bench and we were significantly far from the others (most of them were inside the car), when I took this shot. It had a hand, with four fingers showing (presumably with the thumb bent inwards), reaching out to the sky. Mon mentioned that Anne approached us that time but the fingers in the picture were long and obviously belonging to an adult person. Anne’s fingers were short and stubby as well so there was no way the hand was hers. Just before we left the area, Mon’s brother asked the mechanic why there was no lamp post in the area and he passively answered that a truck accidentally destroyed it, and there area has seen its share of deaths. Yes, plural. Of course, every place has its own urban legends and he mentioned that the viewing deck even witnessed a suicide before. O_O
I don’t usually like creepy stories and I am definitely not the biggest fan of the supernatural. When we showed the photo the others, there was a unanimous sense that something was not right. Superstitions also dictate that the drive should sound his horn everytime he passes on anomalous areas, and we did the exact thing just in case.
We got back in Laoag at exactly 9:00 PM and we went straight to the Fariñas Bus Transit. Our reservation was naturally forfeited and we were not able to ride the bus back home. They have a rule of confirming the reservation thirty minutes before the departure time, and none of us had a working cellphone because our batteries were all empty. We had no choice but to take the second earliest bus home with an en suite bathroom, because Mon’s grandma could not stand a long ride without going to the loo in between stopovers. At least we all got home safely.
Following the previous day’s madness, I was able to get a very good night sleep and recuperated enough energy for the day ahead. But since we did not have anything special for the day, except for the graduation party of Mon’s cousin later that afternoon, it was the perfect opportunity to drop by the public market to buy a few things Ilocos was famous for.
So after a quick breakfast, Mon and I took the trike to the market and went straight to the second floor and looked for his grandma’s suki. I was excited to finally see a pile of bagnet on the table, but it was a bit pricey. At Php 440 a kilo, I only bought half a kilo. LOL On the other hand, I bought a kilo and a half of longganisa, which was still a bit few because I was worried to carry heavy items on our way back to Manila.
We went home around 12:00 noon just to eat some food because we had to go to the graduation party of Mon’s cousin. The party started late, though, because the graduation rites finished almost two hours overdue. Nevertheless, we headed to the third floor of a building somewhere in the city centre, and I was happy to see people arriving one by one. I took lots of photos of their friends and relatives that I had little picture of myself. I even had no picture with Mon and I together.
After the party, before dinner time, Mon and I went to the supermarket just to buy snacks for the following day’s activities! Lots and lots of junk food and juice drinks were shoved into our mini-cart, but I was still comforted by the idea that there will be about nine of us eating them. Going home, we did not take the trike but a kalesa instead — it was my first kalesa ride ever!
After resting for an hour, Mon took me to the the plaza to see the city center at night. When I first saw the place yesterday, I was in awe of how beautifully landscaped it was. But at night, it was amazing! The lights gave it a very dramatic vibe and immediately asked myself: “Am I really in the Philippines?”
As we were still relatively full from the party, we just bought a couple of empanadas from a corner of food stalls near the city capitol. They were nice but not as good as the bunch we bought from Batac the previous day. Tomorrow will be our last day in Ilocos and I cannot wait to finally see the Bangui WIndmills and swim in Pagudpud.