Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Manila: More travel notes from Manila

Today, I was at Intramuros again. I had invited my brod Bikoy Villanueva to join me and my tokayo, Ivan ManDy around Manila. We met up at the Bahay Tsinoy Museum where we got a lecture on Tsinoy History 101. From there, we walked towards the San Agustin Church since I was going to meet with Fr. Pedro Galende, director of the San Agustin Museum, regarding the plans to reconstruct the Second Monastery. It turns out, the San Agustin issue was a false alarm. The photos which circulated among cultural workers on the net are from an old design idea that never became a plan.

I mentioned to Fr. Galende that they should not have displayed those design ideas on the second floor of the museum. Anyway, the blue prints of the current plans are now on display on the first floor, an exterior reconstruction that was approved by UNESCO itself. The current design came about from several technical working group meetings with representatives from the National Museum, NHI, NCCA and IA and HCS members.

Fr. Galende was very receptive. He in fact wants feedback on the current design if there are any and requested me to relay the same to him. I posted the current plans above (there are several panels in San Agustin) for everyone's information.

From San Agustin, we decided to walk towards the Binondo area. While we were on the Jones Bridge, we saw the Pasig River Ferry docked in the Escolta Station and rushed to check it out. The next station, Sta. Ana, was just 30 minutes away so we decided to hop on board. We spent PHP25 each one-way.

There are several proposed stations along the Pasig River from Del Pan Bridge close to the mouth of the river up to Sta. Elena in Marikina. At the moment, four are already operational namely Escolta, Sta. Ana, Hulo and Guadalupe.

We weren't able to take photos during the more scenic part of the ferry ride because of security concerns. I wonder what the paranoia is all about, all these restrictions on taking photos of Malacanang. During my ferry rides in Bangkok and Singapore, I was able to take photos of the Grand Palace and Parliament House respectively. That's why I found this restriction especially absurd since after Malacanang, the river becomes black, the stench of the water becomes unbearable, and from old colonial buildings, you see the Pandacan Oil Depot, warehouses, factories, squatters and garbage among others!

From the Sta. Ana Station, we walked a few meters to the Sta. Ana Church, a national cultural treasure. The retablo is among the best in Metro Manila. In fact, I believe it's the most intact church complex in Manila with its convento and all.

After that brief tour of the church, we rushed back to the station to catch the ferry back to Escolta only to wait for thirty more minutes since the ferry was late. I hope they are able to perfect the arrival and departure times especially when more stations open. We went to the nearest Chinese restaurant along Escolta for dinner. I was craving for hot and sour soup so we ordered a bowl. We also had some siomai, beef spareribs and fried rice.

After dinner, since I was craving for dumplings, we went to Dong Bei to munch on their popular dumplings, pancakes and noodles. While we were eating, we found out our vehicles were locked inside the Bahay Tsinoy. And since they had an alarm system, we couldn't get them until the next day! So all of us had to commute home. Oh well!

Thanks to Bikoy for our photos in San Agustin and the Pasig River Ferry. Check out for his account of our trip.

Heritage candidate
Val Sandiego, head of the Carcar Heritage Conservation Society, is probably the first candidate ever in the Philippines to run on a heritage-based platform. Sandiego is a candidate for Mayor in Carcar, the most important heritage town in Cebu province. More details here.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Manila: Quiapo, heart of Manila

I just came from the book launching of Quiapo: Heart of Manila. The back cover of the book reads: "Quiapo district in the City of Manila is more than the Nazarene and Quezon Boulevard. It has excelled in painting, music, cooking and the arts. It harbors landmarks which are unique in the world. It is also neighborhoods in charming 1900s settings. In revitalizing the metropolis, Manila's centuries-old districts deserve as much care as the suburbs."

