Monday, April 26, 2010


I never thought I was into old museums and old churches until I went to Ilocos Norte. There were tons of old churches and relics that we visited, one of which was the Paoay Church. I actually thought it was very nice to get married in such a church with its grand structure and historical magnificence. Near this church however, there is a lake with a tragic and mysterious legend. It was said to be haunted and that every night a large bell could be seen underwater and fishermen would hear it clanging. And every year, the spirit underneath the lake takes a life offering, one of which has been the wife of the famous Farinias. I could not shake the gloom after we visited that lake. After that, we climbed through the Cape Bojeador lighthouse all the way up the wide and steep steps that are a smoker's nightmare. It sits on the hill of Vigia in Burgos creating a breathtaking view from the top of the lighthouse. It is a bit unfortunate then though that at noontime, the lighthouse could be scorching hot. However, being in Ilocos Norte the best sight to see are the Bangui windmills. We took lots of pictures as they were spectacular 70 meter-high structures not only made to create a spectacle but are very useful in accelerating the rural electrification of the goverment. Made by Marcos, no doubt that every Ilocano I spoke with in my short stay there have high regards to the family. Speaking of which, we also visited the marcos museum with his body preserved in wax. Unfortunately, cameras are prohibited inside and if you were so much as caught using one, it would be confiscated by the armed soldiers swarming the place. The place was complete with important letters, pictures, and memorabilias of the late president and even his old presidential chair. Right across the street can be found Imelda's abode where she was still said to retire at times. There were more places to visit like Fort ilocandia and Malacañang of the North but we were sadly lacking in time as our flight was scheduled for 7pm that night and we needed to check in at the airport at 5. we tiredly but exhilaratedly drove back to the airport to await our flight. Hoping that someday, we would be able to return with longer days to spend touring and more money to indulge.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Nasayaat lugar. That is the Ilocano language for "good place".. And it truly was. Some may opt to take the bus from Manila to Ilocos but we opted to travel by air which was only an hour's ride and arrived at Laoag airport nearing noon. We bought some groceries and ate lunch at Robinsons Mall and lucky enough, we even saw Imelda Marcos dining at the food court. Afterwards, we
hired a jeep and went straight for Pagudpud. It was a couple of hours away from laoag and we enjoyed the scenic view and fresh air along the way. Arriving at our rented resort, the Villa Del Mar, I was surprised to see the beach.. it was pure white sand and the water was almost unreal.. Totally blue and clear. We were planning to relax that first day, hang around the beach taking pictures and having an early night for our tour the next day. We did that although in the middle of a relaxing dinner, we received news of the tragic intensity 8 earthquake in Chile and the warning to stay away from beaches as there was a threat of tidal waves due to the biggest quake in Earth's history. I was a lot worried since drowning was the kind of death I really do fear. We slept that night with no small amount of anxiety. The next day, all was well and the sun was shining! We went out to hear mass (which unfortunately was mostly in Ilocano language) and had our breakfast at Papa Nard's Resto. We then proceeded with the 2-hour trek to the beautiful Kabigan Falls.. All the sweating and near dehydration was worth it once you lay eyes on the falls. The water was so cold and light and the mountain air smelled so fresh. We spent about 3 hours before climbing back down and having some cold coconut juice at the foot of the mountain offered by the locals. Next, we went to bantay abot cave or what they call the "mountain with a hole". It was great to take pictures since you could see the whole ocean and feel the strong winds while standing at the edge of the cave. I thought then that I had seen the great beaches in Pagudpud but it was nothing compared to the Blue Lagoon. It was the one they call "Boracay of the North" and with its clear waters and fine white sand, I agree that it really is. Although instead of the populated and developed Boracay shores, Blue Lagoon is a virgin island and untamed. We went to see the Patapat viaduct, Agua grande, and the Patapat Natural Park. Exhausting as the day was, no one complained as it was all worth it. There were even spots we failed to visit due to lack of time and the long distances. No doubt about it, Pagudpud, even if taken the 14-hour drive from Manila would still be worth the long wait and sore backside.


I was actually excited to visit Vigan because of the nice places to photograph especially Calle Crisologo. However, seeing as it is two hours away from Pagudpud where we stayed the night, I wasn't about to photograph Crisologo at sunset if we were to catch our flight at 5pm.. So we went there at lunch and ate at Cafe Leona, a Spanish inspired (actually, the whole town is in Spanish setting) with totally antique furnitures. Even the oven seemed to be a hundred years old. People there were totally friendly and welcoming and walking down that cobble-stoned street gives you a feeling of unreality and poignancy. It takes you back to the Spanish era and It makes you want to blend in and wear your patadyong or something. Although the Kalesa (horse-driven carriages) has become a rarity, there were tons around adding to the "spanish" feel of the place. It was delightful that even fast food chains like Mcdonalds had spanish terraces and chairs. All around us were different arts and crafts that displayed the artistic talents of Filipinos which you could also purchase for pasalubong. If you're looking for delicacies, you should buy the delectable brownies and bibingka at Marsha's or Tongson's coupled with the tupik, which is a a sticky rice with sugar concoction placed inside a bamboo. Other delicacies are okoy, chichacorn, longganisa and empanada (which was filled with the
longganisa and mostly sold as street food). Next on our itinerary was the pottery making. We watched as experienced craftsmen produce masterpieces from rubble and were even allowed to try to make one ourselves. However, I just managedto put dirt in my hands and voila, rubble it still is. Afterwards, we continued on and ended up in Baluarte, one of the best zoos I've ever been in. Sporting animals from regular farm birds to rare llamas, white tigers, ostriches and camels.. it truly was amazing. Always opting to go to the beach during vacations, it truly is refreshing to visit such a place as Vigan which is truly unique and tells so much of our culture. I would truly look forward to my next visit.


