Showing posts with label Ilocos Norte. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ilocos Norte. Show all posts

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Ilocos Sur & Ilocos Norte: Road trip to Pagudpud (Day 1)

I found myself on the way to Ilocos Norte again for our Ultimate Philippines tour of the north! The first leg of the trip involved a long drive from Makati all the way to Blue Lagoon (Mairaira Cove) in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. With stopovers, the trip took 20 hours.

We left Makati 11 p.m. the night before and arrived in La Union at 6 a.m. for breakfast. Oasis Country Resort has a 24-hour restaurant beside the hotel which is very convenient for travelers.

After breakfast, we went straight to our first stop, the Sabangan Cove Weaving Village in Santiago, Ilocos Sur which was two hours away. When you near the town proper of Santiago, watch out for signs pointing to Santiago Cove. The weaving village is where some of the higher-quality abel iloko cloth is woven. Ask around for the house of the barangay captain where many of the looms are located.

From Santiago, we drove over to Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur to visit the Sta. Maria Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which was inscribed as part of the Baroque Churches of the Philippines.

I was quite surprised vendors were selling grapes at Php25 a bag by the church. It turns out, these are grapes that are grown locally in Ilocos Sur. They're a bit small will large seeds bu sweet nonetheless. I wonder if a wine industry will follow.

We made another long drive to Batac, Ilocos Norte for a quick snack stop at Glory's Empanada. It's about two hours from Sta. Maria. For me, the best Ilocos empanada is the one served in Batac. Near the empanadahan is the Marcos Mausoleum where the preserved body of President Ferdinand E. Marcos lies in state.

We had a late lunch in Herencia Cafe in Paoay, Ilocos Norte which is most know for its Pinakbet Pizza, Dinuguan Pizza, Bagnet Pizza and other fusion and traditional Ilocano dishes. In front of the restaurant is the Paoay Church, a majestic example of Philippine Baroque architecture, and another UNESCO-inscribed church.

Our last two stops for the day were the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, a National Cultural Treasure, and the Bangui Wind Farm Project or the Bangui Windmills.

There were just too many people in the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse. I think it's about time they charge a little entrance fee to help in its upkeep and preservation with crowds wearing out this cultural treasure. There aren't even any restrooms.

For the Bagui Windmills, most people only pass by the view deck. But you could actually drive down to the beach for a better and close-up view of this massive sustainable energy project.

We arrived at the Kapuluan Vista Resort in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte at about 7 p.m. just in time for a sumptuous buffet dinner. The main dish was Kahlua Pig, which is pork cooked the traditional Hawaiian way, wrapped in banana leaves and buried in a pit of hot charcoal under the sand. We also had salads, grilled chicken, marlin kilawin and seafood sisig among other stuff.

Part 2: Road trip from Pagudpud to Vigan
Part 3: Arce Mansion in Vigan, a colonial Ilocano dinner experience
Part 4: Historic Town of Vigan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Part 5: Tres de Mayo Festival in Vigan, Ilocos Sur
Part 6: Where to stay in Vigan (Hotels & Accommodation)

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Ilocos Norte & Ilocos Sur: Book now for the Ultimate Ilocos Culinary, Heritage & Beach Tour!

It's about time you experience the ABCs of the Ilocandia: antiques, bagnet and churches! In Ilocos, nature and history is intertwined. But at Ultimate Philippines, we think this is combo best savored with bagnet and beer so we're exploring this provincial belle... our style!

Let's journey up to the north and take a time-warp through the colonial city of Vigan. We'll walk through cobbles, munching our way through the town's traditional street fare and home-cooked feasts, from yummy empanadas to tasty longganisas.

More historical bites and pinakbet pizza as we take a peek at the life of ex-strongman Ferdinand Marcos in the town of Batac and admire two masterpieces of Ilocos' unique Earthquake Baroque architecture: Paoay and Santa Maria Church.

Capping off, we'll surf through the waves of Mairaira Beach in Pagudpud ending our journey in time to join the revelries of the annual Tres de Mayo fiesta in Vigan.

Tour Route will include the Sabangan Cove Weaving Village, Santa Maria Church and Paoay Church (UNESCO World Heritage Sites), Herencia Cafe, Marcos Mausoleum, Glory's Empanada, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, Bangui Windmills, Blue Lagoon (Pagudpud), Saramsam Cafe, and Vigan (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and its Tres de Mayo Fiesta where we'll have feasts at an old house and garden restaurant and savor its street food in style!

