Ilocos con Los Locos

Ren and I don’t usually go anywhere for Holy Week as we both dislike the crowds of people that come with it. But since her birthday this year fell on Black Saturday, we decided to give it a try especially since her crazy cousins were renting a mini-bus to go party in the Ilocos region. They’re a boisterous, animated bunch so this trip up north couldn’t have possibly been anything but fun.

Here are some pictures from our Holy Week 2011 adventure.

The Bus

Don’t let her lumbering, refrigerator looks fool you. She may be big, but she’s got the heart of a Mini Cooper. With the very capable Mang Nards at the helm, she got us through some tight and sticky situations.

After approximately 8 hours on the road, night turns into day.

Guess which one of us just woke up?

The natives are becoming restless…

Vigan, Ilocos Sur

With the first leg of our journey complete, we arrive at our first stop: Vigan!

Calle Crisologo

Take a step back in time as you stroll down historic Crisologo Street…

The lovely Renee leading the way

Agut-agutan breaK

I love the negative space formed by the rooftops…

Renée de Crisologo de Ayala de Araneta de Madrigal

Popsicle break!

Grandpa’s Inn

This was where we stayed for the night. Very nice, inexpensive boutique hotel that fit right in with the spirit of the town.

Gastronomic Adventures

Some of the dishes we sampled here were adventurous indeed. It was the first time for all of us to try these exotic, local delicacies and we enjoyed them tremendously.

Bagnet wraps. A nice contemporary twist to the local delicacy.

Ren enjoying the day at Los Majitos

Me imitating Ren enjoying the day at Los Majitos

Uno Grille. Owned by and located directly across from Grandpa’s Inn, this is where we got to sample some of the Ilocos region’s truly exotic dishes. Everything was dee-licious!

Insarabasab. Grilled pork meat and liver topped with tomatoes and onions.

Bogi Ti Ikan. Seasonal fish roe harvested usually in the summer months.

Adobo Nga Abuos. Now this was truly exotic! It’s a seasonal dish of mountain ant larvae harvested from the tropical rain forests of Abra, available only from March to June. Ren and I saw something similar on Extreme Cuisine with Jeff Corwin, but in Mexico. Who knew that we’d be able to sample something like it right here in our very own backyard?! Awesome!


Crispy Bagis. Crispy fried pork intestines.

Poqui-Poqui Balls. A twist on the Ilocano eggplant omelette. This was REALLY good.

Warek-Warek. Grilled pork head chop with liver and mixed with onions and vinegar.

One satisfied table of Manileños.

Los Majitos de Vigan. After our meal, we moved back to Los Majitos for the moody lighting, excellent service, and PHP 35 a bottle beers.

Rock on dudes!

The Axe effect

Ilocos Norte

We say goodbye to Vigan and make a few interesting stops on our way to Pagudpud.

Fort Ilocandia

We stopped here for lunch at the Red 8 Asian Restaurant.

Just call me Nimfa

San Agustin Church, Paoay

Beautiful church. Doesn’t it remind you a bit of Angkor Wat in some of these pictures?

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, Nagpartian, Burgos

I loved this lighthouse. According to Ren, it was featured in a documentary about haunted places in the Philippines, which only added to its mystique.

Ren was too scared to go up to the lighthouse so I carved her initials on the brick wall – “To my one and only Renee.” Sobrang Cheeeeezy!!!

Bangui Bay Windmills

Breathtaking. That was the first word I thought of when seeing these for the first time. I had never seen one of these windmills from up close before and was amazed by how striking they looked. These massive, monolithic all-white structures spinning silently against the jet blue sky were just a sight to behold.

Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Finally we reach our destination!

Hannah’s Beach Resort & Convention Center

Going down the road towards the hotel, we had to stop at a checkpoint to pay an entrance fee – PHP 20 per head. They said it was a municipal ordinance to help maintain the area. The whole thing felt dodgy to say the least and was a portent for things to come at Hannah’s.

Soon as we entered the complex, we were shocked to find heavy traffic and hordes of people. Apparently the beach area of Hannah’s is public so anyone can come for the day, and come they did in droves. Whoever owns this place didn’t seem to have much concern for the environment. The whole area was chaotic and felt polluted, not exactly the pot of gold we were hoping to find at the end of our rainbow.

