Saturday, July 25, 2015

A Quick Side Trip to Ilocos Norte

Business trips are meant for business of course!...but if you have extra time, who says you can't maximize your stay and squeeze in some fun? Besides, majority of the working force aims to have that so called "Work-Life Balance" ;) 

In my line of work, one of the perks is to travel around the Philippines. Yes, on some weekends, I am usually at work but it's fine with me as long as I get to  satisfy my "traveling needs" haha :) 

My first stop was in Illocos Norte. My mom who is already a senior citizen excitedly accompanied me to work because she said she wanted to watch over me but, we all know it's just an alibi hahah. Clearly, my mom is also a jet-setter :)

When in Ilocos Norte, you can do the following (in no particular order):

1. Visit Ferdinand Marcos' House Museum and Mausoleum in Batac City
Our starting point is in Laoag and going to Batac is just a 25-30 minutes drive. The Marcos Museum is the house of former president Ferdinand Marcos in Batac City. It is also where his preserved body is located. Some people believe the body is real but some thinks its just a wax. Photos are not allowed inside the Mausoleum so see for yourself and be the judge.

Viewing Hours (Mausoleum): Daily from 9am to 12nn and 1pm to 4pm. FREE of charge!
Museum Hours: 9am to 4pm
Fee: Php 50

After visiting Marcos' House and Mausoleum, you may go straight to Batac Church right across the house of Marcos. Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church was built during the Spanish era. It is one of the oldest church in Illocos. Actually, I noticed there are numerous churches there in general so if you want to go church hoping especially during the Visita Iglesia, Illocos is the place to be.
2. Visit Paoay's UNESCO World Heritage Church
From Batac to Paoay, the drive will take about 15 mins. Paoay is a UNESCO World Heritage site which took 2 decades to complete the whole church. The St. Augustine Church or Paoay church is known as the perfect example of a localized Baroque architecture. The structure is primarily made out of coral stone blocks.

Take a closer look at the coral stones. Amusing right? :)
If you're in for something local, authentic, and unique, dine in at Herencia Restaurant and try their famous Pinakbet Pizza. Too bad we weren't able to try their famous dish because we needed to rush over to the Malacanang of the North--The Marcos' presidential mansion.
3. Explore The Malacanang of the North
The Malacanang of the North or also known as Malacanang ti Amianan and it is a 5 hectare property in Paoay City and people say that the first lady, Imelda Marcos, gave this property to his husband as a gift for his 60th birthday. This is the official rest house of the Marcos family during the regime of Ferdinand Marcos.

From Paoay church it took us around 15-20 minutes drive to get to this place. 

Operating Hours: 9am to 4:30pm (last cut-off) but guest may leave until 5pm
Fee: Php 30
The mansion is facing the famous horseshoe shaped natural lake, the Paoay Lake. The quiet lake with breezy air makes everything look serene and relaxing. You would wish you can wake up to this view everyday ;)  
Inside, you'll see the different rooms of the former President's children. You'll also get to see Imeda's iconic dresses, antiques, and lots of family pictures hanged on the wall.
The Fort Ilocandia is the only 5 start hotel in the Northern Luzon. It is a go to place if you want to try your luck in one of the slot machines or Casino games haha. If you're the type of traveller who prefers to lounge around the hotel, Fort Ilocandia is your best bet because you can do so much here. However, for a walk-in guest like me and my mom, we only check out the interiors of the hotel which is already an attraction in itself. Perhaps you may just wander around or have a nice cup of coffee in one of its cafes.

