Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Archive for February, 2019

Breathing Adventure: Bring Home the Bagnet (Ilocos Tour Day 3)

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Scramble (pink shaved ice topped with powdered milk and chocolate syrup) is a childhood favourite. If they are scarce in Manila, they now abound in Ilocos.

Food is something the Ilocanos are known for. Among the most popular are the Vigan longanisa (chorizo-like sausage), chichacorn (a popcorn-like snack, except it is crunchier than popcorn), empanada (pastry stuffed with meat) and bagnet (deep fried crispy pork belly). I love bagnet especially if it’s paired with pinakbet (a viand of mixed veggies). Our tour guide does not want us to miss that, so we headed first a pasalubong store to hunt for some nice, crispy bagnet.

I was so excited for the pasalubong, I wanted to go home to sort them out (especially the ref magnets haha). But more things were lined up in the last day of the tour because there are more to see in Ilocos.

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Baluarte is something that tourists would never miss during their visit to Ilocos. If Ilocos Norte is the abode of the Marcoses, Ilocos Sur is home to the Singsons, another political clan. Chavit Singson’s name gives a ring to most Filipinos as he became the governor of the province of Ilocos Sur. Oh, he was also the sponsor of Miss Universe when it was held in the Philippines in 2016.

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Singson’s love of the game and wildlife gave birth to this place which was located just beside a golden structure which they say was his house. It’s like a shadow of Ocean Park in Hong Kong, but some animals could only be viewed through a shuttle ride. By the way, the entrance was free, but the shuttle was not.

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There was also a museum for taxidermied animals caught and hunted by the politician years ago. Beside them are pictures of Singson holding a rifle beside a prized animal that he caught. I must honestly say my stomach fell when I saw the collection of animal heads mounted on the walls. I felt so sorry they had to end up that way. 😞

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We returned to Vigan for a calesa ride. It cost only P150 for four people per hour. The sun was so hot, but it did not stop us from touring around the city to see the church and the pottery house.

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I was quite disappointed that Vigan has a lot of modern establishments. It’s like Intramurous forced into modernization. The romance of the quiet glow of streetlamps is gone and the sun was raging above our heads. The roads were filled by tourists who only ate their fill at fastfood chains.

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We opted to simplier meals along the street. Imagine our joy when we discovered sinanglaw, a soupy meal filled with beef and goat meat. It looks so simple and unattractive, but the Ilocano vinegar gave it a superb taste.

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It’s good to pair sinanglaw with the sweet taste of barbeque.

We left the city before the parade started. Today was Ilocos day and roads will be blocked once the street dancers step in. We’d rather not risk our time staying there because of the seven to eight-hour travel.

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The trip did not end without stopping by the La Union grapes farm. La Union is almost three hours away from Ilocos. The fruits there were small and not so sweet, with some a bit sour, but I enjoyed the experience of grape picking.

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51095749_329816040971629_5483897703337295872_nI’m so glad that we made friends with our fellow tourists during tour. The tour guide was so kind to us, I assured him we’d be joining them again. I’d definitely join them in another destination, but my wallet needs to recouperate. 🙂

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Breathing Adventure: Birthday On the Beach (Ilocos Tour Day 2)

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My mom greeted me a “Happy birthday, darling” the moment I woke up. That realization did not sink in as my brain was still a bit fuzzy at 3 o’clock in the morning. All I wanted was munch on some churros we bought at a mall last night and hopefully, some coffee later in the day.

We left at 4:30 am for Pagudpod, which has a good two-hour distance from the hotel we’re staying in Laoag. I once thought that going around Ilocos was easy because I mistakenly had the impression the tourist spots in the region were only a few meters away from one another. Taking this tour with a travel agency was a wise idea then. We don’t have to get lost and pretend we’re listening to Waze’s monotonous voice.

Our driver first let us see Bantay Abot Cave. The wind was still viciously cold even though dawn was breaking beyond the Pacific’s horizon. What we came to see was not completely a cave but a rock formation where the blue waters could be seen rolling over the rocks and the beaches beyond. It’s unbelievable I am able to see, feel and experience such a beautiful place. What’s more unbelievable was that my mom was quicker than me in going down the rock formation. Looks like I’m too slow for a 34-year-old. 😞

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Pagudpod Beach was just a few meters away. It’s amazing the waters were completely blue, even near the seashore. I was more thrilled when I felt the fine, white sand hugging my toes. Indeed, it’s a dream come true. Here’s the beach I’ve been asking for. Thank God for such a birthday treat! 🙂

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We had a breakfast of longanisa, egg and fried rice courtesy of King and Joy Travel Tours. I rushed to the shore after drinking coffee (can’t live without it) and took a dip. I tried swimming away from the shore, but the waves kept on pushing me back. The waves were good for surfing, but I don’t have the guts to do so and endure the pain later.

