Just got back from Pagudpud aka The Boracay of the North. It’s an unfair comparison, really. Sure both have white sands, both have great water, and both are overrated beach destinations. But Pagudpud is much less congested. That alone makes it way better in my book.
It’s a trip that Bing and I have been planning for a long time. We actually planned to do it summer of 2007 but the plans fell through and Bing and I ended up at Putipot with Erwin. That was also one great trip but still not the same. So we kept the fire burning and now we’ve finally done it!
As usual, the hardest part is gathering up committed people interested in going. After considerable effort, we were able to gather nine: Rein, Jessie, Bing, and I together with Len, her friend Maye, Paul, Ann, and Val. But Len, Maye, and Jessie backed out close to the trip date. Good thing Roly stepped in and joined at the last minute. And so with seven people, off we went.
I got up early and proceeded to the office, the rendezvous. As usual I was first :P Rein arrived soon after, followed by Paul and Ann. I was shocked at the number of bags they had. They looked like refugees :P We then waited and waited and called and texted and waited for Bing and Roly. It was already getting late so we proceeded to pick up Val then to Shell along EDSA near the NLEX entrarnce, the other meeting point, where Bing and Roly finally arrived soon after.
With everyone accounted for, we got started. It was easy driving and soon we were in Tarlac City where we made a quick restroom stop at Luisita.
We then proceeded to Gerona where we stopped over at Isdaan for breakfast. There was a bit of a funny moment when Paul’s tapsilog failed to arrive and the waiter announced apologetically that di na lalabas ang tapsilog. We teased Paul with variations of it through the whole trip. The singing waiter (nothing new here), chef (still not), and security guard (now that is!) serenaded us and especially Roly who would be celebrating her birthday on Friday.
After breakfast, we proceeded non-stop till Candon where we had a very late lunch at the local Chow King. We were miffed because all our orders arrived and immediately consumed (we were very hungry) but there were no drinks till after we had to follow up a few times. For this, the manager got a tongue-lashing from Val, one person you don’t wanna cross :P
We then proceeded to Vigan, our stopover for the night. We checked in at Aniceto Mansion, freshened up, then went on a kalesa ride to the belfry and the pottery and finally to Crisologo St., the old cobblestone street, for souvenir hunting. Afterwards we had dinner of Ilocos specialties (bagnet, longanisa, and morcon) at Cafe Leona. Across the street, we noticed a Max’s branch. It is unique one because it also offers Ilocos specialties aside from their trademark chicken.
We had breakfast at the inn. Roly took a long time getting ready to go because she was adamant on getting her wooden furniture (which we referred to as tuod or deadwood :P). Unfortunately, the shop was late in opening. But it finally did and with her purchases loaded and Roly happy, we proceeded.
We dilly-dallied by at Currimao to check out the sea wall and the rock formations and also at Paoay to check out the old church and the nearby lake.
We finally arrived at Pagudpud at around 4PM and checked in at Kokolandia. Accommodations were shabbier than expected (and I was not expecting much) but hey this is a remote town after all. And besides were not here for the accommodations, right? So we let it be and proceeded to Saud Beach.
Saud Beach has white sand and seems to be a good swimming beach. Not for kids though as it gets deep just near the shore. The crowd and the establishments made it looks like Puerto Galera. But not bad at all. I made an exception and had my first bottle of beer in six months. We sat there on the beach, cold beer in hand, enjoying the sand, the surf, the breeze, and the setting sun. Now that’s the life!
We then returned to Kokolandia. It was dark and we found out there was a power interruption. It was on and off for a while before finally stabilizing mid-evening. We had dinner of igado and bagnet at the Kokolandia restaurant (if you can even call it that, it’s basically a turo-turo). Food was great or maybe we were just hungry.
After dinner we had drinks at one of our rooms. Everybody was tired and Ann, Paul didn’t drink so we ended up drinking only half of the tequila before crashing. But not before waking Roly up and greeting her happy birthday just past midnight.
