Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Lakbay Norte 2013 – Laoag Adventure Edition

It’s another fulfillment, a dream come true when i was given the chance again to visit Laoag.  Same drill from my last year’s IT, we didn't stay overnight.  I missed 2 beautiful spots last year and I made it this year. Malacanang of the North and of course, the main reason why I would want to go back to Laoag, the Paoay Sand Dunes Adventure.

We left Vigan past lunch time and we took another roadtrip bound for Laoag. After 2 hours of traversing Ilocandia road, we touched down Loaog City. The Capital of Ilocos Norte. We were all so hungry and decided to take a break for Lunch on one of the fine dining restaurant nearby. Thanks to the power of search engines, we found a great place just near the bus terminal. La Preciosa Restaurant, authentic Ilocondia Foods served with pastries and cakes for those with sweet tooth.



We got some good food here, we ordered:  (left to right) Crispy Diguan, Puki Puki (Ilocandia Version of Omelet) and at the same time their Pochero.     IMG_4428IMG_4429IMG_4430







Talking about Luck or Coincidence, Kuya Rey and I met again. He was my tour guide and driver last year. No more second thoughts, we got him hired for that day to take us to places we wanna go in Laoag. We negotiated at Php 1,000.00 and we closed the deal. 

IMG_4505 First part of the tour is the Malacanang of the North.  I am glad I was able to take a glimpse of this historical place in Ilocos Norte.  Malacanang ti Amianan in Ilocano is always part of everyone’s Itinerary when planning or visiting Ilocos Norte Dubbed as “Marcos Country”, Ilocos Norte is home to many remnants of former President Ferdinand E Marcos and one of these is Malacanang of the North.

The Lobby Area


The Grand Stair Case leading to the second floor of the Palace


The Dining Area at the Second Floor


The Office and the Library


One of the Bedrooms


A great overlooking view of Paoay Lake from the Balcony


The Malacanang of the North is 5 hectare property that overlooks Paoay Lake, and is the residence of late Ferdinand Marcos and his family when they are in the North. This was one of the 29 houses that the Marcos regime was able to build during its two decades of power. The entire structure is very impressive. From the grand living room to the elegant dining rooms, attractive guestrooms and master’s bedroom – everything is just a perfect work of art. It has also an equally grand staircase that compliments the grandeur of the mansion.

I am glad I was able to finally step my feet in this place. To enter and personally see one of the most famous houses of the most influential families in the land on their time was a rare experience and at the same time it’s like going back to history as it takes place in the modern times.

This is now being managed by the Department of Tourism, entrance fees are Php 20 for adults and Php 10 for children and open between 9am-1130am and 1om-430pm daily except Mondays. (We visited Laoag Monday but we got lucky because its a Holiday and its open).

Off we go to the next destination which is the Paoay Church.  This is the Roman Catholic Church and a prime example of Earthquake Baroque Architecture. Completed in 1710, the church is famous for its distinct architecture highlighted by the enormous buttresses on the sides and on the back of the building. In 1993, was designated as UNESCO World Heritage site as of the best examples of the Baroque Churches of the Philippines.


After a short trip to Paoay Church, off we head to the ultimate Northern Adventure I've been dreaming of. The Paoay Sand Dunes Adventures. It’s almost sunset when we arrived and just the perfect time to capture a great view of the Sand Dunes, plus a great adventure.


Package is 2500 good for an hour off road adventure including sand boarding. Since we were also pressed with time we got a 30-minute package for Php 1800.00 and that includes sand boarding.  I think we just made the right choice to just settle for 30 minutes because that’s a massage to death from the entrance of the site off to the magnificent sand. That was one hell of a ride and it’s just perfect.

To start the Sand Dunes Adventure, we hired a 4x4 Rough Riding vehicle at the base of the site. A fleet of these 4x4 are on stand by and includes a professional driver that will serve as your guide to the vast sand dunes.  Off we go to our ultimate adventure and thrilling drop on steep sand ridges that made us scream to death in excitement.  According to our guide, the sand ridges can go as high as 10 – 20 ft at the most while the most thrilling ride is the “rollercoaster”, where a series of sand hills will make you hold on to that bar of steel for dear life and survival.

