My mother always reminding me — in a soft and lovingly voice — not to doze off as often as I can while in transit. Enjoy the scenery; familiarize the place and; don’t ever get lost with directions. Lastly, mind your stuff — keep it with you always. Words of wisdom coming from my loving mom to every trip I’ve taken and up to now. But knowing me, being a bit lazy in nature, can’t help but ignored those precious advice and decided to doze off as often as I can while in transit. That’s why I’m not good in directions — but not that bad — and ending up getting lost on the road and up to now. Then two weekends ago, history repeats itself. And I can’t help imagining how my mom will unleash her fiery yell from hell at me if she found at that we got lost.
I was roused by my girlfriend’s voice saying to our driver that this is not the road down to Pagudpud’s beach shoreline and our “supposed” tour guide, who should be guiding our driver and touring us, was caught, in deep slumber in a way much comfy as me. We’ve been driving for more than 10mins looking for that road leading to the resort where my girlfriend and her family stayed the last time. As we drive along, my girlfriend noticed that we’re driving on a wrong direction. We were actually driving in a town of Cagayan already. So, after some talk amongst us and some scratching of head by our “supposed” guide, our driver made a clear U-turn and drove back from where we start until we finally reached the beach of Pagudpud. Knowing my girlfriend, she’s been in and out of the northern region, particularly, for a couple of times, in Ilocos Norte. Her father is from Batac City — home of great leaders as they say — while her mother is a native of Baler, Aurora province. So, I’m kind of relaxed and confident when I was with her on this trip.
The Red pill
Days ago, prior to our weekend trip, my girlfriend Anna held me at gunpoint. She told me that her parents will be attending the wake of their godmother in their wedding this coming weekend and they’re inviting me to come with them to Ilocos Norte. To be honest, I’m not a fan of long-hour trips on a short, two-day weekend. Meaning, you have only a brief moment or “quickie” time to immerse in a place, enjoy the scenery and its offerings. Aside from that, I don’t want to suffer myself from an excruciating pain and the numbness, particularly my butt and knee joints, from a tight and cramp space of a beat-up vehicle-cum-oven with no leg room at all. I prefer these long-hour trips for long weekends and long holidays. So, still at gunpoint, my girlfriend morphed into the hacker Morpheus and offered me two pills, the red and the blue. She told me that the last time I visited the place was seven years ago and she “thinks” that it’s about time, or at least, to update my photos of the province. Nice excuse, I mean, persuasion, huh? For that long-hour trip on a two-day weekend in a brand-new, red Toyota Innova — only with six souls — why not? Sounds a good trade-off after all. So, I took the red pill. 11pm of Friday at her place, we left Quezon City. Following morning at 7:30am, we were in Ilocos Norte.
My vivid memories of Ilocos Norte were the eerie Marcos Mausoleum, the Batac empanada (meat pie), the Paoay Church and the Pagudpud Beach dubbed as the Boracay of the North. And I was using a Nikon FM10 SLR then to capture my experience of the province. And finally; after seven-long years and an eight-hour, butt-numbing trip; I’m back. This time around, I went to some places relatively new to me the last time I was in the province. Also, I was able to revisit the places I’m already familiar with and rekindle the same old charm of Ilocos Norte that have lit my passion in traveling. But, of course, together with the “updated” photos, as my persuasive girlfriend have suggested to me at gunpoint.
08:26am. We arrived to our first stop, the Municipality of Paoay, where the (also known as the St. Augustine Church) is located — a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Click here for more information about the church).
09:27am. We passed by Paoay Lake. According to a local we have talked with, the municipal government of Paoay, aims to develop the lake as one of Paoay’s tourist destination, and apparently, the construction of a shed and a view deck is ongoing. I just hope that this wonderful endeavor won’t turn into a chaotic lakeside entertainment where open prostitution and beer binging will the main attraction and not the lake at all.
