The Northern Cities: Our 3-Day Travel Guide to Ilocos

Around same time last year, Troy and I looked for places where we could spend Mama Nancy’s (Troy’s mom) 60th birthday and celebrate Mothers’ Day as well. Our criteria were: can be reached via land travel, and offers activities which our Baby Boomers can participate (some already have joint problems hehehe!) but can still be equally enjoyed by the Millenials. We considered Bicol, Batangas and Quezon but there was something about Ilocos which prompted us to to go for the Ilocandia Region. Excited much!

So here’s our amazing trip to Ilocos! Read on for some tips and travel guides.

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About Ilocos
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With an Ilocano father, my siblings and I are somehow familiar with the language (I cannot speak nor understand though), the culture (Ilocanos are hard workers but procrastinators too, and prudent but doesn’t restrain for their family’s needs), and the food (they love veggies and bagoong isda in their dishes).

Travel Options
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The Ilocos Region, or Region 1, comprises four provinces: Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union and Pangasinan. You can go there by plane (PAL and Cebu Pacific offer flights to and from Laoag) or by bus (most bus franchises are stationed at Cubao). Of course, you can reach Ilocos faster via plane; but land trips are cheaper and allow you to make side trips to neighboring places, e.g. to Manaoag or a day-trip in Baguio.

Getting Around
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Jeepneys and tricycles will help you get around the towns and cities. There are travel agencies which let you rent vans. This is the more convenient mode of transportation since these travel agencies also offer day-trips to Ilocos’ tourist spots.

How did we go there?
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Air travel never became our option. We are 13 in total and it would definitely cost us a lot of money if we go by plane. So I had my dear friend Judith and her husband Levi arrange us a land trip. Unfortunately, something came up and Kuya Levie had to endorse me to his colleague. Nonetheless, the replacement driver was really okay and we had no issues with him the entire trip. The van rental was worth Php 18,000.00 inclusive of toll and gas. I requested for a pick-up at Dasmarinas since most of my folks were from the south.

Kuya Levie also finalized the itinerary. I gave him the list of the places we want to go, and he made the strategy on how to fit those places into 3 days only. He also recommended backpacker inns/hotels, which gave us discounts. 🙂

When to Go?
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Summer is the best time to go. But come prepared since the sun is blazingly hot during the months of April, May and June. Bring hats, arm bands, sunnies, and a lot of sunblock! Keep yourself hydrated to prevent heatstroke.

You can also opt to visit during the cooler months. But since this region is prone to typhoons, you might want to avoid the months of August and September, when most typhoons enter the country.

Where to Stay?
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Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte (Night 1)

We stayed at Glenmark’s Homestay. The cottage had 2 floors and both were airconditioned. The room on the ground floor had 4 beds, while the room upstairs had 3 beds. The bedsheets were clean, and the hotel was very near the beachfront. There was one comfort room though, so if you’re a group of 13 pax, you’ll really need to wait if you want to use it. The entire cottage was worth Php 5,000.00. They also prepared our silog breakfasts. Each meal cost Php 100.00.

Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/glenmarkshomestaypagudpud/
Location: Brgy. Balaoi,Pagudpud,Ilocos Norte (Maraira-ira / Blue Lagoon Beach)

Vigan, Ilocos Sur (Night 2)

We stayed at Kak N Tot Transient House. We rented 2 big rooms for 6 pax. Each room has 3-4 beds, own dining set and comfort room. We paid a total of Php 5,000.00 for 2 rooms. They also prepared our danggit breakfast. Overall, the transient house was clean, the staffs were nice and accommodating, and the place itself was near the plaza and was at least a walking distance to Calle Crisologo.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/KakNTot/
Location: The transient house is located infront of Ilocos Sur National High School.

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NOTE: Expense indicated below are total cost for a group of 13 persons. 

