Vigan

Vigan

            %077 / Pop 53,880

            One of the oldest towns in the Philippines, Vigan is a Spanish Colonial fairy tale of dark-wood mansions, cobblestone streets and clattering kalesa (horse-drawn carriages). In fact, it is the finest surviving example of a Spanish Colonial town in Asia and a Unesco World Heritage site. But outside of well-restored Crisologo St (closed to vehicular traffic) and a few surrounding blocks, it’s also a noisy Filipino town like many others. In the places where history feels alive, you can smell the aroma of freshly baked empanadas wafting past antique shops, explore pottery collectives and watch sunlight flicker off capiz-shell windows.

 History

 

            Located near where the Govantes River meets the South China Sea, Vigan became a convenient stop on the Silk Route, which linked China, the Middle East and Europe, and a thriving trading post where gold, logs and beeswax were bartered for goods from around the world and where Chinese settlers intermingled with the locals.

            In 1572, Spanish conquistador Juan de Salcedo (the grandson of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, one of the first conquistadors) took possession of the bustling international port. Juan de Salcedo became the lieutenant governor of the Ilocos region, and Vigan became the centre of the political, religious and commercial activities of the north. The rise of the mestizos led to considerable tension, and Vigan became a hotbed of dissent against the Spanish when, in 1762, Diego Silang captured the city and named it the capital of Free Ilocos. He was eventually assassinated (the Spanish paid Silang’s friend, Miguel Vicos, to shoot him in the back), and his wife, Gabriela Silang, took over. The first woman to lead a revolt in the Philippines, she was eventually captured and publicly hanged in the town square.

            The city avoided destruction in WWII when Japanese troops fled the city just ahead of American carpet bombers, who aborted their mission at the last second.

               Vigan

            1Top Sights

 

1Mestizo DistrictC2   1Sights

 

2Crisologo MuseumC33Cristy’s Loom WeavingF34Magic FountainC15Museo San PabloC16Padre José Burgos National MuseumB17Pottery FactoriesA28Rowilda’s Weaving FactoryF39St Paul CathedralC110Syquia Mansion MuseumD3  4Sleeping

 

11Gordion InnD212Grandpa’s InnD213Hotel LunaD214Hotel Veneto de ViganC215Villa AngelaD3            5Eating

 

Cafe UnoD216Street StallsC1            6Drinking & Nightlife

 

17BarTechC318Coffee Break ViganC2         8Information

 

19Ilocos Sur Tourism Information CentreD2 Transport

 

20Dominion Bus LinesB3

            1Sights

 

            Vigan has two main squares located near each other at the north end of town: Plaza Salcedo, dominated by St Paul Cathedral, and the livelier Plaza Burgos, where locals stroll and hang out. The historic Mestizo District is centred on nearby Crisologo St. The main commercial drag is tricycle-congested Quezon Ave, which runs south to the public market.

            oMestizo DistrictHISTORIC SITE

            ( MAP GOOGLE MAP )

            The Mestizo District, or Kasanglayan (‘where the Chinese live’), is a grid of streets hemmed in between Plaza Burgos and Liberation Blvd and bisected by the beautifully preserved Crisologo St. You can wander in a daze among ancestral homes and colonial-era architecture. The mansions here are beautiful and architecturally unique, marrying two great aesthetic styles: Chinese and Spanish.

            The latter were once Vigan’s colonial masters; the former were merchants who settled, intermarried and, by the 19th century, became the city’s elite. In fact, Spanish and Chinese are themselves limiting terms when it comes to describing Vigan architecture. Spain itself has either influenced or been influenced by Mexico, the Caribbean and North Africa, and these regions also make their presence known in the form of airy verandahs, leafy inner courtyards and wrought-iron balconies. At the same time, Asia makes an appearance with dark wooden accents, polished floors, sliding capiz-shell windows and ventanillas (ventilated walls).

