I knew that the trip would be long, but not that long. Luzon seems small on the map, but actually travelling from Quezon City to Ilocos Norte is at least a 12-hour-long journey spanning 477 kilometers. We left the house at 3:30 in the morning, and we drove past the plaza of Laoag City by 5:30 in the afternoon. Talk about sunrise to sunset!
The heavy traffic bade us goodbye as we lagged our way out of the National Capital Region. As the pleasant morning sun shone, we enjoyed the scenery of nature and provincial life in Pampanga, Tarlac, and Pangasinan. The backdrop of La Union was small cities and lively towns, thick forests on steep cliffs, lush mountains beyond the vast farmlands, and rocky shores facing the sea. Ilocos Sur has shared the same beauty which indulged our eyes in the whole afternoon.
The sun had already set when we reached Ilocos Norte. Our dinner was (you guessed it!) Pinakbet Pizza coupled with Bagnet. After enjoying ourselves with Ilocano meals, we travelled the final lap of our journey—the two-hour trip to the northernmost point of Luzon.
Pagudpud is well-known among tourists as the “Boracay of the North.” But they say nothing about the terrain to the remote town. With only the headlights to show us the way, we struggled on the rain-soaked highway filled with sharp curves and steep turns. Fortunately, we safely reached Hannah’s Beach Resort. We rented a transient home built on the world-famous Blue Lagoon Cove.
The following morning, the whole place was sprinkled with color and the spirit of adventure. Below the densely forested mountains stands the Patapat Bridge, the link between Cagayan and Ilocos Norte. This Instagramable attraction is the fifth longest bridge in the country, sitting on the edge of the Philippine mainland. In fact, the Batanes archipelago lies in wait beyond the tranquil sea that adorns the view.
Back to the beach resort, a tourist can try the world’s longest zip line over water. There is also a nearby cave to explore. But for a place with so much to offer, the beach remains clean, uncrowded, and peaceful.
After swimming in the “Boracay of the North,” we traveled to the Bangui Wind Farm. The nine-kilometer row of tall windmills with gigantic blades powers half of Ilocos Norte’s electricity. These windmills, the first of their kind in Southeast Asia, provide more than just energy—they give a sense of hope for the progress this nation deserves.
The following day, we began our southward trip back home. We travelled to Batac, the birthplace of former President Ferdinand Marcos. Everywhere else he is called a dictator. But outside the online flame wars and fierce debates, Batac hails him as
a victor with silent pride and honor. His former ancestral house is now the Ferdinand E. Marcos Presidential Center, a museum about his early life and political stride. With its elaborate collection of artifacts and memorabilia, the tourists can go back to Marcos’ childhood, his success in law school, and even his romance with Imelda. The museum also showed his ascension to the Congress and the Senate.
From Batac, we travelled to Paoay to visit the “Malacañang of the North”, the residence of the Marcos family in Ilocos Norte. The whole mansion is open to all. You can go to the childhood rooms of their children who are now prominent politicians in the country. Tourists can also enter Ferdinand Marcos’ presidential office and master’s bedroom. The balcony faces the tranquil Paoay Lake glistening with the afternoon sunshine.
The exhibits in the house feature his policies on international relations, agriculture, massive building projects, and cultural promotion. Wherever you may stand on the political spectrum, you will see Ferdinand Marcos behind the Martial Law and the turmoil that followed.
Paoay was our last stop in this scenic and beautiful province. After two hours, we reached yet another city full of history and allure—Vigan, the capital city of Ilocos Sur.
The famed Plaza Salcedo is the beating heart of the province. It is surrounded by the Ilocos Sur Capitol, the Vigan City Hall, and the Vigan Heritage Village. More than 250 years ago, the country’s first female revolutionary leader Gabriela Silang was hanged there by the Spaniards. Now, the locals and tourists enjoy the attraction and the freedom she laid her life for.
The Heritage Village of Vigan was laid out by the Spaniards as a district of aristocratic wealth and trade. After four centuries and a destructive world war, it now stands as a UNESCO World Heritage site. To be in the place I only saw in pictures was surreal. Calle Crisologo, as the street is called. The old houses, infused with Spanish, Chinese, and Filipino architecture, are given new life as shops, restaurants, and fast-food chains. Kalesas strode on the cobblestone ground. The night was a dream come true.
In the end, what makes a meaningful road trip? There is a charm in post-worthy shots, collecting souvenirs, and touring local destinations. But if you ask me, a road trip is a journey about actually breathing in the damp salty air, taking each step with gratitude for that precious moment, and sharing exotic meals with your family.
After all, a vacation is not about escaping life—it is about finding life with those you love. And before you try to find paradise overseas, realize that it was here all along, waiting for you to visit home.