Barkada Trip Series: 4×4 Ride and Sand Surfing at Paoay Sand Dunes

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Among all the activities we had during our Ilocandia Trip with my lifelong buddies, this must be my son’s most favorite part.

After a tiring day of museum hopping and sweltering under the hot summer sun, we’re all weary and eager to rest our tired bodies. Just a few moments of shut eye, I heard my companions stirring. A message from our new found buddies and a couple of nods and grunts, we all agreed that we need to experience Sand Surfing in Ilocos.

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Our driver, though a bit disgruntled, agreed to take us back to Paoay. It was almost sunset and we reveled in the last rays of sun as we rode the 4×4 jeep over sand dunes. Teloy would scream in excitement and enjoyment while we adults try hard to swallow our nervousness every time our ride seems ready to topple.

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We reached the highest dune where we’re supposed to surf just as the first stars started to appear. Our instructor hurriedly but carefully gave tips and how to’s of sand surfing. It would have been an unlimited surfing spree but soon darkness set in. We didn’t bring our cameras and most of our pictures are just taken with out phones.

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We could hardly see anything around us anymore when we started to climb up to our 4×4 jeep on our way back. Everyone is on high spirits, even when our preferred restaurant couldn’t accommodate us anymore, we gladly settled for the second one on our list.

On Travelling with A Kid: Raising A Considerate Traveler

Teloy: Mommy where did you keep my Piattos?

Mommy: It’s inside your bag.

Teloy: Okay. Then he started to open his bag while I lean back, close my eyes and tried to sleep inside the moving commuter van  from Tiwi to Legazpi.

Moments later, peered at Teloy and asked  him, “why are not you eating your Piattos?”

Teloy:
“I’ll just eat it later, were near already.There are people sleeping and they might get disturbed by the sound of the plastic.”

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I smiled inwardly and allowed him to lean on my side as we tried to sleep out the remaining minutes of the trip. My son is turning nine this year and I feel really proud that he’s becoming a well-mannered travelling kid.

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Most moms or parents dread travelling with their children because it is difficult, it’s complicated, it’s chaotic, nightmarish, yes, but travel with kids could also be the coolest, most enjoyable and the happiest moments of your lives.

teloy8Three years ago, Baba and I finally decided to cut the crap on long-distance parenting.

Daddy has been working outside the country, Mommy has been working in capital and Teloyskie has lived with my parents since he was three months old.  While both of us are busy making a living we only get spend 2 days or 2 weeks maximum with Teloy. We are hardly ever there to see how’s he’s growing up, how he’s developing  physically, mentally and emotionally.

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When I settled in Bicol in 2012, it was my first time to become a full time mom to Teloy. He was really skinny then, with a weird skin allergy on his face and neck because he won’t eat anything that’s not fried egg or hotdog. He’s bratty, he complains a lot about things that are not comfortable or familiar to him. The first time I took him on a trip is for a beach camp in Calaguas.

Teloyskie was just five years old then and he was really excited about going to the beach, but then he complained a lot about sleeping in a tent! “It’s hot inside Mommy, it’s hard on the back and I only have one pillow!”

After a long day of traveling to get to the island, sweltering under the intense heat of the sun, swimming, and keeping your eyes on the tot, any parent’s patience can tire out with this bed time scene. Well at least he isn’t crying and there are no more tantrums.

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I’ve always read about travel with kid tips and experiences so that each trip will become more and more enjoyable for all of us. Every time Baba comes home now, we try to explore together and talk to Teloy about travelling and the places we visit. We also learned some simple ways to make traveling with kid a little less stressful and  even more memorable.

  1. Food for picky eaters. When traveling, Teloyskie has learned to pack snacks, biscuits and drinks. We always tell him that snacks or chips are expensive on the road, so whether it’s just a day out or week-long trip,  he’d fill up his Nalgene with water, get  some Chuckie out of the fridge and pack some Pillows, Bread Pan, Dewberry or Oreos before we leave home.

teloy72. Kiddie Entertainment.

Although many people are against it, iPad, Tablets, mobile phones are very helpful in keeping the kid/kids entertained while waiting for the plane/boat/bus or jeep. But of course you have to moderate their time in using them. A booklet of crossword puzzle or headset plus his playlist on his mobile are also great tools for passing time.

