#LostInIlocos | Old City

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”- Martin Buber

(Part 3 of 3) Day 3. Vigan City Where the Old meets the New

We woke up already feeling consumed by the heat and weary of the last two days, but this was our most awaited part of the tour so no one’s complaining! And it started really full of spice as we dropped by a souvenir buying area where the best of Ilocos spices are sold – locally produced suka, basi, onions, and garlic, among others.

We met our new tour guide (the one we had during the first two days was a newbie so you probably know what I mean) who gave us supplemental info on the places we visited. And it changed so much about how we appreciated the places. Where were you “Manang” when we needed you? Also, she shared a few Ilocano phrases and words, and even tips on how to get tawad when we buy souvenirs.

And then we head to Ilocos Sur! Two hours from Laoag, we reached Baluarte, which I already had an idea about following the Miss Universe Pageant held in the Philippines early this year. This mini zoo was one of the spots visited by the candidates during their tour, and it’s not surprising because the zoo is owned by no less than Former Ilocos Sur governor and businessman Chavit Singson who also was a major sponsor of the pageant hosting. Talk about a rich man.

The free-admission zoo (applause) features some wild birds and land animals although the main attraction is Chavit’s golden mansion! But besides that, there is a safari museum where preserved animals are on display; but not just any wild animals but those that the main man has hunted himself, and he got proof!

And then we explored the rest of Vigan City! St Paul’s Cathedral is huge! And the details of the interior are gorgeous. There are gold trimmings in the ceiling and the altar’s baroque scrolls and curves. There is opulence in almost everything.

And then a few meters away, there’s Calle Crisologo! This was truly the highlight and most-awaited part of the trip. And did I mention it was also my birthday that day? The City of Vigan was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for preserving its Spanish Period architecture, while seamlessly integrating commercial and modern spaces. And this is pretty evident in Calle Crisologo no less. I mean, the photos speak for themselves.

Vigan is also a one-stop shop for all sorts of souvenirs you can think of – food, shirts, bags, wallets, antique items, and thousands of key chains to choose from and more! Don’t forget to try the sorbetes and the mangga with alamang!

If this was not enough, we also enjoyed a caleza ride strolling around Vigan for an hour, with drop-offs at certain important landmarks. One of which is the Bantay Watch Tower, which you can climb up to the very top. The tower, just like the other churches we have reached so far in Ilocos, is detached from the main church (St Augustine of Hippo Parish Church). Another peculiarity of this belfry is that you need to ascent a brick stairway to reach the top, or maybe just stay at the stairs and strut your best stuff like a supermodel would.

***

Celebrating my 26th in the heritage city of Vigan has been an item I can now tick off the bucket list and then it’s more than that! The entire three-day Ilocandia tour, for a fact, has been a phenomenal experience thanks to the loads of fun, food, fanfare, and friendship shared with lovely people. Sunburn aside, we have so much takeaway from this quick trip – quirky souvenirs, tons of photos, funny anecdotes that we’d rather keep to ourselves for the meantime, and best of all, the picture of a thousand warmest smiles the people of Ilocos have shown that made us feel most welcome rather than #LostInIlocos.

 

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#LostInIlocos | Wind, Warmth, Water

“Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience.”- Francis Bacon

(Part 2 of 3) DAY 2. Pagudpud Strolling

Mornings at Ilocos are always warm. Considering how the previous day went, it was already expected that another grueling second day will be up for us under the blazing sun. And we can’t complain.

First item on the itinerary is Cape Bojeador Lighthouse which is also known as Burgos Lighthouse named after the town where it is located. Built during the Spanish era, the structure may be reached through a quick tricycle ride for 50 pesos (max of three people) upwards and another ride down to the highway. Be prepared to take beautiful snaps of the scenic surroundings – the lake and greenery from the tower base. And to this date, the lighthouse still functions.

The Kapurpurawan Rock Formation in Bangui is difficult to reach. You would need a 100-peso horse ride to the site itself, although you can use a trail for walking. Well, we sadly did not risk reaching the rock formation as it was severely scorching, so we just bought some souvenirs at the shops by the seaside nearby and took photos of the Bangui Windmills at the same location.

We had lunch at Pagudpud, where one of the eateries served, wait for it, BAGNET! Okay, to be honest, bagnet is simply our lechon kawali but according to locals, the secret to their famed dish is in the way it is cooked. Apparently, they deep-fry the large pork parts three times to achieve the best balance of tender and crunch. Well, it did not disappoint. Perfect paired with the Ilocano Pinakbet which does not have kalabasa.

After our quick lunch, we also had time to take photos of and with the Windmills in Pagudpud. Ilocos Norte must really be bent on harnessing green energy through their initiatives because aside from their windmills in Burgos, Bangui, and Pagudpud, they also started a solar power plant to help supply and sustain their energy needs. Go green!

