What could be more exhilarating than to be welcomed by this 3 century-old Paoay Church on your first day to the area?
Good afternoon Ilocos Norte!
1. Paoay Church
This 110-meter high and 40-meter wide coral stone church has started its construction in 1694 and was completed after 16 years. It was originally founded and designed by Father Antonio Estavillo and proclaimed by UNESCO as one of the Baroque Churches of the Philippines.
Paoay Church is one of Philippines oldest churches in the Northern region. Completed in 1710, the church’s both internal and external architectures are highlighted by massive amount of buttresses. I walked through the sides to feel the hard powdery stones – and to my surprise they’re cold and moistened!
I wasn’t impressed of the inside structure as my expectations were playing around colorful high ceilings and old-faded bricks much like the Baroque churches. Little I know the church was doing another construction and it’s got all these hanging metal supports to obstruct your sight. SIGH!
2. Malacañang of the North
Another highlight of the trip was the visit to Pres. Ferdinand Marco’s mansion in Batac, Ilocos Norte.
Locally known as the Malacañang of the North, every step inside the mansion will get you closer to knowing the life and works of Marcos – this time deeper.
This photo has somehow captured my attention – the feared but highly-regarded man to show his soft fatherly side is such touching sight to me. Looking at all the family framed photos, it seems that Pres. Marcos has got a good share of both victory and failure.
Hallway that connects to the spacious veranda.
Artista na yan!
3. Paoay Sand Dunes
We need to travel another hour to reach this heavenly-like place that glitters along with the sun. I took advantage of the low light to get this capture.
Showbiz Trivia: The sand hills of Paoay Sand Dunes is the location of the films Ang Panday (Fernando Poe Jr.), Temptation Island (Marian Rivera), Born in the 4th of July (Tom Cruise) and Mad Max (Mel Gibson).
We hired a 4×4 truck to tour us around the area for Php2,500. I was catching my breathe as we drove the rounds and humps of the gray powdery sand. And there was the soft touch of the sun as we get closer to the shore with the long-stretch of sand waiting to be admired.
There were grasses to cover some portions of the area and they gently sway with the wind making the place a lot more admirable.
And to heighten the fun is to stop at the shore to touch the water with our playful feet. Waves have been our best playmate that time. – ayaw lang jud pag-gara gara og layo ki kusog kaU xa..bira jud imung beauty!
It was a magnificent moment to savor made even more dramatic with the setting sun. The cold gusting wind was perfect to combine with the little warmth of the dusk. Murag naa lang jud ka sa laing world – hahay!
A must-try? The sand boarding!
I never thought this would be possible – to ever surf on the surface of a sand hill. I was good to go down swiftly but fell when I’m about to stop. Fail! But this was a really cool first-time experience!
Well, I got this cool ladies with me to feel the mix of dust, grime and sand so okay rah.
4. Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
The Spanish-old Cape Bojeador Lighthouse was designed in 1887 by Engr. Magin Pers. Despite its old-face structure, the lighhouse has served more than 100 years as welcoming beacon to international ships to enter the Philippines in the South China Sea. Thank you lighthouse!
The tower is much like the other lighthouses I’ve visited – beautiful but mysterious.
The faded cracked walls and weak wooden-floors have obviously seen the sweet and bitter of times.
And who could ever stop us from making another pose? No one in the world bahalag magkalisud-lisud pa – pang Facebook nani!
5. Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
25-minute drive away from Cape Bojeador lighthouse is Iloco’s another pride and I must say, the best to all of what the province can offer – Kapurpurawan Rock Formation.
The sun was all out when we reached the area but this has never discouraged our excited eyes. From above the small cliff, the rock seems to spark, inviting us to step down and walk the steps closer!
I was in total amazement to stand face to face with this beautiful rock formation. As I stare closely to its structure, I was in deep curiosity to how nature has able to shape such a perfect masterpiece.
We reached the area and was welcomed by this beautiful coast – the sprinkle of big waves can be inviting but rocks were sharp to not hurt your feet. Enteng Kabisote (2012 entry to Manila Film Festival) has just recently filmed their scenes in the area. They leave some marks which had slightly caused damage to the ground.
The back part of this huge rock has just offered equaled grandeur – totally breathtaking to ever find a place like this in our congested country.
