Backpacking Through Ilocos

As much as I’d like to tell this story in detail, I don’t think I have an interested-enough audience to stick with it. But let me tell you, A LOT has happened in this trip. It is one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever had – complete with all the highs and lows. I’ll try to keep the story short, please bear with me. Also I’ll provide the original itinerary and a tally of expenses and some contact numbers below.


It started with Day 0. Planning day. I only had one day to plan: places, transportation, fares and prices, accommodations. It was stressful because our planned departure was also that night itself. At 10:30pm, Cams and I will have met at Partas Bus Terminal in Sampaloc. Unfortunately, I got out late and Cams had to catch another bus – which is the last bus trip going north. She had to ask them to wait for me! Fuck! When I got there, I locked my eyes on the ground, with the occasional apologetic glances to the driver, conductor and the other passengers. I sank down to my seat, pulled my cap downward then cried.

Day 1 – Vigan day (September 13, 2016; Tuesday)

We arrived at Vigan at around 5:45am. After resting for a bit at Aperlin Transient Rooms, we proceeded to Mestizo River then walked around until we reached the famous Crisologo Street. A number of the stores were closed because it was lean season and there was a typhoon coming. We almost had every place all to ourselves for this reason. We had our lunch at Cafe Leona, ordering the classic bagnet and pinakbet. When we reached the church and the commercialized area on the other side, it started to rain. We decided to go back home and wait it out.

Waking up at 6:00pm, it was still raining and we needed rice. We walked through the same streets again and found it empty. We figured that our nocturnal lifestyle were giving us a challenge. Eventually we found a convenience store near the church, a burger stand on the other street, and a 24 hour food store just around the corner of that same street. We got back home and finished our leftovers from our lunch. Then rested for another day of adventure!

Day 2 – Vigan and Laoag day (September 14, 2016; Wednesday)

As of this moment, I knew that the itinerary I prepared wasn’t being followed. There were things that we did that were not part of the plan. But that’s the joy of DIY trips, right? It just wasn’t making my wallet happy. We were supposed to proceed to Laoag first thing in the morning, but Cams thought that we weren’t able to explore Vigan enough. Therefore, we contacted the person we met yesterday – who offered a very cheap price for a trike tour – and continued our journey.

Destinations we went to respectively were: Bantay Bell Tower, Hidden Gardens, Pagburnayan Jar Making and Rowilda’s Looweaving. Check out the travel film that I’ll be posting next week. I don’t want to lose a quarter of my tongue thinking about different adjectives and cliche descriptions. But I’ll tell you this little story, where I think the streak of bad things started. We were done with the jar making and we’re on the way to the last destination, when Cams realized she lost her beloved watch. We went back to Hidden Gardens and Jar Making to look for it. Our driver and tour guide helped and went in first, heading to the wash area outside the jar making area. When Cams got there, she saw him holding the watch. He allegedly said that he found it on the floor beside the sink. Cams is suspicious about it. We got it, we’re late according to my plan, so we went on our merry ways.

Because of lack of research, we were 2 hours early for the next Laoag-bound bus. We had to get to Laoag immediately because Sir Glenn, our contact person from La Paz Sand Dunes, is waiting for us. The locals suggested we take an ordinary passing bus right by the adjacent street, and luckily we were able to catch one. Peaceful ride. Met with Sir Glenn. Had loads of fun in the sand dunes. We were literally the only customers at the time of our enjoyment. There was a group before and after us, though. We proceeded to the Sinking Bell Tower, which was kind of anti-climactic, per se. It was just a literal sinking bell tower in the middle of the city. Pretty interesting to look at, may even be referenced for painting, but got nothing much to do around it.

We passed by Puregold to buy some groceries, then proceeded to our next accommodation which is the AA Travellers Pad. It’s a little out of reach from the city. It can be walked, during daytime I guess. But at night, it’s too dark to navigate, not to mention scary. Rested a bit, had dinner at Saramsam, ordered a Dinuguan Pizza and a Saramsam Pasta. Unique and incredible taste! Definitely will recommend.

Day 3 – Laoag day (September 15, 2016; Thursday)

This is the day of the accident.

