Exploring the Ilocos Region has always been on top of my travel list and I’m so glad that I was able to explore two of its major provinces early this year along with my fellow legionaries. We were able to explore both Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte in a span of 3 days and 2 nights. The tour was actually a part of our so-called “Outdoor Function” that we annually do every summer. This was by far the farthest destination we have ever been as a group and we were all challenged by that super long travel time from Cavite to Ilocos. It was more than a half day worth of travel (we spent 13 hours on the road). Despite the challenge, it was all worth it as we were able to utilized all our time and embraced the beauty of Ilocos for the past three days. So without any further ado, allow me to share you a summary of our recent trip to Ilocos and a prologue to my new travel series #ExploringIlocos.
DAY 1 : VIGAN BY NIGHT
The Dancing Fountain of Plaza Salcedo
We arrived in Ilocos after 13 hours and it’s already passed 6 when we reached Vigan. We were just in time to witness some of the festivities that is usually held in the plaza at night. We were welcomed by an overwhelming crowd who were gathered around the Plaza Salcedo to witness the famous Dancing Fountain. It was a fountain and light show that takes place at the center of the Plaza (just few meters away from the Vigan Cathedral). The show started at 7pm and lasted for more or less 30 minutes in which they played some upbeat and popular songs where colorful changing lights and splashes of water are moving and dancing along with every beat.
I guess a trip to Vigan will not be completed without passing by the stunning cobbled street of Calle Crisologo. It was already late night yet we were all surprised to witness an overwhelming crowd. I was actually expecting for a lesser crowd and a relaxing atmosphere but we were greeted by an exactly opposite environment. Despite the huge and disappointing crowd, you can still spot those iconic cobblestone lanes and those calesa which will make you feel that you are somehow taken back in time. It looks exactly like the General Luna Street in Intramuros except that this place is seemingly more maintained. Since it was not a satisfying night in Calle Crisologo, we all decided to go back the following day! After exploring the Vigan at night, we all went to the Transient house that we rented
DAY 2 : FAMOUS ATTRACTIONS IN ILOCOS NORTE
We didn’t waste any of our time so after we took our breakfast, our group left the transient early and headed to our first destination. It was another long and exhausting travel before we finally reached the historical Saint Augustine Church in Paoay or simply known as the Paoay Church. Being a religious group, visiting churches in Ilocos was our top most priority. We made sure to include Paoay Church in our list. Paoay Church has always been on my bucketlist and my heart was jumping out of joy when I finally able to witness the magnificent church on both my naked eyes. It was truly a work of art but what fascinated me the most is the rich history behind it!
Paoay Sand Dunes
Since we are already in Paoay, it is impossible not to miss this spot ~ the Paoay Sand dunes. Those who are looking from thrilling adventure, this particular attraction should not be missed. However, in our case, the majority of our group are too old for such adventure so we ended up with sight-seeing. Some of the popular activities in Paoay Sand dunes are the 4×4 Extreme ride and the sandboarding. I was actually hoping to try them both but no one among my group was interested and we just spent a short period of time in this place. Well, that calls for another Ilocos trip in the future.
The Malacañang of the North
We headed next to another popular attraction in Ilocos Norte, the so-called “Malacañang of the North”. It was a presidential museum (also in Paoay) and served as the residence of the family of Ferdinand Marcos when he was the President of the Philippines. Thus, explains why it is aptly dubbed as the Malacañang of the North. The place showcases an overwhelming amount of memorabilia in relation with the late President. Here, you’ll see their well preserved bed rooms, office, antiques and more!
Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
One of the interesting attractions in Burgos, Ilocos, Norte is the historical Lighthouse of Cape Bojeador. It was declared as a National Historical Landmark on August 13, 2004 and a National Cultural Treasure on June 20, 2005. It is also interesting to note that this lighthouse is considered as the highest elevated “still original and active Spanish era lighthouse” in the country. For a minimal entrance fee, you will have an access to a small museum showcasing some lighthouse apparatus. Some original parts were displayed on the museum as well as the bed rooms used by the operators during the Spanish era. What really makes this trip more interesting aside from learning the lighthouse’s rich history are the rumors that the place is haunted. Yikes!
Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
Possibly one of the most popular destinations in Burgos, Ilocos Norte. The distinctive-looking Kapurpurawan Rock Formation is located near the rocky coast of Burgos. The place is known for its smooth and creamy white (kapurpurawan in Ilocano means white) and streamlined limestone formation that is naturally formed and sculpted by the waves. It really reminds me of the Lion king and also a smoother version of that popular rock formation in Animasola Island in Burias (Check : Animasola Island). It seems like the rock formation is not accessible to general public and they only lend a place where tourists can marvel the beautiful rock formation upclose. If you want a better experience, you may try renting a horse ride. A guide can take you near the formation in a limited time!
