Life in the Fast Lane


December Travel Diary: Ilocos Norte

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Happy New Year!

Hello, everyone! It's been quite some time since I last blogged (or even remembered to check my blog). Forgive me, please. There have been Christmas parties and get-togethers with different sets of people, in true Filipino fashion, over these past few weeks, so things have been pretty hectic!

Now that the Holidays are officially over, though — cue emo tears — I can finally write about the trip my family and I took the days leading up to New Year's Eve.

My sister-in-law Anna and her family graciously invited us to their place in Ilocos Norte, and gamely toured us around. Since none of us had ever been there (except my brother Chuck, who had already gone with them several times when he was already dating Anna), we were more than happy to go.

Here we were (minus Dad, who had to work, unfortunately) at the Laoag International Airport.

What we didn't expect at all was that it would be cool (sometimes cold, even) when we got to Ilocos.

While Chuck and Anna drove off to Anna's clan's home, the rest of us made Plaza del Norte Hotel & Convention Center our home for the next few days.

Not bad at all, I have to say.

On our first day, we were whisked off to the famous Paoay Church. It was founded in 1686 and completed in 1710. Today, it is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site as an example of a Baroque church in the Philippines.

Group shot of the Ilocos newbies, plus Anna's lovely mom!

Then we had lunch. Naturalmente, it had to be Ilocos empanada.

Anna's family suggested we try Glory's Empanada, so we drove over to the roadside eatery with rows upon rows of tables and different empanada stalls. Immediately, I could smell the distinct aroma of fried empanada, and I was more than ready to tuck in.

A little tip from the Ilocanos: before every bite, drizzle the empanada with suka (vinegar) for an extra kick.


Then we drove to Playa Tropical for an afternoon in the beach.

Please note that this was my first time to hit the beach for the entire year, so needless to say, I was beyond stoked! To my surprise, the water was really clear and the sand was soft and fine. I was walking around without slippers most of the time.

Windblown hair, don't care!

Meanwhile, everyone else stayed in the little hut that we rented for the day.

When it was time to go, I managed to capture one more shot. I'm a sucker for pretty sunset (and sunrise) beach photos, but the sun hadn't quite set by the time we were getting ready to leave. I'm happy with how this photo turned out, though.

The following day, I managed to sneak in a semi-trail run (something I never get to do in Manila!) and a run on the highway. It was a breezy morning even at 8:00; a far cry from how humid it would already be in Manila if I were to attempt to run around that time.

On the agenda that day was a two-hour drive to Pagudpud, but before that, we stopped over at two places first.

Our first destination was something I never imagined I'd really enjoy: the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation. It was quite a sight to behold!

When you alight from your vehicle, you have to make your way down to a certain carved out path (you can also go horseback riding around there, by the way). This is what you see when you reach that area:

You walk further down, and you see an interplay of greens and blues. It felt like something out of Lord of the Rings for me. I went shutterhappy, seriously.

Finally, you see the rock formation in all its massiveness.

Missing Dad here.

Truly, our God is a Master Artist.

Another twenty minutes by car, we reached our second pitstop: the Bangui Windmills. 

I don't exactly know the science behind it, but they use renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gases. Each blade of these giants is around 41 meters long, supposedly. 

By the way, can you see how tiny people are compared to these windmills (lower left of the photo)? I always thought the windmills were much smaller based on pictures 'til I saw them with my own eyes.

Then we finally made our way to Pagudpud Beach, a.k.a. the "Boracay of the North"; not sure if this makes the Ilocanos proud because of or annoyed with the comparison.

Sand-wise, the texture is pretty much comparable. Soft, powdery, the kind you could walk on all day long. I think Boracay's is still whiter, but that's a non-issue.

What none of us were prepared for was the biting cold that day. It was extremely windy! Imagine Tagaytay- or Baguio-like weather in the beach.

Which meant that the waves were really choppy. I normally swim far out into the open water, but I didn't want to risk it because the waves were quite high and would slap against us like a ton of bricks (there were surfers around me if that gives you an idea of the kind of waves we had that day).

I'd love to go back, though. It was a gorgeous beach and I wish there were more time — and a bit more sun! — to enjoy it. We didn't stay very long since it was really cold that day. (After taking a shower and dressing up, I was actually wearing a jacket. On the beach. There's always a first time for everything!)

For those who are interested, though, there are so many things to do there: zipline from a hill straight down to the beach, jet ski, take surfing lessons, or simply enjoy the powdery fine sand.

On our third and final day, I spent the morning being lazy by our hotel poolside.

Then Anna and her Nicolas clan relatives (we were a three-van convoy) picked us up for lunch. We were taken to Saramsam where they served us Ilocano twists to pizza, pasta, and of course, bagnet.

For pizza, we had pakbet pizza, longanissa pizza, and poque-poque pizza (which is like tortang talong). The pasta, on the other hand, had chopped tomatoes, red bell peppers, cilantro, onions, and Philippine mangoes, with chili oil and bugguong (which is Ilokano for bagoong), and parmesan cheese sprinkled generously all over. The bagnet was heavenly in its crispiness and juiciness, needless to say. A true Ilocano sensation!

I regret not being able to take a group shot of all of us. We occupied half of the second floor of the restaurant; it was hilarious!

Then we spent our last few hours at the Nicolas clan home playing boardgames and chitchatting before making our way to the Laoag International Airport.

Thank you, Nicolas clan, for opening up your home, your hearts, and your beloved province to us! It was one vacation we'll never forget and personally, I hope I can come back for another visit soon.

Looking forward to what 2014 has in store for me, my family, and my friends in terms of traveling!

(P.S. Except for the first photo, which was my sister's, the rest of my photos were taken with a Lumix LX5 and an iPhone 5S; please contact me if you decide to use any of them. Also, I have yet to write about how the Holidays went, so please expect this in a future post. Thank you!)

For more information about the places we went to, please see below:

Plaza del Norte Hotel & Convention Center
Barangay 41 Balacad, Laoag City, Ilocos Norte
(077) 670 8817

Glory's Empanada
Batac, Ilocos Norte

Playa Tropical
Brgy. Victoria, Currimao, Ilocos Norte
(077) 670 1211

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
Burgos, Ilocos Norte

Bangui Windmill Farm
Bangui, Ilocos Norte

Hannah's Beach Resort
Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Saramsam Restaurant
N. Corpuz Building, Rizal Street corner Hizon St., 
Barangay 7-A, Laoag City, Ilocos Norte

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  1. Great pictures of Ilocos. My dad is from there, but sadly, he never took us there. All we hear are his stories about Ilocos. Well, maybe someday :)

  2. Hello, Marc! Thanks for dropping by. I hope you can visit Ilocos soon! It's a great province. :)

  3. Hi! Love your shots and adventures! I'm going to Cebu soon and is looking on for cheap hotels :D I am open for suggestions bcoz I still can't decide where to stay hehe Any suggestion?


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