            In most mansions, the ground floor has stone walls and is strictly for storage and/or work, while the wooden 1st floor, with its large, airy sala (living room), is for living. The capiz-shell windows are as tall as doors, while the wide window sills are good spots for a siesta. The capiz is a flat bivalve found in the coastal waters of the Philippines. It came into fashion in the 19th century because it was cheaper than glass and sturdy enough to withstand typhoon winds and rain. Light shines through capiz in a particular way that is almost impossibly romantic.

            While a couple of mansions have been converted into B&Bs or museums, most are private homes. Two houses to look out for are the Quema House, with its original furnishings and decor, and the Syquia Mansion on Quirino Blvd, the former holiday home of Vigan native Elpidio Quirino, the Philippines’ sixth president, who was born in the nearby provincial jail. This is one of the best-preserved historical homes, and a good place to get a sense of the traditional interior of a Chinese–Spanish mansion at the end of the 19th century.

            Magsingal MuseumMUSEUM

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; h8am-4pm Tue-Sun)F

            This branch of Vigan’s Padre José Burgos National Museum, located 11km north of Vigan in Magsingal, displays an absorbing collection of Ilocano relics. An ancient-looking belfry (1732), part of the remains of a ruined old church, still stands in front of the museum.

            St Paul CathedralCHURCH

            ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; Burgos St; h6am-9pm)

            This church was built in ‘earthquake baroque’ style (ie thick-walled and massive) after an earlier incarnation was damaged by quakes in 1619 and 1627. The construction of the original wooden, thatched church is believed to have been supervised by Juan de Salcedo, lieutenant governor of the Ilocos region, in 1574.

            Pottery FactoriesWORKSHOP

            ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; Gomez St; hhours vary)

            Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, Chinese settlers pioneered a still-active pottery industry. You can visit a couple of pottery factories on Gomez St. The 50m-long kiln at RG Jar, which was made in 1823 and can hold nearly 1000 jars, is a wonder to behold. Local potters let you create your own misshapen ceramics at the pottery wheel.

            Magic FountainFOUNTAIN

            ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; Plaza Salcedo; h7.30pm)

            Every night at 7.30pm during peak tourist season, the fountain in the middle of Plaza Salcedo bursts into a music and light show. It gets crowded and is fantastically kitsch; you can watch the waters dance to the latest hip-hop and Disney tunes.

            Padre José Burgos National MuseumMUSEUM

            (Ayala Museum; MAP GOOGLE MAP ; Burgos St; P20; h8.30-11.30am & 1.30-4.30pm Tue-Sun)

            Built in 1788, this museum is in the ancestral home of Father José Burgos, one of the three martyr priests executed by the Spanish in 1872. It houses an extensive collection of Ilocano artefacts. Make sure to see the series of paintings by the locally famed painter Don Esteban Villanueva depicting the 1807 Basi Revolt, housed in the old jailhouse.

            Crisologo MuseumMUSEUM

            ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; Liberation Blvd; by donation; h8.30-11.30am & 1.30-4.30pm)

            The Crisologos, Vigan’s most prominent political dynasty, have converted their ancestral home into this strangely compelling family shrine. In addition to the mildly interesting family photos, personal effects, period furniture and an impressive collection of indigenous Filipino headgear, you may spot the blood-stained pair of trousers from Floro Crisologo’s assassination in 1972, and the old Chevy that Governor Carmeling Crisologo was in when she was (unsuccessfully) ambushed by gunmen in 1961.

            Museo San PabloMUSEUM

            ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; h9am-noon & 2-5pm Tue-Sun)F

            The Museo San Pablo, behind the altar of St Paul Cathedral, is a good place to see old santos (religious statues). Make sure to have a look at the wonderfully aged photo collection of a German pharmacist who lived in Vigan for a number of years in the late 1800s.

            Syquia Mansion MuseumMUSEUM

            ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; Quirino Blvd; P30; h9am-noon & 1.30-5pm Wed-Mon)

            The Syquia Mansion on Quirino Blvd was recently turned into a museum filled with old furniture and exhibits dedicated to the life of Vigan native Elpidio Quirino, the Philippines’ sixth president. Quirino was born in the nearby provincial jail, where his mother worked. He rose to political prominence after marrying into the fabulously wealthy Syquia family.

