Tuesday, February 09, 2010

La Union: Surfing lessons with the Billabong Surf School in San Juan

San Juan, La Union has become very popular because of surfing. And one of the better places to learn is the Billabong Surf School of the San Juan Surf Resort, popularly called the Surf Camp.

Right after a great morning in Ilocos Norte, we went straight to La Union for surfing lessons. And training the group was Luke Landrigan himself, Asian Beach Games silver medalist and owner of the Billabong Surf School, together with his pool of local surfers.

It's obvious the group had a lot of fun! Lessons at Surf Camp are Php400 per hour, inclusive of board rental. You can call them up also for accommodation. Aircon rooms start at Php1,260. Fan rooms are start at Php650.

La Union Surf Resort (Surf Camp)
Brgy. Urbiztondo, San Juan, La Union
+63 72 7200340

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!
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