The welcome message of Dr. Fernando N. Zialcita, anthropologist and professor at the Ateneo de Manila University, really set the tone for the book and Quiapo as a unique district. And it would be a pity if I did not feature excerpts here since it was very informative and at times, intriguing. Here are some interesting parts of his speech:

"If Quiapo were in Melbourne, the rich and famous would be scrambling to live in it." These are the words of Dr. Trevor Hogan, an Australian sociologist who taught some courses in urbanism at the Far Eastern University over five years ago and who loved the streets, alleys and corners of Quiapo. I run the Bahay Nakpil-Bautista center for culture in Quiapo. We get visitors from the different embassies, like the Spanish and French embassies, who come on their own. Employees in the Department of Tourism tell us that they now get many requests for information on Quiapo.

But why Quiapo? Isn't it dirty, polluted and crime-ridden? Why do foreigners enjoy exploring the side-streets?

The heart of major cities abroad is not the shopping mall, not the gated communities but districts like Quiapo, where the rich, the middle class and the poor mix together, where your place of work is close to where you live, where the streets are lively throughout the day, and where there are beautiful historical landmarks.

In addition, there are experiences unique to Quiapo. Calle Hidalgo may now be disorderly; but it still points like an arrow to San Sebastian Church. "The street is like a stage-set" exclaimed a young Italian architect. Calle San Sebastian may be a small winding street. But it has beautiful 1920s mansions over which San Sebastian rises. On special days, the entire church is lit up. If you walk around the district, you will find inspiring scenes. For instance, between the accesorias decorated with ornate balusters and grilles, you will find patios where neighbors exchange stories while sharing steaming arroz caldo.

Quiapo is where different cultures meet. The bells of Quiapo Church alternate with the sacred call to prayer at the Golden Mosque. On another street, the Ocampo Pagoda shows off Japanese icons: carp for strength, a turtle for long-life, a dragon for Imperial majesty. You can enjoy this mixed experience only in Quiapo, the heart of Manila which is the heart of the Philippines. One of the many reasons we wrote the book was to show that if Quiapo were more orderly, it will be a showpiece.

Indeed, Quiapo is a showpiece. I finally got to walk along Hidalgo Street which Butch Zialcita had always been telling us about. For the longest time, there had been plans to revitalize the street as a heritage district which was supposed to be spearheaded by the Manuel L. Quezon University (MLQU) located along the street. But that was ages ago.

Several years have passed. The fabled and historic Enriquez Mansion, the birthplace of the UP School of Fine Arts which was housed there from 1909 to 1926, had already been ripped out of the heritage street and transferred to that property in Bagac, Bataan leaving a large empty space in what would have been the centerpiece of the heritage street. But there is still hope if we act fast. And I hope the professors there get their acts together and start working to rehabilitate their area the same way that the Far Eastern University made a great effort to clean up and prepare a rehabilitation plan for Nicanor Reyes Street and its environs.

I missed the program at the Bahay Nakpil-Bautista along Bautista (formerly Barbosa) Street where an exhibit on Juan Nakpil, national artist for architecture, was opened. The house was designed by equally renowned architect Juan Arellano for Dr. Ariston Bautista and his in-laws, the Nakpil family. I came just in time to catch the group which included Butch, restoration architect Mico Manalo, Manila streetwalker Ivan ManDy, and bloggers Sidney Snoeck, Eric Isaac, Tito Basa among many others out of the heritage house, down Hidalgo Street (which was formerly known as Calle San Sebastian) towards the current Calle San Sebastian where the book launching was going to be held.

The street actually has several American-era houses, among them the Yturralde House, which Butch mentioned was once used as the consulate of Monaco.

Sadly, from a cultural event, it had turned into a campaign rally of the Lord Mayor of Manila. Students from the Unibersidad de Manila were there in full force serving as Lito Atienza's overacting cheering squad. Every time his name was mentioned, or when Atienza referred to the kabataan ng Maynila (youth of Manila) or UDM students in his speech, they would erupt in a choreographed applause and shout out the name of Atienza in chorus. After the program, I found out why they were there: students were scrambling to sign attendance forms! Poor kids, being used for political purposes. It was funny because the real guests, those who would have gone even if they weren't forced to attend, just sat silently every time the group of students would erupt in applause. So who did the mayor's "spin doctors" fool? Definitely not me.

