Article by Sherwin Funa, ASEAN-Korea Blog Correspondent of Philippines

Every year, I and my friends go for an out of town trip. While everyone are so busy booking for flights and hotels for an out of the country vacation or to the famous Boracay – tagged as one of the most popular beaches in the Philippines and in the world,  we decided to take the road less travelled. Party isn’t our goal this time; we just want to spend some quality moments with each other which we seldom do now due to busy schedules at work. And we’ve found the place where we could have a fun moment and at the same time enjoy the beauty of nature.

We decided to travel north of the Philippines. We’ve heard a lot of good beaches, fantastic food, eye-popping scenery and great heritage. So what is it not to like this trip? ILOCOS, here we come!

First Stop, Pagudpud. Getting there, you can either take a bus straight from Manila, You can choose from several bus lines which has daily trips going there. Or you can book a flight from Manila to Laoag and ride a bus going to the town of Pagudpud, roughly a two-hour trip. In our case, fulfilling our aim to make the trip cost efficient, we took a midnight trip by bus; making the entire travel our sleeping time, so by the time we arrive, we are fully charged and we can proceed with our itinerary.

Nature’s warm embrace woke me, the moment I opened my eyes from a cold moving sleep, the sun is already shining. I got so excited as I glance at the bus window. I knew it would be a very fun trip. It is a perfect place to escape a busy metro life. Everything there is so refreshing, both the scenery and the people. The moment we arrived in Pagudpud, our private shuttle we hired is already there waiting for us. TIP: it is best to hire private driver and vehicle if you’re not bringing one, they can serve as your tour guide too and will charge you a very reasonable fee.

In Pagudpud, when you say beach, you’ll be referred to either in Saud or Blue Lagoon – dubbed as the Boracay of the North. We stayed in Saud where most resorts and hotels and even restaurants are. It is also where the biggest beach parties happen. The moment I got off the car, I was blown away and felt reconnected with nature once more. The place is very quiet and yet exciting. This isn’t my first time but it felt like it was my first again, truly a paradise.

We stayed in a humble resort along Saud Beach. We occupied the room that’s facing the beach where you’ll see the never ending sea water. We spent our first day exchanging stories while grilling food at the veranda overlooking at the beautiful beach.

In the morning, it is nice to walk along the shore of Saud. From afar, you will see the Bangui Windmills which we are all excited to see at close. Breakfast is also one thing to looking forward to; having the famous Ilocos longganisa is just perfect with garlic rice and vinegar. There more food to try, aside from the fresh catch seafood you must also try the bagnet – crispy pork meat, empanada, and the chichacorn and my all time favourite morning food Tapsilog abbreviation for Tapa– fried beef meat, Sinangag–  fried rice & Itlog– Egg in Filipino.

(My favourite Tapsilog)

We also enjoyed looking for cheap buys from several souvenir vendors in the area. You can find different accessories from necklaces, bracelets and rings to various novelty items like key chains, ref magnets which are made from shells and wood. There are also few art shops which offer henna tattoo, it could be one of the best accessory to wear along with your bikini & trunks.

(Accessories stalls along the beach shore)

(That’s me sightseeing while waiting for my henna tattoo to dry up)

We maximized our two days exploring the wonderful scenery in Saud. In our 3rd day, we went to different famous tourist spots in the area. We hit the road and headed to the Blue Lagoon. Just a few minutes drive from where we stay, you’ll see the majestic beauty of the Blue Lagoon, just when you think Saud is perfect, here its really a paradise.

The sand is very fine and the water is very blue from the distance, but you’ll see its clear when you dip in. Now I know why this place is termed as the Boracay of the North, the only difference is the crowd of people having parties. People are here to stay to find peacefulness and tranquillity. We aren’t ready for a swim that time but we couldn’t resist the tempting beach which its waves are calling us to dip in the warm salt water. But of course, photo ops were not forgotten to bring home the beauty of the place with us.

We also passed by the Bantay-Abot Cave, which literally means mountain with a hole. You’ll find a hole in the middle of the hill where huge waves are splashing free in and out. But then, there’s no other way to bring home this wonder of nature, more photos taken.

(Bantay Abot Cave)

After seeing these amazing places, I thought its all that this town has to offer, not until we saw the Kabigan Falls. From the main road, its about one or two kilometres terrain walk which none of us are ready for. Passing through the farm, stream, and rocky and steep landscapes, we reached the Kabigan Falls, it was a relief. All are tiredness were gone. Its one of the best experience we had in this trip. The water is so cold and the sound of the water falling is so therapeutic, its like music to our ears.

Its getting late and we have one more stop to go, the Bangui Windmills. This is the structure I see from our room we stayed in at Saud, so I know what to expect. But not until we got near these humongous, modern looking windmills. The next thing I’ve found out is that my fingers are too busy hitting the shutter and fixing the angle of my camera. I just can’t help but capture everything.

(Me and the majestic Bangui Windmills)

These windmills are the first to be built in the Philippines in the late 90’s. As per our guide, every windmill is equivalent to a 23-storey high building. I never thought that something like this really exist in the Philippines, its so modern, high-tech and very environmental friendly. I was not quite sure if how many windmills are there, but I am sure its more than 15. The place is so captivating that we are forced to leave because its almost dusk. I just wish that our government would continue to invest in such modern infrastructure yet friendly to the environment.

We had so much fun discovering more Pagudpud and the near-by areas. We returned to the resort packed with beautiful memories and experiences. Much of our delight, we wanted to see more of Ilocos. Completing our day is a scrumptious dinner, of course served are the Ilocos famous.

Next day, our journey will continue visiting Laoag, Batac, and Vigan.

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