Sunday, January 27, 2013

Kang Kang Windmill Cafe - Bangui, Ilocos Norte

Kang Kang WC is just a hundred meters from the shore. If I am not mistaken it is located approximately between the fifth and sixth windmill. Because of this, the place offers great vantage view of the windmills and more importantly the place is not crowded.

Kang Kang Windmill Cafe

We took our lunch here after a quick visit to Patapat Viaduct. We were on our way back to Paoay via Laoag City. I knew that we have a long day ahead of us and my body started to feel the creeping exhaustion caused by several days of continuous driving. This place miraculously soothed my aching lower back and arms.

windmills view

front view of KKWC

Strong sea-breeze can be felt even when inside the cafe thus we searched for a table at the farthest corner to avoid the breeze. We ordered Pansit, Calamares and Fried Chicken. The price is affordable with the main course costing around 200 pesos.

The food is just average especially the Calamares while the "Pansit" is definitely a letdown. Nevertheless the ambiance is great. Not to mention the satellite channel. The wife was able to watch her favorite noontime show.

After a so-so lunch, we continued our journey to Paoay. We traversed a mixed rough and paved road until we reached the main high way.

The Pay Toilet

By the way, prepare 5 pesos in case you need to pee.

To check our complete travel journal: Road Trip to Ilocos (Vigan/Laoag/Pagudpud) 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Calesa Tour - Vigan City

There were great and memorable events during our road trip to northern Luzon and one of them was the Calesa Tour in Vigan City. It was memorable because that was the first time that my family has ridden a Calesa. I knew that they would enjoy the ride since I still remember the excitement when I rode those bigger Calesa in Binondo with my Chinese Grandpa few decades back. Furthermore, my late Ilocana Grandma used to bring me with her when she visited her Barrio in Sta. Ignacia, Tarlac during my younger years. Calesa was the only mode of transportation from the highway to her ancestral house. It really feel good to reminisce the old times thus as a father I would like to be a part of their "first time adventures." Because of this, I am happy to share my family's first Calesa Ride/Tour Journal.

In Vigan City, as directed by the hotel staff, Calesa station is located at the corner of Burgos Plaza near the Tourism Office or Cafe Leona. You'd see them lined-up along the road. No need to haggle because they have standard tour fare. An hour of tour will cost you 150 pesos whether you are alone or in group. I asked the "Kutsero" for a Heritage Tour. Aside from being a tour guide the "Kutsero" can also be your photographer as well.

My family has enjoyed the Calesa ride itself. Unlike the crazy and polluted streets of Manila, Vigan City boasts of traffic less and fine roads. The sights along the way are entertaining as well due to old houses and structures.


a cemetery viewed from the Bell Tower

The first place they visited was the famous Bantay Church and Bell Tower where "Panday" of both FPJ and Jericho were shot. The Bantay Church is not that impressive but the Bell Tower is definitely stunning. A donation of 20 pesos for the whole group was asked by the Bell Tower caretaker.


Second on their list was Burgos Museum where the famous Padre Jose Burgos, one of the three martyred priests collectively known as "Gomburza," was born. The house was converted into a museum; it showcased hordes of antiques furniture and musical instruments - to name a few. It is very fortunate that the house withstood the test of time thus future generations would have an insight on how our ancestors lived more than a hundred years back.


They also dropped-by at Burnayan where the old trade of pottery making is still being practiced. Unfortunately, being Christmas Day, the place was empty. Nevertheless, my family had a grand time checking those jars and pots. 

The entire trip lasted for about an hour. An hour of experience that would be cherished for a lifetime. I am sure that my kids would be bragging about their Calesa ride experience to their would-be kids and I would be happy to hear them narrate their story.

To check our complete travel journal: Road Trip to Ilocos (Vigan/Laoag/Pagudpud) 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Our Pagudpud Travel Journal

On our second day in Laoag City we drove to Pagudpud. Though armed with printed improvised Google maps we realized that by simply following the main high way you wouldn't get lost.