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3. Listen to the Kid.  Although adults have a different appreciation of their destination, kids do too and they want to share their thoughts with you too. So aside from talking to them about the historical importance of a place or the eccentricities of Calle Crisolo, listen to them too. Teloyskie’s imagination can sometimes turn super silly and while some places bore him to bits, we draw him back quick when we ask him what he thinks about carved “Anitos.”

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4. Empathize with their worries and fears. Kids can be quite fearless with their exploration, but they worry and get scared too and they only got you to reassure them. Our first Zip Line experience was in Danao Adventure Park in Bohol, and it was scary! On our first run, I was so scared I couldn’t scream and so does Teloy. When I screamed my lungs out, he did the same. And as we walk toward the line going back, I asked him if he was scared, when he said yes, I hugged him and told him how scared mommy is too. Then I asked him if he still want to do it or not. He smiled widely and gamely said yes!

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5. Be a role model. Kids are sponges and they would readily copy what you do and say. If you freak out and panic, they will freak out and panic. If you keep your cool, they will too. If you leave your trash everywhere, they will too!

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Baba and I are keen on being good examples to our Teloy. I think having him around while we are traveling makes us even better persons because we would follow rules, laws and norms which most of us tend to bend or ignore.

So let us just take it easy. Stop and smell the flowers. As adults we tend to haste and hurry, we walk fast, eat fast, and do most of our stuff in a hurried fashion especially if we are on the road. We should never forget that when we are traveling with kids, no matter how responsible and how hard they try to cope up with us, they are still KIDS. They eat slower, walk slower, shower slowly and dress up like they’re dragging the luggage on their frail little shoulders. Sometimes they have short attention span easily gets curious by something or an event they notice along the way.

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Sometimes they just want to sit and watch cartoons than chase the ostriches in the zoo! Considering their needs every now and then, may create chaos with our itinerary, but what the heck?! We take them travelling because we want them to learn about the world outside the familiar. We are slowly but surely indoctrinating our little travelers worthwhile values that they can put into good use soon as they’re ready to take on their own adventures.

 

Malacanang of the North and the Paoay Lake

Malacanang of the North served as then President Marco’s residence in Ilocos. The Marcoses has built several homes around the country during his regime but this is only the second one I’ve visited. The first was the Sto. Nino Shrine located in Tacloban City.

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This residence was later turned into a museum which showcase the late president’s collections and memorabilia. And like the Sto. Nino Shrine, Malacanang of the North gives us a glimpse of the opulent life the Marcoses had and still has.

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The property has a magnificent view of Paoay Lake. I could just imagine the late president taking his time to admire the calm waters and fresh air through those large sliding capiz windows.

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And because this museum is included in almost all itineraries for Ilocandia tour packages, the place is packed and overflowing with tourist and vacationers when we where there. Personally though, I can skip this out if we were doing a DIY trip. Would rather spend time sand surfing in Paoay.

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Currently, Malacanang of the North is open from Tuesdays to Sundays. Entrance fee is Php 20 for adults and Php 10 for kids.

Albay in A Day: ‘Coz there’s More than Just Mayon



When one is set to visit the lovely province of Albay in the Bicol Region, it seems that the foremost sight-seeing, must-see or must-do on their list is to to see the world famous Mt. Mayon. Who wouldn’t want to see that perfect cone shape beauty well-known for it’s destructive grace?  But what if she’s too shy to let you have a peek during your visit?

As one who grew up under Magayon’s magnificent nose, I’ve seen how playful she can be at times. But don’t worry, the less you are keen to see her, the less shy she will be. So while you play pretend that you are not “that” interested in her, what other things can you do or see around Albay?

February 1st, we took off with some Couchsurfer friends to explore Albay’s hidden gems. The experience is both a revelation of new spots and also kind of reconnected us with the places we’ve been to years before. We hopped on a rented van (Php 2500) which could have accommodated 15 but we were only 9 (with two kids) and started our tour at 0900H.

