It all started with the cobblestone path of Calle Crisologo. I always had this absurd fantasy when I was younger envisioning myself in a Traje de Mestiza with a pañuelo, a tapis and an abaniko to complete the ensemble and promenade around cobbled streets with century-old houses as my backdrop.
When I learned of Vigan years back, I instantly knew that it will become my only means of realizing this life-long dream. Calle Crisologo is just the perfect spot I said to myself. Right then and there, it became one of my dream local destinations along with Batanes, Hinatuan and Baguio City.
As my knowledge about Ilocos expanded with the advent of social media, so is my deep longing to set foot in this beautiful place. Dreams do come true I dare say and so it did.
With those Capiz shell windows, clay roofs, old Spanish houses, Calle Crisologo was then my ideal setting of making my ridiculous dream of living in the colonial past a reality.
Presented with this chance, I immediately grabbed it with no second thoughts and instantaneously booked an accommodation that is closer to my favorite place.
Located at the very heart of the Heritage Village, we chose Hotel Luna.
We love everything about Hotel Luna especially its outdoor pool. Every intricate detail exudes elegance and class, room is very spacious, it’s a perfect fusion of vintage and modern with old Spanish architecture and high tech amenities (hey they have electronic bidets).
They offer complimentary drinks for guests, check in and check out processes are smooth and fast, they have courteous staff and helpful guards, everything was perfect, amazing right?
Unfortunately we didn’t spend much time in the hotel since we are mostly out (wasn’t able to take a number of photos as well) but if given a chance, I will gladly book another room in a heartbeat for Hotel Luna truly is an excellent choice.
Day 1. We began our tour by leaving the hotel at exactly 4 o’clock in the morning. Yes it was way too early from our standard 12nn wake-up time but we delightedly embraced the sacrifices we had to make to fulfill a dream. Lol! Vigan is hours away from Laoag and with just two days to spare to complete the entire round trip, it was fortunate of us for Kuya Ronald to accommodate our what-seems-to-be an impossible schedule and generate an itinerary with major adjustments tailor fit to the time and budget we can offer as tourists.
Because of this early call time, we actually dozed off inside the vehicle and were just awaken by our driver, Kuya Edrian, upon reaching the arc. We appreciate his thoughtfulness honestly.
The sun has not risen up yet when we arrived at Laoag Arc but tourists already flocked the area taking turns in capturing a good photo. (The Arc is well-lighted so it’s not much of a struggle really.) We overheard that one group was from a “joiners tour” which is by the way the most economical way of dilly-dallying around Ilocos but since we are more concern of our time and convenience, we opted for an exclusive tour. Who wouldn’t when we requested for a jam-packed itinerary good for 2 days. Higher cost yet we own the time (higher rewards?).
After a few minutes, we proceeded to Paoay Church (St. Augustine Catholic Parish) and arrived just in time for sunrise. It was so majestic, beautiful and worthy to behold. But since the iconic church faces the direction where the sun routinely sets, we knew we could never expect an IG-worthy shot with my already outdated, albeit still useful, iPhone 6s (but hey all pictures attached herein are taken with the use of my ever reliable 6s buddy), so we were forced to be contented with our captures and we sincerely apologize for the images that never gave due justice to the captivating beauty of the subject.
We were supposed to visit Malacañang of the North next but as it usually opens at 9 in the morning and it was still around 7 or 8, we had to skip it and head directly to Sand Dunes. Thankfully, Kuya Edrian noticed our concern and assured us that we will return in the afternoon.
Paoay Sand Dunes was one of the best experiences we had so far. We initially planned to forego the 4×4 Adventure since it’s expensive, there were only the two of us and there is no one else to share the cost with, and our original plan was merely to have a picture taking but Kuya Edrian insisted to not let the oppurtunity pass since our Ilocos Trip will not be complete without this adventure, a what-could-have-been our missing piece of the puzzle. Heeding his advice which we are extremely thankful by the way, we had a minute of discussion turned debate when we discovered a Php2,500 worth of spare money in my pocket. Lucky us, we do not need any further arguments.
As we prepped up and positioned ourselves at the back of the jeepney, we were asked if we wanted the “extreme” route, I jokingly said yes. What was unknowingly waiting for us, in the middle of a patched desert, were differing peaks of sand waves, bumpy trails and rugged terrain. I hated how the driver intentionally move the vehicle sideways as if almost to topple and run over the steepest terrains giving us thrilling drops on that 10-20ft tall sand ridges when there was a safer, less bumpy, no heart attack route.
As we were standing at the back of the 4×4, we were holding on to that steel bar for dear life.
But Sand Dunes is more than just a heart stopping adventure for it offers the most breathtaking view of the Suba Beach. A serenity like no other.
Sand Dunes was the most fun we had, it was worth the 2,500php, actually never mind the price, we will sign for it up again.
After an hour of adrenaline rush, we decided to have our breakfast near the Wishing Tree. It was not part of the itinerary but Kuya Edrian deemed it best to include it since it was still early in the morning, and maybe there are no other carenderias open to cater to hungry stomachs at daybreak.
It is called wishing tree not because they believe that your wish will come true but instead you donate any amount of cash to make the dreams of our less fortunate brothers and sisters come true. So touching and worth emulating.
We passed by the Sinking Bell Tower and kuya Edrian told us a story that is famous among the locals. The bell tower is not actually sinking per se but there are rumors that once a person, any person for that matter, gets inside the structure, it will automatically sink. Structural integrity perhaps but better stay out of it for safety.
Malacañang of the North was the last item on our Laoag Trip Itinerary before we proceeded to Ilocos Sur. Upon our arrival we were greeted with dozens of kids on a field trip but when they left the premises, we had the place pretty much all to ourselves.
Now stands as a museum, Malacañang of the North used to serve as the official residence of the Marcoses in Ilocos Norte.
The mansion is intricately designed with a mix of Spanish and Ilocano architecture. But for me its best feature is its panoramic view, the entirety of Paoay Lake.
… to be continued …
For a personalized Ilocandia Tour, we highly recommend the services of Kuya Ronald Tayawa, he may be reached through these magic digits: 09458454363