Anyway, I hope that while he is not busy campaigning for his son, the mayor reads the copy of the book which Butch had given him so he would know what real heritage conservation is all about. After I got Butch to sign my book, I left in a rush since I had to catch a family dinner in Libis. Now I’m home preparing for my finals week next week. Time for me to get back to my school work.

Check out my interview on the Philippine Blog Awards in The Four-eyed Journal.

Related articles
New book relives old Quiapo

Enriquez antique mansion goes kaput!

Heritage watch
Palawan wildlife trade: an alarming issue

Application for SSEAYP 2007 is ongoing. This is open to all Filipino citizens, 18 to 30 years old on April 1, 2007. Download the forms here. Deadline for application is April 30, 2007.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Finalists of the Philippine Blog Awards 2007

I got a pleasant surprise when I woke up this morning from my brod Bikoy Villanueva who informed me that both our blogs were named finalists in our respective categories at the Philippine Blog Awards. This blog is one of five finalists for the travel category. Wow! I also found out that Karlo de Leon made it too as one of the finalists for the photo blog category.

Looking back, this blog has indeed brought me places, both literally and figuratively. For me, being named a finalist is recognition enough! My appreciation goes to the panel for considering this blog and to all of you who visit and take time to read it. Good luck to all the finalists!

Read about my latest roadtrip here.

* * *

I just found out while bloghopping tonight that this blog is also one of the finalists of the Blog - Personal category of the Web Awards. To the Club, thank you very much!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Manila: The Intramuros controversies continue

There's a new controversy in Intramuros. And it's about the only UNESCO World Heritage Site in Metro Manila, the San Agustin Church. Do you want to find out what they plan to construct beside Fr. Blanco's Garden? The Manila Times column of Rene Martel says it all. Check out Random Jottings: God and mammon join hands at Intramuros.

There are actually some inaccuracies in the column. The new seminary won't be built in the garden itself. I actually asked Fr. Galende about this via e-mail and he assured me that the new seminary will be built on the original footprint of the former Second Monastery. I think what many people are uncomfortable about is the exterior design since I was told many have opposed it from the very beginning but to no avail. I would have to agree with the observations of Pinoy_ako in the SkyscraperCity Forums.

I am personally not against the construction of a new seminary. In fact, I am for it especially since we want to keep Intramuros alive (the Augustinians are the last order that remain in the walled city). At the same time there used to be a structure where the proposed seminary will built. However, I am also uncomfortable with the exterior design which many argue is not proper for a UNESCO World Heritage Site like San Agustin.

I would be all praises if they built the new seminary as a faithful exterior restoration of the Second Monastery with up-to-date interiors such as that mock-up of the Augustinian Provincialate built just across the street. It would even be great if they can rebuild that bridge which used to connect the two buildings.

On the sports complex issue, it was on the front page of the Manila Times yesterday. Several articles came out:
Ugly side of Tourism Authority revealed
Former PTA heads want Gen. Mgr. Barbers charged
What is behind Barbers’ insistence on this project?

The good news is that Archt. Toti Villalon's column is back! Check out Pride of Place: Monumental Legacy. Don't forget to read my other posts on the Intramuros controversies: Protect the walls of Intramuros! and Inside the walls of Intramuros.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Baguio, Benguet & Tarlac: Back to Metro Manila

Today was the last day of our road trip. We got up just in time for the complimentary breakfast at Villa Cordillera. Eating at the hotel restaurant Le Terrace is always a great experience since the panoramic view of the pine tree-covered hill behind the hotel is very relaxing to the senses. After paying our hotel bill, we were off to La Trinidad's strawberry fields.

Right beside the boundary arch between Baguio City and La Trinidad is the entrance of one of Baguio's hidden secrets, a Chinese temple called Bell Church. Not many people know about it since it's quite far from all the other city attractions. And today, it is easily obscured by all the urban chaos that sadly accumulated along the way to La Trinidad. We decided to stopover for a few minutes to check it out.