First in our itinerary was Cape Bojeador Lighthouse. While driving, I was amazed to see hills still partially covered by trees and excellent asphalt road condition. Moreover, the road was free from rural traffic and checkpoints.

After sometime, we noticed from afar the towering lighthouse on top of a hill at the right side of the road. I was expecting to see it on the other side since it served as navigational guide for ships sailing in South China Sea. During this time, the sea was not yet visible from the high way.

We turned right and started to climb a steep road going to the top of the hill. Extra caution should be practiced while driving on this area due to narrow road blind curves. Parking is available at the foot of the lighthouse, however it was full when we arrived. Fortunately, we were assisted by those small boys while we parked our car along the sloping road. In doing so, the road near the top becomes one-way. Nevertheless, the locals are very helpful to all motorists don't forget though to spare a change for  "watch your car little boys."

Upon leaving our car, we noticed a continuous goosebumps-inducing breeze coming from the sea. We climbed a concrete stair until we reached the base of lighthouse structure. From here, we conquered another set of steep stairs until we reached the actual lighthouse tower. Unfortunately, entrance to the tower is prohibited. Nevertheless, our eyes feasted on the magnificent view of South China Sea and mountains on the other side.

We spent less than an hour in Cape Bojeador Lighthouse. I maneuvered our car with the help of my new little friends. Shortly thereafter, we're off to Bangui Windmill!

After half an hour, I saw a sign board "This way to Kang Kang Windmill Cafe" but it seemed the windmills were still far so I continued driving until the actual windmills started appearing one by one on the left side of the road. We turned left on the next Windmill signboard. We drove on dusty and rough road for around 10 minutes until we reached several huts near the shore. I believe this is where the center of the action is. Food and souvenir shops are plentiful in this area. My wife bought a wooden replica of the windmill for 80 pesos. The place is open for public and parking is free

The windmills looked alien but fascinating. I believe we need more of these to lessen our dependence on oil in producing our electricity.

chasing waves

There are a few fishing boats ashore while the waves continuously batter the blackish sands. My kids were very happy and even horse played along the shore since they haven't experience being on the beach yet. I was elated to see all three of them brimming with smile.  In fact, I even reminded them that it was time to leave otherwise they would continue chasing those waves.

We retraced our path and in no time at all we were on our way to Patapat Viaduct.

The trip to Patapat Viaduct is quite taxing due to zig zag and sometimes inclined roads; there are many blind curves as well. There are times that big buses would surprise you after cornering a blind curve. Hence, it would be safer to limit your speed at 60 kph. Nevertheless, I would never thought that we have this kind of roads in Philippines. The zig-zag roads before you reach Pagudpud Viaduct is much better than Kennon Road where you would be dismayed by the empty and rocky hills. Gone are the pine tress that used to dot the winding mountain roads.

The road to Patapat Viaduct could be arguably one of the best high ways in the Philippines. We had some great panoramic views of South China Sea on our left side while thick greenery covers the hills and mountains at right side. Likewise, there are parts of the high way that the views are really stunning. I noticed several motorists stopped along the road shoulder to take snapshots having South China Sea as background.

Having driven for almost an hour from Bangui Windmill, my family started to get uneasy since it was almost lunch time. I remember seeing a kilometer post having 575 km mark on it. It means we were 575 kms away from Luneta. After that km post, Patapat Viaduct appeared on sight. We noticed several cars also parked along the shoulder while the passengers were busy having some photo-ops. This place is quite famous for northern Luzon tourists because of the magnificent view of the viaduct having the mountains and South China Sea as background. I have been told that on a clear day, Babuyan Islands can be seen from this place. More so, there were less vehicles traversing this road making it more tourists friendly.

Just to add, I remember our tour guide at Malacanang of the North explaining that this road used to be a normal high way but there were times in the past that it was not passable due to perennial landslides especially during rainy season. To rectify this problem, they modified the design of this road in such a way that even if there would be landslide the viaduct would remain passable. I am impressed by its engineering and design apart from being picturesque.

