Photos by JM Cinco
An out-of-town staycation for senior citizens will definitely be different from younger travelers. Seniors will go for relaxed tours, looking and appreciating natural attractions, and just enjoy a trip without stress. Younger ones, on the other hand, will go for adventure trips, the more thrills, the better.
As a pair of seniors in their late 60s with a 39-year-old son as a traveling companion, we got to enjoy both sides, combining both relaxing moments and adventure in our five-day visit to Laoag City and beyond as we went around to visit the known and the less known attractions in Ilocos Norte, made easier by the fact the legacy of a good road system left by the late President Ferdinand Marcos to his provincemates.
And being hosted by City Mayor Mike Keon was a big advantage, starting with our lodging at the Amici Resort Hotel. Just 20 minutes away from the airport, Amici is a two-hectare 40-room place, actually stand-alone casitas amidst trees that give guests a feeling of privacy, rooms are nice and spacious with complete amenities inside. Best of all, the resort owners are very friendly and hospitable.
We met the GM Marlyn Sy and shared her hotel’s history. You cannot go wrong with its restaurant that offers native dishes like crispy Dinardaraan, Ilocos Igado, Pinakbet with Bagnet, Dinoydoy, Poque-Poque, homemade native longganisa in different flavors, and a calamansi tart for dessert.
Actually, one can do food tripping in Laoag with a wide choice of native restaurants, we tried Kabakiran for grilled seafood, Ekhikaia with its seafood buffet, and Macy’s for Western-type food, it also features a nonworking jukebox as decor. And Smoke, beside Paoay Church, known for its steak dishes is a favorite of even President Bongbong Marcos and his cousin Keon. We were also personal guests of Keon at his house for lunch and dinner.
The next few days saw us moving around as the good mayor provided a vehicle with a driver-guide. Now since we talked of adventure, the highlight of our trip, according to my wife and son, was our 4×4 challenge in the sand dunes of La Paz outside the city proper. It is an 85 square kilometer hilly and beach area with a ride that goes up and down like a rollercoaster over loose sand, the downhills are the best plus very Instagrammable shots at the beachside with beautiful cloud formations as backdrop.
We rode a small 4×4, there are more than 20 vehicles and even my reluctant wife enjoyed the ride, saying it was the most enjoyable part of our trip. Actually, Paoay also has smaller sand dunes but they are flatter, we prefer this more exciting 7-kilometer ride in La Paz.
We dropped by the famous Fort Ilocandia, the place remains impressive in its grandeur but we were disappointed that there were hardly any guests to be seen. The place practically looked deserted, I believe ever since the casino that used to attract Chinese gamblers straight from Taiwan and mainland China was taken out.
Now, if you want to play in a casino, there is a small one beside Robinson’s in San Nicolas near the downtown area. We did go there but lost a few thousand centavos playing pai gao and the slot machines.
A visit to Ilocos Norte will not be complete without dropping by the Malacanang of the North overlooking beautiful Paoay Lake. The place had a lot of visitors that morning when we proceeded to Paoay Church, one of the most recognizable old churches in the country. A stone’s throw away was Nazarene’s where the province’s more popular pasalubongs like sukang iloko (not allowed in the plane though), soft and hard biscocho, kornik, and bagnet, among others were available.
On the other side of Laoag, we went all the way to Pagudpud, a beautiful beach but not swimmable from November to March. We just had lunch at the Saud Beach Resort and Hotel.
At the Bojeador Light House in Burgos, where one gets a panoramic view of the West Philippine Sea, the white rock of Kapurporawan, also in Burgos where a lot of windmills, could be seen close up, the white rock actually is the effect of the continuous strong waves hitting the rocks on the beach creating a seemingly permanent white area along the beach line. It has very strong winds too in the mornings.
The last town before reaching Laoag from Pagudpud is Bacarra where we saw picnic huts strung along the river bed, a popular destination during summer.
Sports tourism may also become a big thing in the province as the Ferdinand Marcos Memorial Stadium was inaugurated when we were there with the President himself and other members of the Marcos family present at the renovated stadium that can seat 20,000 people. That night, it was almost full as the Tan-ok Festival was held.
We also had the opportunity to meet the Tourism Officer of Laoag City, Angela Lao who shared her vision for tourism in Laoag using Shine Laoag as the theme.
Laoag is one of the remaining cities that still have native calesas — a part of the city’s attraction at night.
“We are positioned more as a gateway to the North but we believe we can convince visitors to stay a bit longer and enjoy what we can offer them in terms of sights and activities. We are finalizing our year-long program of activities that begins with our Pamulinawen Festival, next major celebration here is our charter day in June,” said Lao.
For Mayor Keon, now in his second term, tourism will be a major component of his program for Laoag and one can also expect sports tourism to emerge considering the politician’s background in sports.
The bottom line, Ilocos Norte will go beyond being a gateway in the near future.