The Windmills in Burgos
We were expecting to see the Windmills in Bangui but we were all surprised to see a bunch of them in Burgos. Yes, there are many windmills in Burgos. The windfarm in Burgos is the second windfarm in the province of Ilocos and is absolutely bigger in scale. It covers 600 hectares and three barangays of Burgos which makes the windfarm the largest not just in the country but in Southeast Asia. Unlike the popular Windmills in Bangui, the windmills are randomly scattered and they are elevated and erected on higher grounds which instantly reminds me of those windmills in Pililla Rizal (Check: Pililla Wind Farm).
Our elder members were already tired after a series of exhausting walks and the plan of visiting the much more popular windmills in Bangui was no longer pushing through but I am so glad that someone on our team insisted to visit the place and so I was able to witness this marvelous masterpiece in Ilocos! Another check on my bucketlist indeed! Unlike the windfarm in Burgos, what really makes this windfarm more fascinating is the wonderfully arranged windmills on a single row stretching along a nine-kilometer shoreline off Bangui Bay, facing the West Philippine Sea. In short, it was way more cooler than the scattered windmills and absolutely Instagram worthy haha. We concluded our day by going to Pagudpud and to go for a quick swim in Hannah Beach Resort. Unfortunately, we didn’t expect that traveling from Bangui to Pagudpud will consume so much time and we went there around 5pm and the resort is already close. A night swim is possible in the beach area but the water is already freezing cold and it was a bit risky too so we just went back to our Transient in Vigan.
DAY 3 : EXPLORING MORE OF ILOCOS SUR
The Legion House in Vigan
It was not really part of our itinerary but while we are on our way to Vigan Cathedral, we spotted a very interesting place that is very close to our hearts. We spotted a Legion House in Vigan (a meeting place of Legion of Mary). As a Legion of Mary, our hearts were filled with glee. Who would have thought that we could spot a Legion House in Vigan! It was really unexpected and we all consider it as a blessing! We’ve learned that the Comitium meeting are being held here (Comitium is a term used for the higher council in Legion of Mary).
We attended an early mass in Vigan Cathedral. We finally get the clearer view of the cathedral. The church is canonically known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. The place has a huge historical significance and is in fact part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site declaration for the Historic Town of Vigan in 1999. One of the most unique feature of this cathedral is the separated bell tower which is 25 meters away
So we went back to Calle Crisologo to buy souvenirs but we also spotted another interesting attraction ~ The Museo Crisologo. As what the title of the place suggests, it is a two storey museum dedicated to one of the most prominent clan in the province of Ilocos, the Crisologos. The late Floro Crisologo is one of the men behind the Social Security System law in the country. Bingbong Crisologo on the other hand is also a prominent figure. He even has a biopic portrayed by Rudy Fernandez. The museum showcases a lot of memorabilla related with the Crisologos.
Baluarte ni Chavit
Another prominent figure of Ilocos is the wealthy businessman and politician Mr Chavit Singson but no, this place is not a musuem that will showcase his tremendous achievement in both Business and political career. Instead, the Baluarte Ni Chavit will take you to a very unique zoo with animals that we rarely see in our country. The animals were privately owned by Singson. Here you will witness animals like Zebras, Camels, Kangaroos, and those huge bengal tigers! There’s also an area known as the Safari Gallery which showcases a bunch of preserved animals that Mr Singson previously owned. There’s an elephant, lion, polar bear and more!
Saint Augustine Parish Church / Bantay Church
We concluded our tour by having our lunch in Hidden Garden in Vigan which is popular for their authentic Ilocano dishes including their famous Ilocos Halo-Halo (served in Bao or coconut shell). Anyway, while we are on our way home, another member of our team insisted to visit another iconic place in Ilocos, the Bantay Ball Tower. So we all headed to Bantay Church, a parish dedicated to Saint Augustine and also the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity (Apo Caridad)
The Bantay Bell Tower
One of the most popular feature of the Bantay Church is the historical Bantay Bell Tower. The old historic belfry of the church known as the Bantay Tower served as a watchtower for pirates back in the Spanish colonial era, gave the town its name – bantay. The church was established 1590 making it as one of the oldest churches in Ilocos region. Visitors can actually access the tower where they can view the vicinity of Ilocos Sur.
It was truly a great experience for us! The travel time from Manila to Ilocos might be a little exhausting but everything is truly worth it. Of course, you should not miss trying some of the Ilocos famous food including the Vigan Empanada, Longanisa, Balikutsya and more. This article is just a prologue to my new travel series. I am going to have a separate post for each destination soon!
For the mean time, feel free to watch the video summary of my Ilocos tour below (and don’t forget to subscribe
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