It’s said that Kapurpurawan is among the top picks of many photographers for its creamy white color. During the months of April and May, the rock formations become even whiter according to locals.
6. Bangui Windmills
We pushed along and it seems to never stop as we moved further North, this time to witness the giant breathtaking whirls of Bangui Windmills.
It was a sudden change of weather when we reach these gigantic windmills. Facing the mighty South China Sea, we could have been blown by the circling wind but we’re tough to hold on..hehe!
According to PinoyChizmiz, each windmill is 236 meters apart on shore. The beautiful structures have 41 meters blade and the its height is roughly equivalent to a 23-storey building (ang taas mo windmill, ikaw na). There is a total of 20 windmills and they are considered the largest in Asia.
7. Patapat Bridge
To reach the winding Patapat Bridge, we passed the popular Pagudpud gate and here’s a welcome jump from the group of happy Ilocos explorers. How happy we are? See it in the jump!
Have you been to San Juanico Bridge? I haven’t but I know we were heading to a place with comparable beauty.
And I was right! Patapat Bridge is the 4th longest bridge in the Philippines with 31 meters elevation over sea level. This place must have been captured a million times but here’s my best piece to share with you – huwag selfie!
As soon as the van dropped us to see the bridge up-close, we all have gone out fast like we’ve been freed. So this is Patapat Bridge, one of the famous bridges in the North region to connect Ilocos and Cagayan Valley. The end of this snake-like structure is the starting point of Cordillera Mountain Range. I’ve seen this bridge in magazines and online but it was different to see it upclose – more beautiful.
8. Bantay-Abot Cave
What’s with the cave? Notice the hole. It could be the strong restless waves that carved this bizarre shape – another natural formation.
An unusual rock formation Bantay Abot Cave on the shore of Brgy. Balaoi has caught many traveler’s attention. It’s said that the name literally translates to “mountain with a hole” which could be well-seen in the structure.
So here’s myself getting my own share of thrill sa mga tuyum after I realize I had the wrong camera lens and it was way too exhausting to go back and change. Thanks kuya Arnel!
9. Blue Lagoon
A few-minute drive from Bantay Abot Cave is Ilocos Norte white sand Blue Lagoon. I wasn’t very impressed with the sand to mix with the trash and soil or maybe it was just the gloomy weather or maybe I just had seen enough of sparkling white-sanded beaches and this one doesn’t seem to compete. But well, one of the striking features of Ilocos coast are the strong waves and here’s a good snap to verify my claim.
Just a perfect moment to share with my lovely close friend Mona. Follow her most treasured experiences as she gets inspiration from her own and other’s life roundabouts at Pages of My Life.
10. Kabigan Falls
Kabigan Falls in Brgy. Balaoi may be a 40-minute walk but when you do the trail along with your friends and other groups on the tour, walking seems to do a change. Exhaustion was totally covered with the sight of the green flatland and the clear flowing river on the other side – just totally nature around. Small wood planks fill in the gaps in between streams making the cross a bit easy.
There’s a Php20 parking fee plus a tour guide that you can pay for any amount you decide. The rest of the fees were paid by our tour agency.
So here’s what nature will pay you when you reach the final bridge cross. Sulit ba? Super sulit! If not for the unfavorable weather condition and cold water, one of us might had just jumped straight into the water. The falls is 87 ft. high with a concave basin that would sometimes turn blue under good weather. See the falls in full clarity HERE.
11. Onions and Garlic
You see small stalls of garlic and onions displayed along the road of Ilocos and they’re a hundred peso cheaper than Manila.
Vinegar from sugarcane is also a good buy – a unique pasalubong for the family – province na province lang jud!
It was a 3-day tour that brought me and the rest of my friends to the heights of nature’s wonder and 3 days to totally captivate me. Ilocos region is more than just a trace of history and immaculately carved rocks – it’s a place mile greater than warm pleasant locals and other treasures that can only be experienced when you go see the place.
Visit Ilocos and pack a bulk of happy memories home.
Thank you F8 and Ampons for this very memorable trip. I miss you all except Mona haha!
Transportation: Private van of Gafa Tours
Expense: P4,000 (Vigan + Pagudpud)
Enjoyed most: The Kapurpurawan Rock Formation Sightings
Missed: Enjoy the water of Kabigan Falls
Overall Impression: 10 stars