Quick trip to Ilocos

Going to Ilocos for a 3 day visit is something that was in my bucket list for a long time. This year I finally got to do it. And despite a nightmare 9-hour flight delay, the visit was still worth every cent.

On Day 1, after a dreadfully long wait at the Terminal 2 airport we flew to Laoag (1 hour flight) and went straight to the Java hotel to spend the remaining minutes of the night as we arrived past 11pm.

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Java hotel in Laoag

The tours happened in the succeeding days, starting with Pagudpud on Day 2. First stop was the fascinating rock formations of Kapurpurawan followed by the famous windmills of Ilocos and I was surprised to learn that there are over 100 windmills currently operating there. I asked our driver if this means low electricity rates in Ilocos, but I was told it was the same electricity rates as Manila but that the advantage was there are no brownouts. It was really smart for the local government to put these windmills up as the wind in the area is really strong and consistent… visitors should bring a jacket!

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The famous Bangui windmills
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Kapurpurawan rock formations
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“Bertong Bayawak” sculpture


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Rainbow at Kapurpurawan rock formations


It was raining when we went to the Bantay Abut cave (which means something like ‘hole in the mountain’ – which it really is), but still worth climbing to. Best to wear sandals, not slippers!

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The view from inside the Bantay Abut cave

A little distance away from the cave, there is an exciting zip line start point from the top of a mountain crossing the ocean to the Blue Lagoon beach (unfortunately we skipped this since it was raining), but I would love to do this in the future. We went straight to the Blue Lagoon beach instead for lunch (and posed with the beach statues) before setting off to see the Cape Bojeador light house.

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Blue Lagoon beach
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Blue Lagoon beach
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Cape Bojeador light house


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Patapat Bridge

And because we were quite quick with our stops, we had time to squeeze in the Laoag sand dunes (even if it was supposed to be for Day 3), which I loved the best, despite a rare sandstorm happening at the time!

Sandboarding at the Laoag sand dunes
A rare sandstorm blowing through the Laoag sand dunes


The Nora Aunor movie “Himala” was shot at the Laoag sand dunes. The movie set props are still there as part of the tour!


Riding a 4×4 up and down the sand dunes is thrilling!


On Day 3 we visited Vigan’s famous heritage sites and Laoag city. There seems to be a lot of sunken buildings in the area. In fact most of the bell towers are remnants of old sunken churches. And even along Vigan’s famed cobbled street there are houses that are halfway sunk in concrete.

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The Christmas lanterns (‘parol’) in Laoag are shaped like bell towers instead of the usual stars


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The Paoay church has a unique silhouette and is very well preserved


The famous Calle Crisologo in Vigan


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The Bantay bell tower


Enjoying the panoramic view from the top of the Bantay Bell Tower
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At night the Laoag plaza lights up and is a favorite photo venue


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Animals at the Baluarte ni Chavit co-exist peacefully

Vigan is the original home of the famed Bagnet (deep fried crispy pork) so we had this together with Vigan Tsokolate and a very delicious pinakbet dish in Grandpa’s Inn.

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A lot of visiting celebrities eat at Grandpa’s Inn at Vigan
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Bagnet, pinakbet lunch at Grandpa’s Inn


The rather new Vigan cathedral
The plaza at Vigan transforms at night for a fountain light show

Ilocos is known as Marcos territory, being the late President’s hometown. There are various places there that are veritable shrines to the family. The Malacanang of the North mansion is supposed to be an equivalent of the Malacanag Palace in Manila built by the late President. Although old, it does have the kind of space and quiet grandeur fit for a president’s rest house (with a fantastic balcony view). The actual dead body of President Marcos is also on display at the Marcos mausoleum (of course we were not allowed to take photos). There was also all kinds of interesting trivia to find about the Presidential family there, including the fact that President Marcos wore platform shoes during his wedding to Imelda so he would look taller. And while reading the trivia and seeing the books and the admirable accomplishments of the late Presdient, I couldn’t help wonder about how such a brilliant man changed so much during his time in power and ended up dying as one of the world’s known dictators.

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Marcos bust at the Marcos mausoleum


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Some of the famous gowns of Imelda Marcos


President Marcos used to stand at this balcony at the Malacanang of the North


The presidential library at Malacanang of the North
The famous paintings of the President and First Lady at the sala in the Malacang of the North.


The view of President Marcos from the balcony of the Malacanang of the North


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The much talked about war medals of President Marcos

We finished the tours in good time, even finding enough time to hang out in a Robinsons mall before our evening flight back to Manila.

Note that the stops are quite far from each other so it was great that our travel agent (Amyrekko Travel – contact 09053701882) had gotten us a very useful van and driver service for all 3 days (driver’s name is Roderick – contact +639984401229).

It was the peak season of travel so it was probably more expensive than usual. For the itinerary mentioned I spent about P37K for 3 pax (entrance fees, lunch and dinner not included).

All in all a memorable trip!


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