Cagsawa Ruins, Daraga

Been here so many times since my childhood but you can never have the same view twice! Cagsawa Ruins is one of the best places to see how destructive Mt Mayon can be. The kids here will gladly tell you about the historic eruption in 1819 that brought Cagsawa in ruins. There are also plenty of shops in Cagsawa that offer souvenirs and ornamental plants at very affordable prices. Alternatively, you may also try out the ATV ride offered here.

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Photo Credits: Bong and Gino

 

Hoyop Hoyopan Cave, Camalig Albay

According to the guide/storyteller (Php 300/group of 6), Hoyop hoyopan Cave was discovered in 1950’s but it was only in 1970’s during Marcos regime that it was opened. The cave was home to our ancestors, “cavemen” as he claim. The cave actually has three floors or major chambers and only the middle chamber is open to the public. It was cool and breezy like there is wind blowing in at all times and this is also how it got it’s name “Hoyop” means blow.

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Photo Credits: Bong and Gino

 

 

Kawa – Kawa Nature Park, Ligao City

A hill with a “caldera” of sorts for a crater. “Kawa” is a local term for a wok which is what the hill looks like from afar. It was developed and turned into a destination for pilgrims wanting to do a “Station of the Cross” during Holy Week. It also became famous because of the sunflowers that grow abundantly around it during summer months.

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Photo Credits: Bong and Gino

 

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Photo Credits: Bong and Gino

 

Tip: Try out Bergs Ice Cream while you climb. It is the best dirty ice cream I’ve tasted in my life and having it as company while you struggle with the steep climb will make it a more enjoyable experience. If you are visiting close to meal time, there is a restaurant where you can place your orders before your trip to the cavalry err hill so that they will be ready once you come down.

Mayon Rest House / Mayon Science Center and Planetarium, Tabaco City

Many years ago, Mayon Rest House is a hotel seated four kilometers beneath Mt Mayon’s summit. A major eruption called for it’s closing for several years until the area was left to deteriorate. During our high school years and sometimes after college, I was able to visit Mayon Rest House and reveled in the wonderful view it offered.

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This year however, sightseeing at this are was moved indoors because of the rain. The Mayon Science Center and Planetarium has been revived and provided lots of additional information for visitors. The kids we have with us enjoyed looking at the huge photos of the heavenly elements. Teloyskie learned a lot from the posters and photos of different types of volcanoes. Additionally, a film showing inside a small amphitheater showed interesting facts and stories about the beautiful volcano called Mayon.

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Vera Falls, Malinao, Albay

We were to set to visit two different falls during this road trip but because it was fast getting dark, we decided to make our last stop at Vera Falls. I’ve written about Vera Falls before and you can read about it here. Upon exiting the road that leads to Mayon Rest House, we traversed Sabluyon Roads towards Malinao, the municipality were Vera Falls is located. When we reached our destination, we all could hear the loud roar of the water. It is more forceful than when we visited last summer- prolly because it just rained hard right before we get there. Teloyskie played around with Choco while our companions took their time taking pictures. And just before the clock strikes 5, we unanimously called it a day and headed back to Legazpi for our dinner.
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Barkada Trip Series: Laoag Legacies and the Heritage of Paoay Church

We stirred and woke up inside our van which was parked in a church courtyard. We didn’t where we are so we asked the driver/instant-guide to take us to Laoag as it is shown in the itinerary. We later realized that the courtyard was in Bacarra, and the old bell tower there would have looked amazing as the sun rise.

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The Sinking Bell Tower, call out to every passerby as it boldly stood in the middle of the city center.

Well, next thing we knew we are already in the center of Laoag. A city with a mesmerizing mix of Spanish and Ilocano heritage. While the city slowly woke, we walked around to admire red brick structures alongside more modern buildings and business establishment.



Our group soon headed to the still closed Marcos Museum and Mausoleum. The place is soon filled with tourist and vacationers as it was also the holy week.

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While the rest were still caught up in the museum, me and my boys sneak out and headed to the nearby Burgos Church.

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And then decided to snack on some Empanada while we wait for our group. Ilocos empanada are best eaten fresh off the pan. Inside that crisp orange pastry are vigan longganisa, egg and veggies. I’m not very fond of vinegar but this empanada is best paired with it.

