Scenic drives, sumptuous Ilocano cuisines, rich heritage, awe-inspiring megastructures and stunning landscape are some of the reasons which makes Ilocos Norte an all-time favorite for travelers. Memories of Ilocos Norte goes way back to my childhood road trips with family. Even if I had been here countless times, its always a welcome visit to this northern region. The recent Lakbay Norte 7 had me revisit the familiar places again with new companions this time. In just a day, we had the exciting rides at the La Paz Sand Dunes, to marveling the gigantic windmills of Bangui and a fun swim at Saud White Beach of Pagudpud.
It’s the 3rd year for Jim Cline’s Photo Tour in the Philippines headed by none other than Karl Grobl himself. I was told that they were quite surprised that the tour filled up unexpectedly. I guess many foreigners are really interested in the Philippines lately. We had a full house this time. A French, an Australian, a few from England and the rest from the USA. Their 2-week journey in the Philippines started the first week of June. I stepped in at the 4th of June to for a 6-day guiding and photography assistance to 10 enthusiastic participants while exploring the historic streets of Ilocos and the breathtaking landscapes of Sagada, Mountain Province.
While Imee Marcos was speaking about tourism and Ilocos region during lunch at Ilocos Norte Hotel and Convention Center, I can’t help but feel the affinity I have with the Marcos Family. No I’m not in any way related in blood nor do I glorify whatever late president Marcos did. But growing up with parents who were Marcos loyalist got to me, more so that I’m named after the president with the same birthday. That’s why Ilocos Norte has that soft spot. And visiting places where the Marcoses used to live was like visiting a distant relative.
For a moment, I thought I was lost in Bali as I stepped out of our hotel building. Having checked in past midnight coming from a night of entertainment at Balay Da Blas, our sleepy heads and droopy eyes were longing for a nights rest just gave our surroundings a passing glance. But now waking up, seeing the manicured garden, neat pathways and Bali inspired casitas and structures made me knock my head off why I didn’t take a moment to stop a moment in Currimao whenever I pass by the road from Vigan to Laoag or vice versa.
I thought I have seen most of the churches in Ilocos Norte but every time I go back here, more keeps adding to the list. After seeing the magnificent Kapurpurawan Rock Formation in Burgos, we head down back in south again to the municipality of Sarrat, the birthplace of the late president Ferdinand Marcos. Alongside the Pasdan River, which was overran by native cottages on the side stands the exquisite Sta Monica Parish Church, the largest church in the whole of Ilocos Region.
It seemed out-wordly this piece of landscape. It rises up like a giant sphinx cutting through the deep blue sky with all its whiteness. Truly an extraordinary site first time seeing up close at the rugged coast of Burgos, Ilocos Norte. They call it Kapurpurawan, which also means “Kaputian” or whiteness in the local Ilocano dialect. It’s fast becoming a favorite spot in Ilocos Norte in addition to its grand churches, delectable cuisines and wonderful beaches. It was our next stop from Pasuquin during out Lakbay Norte 2 tour.
We reached Laoag in the evening, that’s a couple of hours drive with a few stops coming from Adams. For dinner in Laoag, we were honored to join Mayor Farinas at the Laoag City Hall. It was my first time to enter that nice looking terracotta building which I used to admire outside. Presentation while dinner over tasty langonisa, chicken and bagnet was about the Tourism in Laoag and a short presentation from Cebu Pacific which is one of the sponsors of the Lakbay Norte 2 tour. We took an empanada each on our way to our hotel after dinner.