ILOCOS NORTE: LA PRECIOSA RESTAURANT

IMG_7253Still in Laoag.  It was almost noon when we left the market.  We decided to have lunch before going back to the hotel.  We drove around for a couple of minutes not knowing where we were going to eat.  We drove past the emapanada stalls in the city but everyone was still sweating after the trop to the market.  The only criteria everyone was unanimous with was air conditioning.  

We found an old house along the roadside that was converted into a dining place with serves — what else — but Ilocano food.  When we entered the resto, I immediately spotted the two refs containing different varieties of cake.  Should we order dessert now? IMG_7241

The waiter led us to the second floor dining area.  It was still empty except for the function room which was enclosed by glass panelled doors.  We decided to try other Ilocano dishes.  I don’t think anyone was going to order bagnet and longganisa since we have several kilos safely packed at the back of our vehicle.  

Dinardaraan
Dinardaraan

The best seller (for us) was the Dinardaraan or the Ilocano version of Dinuguan.  It had crispy pork bits and the blood was cooked to a pasty consistency rather than souplike.  The serving was quite small, so we we should have asked for two or three orders for the five of us (Atty Leezl doesn’t eat liver or i think it’s innards in general).  For me the Dinuguan served at Eagle’s nest (the resto at our hotel in Laoag) far better.

Fried Bucto
Fried Bucto

I also found the Crispy Bucto interesting.  Somewhat similar to the Crispy Tawilis served in Taal.  But this little fried fish had fish roe inside.  I hope this dish will not put the Bucto in the endangered species list.

The other dishes were okay.  I’m not a big fan of veggies, stew or soup.

We were excited to order dessert after lunch.  Too excited perhaps that I forgot to take a photo.  The waiter told us that their bestseller was their Carrot Cake which they serve with freshly grated carrots on top.  We decided to have Sans Rival and chocolate something (I can’t remember the name).  The cakes we ordered so-so… far from being memorable.  Maybe we should have took the waiter’s advice.  Maybe next time.

 

ILOCOS NORTE: SUNSET AT CAPE BOJEADOR

We waited for the sun to set at Bangui wind farm for as long as we could.  Was dreaming of the windmills against a red-orange washed sky.  It seemed to take forever.  By six in the afternoon the sun was still lingering high over us.  We decided to call it the day and head back to Laoag.  As we were driving along the coast of Cape Bojeador in Burgos, we chanced upon the sun slowly setting over the West Philippine Sea.  We pulled over along the road and got down to the beach to get a better view.IMG_7160

It was an amazing sight.  The golden sky turned crimson as the sun quietly slipped behind the clouds.  Earlier this day, we were looking over the coast of Burgos from high on top of the Vigia de Nagpartian Hill.  And now, we stood in the shore of the Cape, savoring the changing vista.  The sky reflecting on the rocky pools.

Climbing back up the highway, we bid goodbye upon our serendipitous sunset.  There are things in life that do not happen as planned.  We just have to take chances…

ILOCOS NORTE: THE WINDMILLS OF BANGUI

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Standing along the coast of Bangui, Ilocos Norte are what looks like 20 “giant electric fans.” While driving along the highway, one could see the blades of the windmills slowly spinning.  Travelers often content themselves with this distant view.  IMG_7125

From the Patapat Viaduct in Pagudpod, we decided to skip going to Saud beach… opting instead to see the Bangui Windmills up close.  It was almost five in the afternoon when we reached the wind farm.  The Bangui coast is a black pebbled beach with a fishing community along its shorelines.  There was nothing like standing beside this giants.  You can feel the awesome power that they can harness.  There wasn’t much wind when got there, so the blades were lazily moving in the sky.

 

The Bangui Windmills were built by the North Wind Power Development Corporation to take its share in reducing the emission of harmful greenhouse gases (GHGs) causing global warming and to accelerate the rural electrification of the government.

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It is quite a walk from one windmill to another.  The hot pebbles can really be uncomfortable when it gets under your foot.  We were hoping to catch the sunset in Bangui to get a better backdrop for the windmills. But, it took forever for the sun to set.  By 6pm, we decided to leave… the sun still high up there.

ILOCOS NORTE: PATAPAT VIADUCT

IMG_7064We purposely drove to the farthest end of Ilocos to see a bridge.  The Patapat Viaduct is the 4th longest bridge in the Philippines.  It is elevated 31 meters over sea level, is 1.3 km concrete coastal bridge.  It rises along the town’s coastal mountains, which is the starting point of the Cordillera Mountain Range that snakes through Northern Luzon.  The Patapat Viaduct in the municipality of Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte connects the Maharlika Highway from Laoag, Ilocos Norte to the Cagayan Valley Region.

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I’ve seen photos of the viaduct in the internet as well as in our hotel, hanged along with photos of other attractions in Ilocos.  Now, I understand why people were fascinated with this long stretch of highway.  It was built to conform to the winding mountain side of the northern most section of Ilocos mainly to solve the problem of landslide that plagued motorists in this area which have caused vehicular accidents in the past.  It also gives one a spectacular view of Pasaleng Bay and the lush green mountain on the other side.