The Patapat Viaduct is interesting as it connects Ilocos Norte to the Cagayan Valley Region. More than the scenic view of the Pacific, tourists also enjoy taking risky photos literally ‘on the edge’ although not advised.

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Finally, to wrap up Day 2 we visited the Blue Lagoon where the prominent Hannah’s Resort and Convention Center is located. The beach was literally peppered with tourists when we came, coincidentally since it was both Holy Week and Summer Vacation season. Aside from swimming, other activities that could be tried are zipline (which they say one of the longest there is in the world) and aquatic rides offered by Hannah’s.

I was hoping I could get me some vitamin sea but the beach was overpopulated and I don’t think it was the time of the year when the ocean was prettiest. But then, some real nice strawberry ice scramble (slurpee meets shake) and the view of the ocean was enough to cap off Day 2.

 

#LostInIlocos | City of Sunshine

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” -Marcel Proust

(Part 1 of 3) DAY 1. Laoag City. The City of Sunshine.

The first thing we feasted on in Ilocos was their famed empanada – a stuffed bread commonly sold on the sidewalks. What makes the Ilocano empanada special is the use of unripe grated papaya instead of the usual potatoes; they also fill the flour bun with bean sprouts, a whole egg, and of course, the Ilocano longganisa. Best of all, it can be cooked while you wait which means you’ll enjoy it crisp and warm.

And that was the warm welcome we received before officially starting our three-day tour of Ilocandia. Our first destination was Paoay Church (or the St. Augustine Church) in Ilocos Norte famous for its expansive courtyard and delicate baroque architecture, which earned it a UNESCO World Heritage Site accolade. Interestingly, the bell tower is separate from the main church.

According to our second tour guide (who we’ll meet on the third day), there are a number of reasons why the bell towers are separate from the main church. First, the towers were built way before the church. Second, detaching the bell tower is also a form of protection against earthquake damage. Thirdly, the bell towers were originally used not as bell towers per se, but as observational posts of the revolutionaries against the Spaniards. History baby!

St. William’s Cathedral is located right at the heart of Laoag City. Similar to Paoay Church, its bell tower, famously known as the Sinking Bell Tower, is quite far from the main church, this time by around 100 meters. According to folks, the tower sinks because its main foundation is soft sand.

Upon entrance to the Ferdinand Marcos Presidential Center also in Laoag City, you are greeted by a video presentation on Marcos’ reign and a display of some of his portraits, among other important memorabilia. The two-storey center also features some of Imelda Marcos’ custom ternos on display. Trivia: Marcos courted Imelda for only 11 days, according to one of the exhibits!

The Malacañang of the North boasts a scenic view of the Paoay Lake. According to belief, the lake was once a thriving village whose inhabitants were extremely materialistic. A curse came to drown the area in water after the people denied a mystic stranger something to drink or feed on. The lake is supposedly shaped like a palm with five fingers.

Back to the Malacañang building, it is home to old furniture used by the Presidential family during Marcos’ reign. The two-story house has been preserved to showcase the best local architecture and cutlery Ilocos has to offer. It’s an understatement to say antique lovers and collectors would surely have a time of their life going around Ilocos.

Sta. Monica Church in Sarrat is known to be the largest church in Ilocos Norte. Its long aisle makes it ideal for weddings, reason why it has also been a choice location for movies and TV shows. Another attraction is the ruins (Casa del Palacio Real) to the right of the church. The red brick façade and interior make the spot perfect for prenup shoots and even themed wedding receptions.

La Paz Sand Dunes, now called Laoag Sand Dunes was our last destination for the first day of tour. Under the dessert-like heat, there are activities one could try such as the 4×4 ride or sand surfing. But the heat is unbearable even when just taking photos or strolling. The struggle is real.

NIGHT STROLL AT LAOAG CITY. This was not part of the tour but since we headed to our accommodation early, we decided to explore the city by ourselves during the night. And it was still scorching even when the sun was down. There is no scarcity in lights and fountains – that was my first impression. And as someone who loves me some art, the umbrella street art installation which copied the one in Portugal was a sight to behold. Truly Instagram-worthy! We also got to go nearer to the Sinking Bell Tower before grabbing some fries at McDonalds because why not?

 

Weekend Escape

There is always joy in appreciating beauty in nature. More than what meets the eyes, there are the feelings evoked by a mere beautiful sight. Excitement. Peace. Calm. And so, whenever I get the chance, I take quiet time to communicate with the earth. It is a two-way conversation where words are not spoken but felt.

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As my soles touch the ground, I feel like I am recharged by the energy that is present in nature. The breeze seems to talk to me in musical verses, and the radiant sunshine keeps me burning literally and otherwise.