Our 4x4 Rough Riding Vehicle – All Smiles



The Undying JumpShot at the Paoay Sand Dunes with a great Sunset View


This Paoay Adventure will never be complete without trying the SandBoarding. Here you will be given a plank of wood similar to skate boards less the rollers. Here it requires a sense of balance and a thrill seeker spirit. My first try was, of course (with my inborn uncoordinated self), a fall in the middle of the slope but not that painful at all. I am just determined to achieve a sense of fulfillment by conquering so I didnt stop until i finally landed safely. The soft sand is my cushion and my defense to the fear of trying again. After 3 attempts yey! I finally did it. It was so much fun! The hardest part and most tiring aspect of this sport? Going up again the sandy slope after sliding down.

First Attempt to Slide (fail)


Second Attempt (sitting while sliding is fun but not really fulfilling)


The Third and Final Attempt…. yey! Success! I reach the bottom safely :)


Proud Me After successfully conquering Sand Boarding!


It’s a short but a memorable side trip in Laoag City, i have fulfilled my dream to step into Malacanang of the North and Conquered Paoay Sand Dunes Adventures! Checked!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Lakbay Norte 2013 – Vigan Once More

I felt inlove with the place the first time I went here. Yeah, I admit, i missed a lot during my first stop here in Vigan but this time, I’m making a comeback and will make sure that i will never miss each part of the adventure. After my solo expedition to witness the International Hot Air Ballon Festival in Clark Pampanga, my friends and I proceed to Vigan, Ilocos Sur.  This time it’s more exciting because we had a detour, instead of directly riding a bus bound for Vigan or Laoag, we took an Abra bound bus and drop off to La Union.  We decided to take it that way so we can move away from Pampanga because we have been waiting for more than4 hours already and all buses plighted to our destination were all full. Anyhow, we can still reach Vigan whichever northern route we may take. After 5 hours of travelling we finally reached San Fernando, La Union.  After few minutes of waiting, the bus that will take us to Vigan finally pass by.  2 hours later, we found ourselves wandering Vigan early in the morning. When I went here last year, I stayed in Casa Teofila, when i called earlier before we arrived, they have an ordinary room that can accommodate 6 persons at Php 600.00 and when we arrived the room has been taken so we found ourselves riding back the tricycle and off we went to Arcellana’s Lodging House located in San Julian Sur, Vigan City.  We got the room at Php  350.00 per person and the owner has been very kind to let us overstay (separate article will be written for the reviews regarding this accommodation).We call it a day at around 2 in the morning, we were all very tired and sleepy, we freshen up and dozed off to recharge for the morning’s adventure. d69caec3-4044-402f-9132-83975259d9c0

We should be awake at 7 in the morning as we will be attending the 8 am mass, but because we were so tied with our beds, we ended up with the 10 AM mass at the Vigan Cathedral. It’s good to always start the day thanking Him for all blessings.

After attending mass, we were all so hungry. Off we went to Cafe Uno, its a local restaurant famed for serving the Delicious Home Cooked Ilocos Meals.   We got to taste the best of the best: Bagent, Pinakbet and Longganisa for Brunch. Plus a Ripe Mango shake  ^_^ 1183fb95-33a3-45ce-826b-c26350f6b703de406c35-a185-48fc-89ea-47bdce33abf5

After the stomach development activities, off we went to Calle Crisologo, for a daytour and at the same time to buy some pasalubong.

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We rove the tourist spots within the vicinity, we went to Plaza  Maestro, a mini mall containing stalls for Shirts, Shoes, Accessories and I was able to see some refreshments as well inside the place.


After a short sneak peek at the local mall version of Vigan, we headed to the Museums. Since it was a Sunday, we were not lucky to see most of them but fortunately the Syquia Mansion is Open for public viewing during that time. Talking about luck, we got a DOT representative to guide us as we rove the place and discover its history and of course, the guide served as our Photographer as well. After the Syquia Mansion tour, we went back to our place for a little rest because it has been a very hot day.






After a little rest, we then head off to the second part of the day’s tour: Baluarte and Hidden Garden.


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We played around with the luscious green bushes and bonsai of the Hidden Garden and we tasted another famous delicacy of Vigan: The Vigan Empanada… and it taste really great!

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It’s already dark when we went out of the Hidden Garden, we were having a great time there so we lost track of time. Off we went back to the Vigan Plaza and will take a glimpse of Calle Crisologo at night and  the rest of the Vigan City.