It's my second time to visit the strawberry fields in two weeks. Picking strawberries was a bit cheaper this time around at PHP150 a kilo. The price of those sold by the vendors was the same too and I got several kilos of strawberries for PHP70 each. We had lunch at Kalei's. The place and ambiance is much better that where Jolly Yan is located. And the food, just as affordable with its "meat plus meat" at PHP50. But I still think the home-cooked meals of Jolly Yan are worth the visit.

After lunch, we left Doc Ryan in La Trinidad and began our trip back to Metro Manila via Kennon Road. For most people, since the trip back to Manila is relatively long and tiring, they just keep on driving as fast as they could down Kennon Road. And as a result, we rarely notice the scenery along the route. I'm sure we've all seen the waterfalls along the route. But have you ever stopped to check them out up close?

Bridal Veil Falls actually caught our fancy since there was a pedestrian suspension bridge that connected it to Kennon Road. So we parked the car in front of a store and crossed the makeshift bridge. Below us was a mountain stream that emptied into a vast riverbed further down the road. I guess the falls got its name from the fact that it resembled a bridal veil as the water cascaded down the smoothened rock into a small pool.

I really think that the entire length of Kennon Road should be declared a protected cultural landscape because most of the scenic route - the picturesque view of the mountains, lush vegetation and pine trees - is still intact. There is a need to regulate the construction of new structures in order to protect the historical fabric of our country's oldest mountain road which was completed in 1905. I hope the National Historical Institute or the National Museum act fast before it's too late.

Anyway, we finally crossed the Benguet-La Union boundary and just a few kilometers away, the boundary of Pangasinan. I had to pass by Rosales for a while to talk with the mayor. I was pleasantly surprised that the restoration of the old municipal hall was finally complete. Unlike other towns such as Moncada, Tarlac which bastardized their elegant colonial-era town halls, Rosales chose to preserve theirs. In fact, even the pre-war statues of a farmer on a carabao with his wife were rehabilitated and repainted, bringing out the vivid colors that were very chic during the pre-war days.

Our last stop for the day was the Isdaan Resaurant in Gerona. This one is an attraction in itself. I congratulate the owners for such a great concept. If you've heard of the Tacsiyapo Wall (tacsiyapo is a Kapampangan expletive), you can find it here. From cups at PHP15, to clocks and working television sets, customers can purchase these items to hurl at a wall to release their anger. On the wall, several target words are painted such as 5/6, ex-wife, professors and classmates; sugal, alak and babae; boss, managers, and supervisors; and many others.

The food is a bit pricey though and expect to spend at least PHP200 per head. But you go here for the experience. And the food is great too. We ordered Innapoy rice rolls for our appetizer which was suman with longganiza, bakang maanghang and chicken curry in it. It's something new and I really liked it. For dinner, we had binalot rice meals. Anyway, after this dinner stopover, we continued our trip back to Manila.

I have class tomorrow and a report at that so I guess I'll just be home preparing for it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Baguio: Around Baguio City

Today, I decided to stay in the hotel the whole day to finish pending school requirements. Baguio's climate is so conducive to thinking and sleeping! But Jiajin and Doc Ryan were able to cover a lot of ground. So I'll talk about their adventure here.

Baguio being a tourist city has well-established tour options. And one of them is on a taxi. Ryan said that there is a standard rate (according to the driver that is) and a standard three-hour tour on a taxi for PHP700. If you go to the tourist attractions individually, the cost of taxi would total close to that amount so might as well charter one.

On this list of places they visited was the Mansion House which was built and used by the American government as residence and office of American governors-general during the summer months. And has since been used as the official residence of Philippine presidents while they are in Baguio. Near the Mansion House is Wright Park where visitors can go horseback riding.

The two also visited Mines View Park which offers a panoramic view of the old mines in Benguet. I haven't been there for quite a while and I wonder if the view has not been enundated by illegal structures and houses like many of Baguio City's mountain vistas. At the entrance of the park is a flea market where one can buy souvenir items, local food products and plants among others.

