The last time I was in Ilocos, I was too young to appreciate its rich cultural heritage. It was during the latter part of the 90’s and my mom’s side of the family had organized a road trip to Northern Luzon—call it the adults’ attempt at injecting a love for culture among us kids; all my cousins and I really cared about then, though, was that the resort we were staying in had a pool with a slide in it. It has been almost twelve years, and since then I’ve started seeing travel as something more than just Disneyland and Universal Studios visits and fancy hotel stays. I’ve come to realize that it is when traveling that I unearth hidden bits and pieces about myself that I’ve never really noticed before. It is with this mindset that I decided that I will return to Ilocos. And last weekend, I finally did.

While my recent trip to Ilocos was more fast-paced than the one twelve years past, its significance is tenfold. I was in Ilocos longer then, but I never really took in the sights, the culture, the people. This time, I look at Ilocos not necessarily from a mature perspective (still feel like a kid) but definitely with the appreciation the place deserves. 😀

The trip, organized by Travel Tales Inc., pretty much covered the places my family and I had visited before.

1. Crisologo Walk in Vigan, Ilocos Sur where the boyfriend and I mostly spent exploring via a traditional kalesa ride. Travel Tales organized an Ilocos Amazing Race for a class of UP Architecture Students and Vigan was their first stop. It was fun seeing the students race as if their lives depended on it. Well, their grades actually. First prize was an exemption in the final exams!

2. The Pindangan Ruins where this impressive statue of Madonna & Child stood against a magnificent tree backdrop.

3. Met Abra Weavers in Sibangan Cove, Ilocos Sur. They still use traditional foot looms in creating textiles with the most intricate patterns.

4. Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion in Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur—one of the four World Heritage churches in the Philippines declared by UNESCO.

5. Vigan Cathedral.

6. Visited artist Al Valenciano’s home which he says he will convert into an invitations-only bed and breakfast. Every nook and cranny of this place will inspire you to paint/write/compose again. 🙂

7. San Agustin Church in Paoay. Another UNESCO-declared World Heritage Church. This was built in 1710 and is a staple figure in Philippine post cards.

8. Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos, the highest lighthouse in the country. Affords an incredible view of the China Sea. 🙂

9. Museo Iloko in Laoag City. If you want a one-stop shop of the best Ilocos goodies, you’ll find it in the museo’s souvenir shop.

10. Sta. Monica Church in Sarrat. Tracey told us that the Marcoses had the cathedral restored when the daughter Irene was getting married. Who could blame her? The church is stunning!

11. Finally, our last stop: Ivory Beach, Pagudpud. The place brought about a sudden burst of nostalgia. I don’t know if this was the exact resort we went to but I know I’ve been in this stretch of beach before.

All in all, it was a great way to spend a weekend. The only thing missing from the trip was a visit to the Windmills of Bangui which, we’re told, supports the power supply of the whole of Ilocos Norte. We got to see them from the bus on our way to Pagudpud (read: they were impressive) but we didn’t stop over the actual site due to time constraints. Oh well, another reason to come back to Ilocos. 🙂

And do not skip on the Vigan Longganisa and Bagnet—a trip to Ilocos will not be complete without sampling these local delicacies. 😀