The Exciting Pagudpod Beach and other Destinations

Our North Luzon Road Trip Leg #4
The Exciting Pagudpod Beach and other Destinations

by Danny Tariman

Creamy white, powdery sand, crystal blue waters, fresh & crisp clean wind – these are the minimum description I can give for Pagudpud. For most people, this place is referred to as the Boracay of the North – Boracay being the very famous beach in the Visayas!

Pagudpud is our 4th destination of this 6-day road trip to Northern Luzon.

My family in Pagudpod Blue Lagoon Beach
My family in Pagudpod Blue Lagoon Beach

Leaving Laoag City after lunch, we drove north-east towards the northernmost tip of Philippine’s biggest island of Luzon.

I really love driving long distance. And I like our very dependable Isuzu Crosswind which had been our travel-mate many, many times.

For this leg of our trip, we planned to stop at a number of tourist destinations between Laoag and the beach.

The Bacarra bell tower
The Bacarra bell tower

Our first stop is at Bacarra town where a centuries-old Church tower still lives up to this day. I had noticed that for this road trip, we had seen a lot of baroque churches. Bacarra is another one. The main church building had already been restored but the bell tower is left at its state which had been ruined, reportedly, by 2 strong earth quakes. What’s fascinating is the story that old church & tower were built from coral bricks and clay.

Moving on, we drove further north until we saw this Burgos lighthouse. This light house is on top of the scenic hill of Cape Bojeador. This is why it is called also as Cape Bojeador Lighthouse. This shipping navigational aid is still

The Burgos lighthouse
The Burgos lighthouse

operational, for over 100 years of guiding seamen and ships which passes through the northern Philippine seas! The tower itself is made of bricks and was first used in 1892. The caretaker was kind enough to tour us inside the lighthouse’s mini-museum. He showed us old photos while relating to us stories.

At this point, we had reached the north. We continued our drive eastward towards the direction of Pagudpud.

The Bangui windmill
The Bangui windmill

We dropped by the amazing Bangui windmill farm. Wow! The vanes of the windmill are maybe twice the length of a full-sized bus! It is indeed an awesome experience to see these row of windmills that generates electric power! These gigantic vanes stand on over 2-kilometer stretch along the beach. Really a sight to behold!

From the windmill farm we proceeded with our road trip to Blue Lagoon, Pagudpod. This is about 15km further eastward from the long stretch of Pagudpod beach. If you are driving your own car on a half-full tank, I recommend that you fill-up your gas tank at the junction as there are no gas filling stations ahead. I made sure I have full tank because our trip back is via Cagayan Valley.

Finally we reached Blue Lagoon, Pagudpod mid-afternoon. We checked-in a home-stay arrangement. There is a deluxe beach-front hotel in the area but it appears to be very expensive; we are touring on an economy budget ;-). There are plenty of rooms for rent in the area too. In fact, a house behind has a number of foreign guests.

We dipped into the waters late afternoon. And yes! It was crystal clear sea waters welcoming our excitement! You can see the bottom of the sea even at chest-level water.

When we woke up the following morning, we hit the beach again! Haha! This is the reason for a beach outing, isn’t it? And so we just enjoyed the moments we were in Pagudpod.

My family breakfast in front of the beach.
My family breakfast in front of the beach.

The beach quality of the Blue Lagoon, Pagudpod is excellent – powdery, white sand which is truly soft on your feet. The swimming area is sandy also, except on side areas where there some rock formation – good for snorkeling too!

We wrapped-up our Pagudpod leg at about 9 o’clock in the morning. We were headed back to Manila via the eastern side passing through Cagayan Valley – check out my next blog on this as we explore another great destination!

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Experiencing Laoag City and its Hospitality

Our North Luzon Road Trip Leg #3
Experiencing Laoag City and its Hospitality

by Danny Tariman

The progressive City of Laoag is the third leg of our 5-day road trip to Northern Luzon. This is the capital city of Ilocos Norte where former President Marcos is from. We visited a number of interesting places in Laoag and its vicinity – churches, sand dunes, and others.

Laoag City by night, in front of provincial capitol.
Laoag City by night, in front of provincial capitol.

We arrived Laoag at about 7 in the evening, after leaving Vigan quite late in the afternoon.

I was a bit worried as it has been my practice or unwritten rule, that when I travel, I have to reach my destination before sunset, especially to places I haven’t been in the past, for a simple reason: for me to find a place to settle while it is still not dark.

When I saw a lighted signboard “Tourist Police”, I told myself “This is it!” I immediately asked the police officer the directions to the city’s hotels. He politely showed me the way.

I drove to a hotel, checked with the front office, and presto – it is fully booked! We checked another hotel but regrettably, it was also booked for the night. We spotted this economy hotel and tried to check it. There is a room available for us! However, upon checking the facilities, it didn’t pass our cleanliness standard. We moved on!

We prayed as it was getting late. Suddenly, a familiar-looking guy stepped out of a hotel – he was another Willy, friend from Manila. (The first “Willy” we met was in La Union – the first leg of this trip). He was talking to another man whom he introduced to me as the owner of this hotel. And so after exchanging pleasantries, we were able to get a clean and comfortable room from this friend’s friend. I believe that was the answer the our prayer; thanks be to God!

After settling down at our hotel, we explored the city at night. We walked towards the provincial capitol which was all lighted including its fountain – really beautiful for a provincial scene.

The sinking bell tower of Laoag.
The sinking bell tower of Laoag.