Tour fee is Php15,000 per person inclusive of van transportation, overnight accommodation at the best resort in Pagudpud (Kapuluan Vista Resort) and at a very-private hotel at the heart of the heritage town of Vigan (My Vigan Home) and full board and all meals. We're only accepting a maximum of 20 people for this May 1 to May 3, 2010 tour. So book now!

For bookings e-mail or contact my tokayo, Ivan ManDy at (0917) 3291622. For posts about last year's tour, check out: Ilocos road trip, Mairaira Cove (Blue Lagoon), Ilocos culinary adventure and Tres de Mayo Festival.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Ilocos Norte: Paoay Church, Lake Paoay & Batac empanada

Paoay Church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-visit when in Ilocos Norte. After the exciting 4x4 ride and sandboarding at the Ilocos Norte Sand Dunes, and a brief stopover at the Lake Paoay View Deck, we proceeded to the Paoay Church.

This fortress-like church, rising like a mirage in the middle a vast square, is so unique in the country since its heavy set buttresses and finials give the church a silhouette similar to Asian temples. It is also considered by art critics as the pinnacle of earthquake Baroque architecture.

The construction of the Paoay Church began in 1694 and was completed sometime between 1702 to 1710. It was damaged on several occasions and repaired in 1865 and from 1889 to 1896, with its rededication at the onset of the Philippine Revolution.

Church expert Regalado Trota Jose mentions in his book that Paoay’s ceiling was once painted with murals similar to that of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. This however is no longer in existence today since one would only see wooden trusses as well as an exposed roof.

As Fr. Pedro Galende notes, “There is massiveness, movement, integration and above all, a forceful sweep of illusion that say a great deal about Filipino ingenuity. The result is an outstanding and undeniably Filipino type of architecture, neither Baroque nor Gothic, neither European nor Mexican, but authentically Filipino.”

Indeed, the Paoay Church stands as a testament to the immense creativity and ingenuity of the Filipino craftsmen who built its massive walls. It serves as a reminder for the current and future generations of Filipinos that heritage must be preserved and valued if we are to move forward as a nation.

After taking photos, the group proceeded to Batac for an empanada and miki breakfast. I always look forward to munching on Batac empanada everytime I'm in Ilocos Norte. Check out Dissecting the Batac and Vigan empanada.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Ilocos Norte: Sandboarding and 4x4 ride in the Ilocos Norte Sand Dunes

Ever heard of sandboarding? Sandboarding is the newest adventure activity in Ilocos Norte, which has its very own desert of sorts - the Ilocos Norte Sand Dunes.

An already popular activity are 4x4 jeep rides in the Ilocos Norte Sand Dunes. We were supposed to ride into the sunset on 4WD jeeps. But since we arrived late from Pagudpud, we rode the jeeps in the dark which was a fun experience too.

But we definitely couldn't sandboard in the dark. So we decided to wake up early in the morning to do it.

The next day, we were at the sand dunes in Paoay before sunrise. It was an experience riding the jeeps through the sand dunes. You could hear screams of excitement from the group as the drivers went full speed through bumps and up hills.

Our drivers parked by the slope where we were going to sandboard down. Sandboarding is very similar to snowboarding. The only difference is that it's done on sand dunes rather than snow-capped hills. So you can do it anywhere there are sand dunes.

While most people sandboard down the dunes standing-up, like in a skateboard, our guide tipped me that it's faster sitting down. So I gave that a shot too and enjoyed the fast slide down. Others do it lying down on their stomachs as I've seen in some videos, which looks equally thrilling too. The first time I saw sandboarding was when I visited Mui Ne, Vietnam. It's a good thing the LEAD Movement introduced sandboarding in Ilocos Norte.

It costs Php2,500 per hour for a maximum of four persons, transportation included, if you want to sandboard in the Ilocos Norte Sand Dunes. But please check since prices may change. It's definitely an experience!

LEAD Movement (Sandboarding and 4x4)
Reny Tan (0919) 8735516
Glenn Guerero (0908) 8853669

Paoay Off-roaders and Adventure Group (4x4)
Gilbert Santos (0928) 9473518

Mira de Polaris Hotel
Ventura Street, San Nicolas
(077) 6761647 / 6706830 / 6706700 to 04

Thanks to Bong Bajo and Bikoy for the photos!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Ilocos Norte: Saramsam Cafe's traditional and fusion Ilocano food

Saramsam Restaurant in Laoag, Ilocos Norte is known for its fusion pizzas and traditional Ilocano food. Their specialty is the Poque-Poque Pizza, which is pizza topped with poque-poque, an Ilocano eggplant dish: eggplant, tomatoes, onions ang egg. It's one of the dishes they served us when the Lakbay Norte Media Tour had dinner there.