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There’s a zip line above the beach, but I find it too expensive (P900 for one person). I’d rather try to make some sand art, but the waves kept on washing it away. Except for this one. 🙂

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The sun was already prickling our skin. We had to leave the sea and dust the sand off our feet before we reach our next destination, including the Patapat Viaduct, the fourth longest bridge in the Philippines.

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Kapurpurawan Rock Formation.

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The Cape Bojeador Lighthouse which is running for more than 150 years.

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This lighthouse is powered by renewable energy, the main power source in Ilocos. They have solar farms and wind generators which is powered by the famous Bangui windmills.

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Seeing them in real life made me awestruck. One of the tourists told us she cried when she saw them for the first time because she could only see them in postcards before. I gaped at the size of one of them. It’s almost as tall as a 20-storey building (or 23 storeys as some blogs suggest) and the wind sails made a low and loud whoosing sound every time it turned with the wind. The wind from the Pacific coast is powerful enough to keep a bunch of them running and the sails were attractive enough to keep the photobombers from getting away our pictures.

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Everything was so sunny and blue in Pagudpod, I wish I could stay for even one day more (or maybe until my next birthday haha). But seeing my mom having fun was the real treat for me. Nothing beats a good memory as a gift for me. 🙂

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Breathing Adventure: An Escape To the Sunny North (Ilocos Tour Day 1)

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We tried to sleep during the eight-hour ride from Manila, but the bumpy highway made everyone in the van a bit jumpy. It’s my first trip to Ilocos and I brought along my mom with me. I wanted to make my birthday a bit special and adventurous, so going along in a sleepless ride is enough to brush off my doubts that everything that is happening is true.

I’ve been anxious for the past few days. Since I’ve booked a tour with King and Joy Travel Tours, I wondered if it was real because I have never tried joining a tour group before. I’m used to getting lost with a group of friends who rely on Google Map and crude instincts when we trek small mountains or search for beaches, only to find out it’s against every magical expectation. Relying upon really positive recommendations and comments, I guess it’s not bad giving the tour agency a try.

I could not believe the moment I’ve set my feet upon the cobblestones of Vigan’s Heritage Village hours before dawn. The cool air seemed to make the streetlamps give a more romantic glow against pitch darkness. About one or two souvenir shops were already open, expecting a few tourists to come see the village at nightfall and dawn. It is so different from the Vigan that is doused in the summer morn which we will see in the last day of the tour.

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Our group went to Paoay after a 30-minute picture taking. Upon reaching St Augustine Church, the breaking dawn was already basking it in heavenly light. I was surprised that tourists were flocking in the region at this time of the year. I first thought that tourists only come to the Ilocos region during school breaks and long holidays. I guess adventures are not hindered by calendar dates because everyone wants a little escapade once in a while.

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Now, my favorite part of today’s trip is the Paoay sand dunes. A 4×4 jeep brings tourists through a bumpy and sandy ride along the coast. My mom, who’s in her 70s, says no to adventures. She was with younger tourists, but that did not intimidate her from having fun while the jeep was going up and down the steep and hilly terrain. Oh, she was so happy she can’t hide it in pictures.

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What I did not expect was her willingness to try sandboarding! The instructor was so scared to have a 73-year-old on board, he kept on telling her to listen to his instructions. She did not tumble down the sand, but she stopped screaming when the sand entered her mouth haha.

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I had so much fun with sandboarding I gave it a second try. However, the sand kept me from yelling “Yahoo!”, too.

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Our last stop for the day was the Malacañang of the North. This was former President Ferdinand Marcos’ abode during his reign. Love him or hate him, tourists still stop by to quench their curiosity in what they can find in these vintage walls.

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They say Marcos used to ride his jet ski over this lake that now serves as a fishpond beside his old house.

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Marcos’ old office.

The Marcos Mausoleum could have been a part of our itinerary if we came before he was buried at Libingan Ng Mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) a few years ago. That seemed to be a morbid place to visit, but I’d like to see whether it’s true that the one lying in the glass coffin was a wax figure after his death in 1989. But there’s no chance for that now. Instead, what was left in the Malacañang of the North were memorabilia of his regime.

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We checked in our hotel early before 12 o’clock. It’s great we got so much time to rest before tomorrow’s long tour. What’s not so great was that the sand in our shoes were starting to stick on the shiny floor and clean white bed sheets. 😞

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