11024736_825751014141078_5079279771249031166_n22299_825752414140938_1375345976822557682_nThe weekend was just that, and more. Every beautiful day spent at my Lola’s little kept paradise is a blessing in itself – a chance to escape from the life I know, those routines, those stresses. Whenever I’m there, I feel like a kid whose worries are shallow.         11059465_825751810807665_9186073316709930368_n10385361_825752650807581_4390219084806128874_nA place where beauty is in every little corner, where every little form of life is a God-given gift to inspire man, to make him sane, to calm his heart, and keep him going. A real home where nothing modern exists.

11061317_825751290807717_2766024557455650062_n11072257_825751137474399_3238140066771210350_nTranscendental. Green fields and blue skies. Wider horizons. They make you see more than what your eyes physically can. They remind you of what you really are inside. They keep you closer to the One who created it all.

10462760_825750234141156_9048101225905577615_nAnd the best part of it, is when your tired and worn-out body feels its fluid embrace of love, of compassion. The sea and its blue and green hues calm your every vein. The splash of water is the most beautiful song man has ever heard.1622651_825753010807545_8981292061455400692_n 10349228_825752194140960_6102751663497541091_n And when it is time to say goodbye, you feel like the same person but not quite. You look forward to coming back again.

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Places I still would want to visit at this point of my life, but only if and when the Universe permits me to

The good news is – there’s a huge, huge, huge world out there to explore. The bad news is – there’s a huge, huge, huge world out there to explore.

Recently, me and two friends met up (in a rare chance) and spoke about what plans we have for the next few years. TRAVEL was top of the list. We dream of Batanes, of Indonesia, of Caramoan, of Enchanted Kingdom. The list goes on. But as much as there’s a GREAT BIG WORLD out there to embrace and discover, everything has a price. So for now, we just have to save up (that’s if we can) so that when the right time and savings come, picking the most amazing dream destination would be just so easy.

But for imaging’s sake, let me take a peek at my most ideal dream destinations and how I would wanna spend my time in there.

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BATANES. I am in awe every time I hear Batanes. To me, Batanes is like a heaven you will come home to when you die (and hopefully you were that good to actually go to heaven). Picturesque, panoramic, serene- all the things I need in a home. I’m about to weep. I always dream of horses and cows roaming around vast, endless green grassland; birds skydiving the sky ceiling, and that ocean of crisp, clear, colossal happiness. But of course, Batanes is the dreamy-est of all the dreams. It wouldn’t hurt if this dream fails.

palawan-beach-el-nido

I can always go to my next big dream destination, the beautiful PALAWAN. The Philippines’ eco-tourism capital is the ultimate paradise for the nature junkie that I dream to be. And yes, that’s but a dream. That underwater cave in Puerto Princesa is like Vatican – you can die already. I wonder if there is anything ugly.

caramoan

Stories I’ve heard from traveler friends always include CARAMOAN ­– the Palawan of Bicol. Of the three, this is the most likely to come into fruition considering the geographical (and therefore cost-related) practicality.

And the list goes on and on, that I probably need to start packing or walking right now. After all, life was supposed to be a journey. We might as well go places.

(PHOTOS NOT AUTHOR’S PROPERTY)

a wedding

Thoughts:

It’s close to a month now since my last post. I was kind of pre-occupied with a couple of things recently Juggling work, friends, family and setting time for myself was a bit tiring but at the end, all is well.

***

But there is one thing I am eager to share: My friend tied the knot; she was the first in the group to get wed. At first, I thought she was very young to settle. I thought it was something she isn’t ready to face. I don’t even know the man. But then, I had faith that there is a plan behind this.

It was whimsical to see somebody special take the aisle and my knees were shaking. I saw the bridesmaids (our good bunch of friends) wiping their tears very gently to avoid the make-up disaster. You know girls.

 

She was utterly beautiful in her long white dress — a dress I myself sketched. And her bridesmaids were dainty damsels in their royal blue dresses. The guys were in their barongs and the groom, who shall be better half of my dear friend, is at the farther side of the aisle, waiting.

I was at the back, a silent spectator.

***

Speaking of the wedding, it was also the first time I attended a white-veil occasion (spare the one and only chance I was ring-bearer so long ago). Aside from that, my good friend-bride picked me to help make the wedding run smooth (like a wedding planner/organiser). We were three, which is good so we would share the tasks.

The wedding entourage, reception, details — I didn’t know what to do really. All I knew was I had to do this little favour for a good friend. But thank God, all went well (amid the tiny little glitches I’d rather not speak about anymore).

***

Her brothers were emotional. There were eight of them. She was the bunso and the only girl. It was not like the teleseryes — the parents were watching still as their children swear their marital oaths in front of the people and of God.

It was fun to see her brusko brothers, all dressed in plaid (too cute) — trying to compose themselves and avoiding the tears.