 VIGAN WEAVERS

            Vigan weavers are known for using abel, a locally produced cotton fabric, to hand-weave shawls, tablecloths, napkins and barong (traditional Filipino shirts). In barangay Camanggaan, just a 10-minute tricycle ride southeast of Vigan, you can watch abel hand-weavers in action at Rowilda’s Weaving Factory ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ), which is actually just a house, or its neighbour, Cristy’s Loom Weaving ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ).

            High-quality binakol (blankets), including some antique blankets from nearby Abra Province, are for sale at many shops lining Crisologo St.

            zFestivals & Events

 

            Viva Vigan Festival of the ArtsCULTURAL

            (hMay)

            A grand celebration of the town’s cultural heritage takes place in the first week of May. There is street dancing, a fashion show, a kalesa parade and, of course, lots of food.

            Vigan Town FiestaCULTURAL

            (hJan)

            A weeklong festival held around 25 January, the fiesta commemorates the town’s patron saint, St Paul the Apostle, with a parade, musical performances, beauty contests and cultural shows.

            Kannawidan Ylocos FestivalCULTURAL

            (hJan)

            This festival at the end of January celebrates the best of Ilocos Sur culture, from traditional dress and folk dance to tribal rituals and marching band contests.

            4Sleeping

 

            Henady InnHOTEL$

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; %077-722 8001; National Hwy; dm P250, d P800-1375; a)

            Out on the highway right where the buses drop you off, the Henady has four-bed dorms that will please those on a budget and/or early-morning arrivals looking for a few extra hours of shut-eye.

            oVilla AngelaHISTORIC HOTEL$$

            ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; %077-722 2914; 26 Quirino Blvd; d/q incl breakfast from P1600/3800; aW)

            This hotel is more than 135 years old and retains every morsel of its old-world charm. The spacious rooms, fabulous antique furniture – which includes wooden harps and king-sized nara-wood canopy beds – and colonial-style lounge were good enough for Tom Cruise and Willem Dafoe when filming Born on the Fourth of July in the vicinity of Vigan in 1989.

            Hotel Veneto de ViganHOTEL$$

            ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; %077-674 0938; www.hotelvenetodevigan.com; cnr Bonifacio & Governor A Reyes Sts; d/f from P2459/5316; aW)

            The renovated exterior of this historical wooden building hides light, bright, modern rooms with particularly comfortable beds and polished floors. Some of the stairs are break-neck steep, but the staff are wonderfully friendly and helpful, and we love the colourful mural in the lobby. Avoid the ‘annex’ rooms, which are poor value.

            Grandpa’s InnHOTEL$$

            ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; %077-674 0686; 1 Bonifacio St; d from P2280; aW)

            Grandpa’s feels like a medieval mansion and has an impressive array of decent-value digs. All rooms have brick walls, capiz-shell windows, wooden beams, antique furnishings and rustic style; there are a couple of rooms where you can sleep in a kalesa. Drawbacks include thimble-sized bathrooms and street noise; earplugs are a boon.

            Gordion InnHOTEL$$

            ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; %077-674 0998; www.vigangordionhotel.com; cnr V de los Reyes & Salcedo Sts; s/d/ste from P2500/2800/7000; aW)

            This bright blue-and-yellow B&B looks much more posh from the outside than in, but offers smart, spacious rooms in an excellent central location. The breakfast buffet is a good introduction to Filipino favourites.

            oHotel LunaBOUTIQUE HOTEL$$$

            ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; %077-632 2222; www.hotelluna.ph; cnr V de los Reyes & General Luna Sts; d/ste from P5000/11,000; aWs)

            Vigan’s most striking hotel is a 19th-century mansion that’s all exposed stone, original wooden floors and crystal chandeliers, with original paintings and sculptures of Filipino artist Juan Luna throughout. The standard rooms are compact, carpeted and quiet, and we love the split-level loft suite with a free-standing tub and rain shower. The elegant Comedor serves fantastic Ilocano dishes.