There was another vehicle parked a few meters away from us when we arrived.  There was no no doubt that they were travelers/tourists like us.  They were busy taking photos as well.  Part of the fun was dodging and watching out for other vehicles passing by.  The place was perfect for photo ops.  Syempre! Kanya kanya din kami ng pose at kuha! But you must keep in mind that it is a highway and you should steer clear to any fast driving vehicles to avoid from being side swept or hit.

feel na feel ang pagpopose
feel na feel ang pagpopose
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wacky naman!

ILOCOS NORTE: BERGBLICK RESTAURANT

IMG_7042Dead tired, sweating, aching limbs, sunburnt… we climb back to our vehicle and drove off somewhere for lunch — rather late lunch.  I wasn’t really hungry since I’ve been downing bottles after bottles of liquid after the trek from the rocks.  I was just happy to be enjoying the cool air conditioning inside car and out of the sun’s reach.  The coastal view of Burgos was soon replaced by the mountainscape and rice fields of Pagudpod.

We didn’t know what to make of Atty. Leezl’s statement about German.  Soon we found ourselves  in Barangay Burayoc in Pagudpod, Ilocos Norte.  We parked in front of a quaint little (not so little) cottage along the road with a billboard that said BerBlick Restaurant… though it was the bagnet on top of the pinakbet that caught my attention first.  They said we were three minutes away from Saud Beach but there was not no beach in sight.  In fact we were facing the Cordillera mountains.  There were a number of vehicles parked outside… and it seemed to be the only establishment along this stretch.  Luckily we found a seats since most of the diners were beginning to leave.

The menu was a combination of German and Ilocano specialties.  There was pasta and dessert as well.  We decided to try a little bit of everything… ordered food for sharing.

We kind of ordered more food than we can handle.  Bagnet was still the best-seller for our group.  Everyone agreed that the pan-fried potatoes served with the BergBlick Pan and the Roast Pork was flavorful and complimented the meat.  Over-all the food was good  though I was kind of disappointed that the sausage in the BergBlick Pan was a regular hotdog.  The price was a little steep but considering the large serving, most orders were good for 2-3 people, it was reasonable.  We wanted to try out dessert but there was hardly any room for more.  

The place was really cozy… cushioned seats, the table were neatly set, cute decors… most importantly, clean bathrooms.  It’s worth stopping after a long drive and before going to your next destination.  Something of surprise tucked in the middle of nowhere.  

ILOCOS NORTE: STA. MARIA CHURCH

IMG_6598I knew that Ilocos had a lot of old churches but had no idea where and what they were, except probably for Paoay Church.

First stop of our tour was the town of Sta. Maria in Ilocos Sur.  We parked in the grounds of the town hall and walked towards the Iglesia de Nuesta Señora de la Asuncion or Simbahan iti Asunta in Ilokano or what is more commonly known as the Sta. Maria Church.  I was surprised to see that the Church was actually built on top of the hill overlooking the town, which meant we had to climb all the way up the grand staircase.  There were a lot of people in the area.  A marching band was coming down the steps as we were about to go up.  Then we realized there was a funeral… and the people were coming out of the church to join the procession.  We had to wait a while for the crowd to thin out.

82 steps! I hope I counted right.

Upon reaching the top of the steps, there were still more people.  Apparently, they waiting for the other coffin to be carried out of the church door.  It gave us enough time to catch our breath.

Built sometime in 1765 by the Augustinian Friars, the Santa Maria Church was designated as a National Historical Landmark on Sept. 26, 1982 and included in the World Heritage List on December 11,1993.  It is grouped together with three other churches under the category of “Baroque Churches in the Philippines” —  San Agustin Church, Miagao Church, and the Paoay Church.  The facade of Sta. Maria Church somehow looked bare.  But the  reddish exterior of the exposed brickwork made it attractive and charming.  It may still pale in comparison with the other Baroque churches that have more intricate design… though the 360 degree view of the town while standing in the church grounds makes up it.

An octagonal bell tower is located a few feet away from church itself.  During major earthquakes, tall bell towers usually are the first to topple down.  Building it separate from the church would minimise the risk and damage to the church structure.

I’m always struggling with photographing churches or architectural landmarks.  I don’t know what angle or detail I should emphasize.  What often fascinates me with this kind of structures are stained windows and glass, the interplay of lights and shadows.  It feels awkward to be walking around inside the church taking photos.  There’s that sense of solemnity that I feel I am intruding.

ENROUTE: BACOLOD-MANILA-ILOCOS

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Atty. Leezl, our tour guide and designated driver…

We’ve been planning to go to Ilocos for some time… but it never seem to push through for one reason or another.   Luckily, this June… we made it.   All throughout the year, airlines have seat sales… and with enough luck, a round trip plane ticket to Laoag would cost about the same (or even less) as a bus ride to the same destination.   But we opted to drive through  5 provinces to reach Ilocos… and touring the Ilocos Region entailed more driving.  We were a party of six of not-so-crazy individuals… who were travelling together as a group for the first time.  

