This is the first part of our Holy Week Road trip to the northern provinces of Luzon. Road trip always makes me excited but this one is the most exhilarating so far. This trip was planned 2 weeks after our road trip to Baguio. We initially planned to drive all the way up to Ilocos Sur but I felt that we are just going to waste the opportunity, time and money if we are not going to traverse the rest of the North Luzon provinces. So, we decided to extend our journey all the way up to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte.
Upon plotting our stop overs in the map, I found out that Pagudpud is just 3 hours away from my mother’s hometown of Lal-lo, Cagayan which I haven’t been for over a decade so I convinced everyone to just extend our trip all the way to Cagayan Valley Region during this busy Holy Week period.
Manila to Vigan Segment
We left Cavite on Wednesday night at 10:00pm and our estimated arrival time in Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur is 6:00am according to Waze app which was very unrealistic. Since it’s the longest weekend of the year, heavy traffic is expected everywhere. We spent almost 2 hours driving just to reach NLEX from Cavite and 3.5hrs from Balintawak to Urdaneta TPLEX exit. The traffic jam in NLEX was horrendous with too much volume of vehicles and on-going road works.
From Urdaneta Exit, Waze prompted me to take the road to Manaoag to Manila North Road but I knew that taking the road to La Union/Pangasinan boundary is the fastest route to Ilocos Region.
The nightmare started when we reached Pozzurubio. The vehicles were not moving due to an accident in the bridge connecting the 2 provinces with no idea how long time it will take for the traffic to improve. Bus drivers going to Ilocos made u-turn and took a longer route passing San Fabian to MANOR road which was initially suggested by Waze. I had no choice but to follow them as well.
We arrived in Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur at 9:30am after 11.5 hrs drive compare to the usual 7 hrs drive during non peak season. Well this is the reason why you should avoid traveling out of town during Holy Week unless you brought a lot of patience with you.
I felt really accomplished when we reached the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sta. Maria Church since it’s my first time in Ilocos and to drive over 350kms in one leg. The church is beautiful and felt really holy being there traveling with my family. The church was built on 1765 and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on 1993. The church location is elevated and you must take the 85-step stairway to reach it and enjoy its beauty up-close. We went inside for several minutes to pray and took some photos as well in its beautiful façade.
Our next stop is Vigan City which is 38kms away from Sta. Maria Church. This time I asked my wife to drive since it’s just 45 minutes away. We arrived there at almost 11:00am and parked in one of the streets near Calle Crisologo. The Heritage Village was really crowded on that day but we still managed to take beautiful photos to document our visit in Vigan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and recognized as one of the New7Wonders Cities of the World.
Since it’s almost lunch time, we decided to have our lunch and try their famous delicacies such as Bagnet and Vigan Longganisa which didn’t disappoint our taste buds. I spent less than Php 1,000 for a platter of Bagnet, a plate full of Longganisa and a huge dish of Pinakbet plus the drinks for 5 persons.
Before leaving Calle Crisologo, I did buy some souvenirs at reasonable price. T-shirts for Php 130 per piece and fridge magnets for Php30 each and we rode the ‘Kalesa’ or Horse-drawn which cost us only Php 150 for an hour. It’s such a fun and a great way to stroll around the city. We planned to go to Baluarte and Hidden Garden but we were told by the locals that the road en-route is already congested so we decided to head up North instead.
Before we left the city of Vigan, we did a side trip in Bantay Church and Bell Tower. I was amazed in the uphill location of the Bell Tower but I did not dare to climb up as I was too weary and sleepy so I just took some photos and did pray inside the Church for a while.
Vigan to Laoag Leg
Our next planned stop is the Marcos Museum in Batac, Ilocos Norte which is 65 kilometers away from Vigan and the trip will last for approximately 1.5hrs. And as expected, there was a disruption caused by on-going bridge constructions which allowed only one way traffic to pass through the temporary bridge at a time. The trip took 3.5hrs hours as we left Vigan at 1:00pm and arrived 4:30pm in Marcos Museum.
I am not fascinated in visiting museums but I just wanted to see the late President Marcos’ Mausoleum. The museum will tell you more about the Great Dictator and how he grew as a politician and a leader. I took some photos inside and outside of the museum but we were not allowed to take photos inside the mausoleum. The ambiance inside is solemn seeing his remain which I believed is just a wax replica. But according to the guards, the body is real. Well, see it for yourself and you decide what to believe. (Update 2017: The body has already been buried in Heroes’ Cemetery)
We headed out of Batac and stopped in another UNESCO World Heritage Site of Paoay Church. Built on 1710, the church still is still picturesque and a favorite tourist hotspot in the North. This is our 3rd Church stop so we still prayed and took photos after. It was pretty late already so we cancelled our plan to visit the Paoay Sand Dunes and headed straight to our hotel in Laoag that we booked online.
We stayed in Palacio de Laoag Hotel, 2 kilometers away from the City proper and it was not bad at all. We paid only Php 3,800 for a cozy room for 5 people including breakfast buffet. It is considered cheap especially that it’s during the Holy Week. They have a nice pool for kids and adults but I did not dip in as my legs were already tight and tired. We went out for dinner in the city and took some photos around before going back to the Hotel for a good night sleep.
Continue Reading the second part of our Holy Week Road Trip (Ilocos Norte Road Trip: Laoag to Pagudpud)