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Ilocos Norte

After our overnight stay in Vigan, we headed to Batac to see the Marcos Mausoleum. Driving in the Philippines, in general, can be very stressful especially if you’re not used to the chaotic traffic. It requires your constant and vigilant attention. I think I used my car horn more in one day of driving here than I could ever have imagined. Would you believe that I have never done that while driving here in the US?! Haha! Anyway, before going to the Mauseleo, we stopped by at Glory’s Empanada to try this popular Ilocano merienda. Batac’s empanada (meat pie) is a crispy orange dough filled with bean sprouts, grated papaya, longganisa and egg. Surprisingly, it was good and it can be a meal in itself because of its size. They are best served with hot chili-flavored sukang (vinegar) Iloko, or if you prefer sweet sauce then a ketchup would do.

Welcome to Ilocos Norte!

Welcome to Ilocos Norte!

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Batac Empanada

Batac Empanada

Probably one of the most interesting places in Ilocos is the Marcos Museum and Mausoleum. The museum houses loads of memorabilia of the late President Ferdinand Marcos. It was interesting to read of some of the great things he had done in the country. Him holding the presidency for 20 years was an impressive achievement. However the most interesting thing here is the mausoleum, which houses the preserved body of the late president Marcos who died in 1989 while in exile in Hawaii. My Dad believed that it was his real body inside the mausoleo, but my sister and I think it was only a wax replica. In my understanding, FM has remained unburied for almost 20 years now, and he’s bound to remain so until the nation decides whether he’s a hero, or a villain in Philippine history.DSC_1914DSC_1921

Still standing amidst strong typhoons and earthquakes, is the Paoay Church. Built in 1710 by the Augustinian missionaries, this church is famous for its distinct architecture highlighted by the enormous buttresses on the sides and back of the building. In 1993, it was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the best examples of the Baroque Churches of the Philippines. I have been to several old churches in the Philippines and in other countries and I can say that Paoay Church totally made an impression to me. The architecture was simple yet so majestic. We also visited the Malacanang of the North and Fort Ilocandia, which were just nearby though we didn’t stay for long.

The Majestic Paoay Church

The Majestic Paoay Church

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Dining area at Malacanang of the North

Dining area at Malacanang of the North

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Fort Ilocandia

Fort Ilocandia

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On the way to Pagudpud, we had stopovers in Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, Kapurpurawan Rock Formation and the Bangui Windmills. Even though the weather was scorching hot, it was refreshing to see these sites.

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation

Bangui Windmills

Bangui Windmills

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We stayed for two nights at Hannah’s Beach Resort in Pagudpud. This place was disappointing since it dominates the entrance of Blue Lagoon. They have made no effort to make it blend with the natural beauty of the area. If we had arrived during daytime we would have had second thoughts about checking in. I can understand that the resort is good for some families as there are swimming pools and statues of popular cartoon characters all around the resort. However, these were tacky. Special mention to the Statue of Liberty replica beside their infinity pool that ruins the view of Blue Lagoon. Why oh why?! This resort is trying to be some sort of theme park, hotel and convention center all in one. I was even charged for a meal that we never ordered. However, I should commend their staff for being friendly and polite. Another positive thing is that they have an amazing zip line. The zip line runs for a little over one kilometer across the sea. My Dad and I really enjoyed it Superman style!

The Blue Lagoon

The Blue Lagoon

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That big Statue of Liberty

That big Statue of Liberty

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Early morning walk

Early morning walk

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That next morning, we had a short ride to Patapat Viaduct, the 4th longest bridge in the Philippines. This bridge is about 1.3 km long and connects Ilocos Norte to the Cagayan Valley Region. Afterwards, we decided to go to Saud Beach. If one is looking for peace and relaxation, this is the beach for you. The sand is not as white and powdery as Boracay’s but absolutely beautiful without the crowds. I liked the beach at Saud more compared to Blue Lagoon which I found to be more touristy. I wish we could have stayed there for a day or two.

Patapat Viaduct

Patapat Viaduct

Saud Beach

Saud Beach

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Ilocos is so rich in history, politics, and great destinations that are easily accessible. I’m a bit ashamed that it took me years to discover the region considering that I’m from a neighboring province. This whole road trip was unforgettable. Of course, it was a long drive and by the end of the trip, we were all getting antsy. My back was sore from sitting for so long. But would we do it again? Definitely! It really was some of the best quality time we’ve ever had together as a family.

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