DAY 0

My flight to Manila from Bacolod was at 8:25pm.  Fortunately, there was no delay for this particular flight whatsoever.  By 9:30pm, I was waiting for Doc to pick me up outside the arrival area of NAIA Terminal 3.  We then headed to Quezon City to meet up with four other friends.  We parked Doc’s car in Leezl’s garage since we will be taking Leezl’s SUV to Ilocos.  After loading all our stuff, it was time to take off.  We left Metro Manila a quarter before midnight.  I found it hard to sleep during the trip since I was resting and sleeping for the last three days because I got sick two days prior to this trip.  I was beginning to regret not bringing a jacket since it got really cold inside the vehicle.  For most of the trip, I closed my eyes and talked myself into sleeping because I didn’t want to have relapse while we were in vacation even if we had a doctor in the group.

For the four of us: Doc (who was celebrating her nth birthday during the trip), MP (who was persistently and anxiously asking for an itinerary every so often), Imee (another OC who was due to be back in Davao as soon as we return in Manila) and myself… this was our first time to go to Ilocos.  Leezl (our travelguide/designated driver) and Lani (the co-pilot/translator/”foodie guide”) arranged for everything including hotel reservations.  And the prankster that she is, Leezl wouldn’t tell us the details of the trip.  Whenever we asked what was our itinerary she would simply tell us whatever we wanted to see in Ilocos.  We had no idea where we were going or where we were staying for the next two nights… or which town or province for that matter.  I was trying to calculate in my mind how many hours away we were from our next good bath.

So our Ilocos adventure begins…

DAY 1

With several stops for coffee, bathroom breaks, switching drivers and stretching our legs, we reached the town of Candon, Ilocos Sur at around 7am… just in time for breakfast.  I realized that the last meal I had was in Bacolod, a couple of hours before my flight.  We ended up in a fastfood chain to start off our day.

DAY 2

Wake-up call was suppose to be 6:00am so we can start touring Ilocos Norte by 8:00am.  I did wake up at around 5:30am because I wanted to watch the sunrise, which fortunately can be viewed from the terrace of our hotel room.  I quietly slipped out to the terrace and took photos.  Looked like we were going to have good weather.  I took a bath while everyone else was still sleeping.  By the time I was done, most of my companions were up and preparing for the day.  We had breakfast at the hotel.  We were in Ilocos… we all had the famous Ilocos longganisa, sinangag (fried rice) and itog (fried egg).

Before heading out of Laoag and further north of Ilocos, we made a few stops to buy some water, soft drinks, ice for the cooler, chips and some bread that Lani was craving for (unfortunately I forgot what it was called).  The bread must have been good, they finished it off in no time.

After a good night sleep at the hotel, we were all recharged and excited to see more of the province… especially the rock formations in Burgos and windmills in Bangui.  Everyone was giddy and chatting while on the road until Leezl announced that we were having German for lunch.  “Does anyone like German Shepherd?” she teased.  (My apologies to dog and animal lovers.)  And no, we didn’t have any dog meat.

DAY 3

Our last day in Ilocos.  Woke up quite early and found Atty. Lani all dressed up.  She whispered that she was going to visit some relatives before we head back home.  I went back to sleep since my legs and probably the rest of my body was aching from the trek the previous day.  When I woke up, Leezl was already taking her bath.  I started packing my stuff and took out some fresh clothes that I will be using for the day.  By time Atty. Lani came back we were all ready and packed.

Breakfast was again at the hotel’s resto… and it was still Ilocos longganisa for all of us.  While waiting for our food, Atty Lani brought out something wrapped in an aluminum foil, which was given to her by a relative.  Leezl was sheepishly smiling at all of us and exclaimed, “Ipis!” Unwrapping the foil, I’ve got to agree with Leezl, it was quite close.  But Atty. Lani explained to us it was some variety of bug.  I couldn’t remember what she called it.. but it looked like what we Ilonggos call “labug-labog.” So this was appetizer.  Atty. Lani showed us how it was eaten… taking off all it’s legs and the head… and pop it in your mouth.  Imee, who was the most adventurous among all of us, just ate it whole… and asked for seconds.  So now, we all have had to try it (with the exception of Leezl)… even just to say that we had a “fear factor” moment in Ilocos.  I was hoping this was going to be a similar experience with tamilok in Palawan… but unfortunately, I couldn’t just swallow it.  It was too big and I had to chew.   In fairness, it had no funky taste… it was  actually garlicky.  Too bad, I had no photos for this one.  

Off to the market we went after eating breakfast.  We couldn’t possibly leave Ilocos without taking home longganisa and bagnet.  Checked out of the hotel after lunch and there was still more to see before going back to Manila.

credits: some photos were taken by Argie Villajin

LESSONS ON THE ROAD

We always look forward to going to certain places… getting to our destination in the shortest time possible.  But when travelling with friends, it’s always about the journey… the company… the chance to bond.