            5Eating

 

            The Ilocos region is known for its food, and local specialities include pinakbét (mixed vegetable stew), bagnet (deep-fried pork knuckle) and poqui-poqui (a roasted eggplant dish).

            Street StallsSTREET FOOD$

            ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; Plaza Burgos; snacks P50)

            For quick, cheap Ilocano fare, check out the collection of street stalls that lines Florentino St along Plaza Burgos. These specialise in local empanadas filled with cabbage, green papaya and longganisa; okoy (deep-fried shrimp omelettes) and sinanglao (beef soup).

            oLilong & Lilang RestaurantILOCANO$

            (Hidden Garden; GOOGLE MAP ; %077-722-1450; www.hiddengardenvigan.com; Barangay Bulala; mains P40-120; hnoon-9pm)

            Nestled at the heart of lush gardens crossed with a nature trail, this thatched-roofed, plant-festooned restaurant is a great bet for Ilocano dishes such as Vigan empanadas, poqui-poqui (a roasted eggplant dish), warek-warek (pork innards with mayo) and the more conventional bagnet, pinakbét and mega fruit shakes. During busy weekends it hads set meals only (P180) and you’ll have to queue.

            Cafe UnoILOCANO$$

            ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; 1 Bonifacio St; mains P140-260; h9am-11.30pm; aW)

            Head to this popular place for Vigan longganisa (the local sausage) and very fatty bagnet. If you’re feeling more adventurous, go for the ‘seasonal specialities’ such as nga abuos (mountain ants) or tokak (frog). Most dishes serve two people. The shakes and cakes are worth a stop, too. It’s across from Grandpa’s Inn and has an air-con annex in the inn itself.

            6Drinking & Nightlife

 

            BarTechCLUB

            ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; Crisologo St; h6pm-late)

            BarTech is conservative Vigan’s concession to nightlife. On the inside it resembles a New York lounge misplaced in Ilocos. Most nights you’ll be serenaded by live, local, acoustic music.

            Coffee Break ViganCAFE

            ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; 3 Salcedo St; h10am-10pm)

            Cute little cafe that makes for an excellent frappuccino-fuelled respite from the heat. Its pesto pasta also hits the spot.

            8Information

 

            Ilocos Sur Tourism Information Centre ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; %077-722 8520; www.ilocossur.gov.ph; 1 Crisologo St; h8am-noon & 1-5pm) Highly informative staffers give out maps of Vigan in the ancestral home of poet Leona Florentino.

            8Getting There & Away

 

            Vigan’s Mindoro Airport reopened in April 2017. At the time, there was only a once-weekly flight to the Batanes but more connections are expected in future.

            Buses to Manila (P700, nine hours) are plentiful. Try Dominion Bus Lines ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ; %077-722 2084; cnr Liberation Blvd & Quezon Ave) to Cubao and Sampaloc, or Partas ( GOOGLE MAP ; %077-722 3369; Alcantara St) to Cubao and Pasay. Partas has three nightly 29-seat deluxe express buses (P805, eight hours), as well as frequent buses to Laoag (P165, two hours), a daily bus to Pagudpud (P245, five hours) and buses to Baguio (P334, five to seven hours, three daily). It also runs buses south to San Fernando (La Union; P235, four hours).

            Many more buses bound for Laoag and Manila stop at the Caltex Station on the National Hwy just outside Vigan. South-bound buses go via San Fernando (P235, 3½ hours), with departures roughly every two hours.

            8Getting Around

 

            Vigan is one of the few remaining towns in the Philippines where kalesa are still in use (P150 per hour). Whole-day tours will cost you around P1000, but pick your driver wisely, as English is not always strong. A tricycle ride should cost P12 within town (more at night).

 WORTH A TRIP

AROUND VIGAN

            A Unesco World Heritage site 38km south of Vigan, the massive baroque La Nuestra Senora de La Asuncion Parish Church ( GOOGLE MAP ; Santa Maria), built in 1769, is unique. It has an imposing brick facade and sits alone on a hill – rather than in the town square like most Spanish churches – overlooking the town of Santa Maria, giving it a Wild West kinda vibe. It’s not hard to see why it was used as a fortress during the Philippine Revolution in 1896.