5. St. Williams Cathedral (Church of Laoag) and The Sinking Bell Tower
The Church of Laoag is very near our hotel, Isabel Suites. It is conveniently located near so many attractions in Laoag such as the Provincial Capitol, SM Hypermarket, and Museo Ilocos Norte and the church of Laoag and the sinking bell tower. 
The sinking bell tower is the first tourist spot you can check out upon entering the Laoag city proper. It's a 45-meter bell tower built in 1612. Locals would say that the tower is known to be very heavy that's why the bell is "sinking" one inch every year. Before, a person on horseback could enter the doors of the tower but now, it's impossible to do so. 
6. Bangui Windmills
The Bangui Windmills is Ilocos Norte's most iconic tourist spot. It is the first wind turbine in Southeast Asia! Standing 70-meter tall, the turbine can generate 240-400 MG that can power 6,000 to 10,000 households. The wind turbines are really majestic especially when you go near it. Going to Bangui Windmills is FREE! I suggest you go here very early to avoid the harsh sun and given it will take you around 1 1/2 hours drive going there but luckily for us it took us only 1 hour. 
7. Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
From Bangui Windmills, you can visit the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation which is about 5 mins drive from Bangui Windmills. The Kapurpurawan is a massive rock formation made by Mother nature :) It is like Taiwan's Yehliu Geopark. The rock formation is accessible via horseback ride which will cost you Php 50 or you may simply trek all the way up but make sure you're properly geared up :)

Due to time constrains and because my Mommy refused to go trekking, we just admired the rock from afar. 

Fee: Php 15 
Horseback Ride: Php 50
8. Cape Bojeador Light House
The Cape Bojeador light house, also known as Burgos Lighthouse, is 15 to 10 mins away drive from Kapurpurawan Rock Formation. It is a cultural heritage structure in Ilocos Norte that marks the Northwestern-most point of the Philippines. The structure is more than 100 years old and surprisingly still fully functional--signaling ships that they have entered the Philippine territory.

Fee: FREE! :)
 9. Taste the juiciest and freshest Dragon Fruit
Finally, the highlight for me would be the Dragon Fruits of Ilocos Norte! hahaha I know this is not a tourist destination but I am a big big fan of Dragon Fruits :) It's super yummy despite its exotic and intimidating look haha. I just learned through this trip that Dragon Fruits are classified as a cactus?! cool right :) 

These fruits are very expensive in Metro Manila. Rarely you would see these fruits being sold in supermarkets and if you do, it costs around Php 80 per piece but in Ilocos Norte guess what, it's only Php 80 per kilo!!! My mom and I got super excited athat we bought 10 kilos of it to bring to Manila hahaha. 
Look at those juicy and vibrant color...absolutely no filter needed ;)
Overall, our quick side trip to Ilocos Norte was short but sweet. We were able to visit so many places in 1 whole day thanks to our reliable and entertaining driver (due to my working schedule, we had to spend half day each for the side trips so a total of 1 whole day). There are more provinces near Ilocos Norte that are drivable for about 2 to 3 hours such as Vigan, Pagudpod, and Pangasinan but perhaps we can visit those places next time :) 

I've read in some blogs that there's such thing as "Tricycle Tour" in Ilocos Norte for about Php 600 to 1,000 (for 3 pax). Since the cities are relatively close to each other, tricycles are the cheapest way to tour around the area. I believe you can contract the tricycle drivers for a day and begin your budget adventure! :) But for those who plan to go there with the whole family, I suggest you rent a van. 

For van rentals with free tours/tour guide, I highly suggest you contact Jehu Garnace of Jegar Manpower Services. He's super friendly, accommodating, trustworthy, and he makes sure you get the most out of your trip :) He even wants us to go to exclusive places that are not usually known by tourists such as the Dragon Fruit Plantation (near Bangui Windmills) and the place where the famous "Abel Iloko" blankets are made.

Feel free to contact Kuya Jehu in his Facebook Page and numbers below:


  1. I really appreciate your professional approach. These are pieces of very useful information that will be of great use for me in future.

  2. Thank you, Tin! This will be helpful when we're planning our Ilocos Norte trip. We'll definitely do a trike tour as you suggested. That does sound super convenient.

    1. Hi Clara, thank you for your kind words! :) yes, I think that would be very tipid and convenient ;) tell me about your experience if natuloy kayo :)

  3. Wonderful photos! You looked amazing in these photographs and these trip details will be very useful for people who are planning a trip to Ilocos Norte. We need some guidance for NYC. Looking for interesting venue NYC to visit and have a good time.

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