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Apparently, Ilocos does not only have the Marcoses to boost, Juan Luna, renowned Filipino Artist during the Philippine Revolution and the man behind the masterpiece “Spoliarium, 1884” is also a son of Ilocos. He got here some cool cafes called “Johnny Moon.”

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Paoay Church (St Augustine Church)

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We soon left Laoag and traveled to Paoay to see St. Augustine Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A massive structure that sure stood the test of time and elements, Paoay Church is a famous icon of the Paoay town and Ilocos province.

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According to websites, this church is made of coral stones and bricks and is made so grand to adapt it’s unique Baroque design to the country’s conditions. St Agustine Church or familiarly, Paoay Church also has a garden that is open to church goers and visitors.

While we swelter outside under the midday sun, the church cool interiors were undoubtedly inviting. Like anywhere else in Ilocos though, the church courtyard and inside was brimming with tourists. We can’t even get a good shot of the church’s facade!

It’s Who You Travel With (Barkada Trip Series:Ilocandia)

We must be getting old. Fifteen years of friendship made our bonds stronger and while we seek more adventures together, we also yearn for the easiest, most comfortable means there is. Among our group, only me, the tot and the baba are for the backpacking, commuting, DIY sort of travels. The rest of the group wanted a “group tour” fixed by some agency. The majority won of course and us three are not complaining, we are all eager to travel with everyone.

It’s All About Who You Travel With

For 15 years, our group of friends have experience a lot and out of it all, we grew to strong, mature and dignified individuals — well most of us. Our work and personal lives has kept us busy that is why, every opportunity for a get together is always a welcome respite. For 2014, we decided to explore places up north – Ilocos.

We arrived in Vigan, at around 3 in the morning. We were sleepy and asking our van driver what we are doing there, he replied with “Dito daw tayo magpa umaga sabi ng kaibigan kong driver dun sa kabilang van.” He clearly doesn’t know anything about tour guiding in Ilocandia. Our group along with 5 other people suggested that we just stick with the itinerary provided by the agency since he also don’t know where or why we should go.

Places of Interest

There were a whole lot of destinations listed on the itinerary that the agency provided us. It could have been one cool road trip if only he was more accommodating with our suggestions. Being a little wayward, my boys and I took some time exploring nearby areas while the rest are still checking out one spot.

On Day One we were able to tick off these sights and spot in Laoag.

The Marcos Museum
Sinking Bell Tower
Johnny Moon Cafe
Burgos Church
Empanada
Malacanang of the North
Paoay Church
Paoay Sand Dunes

Day Two was all about Pagudpud, and though it was only a short stint, we were able to soak our weary bodies at Saud Beach and later on, joined the beach party where Glock 9 played! We were able to visit:

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
Bangui Windmills
Patapat Bridge Viaduct
Kabigan Falls
Saud Beach

Day Three was all set for Vigan’s Calle Crisologo and Baluarte.

Our travel dates were set on the super peak season – Holy Week of 2014. This is the first time for us to set a trip for this occasion and woooh! I will never travel to such kind of destinations during Holy Week!!

DIY vs Group Tour

Because of our desire for comfort, our group opted for the group tour though I always preferred going on DIY trips. Well based on our experience, we’d never ever recommend – MTF Educational Tours and Services. Their Manager, Ms Marie Fallorina was a pain in the *** to talk with especially after the tour and we were fixing our refund. And yep you guessed it – no refund were ever given. She promised and promised and promised until we eventually gave up on them. Ms. Marie Fallorina stopped replying to our text messages and email. They also ceased answering our calls. Sad story of expenses charged to experience.

If it wasn’t for our longing to spend time with one another, our 2014 Barkada Trip Series would have been a great fail. Ilocos was brimming with tourist at that time and we can’t fully appreciate the view or places we visited. But like any great journey – it is always the people you travel with, that makes every journey an unforgettable and enjoyable adventure.

Getting to Caramoan from Legazpi City Plus Tips on Avoiding GettingRiff-offed

Rainy days have started but pocketful of sunshine still invites beach bummers and city-escapers to go and explore hidden coves and beaches that worth your while. One of the country’s most beautiful destination as hailed in many articles online and offline is Caramoan. Prolly due to the shoot of Survivor series, this hard to reach destination has proven to be worth all the hassle in the getting there!