            Take any Manila–bound bus to Santa Maria. It’s a long ride (80 minutes) for a short visit but if you’re lucky you may catch a wedding or other event.

            It’s worth stopping in Badoc, halfway between Vigan and Laoag (about an hour by bus), for a peek inside Juan Luna Shrine ( GOOGLE MAP ; www.nhcp.gov.ph; h8am-5pm Tue-Sun), the restored ancestral home of Juan Luna, arguably the Philippines’ greatest painter. The knowledgeable curator will introduce you to the history of the Luna family and tell the stories behind the paintings. The museum is near the Virgen Milagrosa Church.

 Laoag

            %077 / Pop 111,120

            Laoag is a town with some history behind it, but this is only evident in a few locations; you’ll have to head far out of town to see many of the sights and this can be very time consuming without your own transport. Laoag largely comes off as a noisy step to something better, although the nearby beaches and Unesco heritage church make it a worthwhile stop for many. This remains loyal Marcos country, and around here the former dictator is still referred to somewhat reverently as ‘President Marcos’.

            1Sights & Activities

 

            Museo Ilocos NorteMUSEUM

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; www.museoilocosnorte.com; General Antonio Luna St; P30; h9am-noon & 1-5pm Mon-Sat, from 10am Sun)

            Housed in the historic Tabacalera warehouse, the snazzy Museo Ilocos Norte is one of the better ethnographic museums in the Philippines. It houses a large collection of Ilocano, Igorot and Itneg traditional clothing, household utensils, ceremonial objects and more. At the end of the hall is a split-level replica ilustrado (19th-century ancestral house).

            oPaoay ChurchCHURCH

            (San Agustin Church; GOOGLE MAP )

            Nineteen kilometres southwest of Laoag is North Luzon’s most famous church. Unesco World Heritage–listed Paoay Church was built in classic earthquake-baroque style, with a towering belfry and massive brick reinforcements running along its sides. Begun in 1704 and finished 90 years later, it’s architecturally unique: an incongruous yet beautiful blend of Gothic, Chinese, Japanese and even Javanese influences.

            Sinking Bell TowerLANDMARK

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; Bonifacio St)

            Laoag’s main architectural attraction is the Sinking Bell Tower, with what is presently a hobbit-sized doorway. Built by Augustine friars to accommodate men on horseback, it is gradually sinking into the soft riverside loam.

            St William’s CathedralCHURCH

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; Juan Luna Rd)

            The immense Italian Renaissance–style St William’s Cathedral was built in 1880.

            Sand DunesDUNES

            ( GOOGLE MAP )

            Located along the coast near Laoag, the seemingly endless sand dunes sprawl south all the way to Paoay. Access is easiest to the La Paz stretch, only 15 minutes from the city. The Suba dunes near the Fort Ilocandia ( GOOGLE MAP ; %077-772 1166; www.fortilocandia.com.ph; d from P3700; aWs) resort is where scenes from Mad Max and Born on the Fourth of July were shot.

            Fort Ilocandia rents out 4WDs and you can also go sandboarding with Ilocos Sand Adventures ( GOOGLE MAP ; %0915 456 1133, 0908 885 3669; www.ilocossandadventures.com; 4WD ride plus unlimited sandboarding per person P2500).

            4Sleeping

 

            Laoag is a popular getaway for folks from Manila, so reserve in advance for weekends and holidays.

            Laoag Renzo HotelHOTEL$

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; %077-770 4898; http://laoagrenzohotel.tripod.com; F Guerrero St; r from P1200; aW)

            With a surprisingly grand lobby full of woodcarvings, Renzo is Laoag’s best bargain. Its lemon-scented en-suite rooms are spacious, cool and quiet. If you’ve got a lot of luggage, the trudge to the top floor is a good workout.

            Java HotelHOTEL$$

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; %077-770 5596; www.javahotel.com.ph; General Segundo Ave; r/ste from P3000/4100; aWs)

            The petrol station in the parking lot isn’t exactly in keeping with the ‘Balinese-Moroccan’ theme, but the spacious rooms are decorated in warm ochres and yellows with wicker furniture. Ilocano dishes and sushi grace the menu at the thatch-roofed restaurant. Perks include a gym and tennis court.

