Our Ilocos Roadtrip (April 2012)

Author’s Note: Click on the names to direct you to either a blog or a photo album. I’ve tried compressing the entire trip like this so you can have the chance to create your IT easier :-D

Earlier this year I promised to not let the Holy Week pass without travelling out of town since I reasoned I need the break from work. I consulted this to my father and we ended up deciding to go to Ilocos. I was stoked because it's one of the places I always dream to go to. I’m not much of a history buff but I do appreciate old structures and nature which Ilocos offers in abundance. 

I started making calls last February and none of the hotels in Vigan was available. We ended up renting the only hotel that didn’t cost that much and can accommodate 4 people. Same thing happened in booking a room for Laoag. Officemate learned about this and you know what she told me? She reserved as early as December! Guess I’m still lucky getting rooms in the first place. It’s even risky since I can’t read any reviews from them both so I have low expectations from them both.

Reviews of our accommodations here: Aurelio’s Mansion (Laoag) & Hem Apartelle (Vigan)

I still went to work Wednesday morning then just met my family in Megamall to formally start our road trip. It was about 1:30 pm when we left the mall and traffic was already building up.

We reached San Fernando around 9 pm and it totally ruined my Itinerary. Not only that we have to find where to stay the last minute but I suddenly have to cash out for an accommodation that was not in my plan in the first place. We drove and asked around but it was fully booked everywhere or there was no ample parking. The first one that had a family room available was Hotel Mikka that cost around 2600 a night (family room). We declined this and drove around looking again and the second one that we found that cost less, which we immediately took: La Mer Resort.

We checked out before the sun rose but ended up arriving at Laoag late anyway because of our numerous pit stops on almost every old church (by the way scroll to the very bottom for the church album and blog) we saw. Our pit stops include: 

1. Balaoan Church & City Hall (both facing National Highway)
2. Peach colored church I forgot the name T_T
3. Unnamed Coral Beach (30 mins drive from Balaoan Church)

4. Another Coral Beach at the Santa border (just took photos but didn’t ran to it this time)
5. Magsingal Church, Capitol, Museum and Belfry
6.Grand Arch of Ilocos Norte (of all the arches this is where we found photo ops of tourists the most)

Tip: Hungry? Johnny Moon is right next to the Arch.
7. San Nicolas Tolentino Church

It also took us a long time finding Fort Ilocandia because it was not on a National Highway but still managed to make it to lunch time. After our heavy lunch, we then drove to where we will stay for 2 days: Aurelio’s Mansion. It took us long though, all thanks to my awesome map skills.

We slept in the hotel for a while and got out at 4pm to make rounds. We plan to finish all Laoag visits for the rest of the day so we can have the entire day tomorrow for Pagudpud. We managed to visit the ff. in order, all in walking distance with each other:
Tip: Laoag is best photographed by night. Nos. 1 to 4 in this album.
1. Ilocos Norte Capitol & Park
2. Sinking Belltower of Laoag
3. St. William Cathedral
4.Tobacco Museum
Tip: Dap Ayan Ti is their version of a food court. It is convenient to be open for 24 hours. Although it would have been better if they have an aircon :-(
The next day, since we are going further up north, we went out as early as we can, 5 am, an hour before our planned time. And what do you know? We were held up by a procession of Catholics that spanned so long no matter what  road we took we were blocked in by their line. Our unplanned itinerary of the day went like this:
Tip: The area around the lighthouse is quite small so to best enjoy the place, be really early.
Also, have no place to go to after this? A map is erected on site so you’ll have plenty to add to you IT if you like :-)
2. Another break at one of their open coral shoreline not yet walled by it’s private owner
Tip: Requires plenty of walking. Wear your best jogging shoes and be there as early as there is light. You’ll be walking towards the sun so bring a nice hat, shades and a huge bottle of water.
Tip: The shoreline where the windmills are are really long that you have so many points of entry in case you missed one. I think we saw at least 3 signages on different locations.
5. Breakfast at town Proper in Bangui
7. Meryenda @ Jhonfel’s Cassava and Royal Bibingka
9. Hi-way Market of Salt
10. Bacarra Church
11. Empanada @ Bacarra Plaza
12. St. Nicholas Catholic Church
13. Marcos Museum/Batac Plaza/Marcos Mausoleum
Tip: Marcos Museum is free for public. Report scalpers immediately. Too bad we were one of the victims BUT was a bit lucky because we still got in unlike the rest who paid but was not permitted entrance anymore.
14, Church of Paoay
15 Paoay Lake & Sand Dunes
16. Malacanang of the North
17. Plaza Del Norte
18. Dinner @ Formosa Grille

We’ve already exhausted our 2 days stay in Aurelio’s Mansion so we have to head down to our next destination, Hem Apartelle at Vigan. It’s almost daybreak when we packed up and drove back to Vigan. On the way we were able to have numerous pit stops once more:

1. Port of Currimao
3. Juan Luna Shrine & Museum
4. St John the Baptist Church (Badoc)
5. Badoc Municipal Hall
6. Breakfast at Norte and Sur border
7. St. Mark the Evangelist Church (Cabugao)
8. Baluarte ni Singson
9. Lunch @ Uno Grille (Vigan)

After lunch we took another break at the hotel after check in. We slept for a few hours which we will regret later. Our Vigan tour comprised of the ff:

1. Vigan Cathedral
Tip: Refrain from bringing your car when you’re in the Heritage Village. There is just no ample parking and most turns are just one way.
2. Park & Capitol
3. Simbaan a Bassit
4. Calle Crisologo

We have missed Museums because they close at 4pm sharp. This is extremely saddening for me since I knew that if we haven’t slept we could have finished all of them. We set out the next day but the road trip hasn’t stopped yet:

1. Sta. Lucia Church
2. Our Lady of Namacpacan Church
3. Namacpacan Capitol & Park
4. Aloha Pebble Beach Resort
Tip: The beach is littered with resorts all over. Pick the best place depending on your needs (budget, amenities)
7. Basilica Minore of our Lady of Charity
8. Lunch @ Kambak Resto & Grill

All Churches: Blog & Album

After lunch the only pit stops we made were patronizing local products with the most intense when we bought shrimps. It also took us a really long time out of Tarlac due to the number of vehicles that were also wanting to go home. And even if we took SCTEX and NLEX (the only traffic there is), taking the Manila route instead of the usual EDSA (father was afraid that there will be more people using that road) and reached Cavite at exactly 10:58 pm.

I haven’t travel much yet but I really love that we were able to cover a large area in Ilocos. Sadly we have missed popular spots (different areas of waterfalls for instance) but going to places with only us as visitors is a wonderful feeling, if not an amazing discovery. I would really love to have another road trip to Ilocos but hopefully with a longer time, maybe a week or two. Most would think that the usual routes is enough but i think that to immerse yourself in what most people miss is much more fulfilling than simply passing through. I know there are more ‘undiscovered’ and ‘less travelled places out there in Ilocos, and possibly everywhere else if I ever plan to have a long weekend again. Luna alone is filled with tourist spots not everyone even knows exist! Imagine how the rest of Ilocos contributes to that! Oooohh I can’t wait!

** Do check from time to time for updates!
** Update 5.14.12 Added Cape Bojeador, Bangui Windmills and Kapurpurawan Rock Formation.
** Update 6.3.12 Added Links/Blogs/Albums to Johnny Moon, Dap Ayan Ti, Saud Beach, Fort Ilocandia, Laoag City

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