After some photo shoots I noticed that all motorists except us continued their journey to Cagayan. We returned back and started searching for a place to eat. I remember Kang Kang Windmill Cafe. We all agreed that we'd take our lunch there.

We returned back to the windmill then instead of stopping at the area where we stayed earlier, we followed a rough road until we reached Kang Kang Windmill Cafe. The place is located near the fifth windmill thus after taking our lunch we had another set of photo shoots. This place would give you a clear vantage view of all the windmills towering along the shore. But since Kang Kang Cafe is the only place where tourist can stay, the place seems desolate.

After a hearty lunch we followed the road until we reached the main high way. We're now on our way back to Laoag City then Paoay.

I consider our trip to Pagudpud as the most amazing part of our Northern Luzon road trip. My wife even told me that it could have been better if we spend a night in Pagudpud Beach rather than spending two nights in Laoag City. I must admit that it was a good idea indeed but considering that the travel time from Pagudpud to Laoag City would add at least 2 hours to our travel time from Laoag City back to Manila the following day then it won't be advisable. All of us would be dead tired and bored on our way back to Manila. In fact, from Laoag City, it took us 15 hours to reach our home in San Mateo, Rizal. What more if we started our trip from Pagudpud?

After conquering Pagudpud I told myself that one of my ardent dreams has been fulfilled and it was more meaningful since I achieved it with my family. My memory palace is getting filled-up fast by my travel adventures in recent years.

Lastly, my wife and I noticed that there were several brand new vehicles being broken-in in Pagudpud. We noticed a Fortuner and Hyundai Sta. Fe at Burgos area having Manila car dealers plate.

To check our complete travel journal: Road Trip to Ilocos (Vigan/Laoag/Pagudpud) 

Friday, January 18, 2013

Road Trip to Ilocos - Vigan/Laoag/Pagudpud

Our Laoag City Travel Journal

The Sinking Bell Tower
Coming from Vigan City, it took us around 3 hours of non-stop drive to reach Laoag City. We headed to the capital of Ilocos Norte on 26 December, the same day they were celebrating Damili Festival. Hence, upon reaching San Nicolas town, before crossing Marcos bridge, we were ordered by a cop manning a checkpoint to take a detour road going to Laoag City. We drove on a dusty and rough road in the middle of nowhere until we reached Laoag City's airport road. There were 4 vehicles in our convoy. The detour consumed at least 45 minutes of our travel time. It was frustrating since I knew that we were few minutes away from our hotel.

Actually, we noticed on our way to Laoag City a detour signboard at Barangay Baay Public Market but we thought that the marking was simply to show an alternative road to our destination. We were wrong. Lesson learned.

Anyway, upon reaching Laoag City at almost 5 PM we received an SMS from Isabel Suites inquiring about our reservation. We replied that we were already in Laoag City and searching for the hotel's location. We knew that the hotel was near a Jollibee outlet so we proceeded to the first Jollibee we saw upon entering the city proper. The hotel was nowhere to be found. I never thought that there would be two Jollibee outlets at the center of Laoag City; another mistake on my part.

In short, after receiving additional instructions from Isabel Suites, we were able to reach our hotel at past 5 PM. After settling in our rooms we strolled near Ilocos Norte Capitol. My family went to SM Hypermarket, directly in front of Ilocos Norte Capitol, to replenish our stock for our trip to Pagudpud the following day while I strolled around the area.

Ilocos Norte Capitol

Aurora Park & Tobacco Monopoly Monument in front of Capitol

Pamulinawen Garden Clock at the Capitol

Around the Capitol, the area abounds with picturesque places such as Aurora Park, Laoag City Hall, Marcos Bridge and so on. Residents of Laoag City are extremely fortunate to see these beautiful and historical places daily

The following day, after a quick visit to Pagudpud and lunch at Kang Kang Windmill Cafe, we drove directly to Fort Ilocandia Resort & Casino. To my surprise, the asphalt road from Laoag City airport road up to Paoay was in pristine condition. The entire length of this road was devoid of traffic and potholes. Not to mention the thick vegetation and greenery on both sides of the road.