            Isabel SuitesHOTEL$$

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; %077-770 4998; General Segundo Ave; s/d/tr from P1000/1650/2150; aW)

            A study in austerity, the rooms at the Isabel are generally small, but the beds are comfy and the tiled floors sparkle. The soundproofing is quite good for a central hotel on the main street, which means you might be able to sleep until 6.30am instead of 6am.

            5Eating & Drinking

 

            Dap-ayan ti Ilocos NorteFOOD HALL$

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; cnr Rizal Ave & V Llanes St; mains from P50; h11am-9pm)

            An outdoor food court, this is a great place to sample local fare such as bagnet (crispy-fried pork belly); bright-orange empanadas filled with green papaya, longganisa, egg and bean sprouts; and the legendary Ilocos longganisa (Chinese sausage made from fatty pork mince) served on its own.

            oLa PreciosaILOCANO$$

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; %077-773 1162; Rizal Ave; mains P120-220; h8am-11pm)

            Laoag’s best-loved restaurant is highly recommended for its large portions of delicious Ilocano specialities such as pinakbét (mixed vegetable stew), crispy yet tender bagnet, dinardaan (offal simmered in pig’s-blood gravy) and delectable sarabasab (grilled pork liver in papaitan sauce). The sweets don’t let down the side either: go for the carrot cake or the decidedly non-Ilocano velvet cupcakes.

            Saramsam Ylocano RestaurantILOCANO$$

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; cnr Gomez Ave & Giron St; mains P75-220; h11am-11pm)

            Surrounded by the owner’s antique collection, you can sample the superlative pinakbét and poqui-poqui (roasted eggplant) pizza (which we suppose can be loosely classed as fusion), as well as the restaurant’s unusual signature pasta with mango. Portions are sizeable, so come ravenous.

            Johnny Moon CafeCAFE

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; Gen Antonio Luna St; h10am-9pm)

            ‘Johnny Moon’ is a play on Juan Luna, the renowned Filipino artist whose bold replica works decorate the interior of this cafe inside the La Tabacalera Ilocano Lifestyle Center. The food is only so-so, but we love the fruit shakes (P90) and alcohol-infused coffees.

            8Getting There & Away

 

            PAL Express and Cebu Pacific (www.cebupacificair.com) fly daily to Manila from the airport 7km west of town. Airport jeepneys (P20, 15 minutes) leave from Fariñas St; most are marked ‘Laoag-Gabu’.

            There’s no shortage of buses to Manila (from P797, 10 to 12 hours). Companies include Partas ( GOOGLE MAP ; %077-771 4898; Gen Antonio Luna St) and Fariñas Trans ( GOOGLE MAP ; %077-772 0126; www.farinastrans.com; FR Castro Ave). Superdeluxe express buses (up to P965) tend to run overnight.

            Fariñas Trans also runs to Baguio (P466, eight to 10 hours), and Partas has frequent buses to Baguio (P466, seven hours) and Pagudpud (P123, 1½ hours). All buses heading south stop in Vigan (P165, two hours).

            GMW/GV Florida ( GOOGLE MAP ; %077-771 7382; Paco Roman St) has several daily buses to Tuguegarao (P455, seven hours) via Pagudpud (P107, 1½ hours) and Claveria (P189, three hours). Minibuses to Pagudpud (P100) leave every 30 minutes from behind the Provincial Capitol Building.

            Laoag–Batac–Paoay jeepneys leave from Hernando Ave.

            Laoag–Nagbacalan–Paoay jeepneys take the coastal road to Paoay (45 minutes) via the Fort Ilocandia turn-off and Malacañang of the North (30 minutes). They depart from Fariñas St.

            Fort Ilocandia jeepneys (25 minutes) are marked for ‘Calayab’ and depart from in front of St William’s Cathedral.