After eating breakfast. We got back to our room to prepare for our check-out. Cams was the second one to shower. While I fixed my things in my bag, I suddenly hear a loud thump coming from the bathroom, as if a huge, heavy material was dropped. I rushed in and found my girlfriend sitting on the shower floor, with blood running on her face. I immediately grab a towel and put it on her head, and asked “What happened?!”. She was in a state of shock, not knowing that her face was already bleeding. All she knew was that her torso and her head is aching from the impact. I ran down and asked for help, they said they’ll ask their management first – which bewildered me because I think we all know this is a case of emergency. I was expecting him to follow me to our room, but seeing that the person I’m talking to isn’t planning on moving from his post, I leave him there and go back to check on my girlfriend. By this time, she has checked the wound and the trauma apparently cut her small but deep, just below her right eyebrow. We then started conducting first aid on it with the resources we have with us; having also observed a while before that the staff’s first aid box was empty. To cut the story short, the staff didn’t know what to do, and they kept insisting on the assistance of the management, which wasn’t present at the time. What appalled me is the lack of compassion for their guests. All you need to have is a little humanity, to care for someone who’s hurt. We didn’t want to complain, we just wanted someone to help, especially when were in a place remotely familiar to us. In the end, we asked assistance to the nearest hospital, and all they managed to do was call a tricycle for us, then bye bye.

This was a big downer for us. Our budget was cut by 3,922. It made a serious strain in our budget because as you’ll see later in the end, we almost hadn’t have enough money to go back home! We literally were counting every peso we had and were wishing to find the cheapest bus that will hopefully pass by.

Enough of that. Our next place was Museo of Ilocos Norte, which was pretty simple and interesting. Also, for lack of research, we almost weren’t able to catch any ride up to Pagudpud. I was beating myself up in my head on why I hadn’t foreseen this events when I was planning. Luckily the locals were super helpful and directed us to a scheduled van service that drives up to Pagudpud. It was suspiciously scary and I was ready to jump any time, but we got there fine.

Palm Groves is the best kept out of all three accommodations. And we needed this rest more than ever.

Day 4 – Pagudpud day (September 16, 2016; Friday)

As of this point, I was already too tired that I only wanted to go back home. The whole trip drained my brain – partly decision fatigue, partly just plain stress. I kept counting numbers, minutes, hours, pesos. All I wanted was a real rest. But still, we had to make the best of what we have.

Saud Beach was just right around the corner, and it’s the first place we went to. I wasn’t able to swim because I didn’t know the waters. It seemed a little odd, low tide I guess. And there wasn’t anyone around to save me or even to just accompany me in the waters. (I swear there were only busy fishermen around, that’s how empty this place was) We instead just sat on the sand and appreciated the calm sound of the wind and the waves. It’s in the opposite spectrum of all of what’s happened to us.

Back at our room, we eventually decided to take a tour around the province (because I kept insisting on cutting on the tours since day 1). There are two tours in Pagudpud: the north tour and the south tour. The north is composed mostly of beaches, the south mostly of sightseeing. We chose the south for we cannot swim in saltwater with Cams having a fresh wound on the face. I said, we’ll just come back some other day.

We went to Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, Bangui Mills and the beautiful Kapurpurawan Rock Formations. I’m downright tired, but it doesn’t take away the fact that the place is magnificent.

We were then brought to an area, on the side of the road, where were supposed to wait for a bus back to Manila. End of tour. 4:30pm. We walked by the side of the road asking the locals how much the bus fares were, and what kind of buses should we be trying to find. I should’ve filmed this, because we were already in a residential-area-by-the-side-of-the-road kind of place, where everyone was really friendly and was willing to help two tourists get back home. I think that they’re even willing to shelter us if we weren’t able to catch a bus to Manila. That would’ve been an experience, wouldn’t it.

Eventually, a Sampaloc-bound bus came, and we boarded and said goodbye to the friendly locals. I remember that we even had to reject earlier Manila-bound buses because we just didn’t have enough money to pay for it. Even the one we were finally on, I thought was over our budget. I think we had a hundred peso bill that we hadn’t counted in. It just so happens that when the conductor came to collect the fare, we had the exact, right amount of money to pay for it. I was too tired to remember and was just in a fuck it moment.

We arrived at Manila by 6:00am the next day, September 17, 2016, Saturday. Finally the end of our roller coaster trip. Never would I ever imagine that I’d miss the chaos that is Manila. The ever familiar, overpopulated, polluted land.

I seriously had mixed feelings about this trip. There were moments where I thought that I’d never be able to go back home. 0 pesos in my bank account, and just a few left in our wallet. What a fucking trip! The next time I’m doing this, I should make sure that I have enough money for it. Still great. Extreme highs, extreme lows. That’s what life is about.



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