Santa with his reindeer at the entrance of FIR

A Wedding Reception

We were apprehensive initially upon entering the compound but the security staff simply waived us to the visitors parking area.

The place seems depressed and desolate. This is a five star resorts and hotel but the atmosphere is far from lively and festive; perhaps because of dimly lighted corridors and hallways plus the effect of dark colored bricks, wood panels and floor tiles.

After loitering around the place for less than an hour, we decided to go to nearby Malacanang of the North which is overlooking Paoay Lake.

MALACANANG OF THE NORTH (Malacanang Ti Amianan)

Paoay Lake

We paid 30 pesos each at the entrance or 150 pesos for five of us. A free guided tour was conducted by a young lady con photographer; yes she would gladly take your pics. She toured us to different rooms while giving us a brief history about them. Moreover, while explaining about some Marcos paraphernalia on display she also emphasized and expounded the accomplishments of the former president during his tenure as well. It is obvious that the Ilocanos here still love and adore the Marcoses, to say the least. I can't blame them since I have seen with my own eyes the development initiated by the Marcoses such as excellent roads, Patapat Viaduct, preserved greenery, Bangui Windmills - to name a few.

From Malacanang of the North, we headed to Paoay Church

I can't believe that I am in front of one of the most famous Baroque Churches in our country and designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site. I used to see this only in pictures and even then I was already in awe on its magnificent design and historical value. In my opinion, the grandeur of this church is comparable to the old catholic churches in Europe. I have seen centuries old catholic churches in Grenoble and Lyon, France but our Paoay Church is a stand-out among them. More so, this church has been designed to be earthquake proof thus it is still standing after 300 years.

Usually, you would see the picture of this church showing its full front facade but for me, I prefer to see it in on this perspective.

After visiting Paoay Church, we headed to Batac for a quick bite at Jollibee. I knew that Marcos Museum was nearby but since I got some feedback that the place was creepy I decided to drive back to Laoag City and called it a day.

Having eaten Ilocano dishes during the past few days, we craved for pizza and interestingly, we haven't seen any Pizza Hut or Shakeys in both Vigan and Laoag Cities. We settled for Greenwich takeout for our dinner in the hotel.

Unlike Vigan City where people starts to disappear at sunset, Laoag City proper remains alive until late at night. Maybe because of the presence of several big supermarkets such as SM and PureGold. Further, motorists heading to northern part of Ilocos Norte also pass at the city proper.

The following day while preparing for our trip back to Manila, my kids asked me about the preserved body of former president Marcos. I described to them how the place looks like; they promised me that they won't freak out so I decided to pass at the center of Batac, Ilocos Norte where Marcos Mausoleum is located.

The entrance to mausoleum is free but photography is not allowed inside. Visitors need to fall in single line and enter at the right side. Upon entering the dimly lit mausoleum you'd be greeted by Gregorian-like chant and floral scent of countless white flowers surrounding the clear glass and sealed casket. Marcos body is dressed in Barong Tagalog and black pants with matching black socks. The place is creepy according to my kids and I agree with them.

We spent half an hour in that place and bought Tinubong (glutinous rice cooked inside a young bamboo) since the free taste was yummy; 100 pesos for 3 pices. However, we found out later that the Tinubong we bought was good for nothing. The glutinous rice inside the bamboo was hard and tasteless compared to the free taste. My tip; don't buy Tinubong at Marcos Mausoleum area.

We decided that it was time to start our journey back to Manila. It would be a long trip ahead of us thus we can't afford to spend more time to check the museum.

Apart from the fact that we haven't visited all touristy places around Laoag City, we are convinced that  the entire Ilocos Norte province is teeming of Marcos legacy. It was fortunate that even after the deposed of the former president, the following administrations allowed his legacy to live on so that future generation would have an insight on former president life.

To check our complete travel journal: Road Trip to Ilocos (Vigan/Laoag/Pagudpud)