Also served to us was (1) Saramsam Pasta which has green and ripe mango and KBL (kamatis, bagoong and lasona or spring onions), (2) Dinardaraan Empanada which is the traditional empanada crust with dinuguan filling, (3) Tuna and Igado Crostinis, igado is made of pork liver and pork meat, and (4) Sardinas Pasta.

Aside from Poque-Poque Pizza, they also have the Dinardaraan Pizza: dinuguan topped with green chili peppers; Longaniza Pizza topped with the local Laoag longaniza; and the Carbonara Pizza topped with Currimao oysters.

And if you need a place to hang-out, they have WiFi Internet too.

Saramsam Restaurant
N. Corpuz Building, Rizal cor. Hizon Streets
Barangay 7-A, Laoag City
+63 77 7715825

Thanks to Bikoy for the photos!

Ilocos Norte: Mairaira Cove in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Mairaira Cove in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte is one of the more picturesque beaches of North Philippines. It's also called Blue Lagoon because of the deep blue waters of Mairaira, especially when viewed from the top of the hill as you enter or exit the cove.

I did not realize that the trip from Tuguegarao, Cagayan to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte would take that long. It should be about five to six hours (we did 8 hours because of the church stops).

We had a late lunch at Hannah's Beach Resort which is the only resort right in front of Blue Lagoon. The location of the resort is thus very convenient. And it's one of two resorts in Mairaira Cove I would recommend to tourists.

But as I told one of the managers, they should add more trees since it's all concrete. The resort needs to blend in more with the surrounding environment. And given that it can accommodate really large groups for seminars and conventions, I hope they could improve the design, lay-out and feel of the place. People in the group noted that it looked more like a housing development (think Camella Homes) than a resort.

Anyway, lunch was an offering of local Ilocano fare. On the buffet table were two really large lobsters, the largest I've ever seen so far, which we were told, were caught in the local waters.

Hannah's Beach Resort
(0910) 4966525 / (0920) 6057121 / (0917) 8103763

Thanks to Bikoy for the photos!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ilocos Norte: Empanada, miki and more street food from Batac, Ilocos Norte

A trip to Ilocos Norte would not be complete without a food trip in Batac, the home of the Ilocos Norte version of the empanada.

The Batac empanada has a lot of variations. There's the ordinary empanada (just the papaya, bean sprouts and egg), ordinary eggless (just the vegetables), special empanada (with longganisa and egg), special eggless (with longganisa but no egg), special w/o mongo (everything except bean sprouts), jumbo empanada (with hot dog), double special (double longganisa and one egg), double egg (one longganisa and two eggs), and the heaviest of them all, the double double (double the longganisa and egg). They even serve just the crust which they call pinais. For more on the Batac empanada, read Ilocos empanada! Dissecting the Batac and Vigan empanada.

But there's more to Batac than just the empanada. In the empanda stores, they also serve longganisa, kudil (fried pork skin), isaw (fried chicken intestines), pusit (fried dried squid), balut and kwek-kwek among others. It's basically fried stuff! Talk about cholesterol and uric acid high!

But across the street is another treat. Batac is also known for its miki (noodle soup) which they serve for Php20 for the plain miki or Php25 if you want a hard-boiled egg in it. The noodles are freshly made and you can see it still has its flour coat when its dropped in boiling water.

In another store, they served grilled pig parts. There was pig snout, ears, tongue, intestines, pork sausage (longganisa) among others.

Related entry
Street food in the Philippines

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ilocos Norte: Carasi road trip to Sabo Dam

Carasi is one three Itneg mountain towns of Ilocos Norte, the other two being Adams and Dumalneg. It's an hour away from Laoag by private vehicle passing through the towns of Sarrat and Piddig. You'll need a 4x4 to get there. At the moment, there's nothing much to do in Carasi except a visit to Sabo Dam and several waterfalls which would require trek quite a distance.

One thing we noticed was the water was crystal clear. I hope it remains that way. It was explained to us that the reason behind this is that nobody lives further upstream.

But plans are bright since in the next few months, they'll be opening and promoting bike trails, and organizing white water rafting activities and treks to the different waterfalls. In fact, we're inviting people to try the trails soon.

On the way back we stopped by Piddig Church and Sarrat Church which are very much intact. Sarrat is a bit closer to Laoag so it's usually visited as part of a church tour. Piddig is further away so not many people know about it. But it's one old church worth visiting for anyone interested in old architecture.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

North Philippines: Best pizza restaurants north of Metro Manila

Pizza is one of my personal favorites. Those who know me should know this fact very well. So I'm compiling a list of my favorite pizza places outside Metro Manila beginning with North Philippines.