Since Jiajin had enough of churches when we went to Ilocos, they skipped the Baguio Cathedral and the Lourdes Grotto and went straight to Camp John Hay, the former rest and recreational facilities of the US Military which was turned over to the Philippines in 1991. It's good that this area of Baguio is still well-preserved. In fact, this is one place of Baguio City that I do not mind visiting because of fresh mountain air and pine trees all over.

Last night, on our way up Naguilan Road, we had our windows down so that we could enjoy the fresh mountain air. The moment we entered the city limits, we had to close the windows again since the exhaust from all those jeeps was just horrible. Anyway, the landscaping at Camp John Hay Manor is simply superb! Last time I was there, my mind wandered in the large garden behind the hotel. It's a great place to relax and unwind.

Another place worth visiting is Fort del Pilar or the Philippine Military Academy. If you are lucky, there may be a parade. I think the cadets where practicing for graduation when Jiajian and Doc Ryan arrived. There is also a park reserved for military relics. But aren't the military equipment used by the AFP today also relics? Hehe! But seriously, I hope the new generation of cadets will really serve the country and not a particular group's political interests.

They then went to the Kennon Road View Deck and Lion's Head along Kennon Road which has become a welcoming landmark of Baguio despite the fact that there are no lions in the city or its history.

The only place they went to which I have yet to see is Tam-awan Village. The place contains several authentic Igorot huts which give visitors a window into the old Cordillera way of life. It also plays host to a community of artists which uses the conducive environment to release their creative juices.

I met up with them late in the afternoon at SM since I wanted to check mail (I hadn't seen my mailbox in ages). We decided to have dinner at Don Henrico's. Just like at 50's Diner, Don Henrico's had value meals too. My plate of spaghetti and garlic bread, chicken and fries was PHP140. I didn't expect the servings to be large since for the same amount in Manila, you had small portions.

For our midnight snack, I ordered a pizza for take-out. As soon as we got back at the hotel, we asked the staff to start up the fire at the fireplace on our floor. And we spent the night watching TV and munching on pizza. Tomorrow, we go back to Manila. But Doc Ryan wants to bring Jiajin to La Trinidad, Benguet first to check out the strawberry fields. So I guess we'll have lunch there too before we go down Kennon Road.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Ilocos Norte & Ilocos Sur: More great stopovers in Ilocos

It was time for our drive down south to Baguio City. It was a leisurely drive from Pagudpud to Laoag since there were just a few vehicles on the road.

We would have stopped by Bacarra to check out their church, a national cultural treasure, which is known for its gargantuan bell tower. But since we had a long list of churches to visit today, and since I been there already, we decided to skip it and head straight to San Nicolas, just a few kilometers from Laoag.

But before that, we stopped over at the Museo Ilocos Norte so that Jiajin could take a look. At the same time, I needed to take a photo of it for the 2008 HCS Calendar which will feature examples of adaptive reuse. The museum, housed in what was formerly the Tabacalera Building, won the Gawad Alab ng Haraya for Outstanding Cultural Conservation Program (Adaptive Reuse) in 2002.

The San Nicolas town proper has a good collection of colonial buildings including the church and convento, municipal hall and elementary school. We stopped by the church to check it out. Our next stop was Batac to check out the Marcos Mausoleum again. This time it was open and we were able to view the body of President Ferdinand Marcos preserved with wax.

In Batac, we also passed by the General Artemio Ricarte Shrine as well as the Gregorio Aglipay Shrine. The town is very lucky since it got a lot of attention when Marcos was president. So there are several monuments, parks and shrines around town. These open spaces are in the town center and provide breathing spaces for Batac residents. Of course, we ate again at the empanadahan. This time i had a "double double" which is a double serving of egg and longganiza inside the empanada.

Another town I had always wanted to check out was Badoc since the reconstructed house of Juan Luna, another national shrine, could be found there. They also have this quaint church, the San Juan Bautista Church, which houses the image La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc. So we stopped over for a few minutes to check them out.