 THE MARCOS LEGACY

            Many Filipinos equate the 20-year rule of Ferdinand Marcos with martial law, repressions of civil liberties, imprisonment and torture of opposition and embezzlement of public funds on an epic scale. In spite of that, the Marcos family continues to be very popular in this part of Luzon, with Marcos’ legacy ‘enshrined’ in several locations.

            Marcos MuseumMUSEUM

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; by donation; h8am-6pm)

            The house where Ferdinand Marcos was born on 11 September 1917 takes pride of place in the small village of Sarrat, 15km east of Laoag. Displays embellish the former dictator’s legal career. The nearby Santa Monica Church hosted the wedding of Marcos’ youngest daughter in 1983 – at a price tag of more than US$10 million.

            Malacañang of the NorthMUSEUM

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; P30; h9am-noon & 1-4pm Tue-Sun)

            In a peaceful location next to the scenic Paoay Lake, the opulent former estate where the Marcos family spent their holidays is open to the public. The impressive house, with its cavernous sala (living room), capiz-shell windows and other colonial touches, provides a glimpse into the family’s lavish lifestyle; the golf course where the Marcos used to tee-off now belongs to Fort Ilocandia.

 Pagudpud & Around

            %077 / Pop 23,770

            Pagudpud is the stuff of glossy postcards: white-sand beaches, swaying green palms, water that shimmers through every cool shade of blue. There are singing frogs at night and friendly locals by day. A clutch of stylishly renovated hotels and the best kitesurfing in the Philippines, giving Pagudpud cred as ‘the next big thing on the surfing circuit’, have put this lonely stretch of coastline on the tourist map, although it mercifully remains sleepy compared to the likes of Boracay. If you’re looking for blue water and white sands in North Luzon, make this your first stop.

            1Sights

 

            Pagudpud actually consists of several beaches, strung along Luzon’s northern edge and hemmed in by windmill-clad headlands. Coconut-palm-backed Saud Beach ( GOOGLE MAP ) is where most resorts are to be found. Busy Blue Lagoon ( GOOGLE MAP ) is a few headlands east. Deserted Pansian Beach is still further on, near the border of Cagayan Province. Kiteboarders’ favourite Caparispisan Beach is a few kilometres down the road from Saud.

            Kabigan FallsWATERFALL

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; P110)

            Kabigan Falls is 120m of crashing white water and a cool, clear pool for swimming. It’s accessible via group tours run by all hotels or via private tricycle hire (around P700 return from Saud Beach). The falls are a 30-minute walk from the highway turn-off and the admission price includes a guide. The walk past rice fields and a clear stream is lovely.

            Stingray MemorialMEMORIAL

            ( GOOGLE MAP )

            In secluded Caunayan Bay, this memorial commemorates the mission of American submarine USS Stingray, which delivered weapons to Ilocano guerrillas, thus playing a decisive role in the Japanese defeat in WWII. The memorial itself is just a cement block with an anchor on top but the surrounding scenery of palms, secluded white beach and rice fields makes it worth the trip.

            4Sleeping

 

            Accommodation rates drop precipitously in low season (June to December). A lot of basic homestays have opened in the village that abuts Saud Beach – follow the road past the big bend near Saud Beach Resort.

            All the resorts have attached restaurants. Most of them are quite good and specialise in amazingly fresh seafood.

 Saud Beach

 

            Evangeline Beach ResortRESORT$$

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; %0908 863 7564, 077-655 5862; www.evangelinebeachresort.net; d P2100-4500; aW)

            Evangeline’s feels more like a B&B than a hotel. The multi-storied house is built like a heritage home, with heavy wood floors. The bedrooms, furnished with tasteful wooden beds and dressers, feel homey and warm. We particularly liked the smaller, top-storey double. Evangeline’s is set back a couple of minutes’ walk from the beach, but its excellent seafood restaurant is beachfront.

            Northridge ResortRESORT$$

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; %0921 415 9545; d P1000-1500; aW)

            Here’s a simple but very friendly family-run option with clean, well-kept doubles at the rocky south end of Saud Beach. It’s good value; there’s swimming out the front; and the white sand is only a few minutes’ walk away.

