Hello! Ilocos Norte! – Day 3

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.

Locating ourselves in the map on the way to Bangui

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!

Finally beholding the magnificent Bangui Windmills

The largest, mini-me of the Bangui Windmills

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.

The famous Patapat Bridge

Overlooking the Luzon Strait from Patapat Bridge - Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

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.

Makeshift infinity pool in Agua Grande,Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Water rushing downstream - Agua Grande, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Mon in Agua Grande, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Newfound respect for freshwater - Agua Grande, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

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,

Trying to get a nice crashin wave in the background - Agua Grande, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

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

Entrance fee to Pagudpud Beach proper - Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Bantay Abot Cave - Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

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.

Establishments in Saud Beach - Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

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.

Saud Beach, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

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.

Look at me overwhelmed by the waves LOL - Pagudpud Beach, Ilocos Norte

The waves were no joke - Pagudpud Beach, Ilocos Norte

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.

Playing with the white sand - Pagudpud Beach, Ilocos Norte

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.

Fooling around while waiting - Bangui, Ilocos NorteFrustrated - Bangui, Ilocos Norte

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.

Bangui Windmills during sunset, as seen from the viewing deck - Bangui, Ilocos NorteAlmost full moon - Bangui, Ilocos NorteAnd the darkness slowly fell - Bangui, Ilocos Norte

 

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:

Creepy hand--- whose hand was it - Viewing Deck, Bangui, ilocos Norte

 

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.

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.