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 IMG_4291Day one ended with a curving smile on our faces. Vigan is more romantic at night especially walking on cobbled stone in Calle Crisologo.  The place is so peaceful as well and you can be assure that you will always be on safe hands. :)

Second Day started with us taking a tour at Vigan Bell Tower, then we went to Pagburnayan Jars to check how the local create an export quality pots using their bare hands then we proceed to Ilocos Sur Adventure zone. This wasn’t built yet when i visited Vigan last year thats why I wanted to make sure to check this out. It’s a different type of Zip Line as it is situated above the Abra River. This is a bit distant from the City proper but this should be worth the ride :) IMG_4310 IMG_4316 IMG_4338 IMG_4388



Vigan, will always have a special place in my heart. I will always go back and fall inlove over again. Vigan Once More Project: Food and Adventure Trip – Checked!

The Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Festival 2013 Experience

The most awaited event has finally come. I travelled miles to reach and witness this spectacular weekend of everything that fly. :) No regrets, i just had an awesome time seeing the colorful Balloons inflating and eventually flying up in the air. What I liked and loved about this fest is that I have learned so much about the Hot Air Balloon. The festival just doesn't allow their spectators to just assume and presume things as there is someone narrating while an exhibition is ongoing so will better understand what's going on during the show. Saturday, February 23, 2013, I woke up early in the morning took a jeepney ride to the Festival Site. From the main gate, i walked 15 minutes to get to the entrance gate of the Omni Aviation Field.  Note to self, to buy ticket ahead of time so I will have hassle free entry.  After 20 minutes of waiting, I was able to grab a ticket and went my way inside the Aviation Field. Ticket is sold for Php250.00 for a day pass.

While waiting for the first activity, there is an “UNOFFICIAL WELCOME” from the field director, they started flying remote controlled gadget in the air, its called UFO. LOL
When the sun starts to shine, the balloons were coming in one by one carried by the Angeles 4x4 Riders club, according to the host, each balloon is assigned to one 4x4 vehicle. When the balloon starts to fly, the vehicle will chase it until it landed. Kudos to the drivers for being so patient chasing a hot air balloon that doesn't know where to go. It goes wherever the wind will blow.  Aside from that,I learned some interesting facts about Hot Air. The ideal flying time should be sunrise and sunset. You may wonder why? According to the host, the Balloon is being filled with Hot Air to make if fly and the air outside the balloon should be cool enough to lift it higher. If the air from the inside and the outside is HOT, the balloon will not fly because the hot air from the outside will pull it back to ground. :)
There were 15 contenders for this competition, the Saturday Hot Air Balloon Flying competition is called the hare and hounds event. The first balloon to inflate and fly will be the rabbit and the remaining balloons will be the hounds. The rabbit will move as fast as it can to any direction it wants and the hounds balloons will chase it. The balloon that will land closest to the rabbit balloon will win the competition. This will be very exciting because the hounds balloons may be blown by the wind in a direction that’s really far or opposite to the hare balloon. This is a more challenging quest.  The event started with sky divers carrying the Philippine Flag, these are from coast guard, air force and Philippine Army.

This Balloon to the right is one of my favorites, the Tulip Balloon from the US, its just so Colorful.    The Pink Elephant Balloon is from Brussels Belgium.  The fire truck Balloon is from Germany.  The very colorful Balloon from the left is from Korea and the Heart Balloon is from Zurich Switzerland.   The Sunny Boy Balloon is from The Philippine Department of Tourism, it didn't fly though. Its inflated for continuous picture taking. LOL I wasn't able to fully take down each countries contenders.  Here are some snapshots of the Hot Air Balloon starting to fly.



The Yellow Balloon on the left is from the Philippines, the Space Shuttle Balloon was inflated but was not able to fly. After the Balloons took off, a series of paragliding exhibition followed. They came from Malaysia, Switzerland and other parts of the world.


After the Paragliding exhibit, the event was followed by Meynard Halili’s Aerobatic Show in his Bellanca super decathlon.  It’s just so amazing to witness a fabric light aircraft swinging to and fro and at the same time flying all the way up to the sky and will drop itself as fast as it can. Also, what amused me is when the aircraft starts to fly upside down.
After the show, the most awaited event followed. The Breitling Jet Team Aerobatic Exhibition. It’s just so beautiful, so precise and its simply breath taking.

After several hours of standing and sunbathing, I decided to roam around. On the other side of the field i saw kite flyers, life-size transformer images great cars for displayed for racing.
Though tired and sweating, I went home with a smile. I had one superb experience gazing this event.  I will go back for more and this time I need to be inside the field and will also try paragliding. =)