I should tell you... I am not normally an early riser. But that day was an exception. From Cebu, we took a cab very early in the morning, disturbing the birds lounging about looking for unsuspecting worms, and hurried to the nearby port to take a ferry into Bohol. It took about an hour or two and the bit of sea sickness I had was totally worth it when we finally arrived. We took a van to tour Bohol and it’s truly an awesome sight visiting the tourist spots! First stop, we saw the popular tarsier which may be one of the weirdest animals, because apart from being cute, you’re not supposed to touch or startle them because they have suicidal tendencies. They are said to be the smallest monkey in the world and can only be found in Bohol. Along the way, we dropped by the famous Chocolate Hills, the choco-mounds-like hills wherein you have to climb quite a lot of steps to view the breathtaking grandeur. Also worth visiting is the butterfly farm wherein we saw and even petted a few colorful and unique butterflies. What amazed me more is the Bilar man-made forest. It was said that the forest was created when former students of a local school each planted a tree on what now served as one of the top spots in Bohol. The uniformity of the height of the mahogany trees and the abrupt cooling of the temperature once you enter the forest makes it quite awesome. After touring these spots, we were famished so we headed to the Loboc River for the floating restaurant. On our way, we passed by the Loboc Church and I was a little curious because there was a bridge in front of it that was only half done. I was told that to complete the bridge, the centuries old Loboc church will need to be demolished. Luckily, that has been avoided. Rumor has it that this bridge was actually never to be built at all, but should serve as a cover-up for some scheme to funnel public money to private hands. Somehow, the scheme was thwarted, and the bridge got actually built.. Or at least half of it. Well anyway, I was excited with our river cruise so we chose from the choices of food offered and chose the first float that was to sail. It was relaxing to eat while floating through the river and listening to the band playing Filipino music. We even passed by some locals who performed Filipino cultural songs and dances. It took about an hour or two and although I enjoyed the ride, I was itching to get to the beach so we asked to be driven to our resort already. I love sand, I love the sun, I love beaches… But nothing compares to the beaches in Bohol! The sand was finer than milk, and the water was clear blue and sparkling. We stayed at the Dumaluan Beach Resort in Panglao which offers great rooms and amenities but a little on the costly side when it comes to food and water activities. Every muscle in my body sagged in relaxation as we sprawled around the beach under the cool shade of coconut trees listening to the lapping of the water and watching great bodies being flaunted about in beach wear. Much of the day was spent in complete relaxation and partying at night. All in all, Bohol is probably one of the best places to visit in the Philippines.


I was so exuberant about this trip as I've heard so much
about this place and its beautiful scenic spots. What could be more damping than a storm

on the very day we were about
to leave! Even more fascinating was that after a short 30-minute plane ride, we were greeted from rainy manila into Cebu by humid weather and a brilliant sunshine perfect for the beach. We checked into Days hotel, which was not a superb idea as it was a bit farther from the city. Excited as we were, we did not waste time hanging about and rented a van straight
away to tour us into the city. The weather was hot in the very essence of the word, far more hotter and humid than manila, it saps your
strength. The city was swarmed with jeepneys, all brightly colored and chromed out like low riders on steroids. The people speak cebuano and it is a little strange to hear vendors even more versed in English than you are. Cebu has some interesting sites, such as: Fort San Pedro, a fort from the 1560s with 8 foot thick walls and a great interior garden area; Basilica del Santo Nino and Cebu Cathedral, which houses the oldest religious relic in the Philippines brought here by Magellan in 1575; and Magellans Cross, which marks the location where missionaries first baptized Filipinos as Christains in 1521. Another is the Taoist temple, which is a must see especially for photography buffs. The entrance to the temple is a replica of the Great Wall of China. The temple includes a chapel, a library, a souvenir shop and a wishing well. The spacious balconies offer a scenic view of downtown Cebu and the awesome dragon statue.The Cebu Taoist Temple is located in Beverly Hills Subdivision in Cebu City. The temple was built by Cebu's substantial Chinese community, with an elevation of 300 meters above sea level. The temple is a towering, multi-tiered, multi-hued attraction accessible by three separate winding routes. After touring, we were taken on this off site resto for lunch, overlooking the beach and offering local cuisine where you were given the choice of fresh meat and fish and have it cooked the way you prefer. The only downside to the place was the visayan music that kept playing and playing disrupting the peace. After a satisfying lunch, we visited Shangrila Hotel and the beach was sensational! All white and fine with beautiful people and catching scenery, I was really sorry we did not check in to the hotel. It was getting dark by the time we were through and it was almost time for one of the reasons we came to Cebu... the skywalk and edge coaster! It was a thrilling experience especially for a person with fear of heights like me. It allows one to walk the outer rim of the hotel tower on four-foot wide walk path with no hand rails. The walk path is found on the 37th floor of the hotel tower. There is no reason however to fear since each walker will be hooked on an overhead safety harness system, the same one used in James Bond movie stunts. Trained mountaineering and rescue teams will be there to assist the walkers in order to ensure their safety. The Skywalker can accommodate ten people. It was truly an experience! Although, if you wanted a remembrance, you would have to buy their photos since cameras are not allowed inside. Anyway, after this activity, the day was done and we were completely famished and spent. We went to Mr A for dinner, a resto-bar with great food, drinks, and ambiance overlooking cebu. You can enjoy the great music with the cool night wind blowing which was totally relaxing. And that was it... Our great day in Cebu... We hurried back to our hotel to recharge for our next adventure on the nearby island. Next stop.. Bohol!