Next on our list was the town of Sinait which is home to a darkened image of the crucified Christ or Cristo del Perdon that has a sizeable following. I was happy to see that the interior of the church was very much intact. Is it something about the priests in the Ilocos Region (Pangasinan not included) since they seem to understand the historical fabric and cultural value of the churches under their stewardship. I hope it stays that way.

From Sinait, passed by Cabugao, then went straight to San Vicente, another town beside Vigan. Just like San Nicolas, it had a nice collection of heritage buildings in the town center. The church still has its original fence. While the school and municipio are of Spanish colonial vintage. The municipio even has a coat of arms embossed on its facade.

Another impressive (but abandoned) structure is the Asilo de San Vicente. An edifice which was once uses as the vacation home of the governor, it became the home of the Community of St. Paul of Chartes Sisters of Asilo de San Vicente when it was turned-over to the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia. Being a home for old women and orphans as well, it house a school as well which the sisters managed until 1946, the year they left San Vicente. It was managed by lay administrators until it closed in 2001.

We made a brief stopover in Vigan to buy woven blankets at the city market. But before that, we made a quick drive along Quirino Boulevard to check out the old houses such as the Quema House and Syquia Mansion.

Another stop was the Church of Sta. Maria de la Asuncion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But we didn't go down anymore since we were a bit tired and I wanted to rush to one last church in that of Luna, La Union, which is a national cultural treasure. I had wanted to check out the one in Bangar since from photos of the interior, I could say that it's one worth stopping over too. But since it was getting dark, we rushed to Luna.

I was a bit disappointed when I entered the Santa Catalina de Alexandria Church in Luna since although the interior was intact, I noticed the santos were quite new for it to be considered a national cultural treasure. In fact, Bangar has ceiling murals which would make it a better choice. But I would later find out from Archt. Richard Bautista of the NCCA that two ivory santos were stolen from the altar which may explain why the santos are new (they must have kept the old ones). At the same time, the built environment it was located in was another factor with a well-preserved colonial town center around it. But sadly, as Richard puts it, the local government "Agoo-fied" (if you notice Agoo, La Union is full of all these fake colonial buildings, while they renovated the facades of their old buildings such as the basilica with this horrible unpainted cement finish) the place.

Anyway, we took Naguilan Road up to Baguio City. It was my first time to use this route and sadly, it was to dark to see the scenery. There are five roads that lead to Baguio namely Kennon Road, Marcos Highway, Naguilan Road, Halsema Highway and a road which connects Baguio to Nueva Vizcaya via Ambuklao Dam, one which I have yet to use. I think we arrived in Baguio at about 8 p.m. and went straight to Villa Cordillera where we had booked our stay.

For dinner, we met up with Doc Ryan at the 50's Diner which I really enjoyed since it was value for money as well. Imagine a plate of chicken, spaghetti and garlic bread, a slice of pizza, french fries and pork chop all for PHP100. I don't think Shakey's bunch-of-lunch can beat that!

Monday, March 12, 2007

La Union, Ilocos Sur & Ilocos Norte: Driving up north to Pagudpud

Our long drive up north began yesterday afternoon. We left San Fernando, Pampanga at about 2 p.m. (it was my grandmother's birthday celebration so we had lunch there) and reached San Fernando, La Union at about 6 p.m. We passed by the Ma-cho Temple so that Jiajin could see a local Taoist temple. It was closed when we got there so we were only able to go around the grounds and enjoy the San Fernando Bay sunset from the place which was high on top of a hill.

From San Fernando, it was another long drive to Candon, Ilocos Sur where we had dinner. It is a popular stopover because of its local calamay, which are flat like pancakes and covered with a clear celophane. There are two kinds, one made with brown sugar and the other with white sugar. Another product sold there is the Ilocos chichacorn.

It took another 45 minutes or so before we finally arrived in Vigan where we decided to stay for the night. Hotels in the heritage area are quite pricey. But after walking around, we found the Vigan Hotel which offered air-conditioned rooms for PHP795 a night, breakfast for two included. The only hitch though was that it was a common bathroom (they have rooms with private bathrooms just like the other hotels but it was in the same price range of over PHP1000). But since it was a Sunday, most tourists had gone back to Manila. So it seemed we had the hotel all to ourselves.