***

The reception — a few things learned. It was refreshing to witness wedding traditions from Nabua, CamSur (groom’s hometown) practised at the wedding. Although the same were not part of the plan and the programme, we were accommodating enough to make it happen anyhow, respect to the parents, that is.

They have this tagay, wherein the newly-weds roam around the tables to meet the attendees. Those who will make a toast could drop their gifts (cash) in the bowl.

And while the couple ‘danced’ the pantomina, people pinned cash on their clothes.

Later on, the husband ceremonially turned over the amount collected to his wife — perhaps, that means the wife will manage their family’s finances.

***

The wedding was also a mini reunion for the barkada. It was quick but we enjoyed every bit of it. We did what we always liked to do — capturing candid shots. It was also a unique experience to come to Nabua. It was my first time to land foot on the place, least come to CamSur.

It was 9pm dark. It was a fully loaded bus. The air was cold and the trip lasted for an hour and a half.

The place was a bit laid back, far away from the highway and the road was not concrete.

But the people were warm. We got to meet the groom’s men, too. They seemed nice —hopefully they make a good support group for the couple who will start a family.

Likewise, I hope that we, being their barkada, will be bricks to help build a stable home.

***

happy new year!!

I promise to keep my cool today. That means, I will STAY AWAY from anything that could potentially spoil my fabricated good mood.

Because it’s my birthday! Nobody in his lifetime must be pestered during his birthday, not in any way.

And I got my reasons to be happy:

First, I got an alarm clock (one of my wishes) from Jane, my workmate. But she forgot the battery! Harhar. But that’s fine ‘cos cliché as it sounds, it’s the thought that counts!

And I got flooded with greetings (on FB and on my phone). At least they took the effort to type and post in my wall. That’s nice gesture enough.

And as you might notice, or not, I look tanned. Oh yes, we had a team building activity on Saturday. Simultaneously, it felt like my birthday party as well, so I really made sure that I’d get evidence. I opted to stay directly under the scorching heat and have my skin burnt to its content!

crossing bridges

Let’s cross the bridge when we get there. And, don’t burn the bridges.

I remember reading this somewhere and it initially seemed to me like a strange way to put two adages together. But on second thought, they individually make sense.

 

ANYWAYS, it’s my 7th month at work today! (Applause).Time flies. (Yes, I’ve said that for the nth time and I don’t mind having to repeat it over and over.) 

To celebrate this important milestone, let me share SEVEN reasons I LOVE MY JOB:

First, I do what I love. While I do not assume that I am (professionally) a writer, I know that by heart, I am. Fortunately, I found a work that allows me to write. While I do not get to write creatively (which I am fonder of), I still get to sharpen my pen. At least I am not wasting the fruits of taking English for four years.

Secondly, I earn while I learn, or vice versa. Either way, it boils down to the fact that this job helps me get hard-earned cash and hard-earned experience/knowledge to match. What can anyone ask for? Although I have graduated from a reputable school, I sure have all the heavens to learn. So far, the process has been tiring yet rewarding, stressful yet worth-damn-trying. After all, nobody has the monopoly of anything (any thing) and by that, I mean I must and should gather what every single day could add up to my banks.

 And I value good company (in other words: companionship). Work is not always about work. There’s time to play, and giggle, and laugh, and talk heartily. With good people around you, work can be light and somewhat much easier even when stresses (i.e, people) get in the way. Without having to name them, colleagues have made and continue to make things simpler. I owe a lot to people who helped me inch on inch. Indeed.

 Speaking of which, my job definitely teaches me to manage my temper. Even when I am about to erupt, I have to keep my cool because CCTVs (living and not) are all around. That means I have to (with all due calmness and composure) face the bugs that pester my existence, literally and otherwise.

 I used to stay away from challenge. That said, I have been a boring breathing baboon. But I am trying to unlearn that somehow. Slowly, I (try to) become more accommodating to new roles which I am tasked to fulfill. With impending and more challenging tasks at work, I hope to become someone more capable of taking bigger risks.

Plus I do not need to live away from my family. I am a sucker of a home buddy. I like my coffee made by mama. I can’t sleep, and p**p, and breath when I live away from home. And I want to see the growth of my younger siblings; I look forward to seeing them pass through the stages of life which I did pass through. Somehow, I could offer advice. Plus, I need pampering. I will always be a kid.

Lastly, I get to support my family (even on small dosages). Being somehow a breadwinner, I know I have to responsibly assume the role of being able to provide for them financially.

I may not earn millions. I may not be a manager. I may not be wearing a well pressed suit to work. But I am happy (although the adjective has a lot of varied definitions).

Should I stay a couple of years? Should I leave soon? Only Time can tell. But one thing is for sure, the first paragraph knows the answer so well.