Overcrowded beach

The room was spacious but lacked the rustic island charm and character we were looking for.

Swimming pool with Hannah’s Hollywood-style sign. Most people swimming had their shirts on. Enough said.

The grounds were spacious but tacky sculptures abounded.

L: “Why thank you. Thank you very much.” (You can’t see it in the picture but Elvis’ guitar was covered in plastic.) R: Uhhhmm…Okaaay. I’m a big Tim Burton fan but I gotta draw the line somewhere.

L: Raaaawr! R: Boobylicious pirate with hook for hand. Nice.

This is the convention center and where they served all the meals. Again, enough said.

“Ser, may PHP 100 dighay fee po dito…”

To make things worse, they charged you extra for everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. For example, there was a basketball court but you had to pay PHP 100/hour for the ball. They offered guitars for rent at PHP 150/hour. They had pool tables which you could use for free….eaaaking PHP 100/hour. Get my drift? Look, I understand you need to make money but do you really have to charge for everything? Doesn’t customer happiness and satisfaction account for anything?!

But just when we thought all was for nought…

…the pot of gold turned out to be just a few more meters down the way. Exiting Hannah’s, make a left and take a scenic 10 minute stroll. Noises fade, crowds dissipate, and just like that, you’re in a whole different world.

Ren looking lovely

A surf shop along the way…

That’s gnarly dude

Neither of us knew what this was but it was strangely beautiful, in a Lady Gaga-ish sort of way.

Kapuluan Vista Resort

Is it Tropical Hut? No, even better. It’s Kapuluan Vista Resort.

There was nothing not to like about this place. Secluded and peaceful, it had the rustic island charm that Hannah’s lacked. The decor was tastefully done, the rooms spartan but comfortable. The menu offered a varied array of local and internationally inspired dishes like Dinakdakan and lobster burritos. They grow their own organic vegetables and even offer vegan meals. Plus they recycle and are kind to the environment. We absolutely loved it here.

Beautiful, rustic decor appropriate to the surroundings. Note the use of the rich cerulean blue sofas as an accent to all the wood and natural finishes. Very nice.


Still-life with Renée

I’m a designer so I’m always happy to see well laid-out, conceptually relevant menus, especially in a remote place such as this.

Simple, but elegantly plated dishes

INTERESTING FACT: Kapuluan Vista Resort is owned and operated by a young Filipino surfer couple from Southern California who 5 years ago decided to sell all their belongings, move back to the Philippines, and find the life they always dreamed about. This was where the wind took them and what a beautiful life they’ve built for themselves. This is what I dream for Ren and myself (though in the mountains somewhere or lakeside) and hopefully we can be as lucky as Mike and Alma one day. Truly inspiring.

Celebrating Renée’s Birthday

Suffice to say it was a no-brainer to celebrate Ren’s birthday here. Mike is a super nice guy and he allowed us to hang out here as long as we liked even though we weren’t staying at his resort. He even gave us a bottle of Bugnay wine (currant wine) as a birthday gift to Ren. Cool!

Alma’s must-try margaritas to kick off the festivities. Deliciously refreshing!

Ren’s mouth-watering plate of chicken burritos

Candy showing off her lobsters. Yum!

Tasty dinakdakan

After downing a few drinks, the girls decided to get in the drink themselves.

Pa-bungisngisan contest. I think Cands is the clear winner here.

Ziggy, the cute resort puppy, gives me an earful after I’ve had one too many.

Our Last Day

Today we drive back to Manila so Ren and I head back to Kapuluan for our final breakfast.

Today is Ren’s actual birthday. Happy birthday MBH! I love you!

This is how Ren looks every time I tell her how beautiful she is…sobrang cheeeeezy!

Just a few parting shots around the resort

Cool veranda. Love those corner chairs.

At first I wasn’t sure what this water jug was for, but at its base you’ll find a small stone with the following inscription: “Please be sweet and rinse your feet.” Love truly is in the details.

EPILOGUE: If you ever visit the Ilocos region and are looking for places to stay in Vigan and Pagudpud, we highly recommend Grandpa’s Inn and Kapuluan Vista Resort respectively. You won’t regret it. Embodying the spirit of the towns they represent, they’ll take you away but make you feel right at home.

Thanks for all the memories Ilocos! Till next time. 🙂