From Manila, there are lots of info you can get on how you can travel by bus, by plane or by private vehicle to reach Caramoan. But for the three of us based in Albay, particularly Legazpi City, the road to Caramoan is indeed long and wide. 
From Daraga: We started the day early, at 5:30 in the morning we took a van going to Naga and traveled for about 1.5 hours to Pili (Anayan), Camarines Sur.
From Pili: Buses going to Lagonoy from Naga as well as jeepneys going to Sabang Port, ply the diversion (Anayan) road in Pili, Camarines Sur. We took the jeepney which will take us straight to Sabang port over buses which will only drop us at San Jose and will require us to take jeepneys going to the port itself.
From Sabang Port: There are scheduled outrigger boats travelling from Sabang Port to Guijalo Port in Caramoan. Boat schedules are as follows:
  • 5:30 Am
  • 7:30 Am
  • 9:30 Am
  • 11:30 Am
  • 1:30 Am
These times vary depending on the return trip of boats and their availability. 
From Guijalo Port: Arriving in Guijalo Port – be warned, many boat men awaits the passenger outrigger boat arriving from Sabang and insist that they transfer you to the port via their boats. You will notice that they connive with the captain of those passengers boat so the latter would announce that he cannot take his passenger boat nearer to the side because of so many alibis and that we should just take the offers of the boatmen around us. 
From Guijalo Port: There are tricycles that can take you to Brgy Tawog or the centro where you can find an inn or you can go straight to Paniman Beach and stay in one of the beachfront accommodations there for the night. 
Fare matrix:
Daraga to Naga Van : P130 per pax (even if you alight in Pili)
Pili to Sabang Jeep: P80 per pax
Sabang to Guijalo Port Boat: P120 per pax/P60 for child
Guijalo Port to Tawog Tricycle: P25 per pax if full
Boat transfers: P20
Back ride service: P10
Tips: 
1. Be sure to have yourselves listed in the manifesto soon as you arrive at the makeshift port. We arrived early but decided to eat first so when we realized we needed to have our names listed, the arriving boat’s manifesto is already full so we have to wait for the much later one. 
2. Don’t listen to some of the guys telling you that you need to have a seat reserved and offer to take your belongings to the boat for a fee. You are listed in the manifesto and that guarantees a space or seat for you right?
Additional Tip:
I planned this Caramoan Trip as a surprise summer treat for my boys and got a lousy schedule because I did not seek Baba’s logical advise on some points.
When you visit Caramoan for a 3 days/2-nights stay, head straight to Paniman Beach from Guijalo port and stay there. Why? 
  • You can while away your aftie right there on the calm brown beach.
  • The sun rises on this beach, and
  • You can have your island hopping boat service pick you up from here. 
So that’s less expense on your travel from Centro if you want to beach bum in the afternoon after your arrival and the next day travel for your island hopping trip plus you get a rewarding sunrise (which we missed) from your resort too! 
After your island hopping, you can then go to the centro for cheaper accommodations options, easier exploration of other interesting spots around the area and easier trip to Guijalo port when you are leave Caramoan. 

Sorsogon Road Trip: Bulusan

From Barcelona, jeepneys bound for Gubat and Bulusan pass by just in front of St. Joseph Church, one of the oldest churches in Bicol Region. Our little group wrapped it up and readied ourselves for the next leg of our day trip – Bulusan.

Bulusan is home to one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines – Mt Bulusan and this is our next destination for this day. We arrived at Bulusan town proper and while it is still early, we looked for a place where we can get our brunch. After a hearty meal, we took a tricycle that will take us to Bulusan National Park.

I’ve been here many years ago, I was around 10 years old back then and I was able to go around the lake with my friends without us knowing where it was leading us. We registered and soon started our trek. We felt really proud that Teloy is comfortable with the surrounding vegetation and never complained about the long walk. There were several rest area around the lake but most of them were already in ruins. Me and Baba couldn’t help but compare tourism efforts in other places we have visited.