The next day, we got up early to walk around Vigan, the best-preserved Spanish town in Asia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was my third visit here so I just accompanied Jiajin around, from the St. Paul Cathedral to Plaza Salcedo, Plaza Burgos, and Crisologo Street which is the most intact of all Vigan's streets.

There are actually better houses in the other streets such as Quirino Boulevard where you can find the Syquia Mansion and the Quema House. But unlike Crisologo Street, they cannot be pedestrianized since they are major routes.
From Vigan, we drove a few meters out to Bantay to check out its bell tower.

Our next stop was the town of Magsingal. It's church, the San Guillermo Church, is a national cutlural treasure. It has a very intricately-carved gold and green retablo. Outside, you could see the ruins of an older church whose bell tower is still standing. This explains why the church belfry is a bit far from the current church since they din't bother to construct a new one. Beside the belfry is a small chapel that was converted into a branch of the National Museum. There was a blackout that day in the Ilocos area so we didn't get to see what was inside.

Batac was next on our list of stopovers so we could check out the Marcos Mausoleum among other things. But since there was no power, it was locked today. But that was not a problem since the other attraction of the town was its empanada. It turns out that the empanadahan has a new home beside the elementary school. So after finding it, it was time for another binge. I have an older post on my previous empanada binge since I just adore these crispy fritters. For today, I had a jumbo special, the one with hotdog in it, aside from longganiza and egg of course.

We then went to Paoay to check out the San Agustin Church, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. A few kilometers drive between Paoay and Laoag is Lake Paoay. There is a viewing area constructed by the Kiwanis Club which is worth stopping over.

One thing I had not seen yet were the Ilocos Norte Sand Dunes, one of the national geological monuments of the Philippines. We had already visited the Taal Volcano which is also a national geological monument.

According to the National Committee on Geological Sciences (NCGS) which makes the declarations, "Though common in desert environments in the higher latitudes, the sand dunes of Ilocos Norte stands out as a unique land form in the Philippine setting. The dunes cover an area of about 85 sq kms, and stretch for at least 40 kms. Along the coast, sparse vegetation consisting mainly of grasses and shrubs blanket the low-relief area which is believed to have been formed a few thousand years ago through the combined action of wind, waves and shore currents."

A good place to view them are in the Suba Beach area. But the marker installed by the NCGS can be found near Fort Ilocandia in Laoag City. In some places, it really feels like you are in a desert. It would have been fun if we had some off-road bikes to explore the sand dunes. Maybe next time.

We made a brief stopover in Laoag to have my car tuned-up and then we were off to Pagudpud. Since we wanted to get there before dark, we had skipped several great stopvers today and reserved them for our trip back. But we made sure to pass by the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos, another national cultural treasure, and the viewing area for the Bangui Bay Wind Power Project.

The wind farm project in Bangui Bay, composed of 15 towers, is the first in the Philippines and the largest energy-generating set of wind turbines in Southeast Asia.

It was close to 5 p.m. when we arrived in Pagudpud. To make sure we got value for money, we stopped by the municipal hall to ask the tourism officer to recommend a place. He sent us to the Polaris Beach House which was right beside the Municipal Beach Park or White Beach.

Although the published rate was PHP1500 a room, since there were just two of us, we got the air-conditioned room just for PHP800. I was told that during the peak season, a room for two in the said resort could go as high as PHP2000. So I could imagine how much it would cost in other resorts. It was a good choice since the facilities were good and I personally liked the place relative to the amount we paid for it.

The rest of the afternoon was spent at the beach watching the sunset. It was a bit chilly for a swim but not too cold for us to avoid the water. Dinner was at the resort as well. We got a big plate of adobo good for 2 to 3 persons for PHP200. A bit pricey but what do you expect?

We're off to Baguio City tomorrow. The plan is to leave early since we'll be stopping over at some of the places we missed on the way up.
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