Farther we walked, we found this sinking church bell tower, which is actually a block away from the church – the St William’s Cathedral. Inside, the church has a very long aisle, I was wondering, a person to be wed walking towards the altar could be feel nervous with the “kilometric” walk. Hehehe.

The following day, we woke up early to cover as many places as possible. We first went Mass to St William’s Cathedral. Then we drove a bit southward to visit Paoay Church, a centuries-old baroque church where a  daughter of former president Marcos was wed. We were just amazed at how this old churches were made and are able to stand the test of time.

The baroque Paoay church.
The baroque Paoay church.

We continue to drive, and we passed by Paoay sand dunes! This is something new. We haven’t seen this kind of landscape anywhere in Luzon – a vast tract of land covered by all sand.

We passed Paoay lake where the Malacañan Ti Aminan (Malacañan of the North) stands on one of its side. Inside Malacañan we viewed the various rooms of the former president’s family. Wow, they were all grand – big and beautiful.

The Malacanan of the North
The Malacanan of the North

We will not complete the Laoag tour without visiting the Marcos Museum and Mausoleum. We visited the air-conditioned crypt where the body of the former president lies. The body is inside a glass enclosure, you may view it from any angle. The Museum houses many of the Marcoses’ belongings and bits-and-pieces of history.

The dining area of Malacanan.
The dining area of Malacanan.

Our lunch in Laoag is another feast courtesy of our friend Willy. Our meal was at least 10 various dishes, most of them Iloko dish. It was a gastronomical experience for the family. This was totally unplanned and came as a surprise to be invited by Willy to have lunch at their home.

The entrance to the Marcos Mausoleum.
The entrance to the Marcos Mausoleum.

We had been blessed with 2 Willys now since day 1 of this trip. We really had a good taste of local dishes at the house of this friend. Thank you, bro!

With our stomachs still full, we drove on to our next destination: Pagudpud Beach.

Join us as we explore this beautiful beach and the many fantastic places before reaching the beach – soon in my next blog.

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Reminiscing the Past in Vigan

Our North Luzon Road Trip Leg #2
Reminiscing the Past in Vigan

by Danny Tariman

I will always remember Vigan as a town that brought me to yesteryears. Yes, it was an experience roaming around a town set at the turn of century – old houses, cobblestone streets, horse-driven carts – perfect for a post-card photo!

And so, after our La Union experience, we drove further up north, passing through several towns on our way to Vigan.

Sta Maria Church, - a UNESCO Heritage Site
Sta Maria Church, – a UNESCO Heritage Site

Along the way, this baroque church on top of a hill in Sta Maria, Ilocos Sur caught our attention. It is so beautiful, I can’t just pass by; I have to stop and see the details of this old church. We noticed this was declared by UNESCO as “World Heritage Site” – as the marker says.

We toured the surroundings of the church. It is really so fascinating of how it was made! Layers upon layers of bricks. We also get inside not only to thank the Lord for all these blessings, but also to see the interiors of this old church which was originally built in 1769. Indeed centuries old!

Passing by a bridge to Vigan
Passing by a bridge to Vigan

The road infrastructure were all good, I had a really enjoyable ride.

Finally we arrived at our destination: Vigan. I was mesmerized by the charm of this city especially the town square – centuries-old houses, cobblestone roads, horse-driven carts called “karetela”. What I used to see only on postcards, I am now in the midst of the place! This is Vigan Heritage Park.

The Iloko empanada
The Iloko empanada

While captivated by the turn-of-century beauty of Vigan, we tasted one of the famous local dishes – the empanada. This is not the kind of empanada you will usually taste in Manila. The crispy thin crust is filled with sauteed cabbage, Iloko pork sausage (longanisa), and fresh egg. Dip it into Iloco vinegar before biting – uhhhhm, so much, so good!

Of course, there is bagnet – a crispy-fried pork belly – similar, but not really, with Manila’s crispy pata.

After this short food-trip, we hired two karetelas to tour us around the city – one for me and my wife, and the other for our 2 children. Really an experience we hadn’t done in the past.

Riding a karetela -- a horse-drawn cart -- in Vigan
Riding a karetela — a horse-drawn cart — in Vigan

Our first stop was St Paul Cathedral. After we had offered our thanksgiving prayers, we toured around the vicinity and had some photos taken.

Beside the cathedral is the Bantay Bell Tower. It is a structure by itself. I really have no idea why the bell tower is separate from the church – forgive me, I didn’t do some research. Hahaha. But this is also one of the places to visit in Vigan.

My family in front of Bantay Bell Tower
My family in front of Bantay Bell Tower

We also went to the Padre Burgos Museum where we saw some interesting pieces of history for Vigan. In one wall hung the pictures of famous personalities from Vigan, called “Hall of Fame”. There were also some old furniture which were used by some of the city’s renowned individuals.

A display inside the Padre Burgos Museum
A display inside the Padre Burgos Museum

We visited a pottery house where we witnessed before our very eyes how pots and jars are done by hand. Indeed the final look and form of a jar or pot depends on the potter’s hands. After forming the pots, it goes through drying process in an oven powered by firewood! Very educational for me and my family!

After we had toured the places in city, we went back to Heritage Park where we left our car. We bought some souvenir items from the stores lining the cobblestone street.

Rows upon rows of newly potted jars waiting to dry.
Rows upon rows of newly potted jars waiting to dry.

We were pressed for time, it was getting late in the afternoon. We missed other interesting places to visit: the Baluarte and the Crisologo Museum.

We hit the road again, and drove further north. Our next destination: Laoag.

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