DAY 0-1: ILOCOS NORTE
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Start End Expenses Activity
11:00 PM 07:00 AM breakfast – P1,000.00 Day 0
Pickup at Dasmarinas, Cavite
Breakfast at Vigan, Ilocos Sur
Travel to Laoag, Ilocos Norte
AM Tour MotN – P390.00
Lunch – P1,570.00
LAOAG Leg:
Paoay Church
Malacanang of the North — P30/pax
Fort Ilocandia
PM Tour Lighthouse – P240.00
Rock Formation – P195.00
Hannah’s Resort – P260.00
Dinner – P2,150.00
PAGUDPUD Leg:
Kapurpurawan Rock Formation — P15/pax
Bangui Windmill
Burgos Lighthouse — P20/pax
Hannah’s Resort — P20/pax
Total Expenses (D1) P5,805.00

◊ Start your trip with a prayer at Paoay Church.

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Paoay Church facade

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Paoay marker

As indicated in its historical marker, the Church of Paoay was founded by Augustinians Missionaries in 1593. The cornerstone of the church as laid in 1704, of convent in 1707, and of tower in 1793. It was used before completion and was kept in repair by the people under the joint auspices of the church and the town officials. The inauguration ceremony was held at February 26, 1896.

The church was damaged by earthquakes in 1706 and 1927. The tower was used by the Katipuneros during the revolution, and by the Guerrilleros during the Japanese occupation.

◊ Feel the breeze at Malacanang of the North.

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A view of Paoay Lake from a window in Malacanang of the North

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Our three momshies! ❤

The Malacanang of the North was the official residence of Ferdinand Marcos and the presidential family during his term. It is now converted into a museum housing memorabilia and artifacts of the Marcos family. A stunning view of Paoay Lake can also be seen surrounding the structure.

◊ Quickly pass by Fort Ilocandia.

We just passed by Fort Ilocandia to take some pictures. We had no plans entering the premises since this is a hotel and casino.

◊ Beat the heat at Kapurpurawan Rock Formation.

The rock formation is at Burgos, Ilocos Norte. It is famous for its limestone formations which probably came about through constant weathering of the sea, the sun and the wind. It’s picturesque, so I’m really frustrated I do not have any decent pictures of it! Argh! We arrived here past lunch and it was really really hot! The heat was draining and we had to walk 1-1.5 kilometers before we reach the rock formation. Well, we had an option to ride horses, but you know, the walking part was a ‘must’ experience.

◊ Take a picture with the windmills at Bangui.

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The windmills of Bangui

At least for me, this is probably the most iconic place in Ilocos Norte. Wind is abundant, strong enough to make the mills turn and generate electricity. The windmills are beautifully lined up and spanned the entire stretch of the beach.

◊ Check out the lighthouse at Cape Bojeador.

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Burgos lighthouse

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Yay! Picture!

As indicated in its historical marker, the Burgos Lighthouse was designed in 1887. It also read, “Nagsilbing gabay-tanglaw sa mga sasakyang pandagat mula 1892 hanggang sa kasalukuyan. Natatanging halimbawa ng parola at arkitektura ng ikalabinsiyam na dantaon; ipinahayag na pambansang palatandaang pangkasaysayan noong 2004, at pambansang yamang pangkalinangan noong 2005″.

You have to walk along a steep road to reach the lighthouse. There are tricycles at the entrance which can accommodate at least 3 persons.

Trivia: this lighthouse was featured in several magazine shows due to unnatural events. They say there are roaming spirits in some rooms. Spooky!

◊ Swim at the Pagudpud beaches.

We arrived late at the Blue Lagoon beach, around 5PM. After checking in at the hotel, we enjoyed the remaining time at the beach. There were also paluto offered by locals, so we bought seafoods and let them cook it for us.  I would say Pagudpud beaches are one of the best beaches here in the Philippines.

DAY 2: ILOCOS NORTE (AM) + ILOCOS SUR (PM)
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Start End Expenses Activity
AM Tour Breakfast – P1,500.00
4×4 ride – P7,000.00
PAGUDPUD:
Breakfast at Glenmark’s — P100/pax
Paraiso ni Anton
Patapat Bridge and Viaduct
Paoay Sand Dunes [4×4 ride] — P2,500/truck
PM Tour Museum – P390.00
Lunch – P1,770.00
Dinner – P500.00
Souvenirs – P200.00
LAOAG & VIGAN:
Laoag Sinking Bell Tower
Marcos Museum — P30/pax
Bantay Bell Tower — donation only
Calle Crisologo
Fountain Show at City Plaza
Total Expenses (D2)  P11,360.00

◊ Fill your bottle with water from Paraiso ni Anton.