Clark Freeport & Angeles City

C' Italian Dining (1210 Don Juico Avenue, Angeles City; +63 45 8924059) is known for the panizza. C' Italian Dining had already been serving these sumptuous pizzas rolled with arugula and alfalfa long before Yellow Cab came out with Dear Darla. And there's no way you can compare the taste! The C' panizza is the best!

The best sellers are Don Carmelo: spicy chorizo, anchovies, thyme and pecorino cheese; Kristina: bacon, ham, caramelized onion, sun dried tomatoes and mushrooms; and Saint Jacques: scallop flakes, shrimp, sun dried tomatoes and chili flakes.

Historic Camalig Restaurant (292 Sto. Rosario Street, Angeles City; +63 45 3225641 or 8881077) is the home of Armando's Pizza. My personal favorite is Doy's Kapampangan: longganisa, ebun buru (salted duck egg), onion & pickle relish. Their newest offering is Marco's 3-Way: sun-dried tomatoes & kesong puti plus a choice of either tuyo, tinapa or chicken adobo. Then there's Mexican Medley: shredded chicken breast (sauteed in hot pepper & pizza sauce), fresh tomato & spring onion. Another personal favorite is the classic Armando's Best: same toppings as All The Way, but with extra peperoni, double ground beef, double green pepper, double mushroom & extra Canadian bacon.

Didi's Pizza (MacArthur Highway, Balibago, Angeles City; + 63 45 8921184) serves a very Filipino-flavored pizza if you know what I mean. My personal favorite is the Combination: mushroom, salami, pepperoni, green pepper and onions.

Salvatore's Ristorante (300 Fields Avenue, Balibago, Angeles City; +63 45 8920484) serves good Italian pizza as well. Their best seller is Italian De Luxe: salami, pepperoni, Italian sausage, mushroom, green bell pepper, onion, black olives. While the toppings of Italian De Luxe are mixed together, another flavor called Combination has Vegetarian on one side, and Meat Lovers on the other half.

Sub-Delicious (298 Fields Avenue, Balibago, Angeles City; +63 45 8921999 or 8926667) serves pizzas as large as 28-inches. Flavors include Super Meaty: pepperoni, sausage and hamburger; and Pizza Italiano: pepperoni, ham, and salami.

Subic Bay Freeport & Olongapo City

Xtremely Expresso (1 Dewey Avenue cor. Sta. Rita Street, Subic Bay Freeport; +63 047 2523681) serves the 22-inch Big Ben: pepperoni, sausage, bacon, beef, garlic, onion, peppers, mushrooms, black olives and two kinds of cheese. Other pizzas include Spanish Sardines, Chicken Pesto, Chicken & Peanut, Corned Beef, and Spicy Salmon.

Sam's Pizza (44 Magsaysay Avenue, Olongapo City; +63 47 2223686) is an Olongapo institution. Their best-seller is Sam's Special: pepperoni, Philippine sausage, mushrooms, green pepper, onion, bacon, Italian sausage and cheese. I remember having Chicken Teriyaki before but they no longer have it.

La Union

Olives Restaurant (Thunderbird Resort, Poro Point, La Union; +63 72 8887777) serves delicious wood-fired pizzas. Their best seller is Four Cheese: goat, parmesan, feta and mozzarella cheese. My personal favorite is Quattro Stagioni: kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, parma ham, fresh mushrooms. Also try the Spicy Sausage, Roasted Peppers, Mozarrella & Oregano Pizza or the Smoked Salmon & Mushroom Pizza: smoked salmon, fresh mushrooms, tomato sprinkled with oregano and cheese.

Ilocos Norte

Herencia Cafe (MacArthur Street, Bgy. 14, Sangladan, Paoay; +63 77 6140214) serves the famous Pinakbet Pizza: sitaw (string beans), ampalaya (bitter gourd), okra, talong (egg plant), patani (lima beans), kamatis (tomaotes), sili (chili), and labanos (radish). They also serve Bagnet Pizza: bagnet, onions, and basil; and Dinuguan Pizza: dinuguan, crispy pork, and chili.

Saramsam Restaurant (N. Corpuz Building, Rizal cor. Hizon Streets, Barangay 7-A, Laoag City; +63 77 7715825) also serves Ilocano-inspired pizzas. Their specialty is Poque-Poque Pizza which is topped with poque-poque, an Ilocano eggplant dish: eggplant, tomatoes, onions ang egg. They also have the Dinardaraan Pizza: dinuguan topped with green chili peppers; Longaniza Pizza topped with the local Laoag longaniza; and the Carbonara Pizza topped with Currimao oysters.