First thing in the morning, we proceeded to Maira-ira Beach. This beach is also known as Blue Lagoon Beach. We rented a cottage for P200 and then went swimming. The beach was great! The sand was white and the water a nice shade of aquamarine. It was shallow though the surf is strong. It was a lot less crowded compared to Saud which is, of course, good. We wasted not time and dived right in.
For lunch, we bought 2 kilos of lobsters (3 big ones and an itty-bitty one for birthday girl Roly) for P600 a kilo and asked a local to cook it. We had that, along with red wine, as the main course for lunch. After lunch we chilled on the beach.
Late in the afternoon, it was off to the Patapat Viaduct. We planned to drop by Kabigan Falls but we missed the turn and it was getting dark so we didn’t try backtracking. Bing, Rein, and Roly proceeded to Bangui to check out the windmills while the rest of us went back to Kokolandia to freshen up.
The night we again had dinner at Kokolandia. More igado and bagnet but also tinola supposedly made with native chicken (I wonder if they speak Ilokano :P). Again we ate a lot but since the food is almost the same stuff as the night before, I’m pretty sure it was hunger.
Since we were going to be early the next day, we decided to settle the bill already and got a major sticker shock. Unfortunately, I hadn’t checked the prices beforehand as I already expected the food to be expensive but I figured since it’s a turo-turo, it won’t be so bad. But each of our dinners actually turned out to be as the same as our Cafe Leona dinner! Apparently Kokolandia has delusions of being Pagudpud’s version of Fort Ilocandia, an incomparably better hotel in Laoag, leading Paul to call it Fort Kokolandia. But again, we won’t let that ruin the trip so we let it be.
We started early since we plan to reach Manila by the end of the day and also so we can catch the sunrise at the windmills at Bangui. There are 15 of these windmills and they are HUGE! They are about 20 stories tall with three rotor blades that are about 10 stories long. The windmills cleanly and greenly generate electricity for the Ilocos region. Cool huh?
After that, we made a quick stop at the Cape Bojeador lighthouse (hohum) and the Bacarra Belfry (the bell tower that’s falling apart) before heading off to Laoag where we breakfast at the local Jollibee. We also dropped by to check out the sinking belfry and the church.
We stopped by Vigan again to have lunch at the local Greenwich and do final purchases especially for perishables like garlic and the famous Vigan longanisa. Again we got delayed because Roly suddenly disappeared and when she did reappear she had to go to the market (I’m sensing a pattern here).
We finally finished and started the long drive home punctuated only by dinner at Oasis in San Fernando and a late night coffee at the Starbucks at Luisita. We arrived at around 2AM.
It was a great road trip. I was able to do the long country drive (a total of 1284 kms) I always wanted to do, go to the beach, visit lots of old churches (it was Holy Week after all), and took lots of photos. Okay, maybe not lots. I don’t take a lot of photos to begin with as I prefer to experience things firsthand. And after that I choose only the better ones for posting. Still, I was able to get quite a few. I hope everyone else had fun because I sure did!
Thanks to the drivers, Bing and yours truly :P, for driving and co-drivers Rein and Paul for being ready to drive if the need had arised. To Val for reserving accommodations at Vigan, Jessie for reserving accommodations at Pagudpud, Rein for researching points of interest and everyone else for being there. Let’s do this again!
- The trip is long (600km one way) so it’s a good idea to split up the journey into four legs of about 150km/2-3hrs: Tarlac, San Fernando (La Union), Vigan, and Pagudpud. Each of these cities have the necessary amenities for rest, food, and refueling. Allocate about an hour stop per leg.
- You can probably go the whole 600km on a full tank (Bing’s diesel Getz) but it’s better to be at least half-full (not half-empty :P)
- One driver can do the whole drive but it’s better to have a co-driver.
- Bring two-way radios for communications if you’re traveling in multiple vehicles.
- Food and accommodations are expensive! This is a result of Pagudpud being an overrated tourist destination as well as its remoteness.