Still, Bulusan Lake is enchanting and charming than ever. I remembered seeing shrimp swimming near the rocks and there are still plenty of them even today. The place was very peaceful and all you can hear are the sounds of the wind and the birds. We passed by one or two men quietly fishing as if they too hesitate in breaking the calm. You see green everywhere you look, there’s lush green forests that surrounds an emerald green waters. It looked so deep, you’d feel kinda creepy sometimes when you try to imagine what creatures might be lurking underneath!

We arrived back at the entrance and rested for a while. I appreciate the new additions that the management are trying to introduce though the park’s upkeep still lacks a bit. There are kayaks and other water vehicle you can try out to explore the lake. They also offer climb packages for those interest to scale the mysterious Bulusan Volcano.

The trek was tiring, but we still have one more destination for this day trip and it’s going to be a wonderful, soothing and relaxing end to this roughly planned trip.

Sorsogon Road Trip: Barcelona, Sorsogon

While the school year is still ongoing and the travel fund is slim, we with our little tot are limited to weekend exploration and day trip adventures. Good thing Bicol Region has a lot of nook and corners that we have yet to explore.

Sorsogon City is only an hour away from Daraga, Albay so it sounds like a day trip is convenient enough for us. Oh we were wrong! The province of Sorsogon is indeed blessed with natural wonders and beautiful sights to behold, but of course, you have to go off the beaten track to discover them. So from the city, we headed to Barcelona, a municipality that is one hour away from the city. 
The municipality of Barcelona is located in the eastern shores of Sorsogon and is surrounded by the municipalities of Gubat, Bulusan and Casiguran. Being fond of old churches, we specifically chose this route to see one of the oldest churches in Bicol, the St. Joseph the Worker Parish which now called the Barcelona Church. It was constructed using coral stones, egg whites and “tuba.” It is an imposing structure with the original facade and the belfry though several restoration efforts in the church interiors were apparent.

Barcelona Church faces the sea and a small park where ruins of the late Presidencia Building and which were once used by the Spanish. Being close to the sea, it was destroyed during the Japanese occupation. This day, what appears to be a busy port during those days still exists but now it has become a silent onlooker to busy fisherfolks and youngsters passing time at the park.

After taking pictures and resting under the trees in Barcelona Church’s yard, our little group decided to pushed on to our next destination and continue with our exploration in – Bulusan. 

Where to Eat in Vigan, Ilocos Sur: Lampong’s at Calle Crisolo

We were starving, but we want to try good Ilocano food this time. Our tour driver, though he was kind and patient, was a first timer in the touring business so he doesn’t know much about entertaining a bunch of tired, hungry and weary tourists. We arrived in Calle Crisologo at around 11 in the morning, it seemed like we are early. Not much tourist yet so we were able to walk around leisurely admiring the cobbled stones, the heritage houses and building despite the growing hunger pangs we feel. At the end of our walk, we found ourselves looking at the outdoor menu of Lampong’s, a hole in the wall restaurant right in the heart of the heritage street.

I was so happy, ecstatic in fact! Finally, after days of fasting not eating meat, I am going to eat Bagnet today, our last day in Ilocos! Pouring over the menu, I immediately called for a plateful of Dinakdakan. A culinary fave in the North. It is made from chopped Bagnet, mixed with savory Ilocano vinegar, chopped onions and other spices.

I took the liberty of ordering for Baba too, I asked him if he’s interested in eating “Poqui-Poqui.” He didn’t like the sound of it, but upon describing that it is a dish of mashed eggplant mixed with tomatoes, onions and other spices, he agreed.

Teloy also choose from the menu and decided to have some pasta, to our frustration he wanted to have Carbonara! Fortunately, it wasn’t available so he settled for something authentic – the Vigan Longganisa Spaghetti.

While waiting for our orders to be served, Gang and Bebe joined our table and ordered the Kare-kareng Bagnet.

The rest of our barkada occupied the recently vacated table. Lampong’s visibly lack space and can only accommodate a limited number of diners at a time. But the ambiance is nice and the wi-fi is strong. And did I mention they got super good food at really affordable prices!

This meal must be the heartiest I had during our recently concluded Ilocandia Tour. Good thing we saw this resto and all our cravings for authentic Ilocano food were sated right before we traveled back to Manila.