Casa Napoli (Abad Street, Brgy. Kaychanarianan, Basco; +63 927 7583370) serves pizzas with mozzarella cheese all the way in Batanes. Nothing really fancy about the pizzas but being in Basco, it's a novelty.

I'm sure there are more such as those in Baguio City, so please list them down by commenting below. I'll try to visit them when I can and add to this list.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Zambales & La Union: North Philippines road trip again

For the longest time, I haven't been able to update the blog because I've perennially been on the road. In fact, the last three days have been extremely exhausting because I had been driving up north, down to Manila, and back up north on a daily basis. Anyway, if it's any consolation, despite all the work involved in the trips, the opportunity to explore still keeps me going.

The last two days, we did our rounds of the Subic Freeport. While at Zoobic Safari, I didn't miss the opportunity to have my photo taken with a real tiger.

Of course, shoe therapy is a good reliever of stress thanks to the many discounted options available at the duty free shops (as the saying goes, 'There's a little Imelda in all of us'). I saw myself driving back to Manila to attend meetings and a guesting on ANC's Shop Talk (thanks to all those who watched Shop Talk the other day) and back to the north to get some sleep.

At least I finally got to breathe now. I'm savoring the only consolation after that unbelievably exhausting three-day road trip: a wonderful suite room with a great view at the Thunderbird Resort in Poro Point, San Fernando, La Union. Hopefully, things will normalize by the long weekend.

So in the meantime, I invite you to consider a tour with Ultimate Philippines. We've already released our tour calendar for the rest of the year and for the first half of 2010. This is especially for the benefit of balikbayans who have been urging us to release our schedule early so that they could plan their trips for next year. Our tours get booked really quick so I suggest you make those reservations now.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ilocos Norte: Mairaira Cove (Blue Lagoon) in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Mairaira Cove or Blue Lagoon in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte is one of the best beaches in Luzon. A little further north from touristy Saud Beach, its immaculate blue waters entice visitors for a swim. We arrived in Mairara Cove just in time for dinner at the Kapuluan Vista Resort where we were staying for the night.

On the buffet menu was a bevy of grilled dishes. But the highlight of dinner was kalua pig (pork roasted the traditional Hawaiian in a makeshift underground oven).

The next morning, we walked over to Blue Lagoon which was five-minutes from the resort. The sand was soft and the waves were a bit strong. Being a holiday, there were a good number of visitors. There were also some surfers riding the swells further away from the beach.

Mairaira Cove is a popular haunt for surfers. In fact, the resort offered surfing lessons. If we weren't leaving early, I would have taken surfing lessons for an hour or two. At least we were blessed this weekend with sunshine amidst this weird summer weather.

After packing our bags, we went back on the road and drove further north to the Patapat Viaduct for a photo opportunity. From there, it was back south to Laoag City.

Kapuluan Vista Resort
(0920) 9522528

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ilocos Sur & Ilocos Norte: Road trip

Ilocos is a favorite destination for road trips. And I found myself driving up to Pagudpud again, the northwestern tip of Luzon. On the way up to Pagudpud, there are several interesting stops along the way. Tagudin, Sta. Lucia and Candon have interesting old churches. Candon City is known for its brown and white sweet calamay which is most definitely worth a short stop. Stalls are located in front of the city plaza along the National Highway.

Our first stop on the way was Sabangan Cove (also known as Santiago Cove) which is known for its weaving village. You'll get a chance to see how abel iloko is woven. You can also purchase on the spot but make sure to haggle since starting prices here are higher than Vigan (the good thing about Vigan is the local government ordered standard pricing even along Crisologo Street).

Another stop you should not miss is the Sta. Maria Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We skipped Vigan and Bantay since we planned on passing there on the way back. And we also missed Magsingal Church (a National Cultural Treasure) and the Sinait Church due to time constraints but if you have time, it's also worth the stop.

In Ilocos Norte, the first stop is usually the Juan Luna Shrine and Badoc Church. But we went straight to Batac to visit the Marcos Mausoleum and savor Batac's famous Ilocos empanada. From Batac, we proceeded to Paoay Church, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In front of the church, is Herencia Cafe where we had lunch. The best seller of course is the Pinakbet Pizza and the other Ilocano fusion pizzas. If you have time, you can also pass by the Ilocos Norte Sand Dunes, a National Geological Monument, Lake Paoay, and Fort Ilocandia. We even had to skip Laoag to get to Bangui Wind Farm before sunset.

We stopped by the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos, a National Cultural Treasure, and were able to arrive in the nick of time at the Bangui Wind Farm to enjoy the magnificent South China Sea sunset. So with that down, we made our way to Mairaira Cove in Pagudpud where we stayed for the night.
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