Many things have been said and written about Ilocos, being a famous tourist site in the country. It’s a melting pot of rich culture and history, good food, pretty beaches, and scenic places. I won’t discuss too much on history as I am not well-versed in that, nor give a detailed itinerary because surely, the information can be easily accessed online. Instead, I’ll show the reasons why I love the place amid the redundancy of praises, photos, and fame.
It may sound shallow, but it was a dream come true for me. As a first time explorer to this iconic place, I was so excited. I felt that I was skimming through my old history books in elementary as I traversed those famous landmarks and old churches. This time around, it’s not only fulfilling my wanderlust for new sights, it’s further deepening my sense of nationalism while I learn about the history of my beloved country.
It’s entirely a different story to actually experience the original Vigan Empanada and walk along the cobblestone streets of Calle Crisologo than seeing infinite photos on social media and read reviews that boast of the province’s distinct qualities. There is that sense of familiarity, but experiencing it with your own senses awakens the spirit much even more.
When you talk about Ilocos, it’s always and forever synonymous to the legendary Vigan Empanada and Vigan Longganisa. The orange rice flour formed in a crescent shape is generously stuffed with bean sprouts, Vigan longganisa, egg, shredded carrots and green papaya. Locals prepare it using their bare hands kneading the flour, layering the ingredients, and forming the shape.
Another delicacy not to miss is the Vigan longganisa — the meat is fatty yet tasty. It’s traditionally a famous breakfast staple, but it can go well with anything. Pairing it with garlic rice and sukang Ilocos is a festive treat. Ask the locals or your tourist guide for the cheapest and best-tasting Longganisa in town.
I brought home two famous Ilocano products: Garlic and Sukang Ilocos. They say that their garlic is tastier than what we have in Manila. The vinegar on the other hand, is made of fermented sugar cane left in jars for a period of time to extract the flavor.
We also tasted the Sinanglao or Ilocos’ version of Beef innards soup. It’s similar to Nilagang Baka, but with more internal organs and sour soup base. You can see lots of carinderia (eateries) serving Sinanglao for a cheap price of Php 60 to Php 70 per serving. We liked the taste, but the meat was a bit hard.
We were not able to take photos of the delicious Bagnet or deep fried crispy pork belly but it’s also worth recommending in Ilocos.
The tour also made me see and admire the different infrastructures at Ilocos. These withstood time and nature’s forces. It only shows these were engineered to last for years, even decades or centuries. Personally visiting the Bangui Windmills amid the scorching heat of the sun was also a moment worthy to recall. I also was astonished crossing the Quirino bridge with a beautiful scenery.
I already settled in my mind not to try the Sand Dunes 4×4 ride due to lack of budget. However, I was advised by several people who have been to Ilocos to never skip this activity. Out of curiosity and love for challenges, I finally gave in. Little did I know it will be the highlight of my trip! It’s scary yet exciting at the same time, particularly if the terrains are high and uneven.
The strongly erected Roman Catholic churches have the peculiar architecture that will make you marvel how they were made centuries ago. Some were preserved up to this day, some were renovated to fit today’s modernization, some were slightly reconstructed due to circumstances.
Ilocos is home to many remarkable places that honor the significant people and events in our Philippine History. Malacanang of the North is a historical museum in Paoay, Ilocos Norte. It was the residence of the former President Ferdinand Marcos. Displayed in the museum are the memorabilia of the Marcos family during his regime.
The Juan Luna Shrine likewise shows us the birthplace of the brothers Juan and Antonio Luna, who are both important contributors to the achievement of Philippine independence. The huge house shelters old uniforms, artifacts, paintings and belongings of these two valiant heroes. I’m impressed with the old house that showcases the lifestyle during the Spanish era through the furnishings and furniture that were preserved up to today.
Calle Crisologo is a small district in Vigan known for its old houses, busy traders and romantic vibe. It’s also similar to Intramuros and found nothing too different or exceptional, but I cannot deny the picturesque aura of the street. The first floor of the houses are mostly souvenir and antique stores. At night, the lights cast shadows and illuminates the pathways, rendering a beauty to behold. In broad daylight, you’ll see busy tourists either rummaging through the souvenirs and trinkets from the stores or taking endless photos.
The long travel time and side trips allowed me to enjoy the beautiful sceneries whether at the beach, along the highway, or at the bridges. I peeked through the window and quietly appreciated how blessed Ilocos is for its majestic views.
It’s my second time to travel as a joiner and I’m always looking forward to the surprises. One of the perks is meeting new people and creating friendships with strangers. It’s learning a thing or two about the people you meet for the first time, aside from the friends you regularly travel with. Your flexibility to adapt to changes and different personalities will always be challenged — but it’s fun! Just have an open mind to embrace new ideas and experiences.
Thanks to ExitPoint Travel and Tours for arranging a well-organized and hassle free trip! I thought traveling to Ilocos is no easy feat considering the itineraries, but through ExitPoint, it was all made possible.
So there you have it! Thanks for reading until the end. I hope I was able to convince you why Ilocos is a worthy escapade.