            Apo IdonRESORT$$$

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; %0917 510 0671, 077-676 0438; www.apoidon.com; r/ste from P8000/10,000; aWs)

            The fanciest resort along Saud Beach, this is a Spanish-style confection with grand staircases, bright colours, stained-glass windows and Mediterranean-inspired tiles. The unique rooms feature Ifugao art, private verandahs and Western-style mod cons. It’s right on the beach. Prices drop around 40% when it’s slow.

            Saud Beach ResortRESORT$$$

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; %0917 519 5495; www.saudbeachresort.com; d/tr from P3619/3949; aW)

            Location, location, location. The rooms may be clean, good-sized and have wood floors and nice verandahs, but it’s the perfect stretch of alabaster sand and a veritable ocean swimming pool out the front that makes this place shine. Service is professional, and there are plenty of bamboo hammocks strewn between coconut palms for you to lounge the days away in.

 Caparispisan

 

            oKingfisher ResortRESORT$$

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; %0927 525 8111; www.kingfisher.ph; tiki huts/casita/ste P2500/7000/12,000; aW)

            In splendid isolation 10km along a partially paved road from Saud Beach, Kingfisher caters to active travellers, with kitesurfing and windsurfing available between October and March, and paddleboards and kayaks for rent when seas are calmer. Lodge in basic tiki huts or treat yourself to their swanky casita. The chilled beach vibe makes it difficult to leave. Three-night minimum stay.

 Blue Lagoon

 

            Casa ConsueloRESORT$$

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; %0918 990 5385; www.facebook.com/CASACONSUELO; d incl breakfast P3200; aWs)

            Tucked at the far, quiet end of Blue Lagoon, this chilled-out, family-run place has 14 tiny yet chic rooms overlooking Dos Hermanos rocks and a slim white beach – you can swim from here to the area’s best snorkelling. Enjoy perfect sunrises; take a dip in the petite infinity pool; and enjoy the delicious, fresh seafood served in the restaurant.

            Kapuluan Vista ResortRESORT$$

            ( GOOGLE MAP ; %077-676 9075, 0920 952 2528; www.kapulanvistaresortandrestaurant.com; dm per person P650, d from P3700, all incl breakfast; aWs)

            Towards the more low-key end of Blue Lagoon, this fading yet strangely stylish place sits in front of the beach’s best surfing waves. Polished cement and white-painted rooms are minimalist chic, and the restaurant has bleached wood tables graced with tiny oil lamps. Surfboards (P350 per hour), SUPs (P300 per hour) and surfing instruction (P200) are available.

            8Getting There & Away

 

            The highway around here is spectacular in spots. If you’re coming from Laoag or continuing on towards Claveria, get a seat on the left side of the bus.

            Frequent buses travel the coastal road to Laoag (P123, two hours) and Tuguegarao (P350, five hours). You’ll have to flag one down from the main highway.

            There are also two daily Florida buses from Pagudpud to Manila (P700).

 WORTH A TRIP

ADAMS

            The former rebel stronghold of Adams nestles between jungle-covered mountains and is accessible via a rough 14km road that starts near Pansian Beach, off the coastal highway. All dirt trails and rickety bridges, Adams offers some good trekking, including a popular two-hour hike to the 25ft Anuplig Falls, which have a wonderfully clear pool beneath, and a stretch of the Bulu River is open for inner-tubing.

            Adams gets few visitors, despite its spectacular location, but there are a few homestays popping up, including Ilyn’s Homestay (0920 661 0632; rooms P1000), which has been getting rave reviews for its food, or you can enquire about camping at the Municipal Hall. Local food delicacies include deep-fried frogs, organic vegies and buos (boiled fire-ant eggs).

            You can get out to Adams on your own steam: motorbikes from Pagudpud cost around P250, or take an east-bound bus from Pagudpud and ask to get off at the Adams stop just before the Pansian Bridge (about 20 minutes). Motorcycles that wait there can take you the rest of the way to Adams.

Originally posted 2021-05-05 22:23:25.