10:59am. After our fruitless search of the Malacañang of the North and having lost finding the Paoay Sand Dune, we’ve decided to call it off. To end our Paoay tour, we’ve agreed to cool down and try for ourselves the Pinakbet Pizza at Herencia Café, right across Paoay Chuch. What is it about with this pizza to everyone who came from an Ilocos Norte trip will tell to each and every person planning a trip to the north, and even making it her shout out at Twitter and and status in Facebook that this pizza is a “must-try’? Well, there’s nothing actually. Even Herencia Café’s pinakbet is not even a stand out to begin with. It is just so happen, the pinakbet was been used as a pizza topping and it came from Ilocos. And you won’t be able to tell it is a pinakbet if you will not use the alamang or fish paste as a condiment. Other than that, NADA! My girlfriend’s grandmother’s version of pinakbet was a real stand out, with matching Ilocos Norte’s longganisa or sausage, as compared to Herencia Café’s. I’m sorry, guys. Not my intention to pull you down from the out-of-town foodie pedestal.
04:30pm. As I race with time and a possible afternoon hard rain to the places I haven’t been in a short given time, my girlfriend was completely engulfed by the Batac empanada. And she made it clear right from the very start, that she won’t be leaving Batac, Ilocos Norte without trying its empanada. In fairness to Batac, their empanada is consummately the best I’ve tasted. Comparing to Vigan’s, that is way, way far. And what Batac empanadas differ from the other nearby provinces that offers empanada, aside from bean sprout, is their papaya filling and its garlicky longganisas. As we left the place, I was able to take home a special empanada that I had for breakfast the next day, the rain began to fall.
04:50pm. Dropped by at the Marcos Mausoleum but we came late. The mausoleum for public viewing of the body of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos closes at 4pm and it opens at 9am the following day. That’s not a good option, since we will be leaving early in the morning for Bangui Bay. But when we’re about to leave, a kind staff of the mausoleum offered to open up the mausoleum for us. After one brief round, off we go then to Loaog City, Ilocos Norte’s capital.
05:51pm. Surprisingly, the sun still high after a hard rain in the afternoon. I was able to take some sunset shots by the beach of Fort Ilocandia and the hotel’s exterior. This was how our day one ended.
Last night, we decided to wake up at 5:00am. For me, this is a safe time since I’m not with photographers I usually work with during a dispatch. My objective is clear. If I can’t catch the king sun before he rise, I can still enjoy his glory around 7am or 8am after. Waking up at 5am is another perfect time for me to shoot since we’ll be driving less than two hours to reach Bangui and another 45mins. or so to Pagudpud from Batac.
With a grin smile on my face, I thought I can manipulate the situation to my advantage. But things went out of control. Yes, we woke up at 5am as we have planned it. But having the idea of having breakfast before we leave was not on my plan. But what can I do, I was under their mercy. A puppet on strings. While having breakfast at past 6am, I longingly praying for the king sun to pause from rising, if not, I will dread its harsh light for my photos of Pagudpud Beach. But, he never granted my wish nor heard my prayers. He continually rise until we finish breakfast and about to leave at 7am.
07:00am. Our guide is nowhere to be found! I have only less than an hour to enjoy the richness of the morning light and yet, our guide is nowhere to be found. Damn! After five minutes, he showed up. Thankfully, we’re off to Bangui Bay and Pagudupud.
08:18am. We reached Bangui Bay and its gigantic windmills. Good thing, I was able to research over the net how these magnificent windmills was been photographed by countless photographers and tourists. Gladly, I found a sweet spot. Though the windmills are not the focal point of my photos, I was able to capture Bangui on a different perspective. We left the place past 9am for Pagudpud.
10:47am. From an hour or so of driving after leaving Bangui to Pagudpud, I was roused by my girlfriend’s voice saying to our driver that this is not the road down to Pagudpud’s beach shoreline and our “supposed” tour guide, who should be guiding our driver and touring us, was caught, in deep slumber in a way much comfy as me. We’ve been driving for more than 10mins looking for that road leading to the resort where my girlfriend and her family stayed the last time. As we drive along, my girlfriend noticed that we’re driving on a wrong direction. We were actually driving in a town of Cagayan already. So, after some talk amongst us and some scratching of head by our “supposed” guide, our driver made a clear U-turn and drove back from where we start until we finally reached the beach of Pagudpud.
After establishing some shots; I put down my camera; Took off my shirt and joined my girlfriend for a swim. After an hour of basking under the sun, we called it off.