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The cold and clean water from Paraiso ni Anton

Locals said the water from this stream has healing properties. It was so clean and cold and we filled our empty bottles with it. Souvenir stores were also lined up across the road. You can buy magnets, key chains, honey, and a lot more.

◊ Quickly take a picture at Patapat Bridge and Viaduct.

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Vibrant blues and greens!

The Patapat Viaduct is arguably another iconic spot here in Ilocos. The morning sun added a positive streak making this bridge so pretty with vibrant colors! We stopped for a while and took photos around. Just be careful of the passing vehicles since this road is actually being used by the public.

◊ Play with the sand dunes riding a 4×4 at Paoay.

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4×4 ride at Paoay Sand Dunes

Troy and I contemplated a lot before deciding to give this activity a try. One, it is so hot! Imagine driving under the sun at 12NN around that desert, and two, this activity was really expensive! One 4×4 cost Php 2,500.00 which can accommodate up to 5 pax. The staff gave us discount and we only paid Php 7,000 for all three 4×4 rides.

And boy, we did not regret it! This experience was so fun! There were times I thought we’ll tumble or turn over since the driver purposively dived into the sand. There was also a stop-over where we tried sand-boarding.

This was probably one of the best adrenaline-pumping activities we ever had. Troy was the happiest since he knew that the others enjoyed as well.

◊ Quickly pass by the sinking tower at Laoag.

We just passed by the sinking tower at Laoag. We had no time to go down since there were still a lot places in our itinerary.

◊ Learn about the birth and childhood of Ferdinand Marcos at the Marcos Museum.

This is Ferdinand Marcos’ birth place. It was converted to a Museum and it houses a lot of memorabilia and artifacts from the former president’s childhood. There were English and Tagalog speaking tour guides so you can ask them if you have questions. The government is doing its best to maintain this old house, since Marcos, though hated by many, is also well-loved and respected in Ilocos Norte.

◊ Visit the bell tower of Bantay Church.

◊ Make a vase out of mud at Pagburnayan.

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Troy and Mama tried making pots. Hahaha! It was hard daw. Manong who’s doing the demonstration made it look like it was easy! We could’ve bought pots since they were selling them cheap, but unfortunately, we do not have extra space in the van. Probably next time!

◊ Enjoy the luscious greens at Hidden Garden.

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For our garden-loving momshies, this place was heaven! There were a lot of plants being sold, and they were able to buy some small ones. The garden also had a restaurant so we ate lunch here. We also tried the famous empanada and I find it ‘meh’. I must admit that I enjoyed more the empanada sold in streets hehehe!

◊ Try the animal encounters at Baluarte ni Chavit.

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This was the last place in our itinerary before going home. Baluarte is owned by Chavit. Yes, it’s a zoo, with all those orstriches roaming around, tigers, snakes, birds and a lot more I cannot remember. There’s also a fur seal show and a museum where stuffed animals were displayed. Chavit hunted them daw, pero I think some were donated.

◊ Bonus pics!

IMG_7488The highlight of this place was Chavit’s ultra mega super duper expensive mansion. Imagine a pillar costing around P4 million?!

IMG_4670Panoramic photo at Patapat Viaduct

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TheBee’s and TheGee’s

SUMMARY OF EXPENSES
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Here’s the total expenses of our 3D/2N trip to the Ilocos Region:

Activity Expenses
Transportation (P18,000.00) +
Additional Fee for Cavite Pick-up (P1,000.00)
P19,000.00
Hotel Accommodation (Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte)  P5,000.00
Hotel Accommodation (Vigan, Ilocos Sur)  P5,000.00
Day 0-1 Expenses  P5,805.00
Day 2 Expenses  P11,360.00
Day 3-4 Expenses  P7,655.00
Total Expenses for 3D2N trip [for 13 persons]
 P53,820.00

That’s P4,140.00 per person! Not bad, right?

Over-all, our Ilocos trip is nothing but amazing! It was a long tiring trip, but we were able to make so many memories out of it. Ang sarap pagkwentuhan after! Hehehe!

I hope you got something from this post. Let me know how your trip goes! Enjoy! 🙂

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