How do we begin this epic journey to the northern borders?

How does a nerd--- lover of indoor comforts and warm beds--- brave a 10-hour journey riddled with rest stops, express ways and miles miles away from her beloved island home?

For the past couple of months, I've been looking for adventure. My island home felt like a prison. Lapu-Lapu was Ogygia and I, a tropical, less evil (although not really less attractive) version of Calypso. I was itching to go out and see new things. 

I didn't expect it to be as grand as the famed Ilocos itself.

But it was.

Ilocos: the grand, the historic, the larger than life producer of all things bagnet.

 And so after a few chances, hits and misses and at least one shady transaction, I found myself on a flight to dear old Manila with some friends.

Now, Manila let me tell you. I try to love you every time I come home to ya. But you're too sprawling, too mega for my tiny little island girl heart. I wasn't made for your trains and traffic. I'm pretty sure EDSA-Taft would be the death of me as well. See, me and the friends actually dared to commute from the airport to Vito Cruz. Cavalier? More like insane. We took the airport bus that slowly took us to its last stop at the EDSA-Taft LRT station. From there, we took a jeep to Vito Cruz, where my cousin's condo awaited.

 Honestly, I couldn't stand the commute. Heavy bag, dying ngohiong, commuters, noise, cray-cray traffic. 

Drove me nuts.

How, Manila, how? How do I love you for who you are??

Tell me!

Whew, too many feelings right there. 


We booked a tour with NEC Tours for a total of Php 4,606.00 for a group of 9's 3D2N tour of Ilocos Sur and Norte. You can check out their website right here and see if you can find a tour package that you fancy. The package already includes van transfers, the sand dunes adventure, and a free breakfast on your 2nd day. And, you can even customize your itinerary just like we did. Nifty, innit?

From Vito Cruz begins our 10 hour journey to Ilocos. Our van picked us up at around 8:30 and off we went.

 If you have a lot of cash dear friends, you can actually skip this route and head on a flight straight to Laoag from Manila. But these flights aren't usually on the piso-fare roster so if you have a limited wallet and a knack for crazy midnight roadtrips like us, then you're welcome to join the club.

Midnight roadtrips are essentially made of 90s playlists, sleepily eating Fita crackers in the dark, and speeding at 100 miles an hour. And rest stops. The rest stops up north are magical. They are so clean, clean. Complete with bidets or those hose thingies you can use to wash with. The ones you can only find in Radisson Blu or Harold's.

 They make Cebu's toilets look like a living nightmare.

Never thought we'd reach Ilocos in one piece, but after the long night, we did. Despite weather advisories predicting nasty weather, we made it to breakfast without as much as a drizzle.

We were deposited at this B&B called Sikatel sometime around dawn. It's a nice enough place, a mishmash of garden, seaside and Christmas decors here and there. We were joined by other tour groups for breakfast.

We first thought it a buffet, but it turned out that for Php160, you get to have unli rice, your choice of 2 breakfast dishes and free flowing drinks. I had some good old hamonada, tofu and a side of what the waitress said was "poqui-poqui", an Ilocano eggplant dish of some sort.

The poqui-poqui was nice, eggplanty goodness. A light compliment to the otherwise too-sweet hamonada. Tofu a bit dry but still good after a night's meals consisting of crackers and bread. 

The hot chocolate was awful though. I'd never thought I'd encounter hot chocolate I didn't like but this one just took the cake. Sorry.

We freshened up in their toilet with these funny shell fixtures. No really, they're really funny. You gotta be quick, though, there's a whole bunch of you doing tours so you gotta claim find on the toilets.

Plan your OOTD ahead, if you're into that kind of thing. There really isn't much time and place to mull over decisions like that whilst on a scheduled tour, I learned. 

After a change of clothes and mindset, we were off to discover just how grand and old and wonderful Ilocos could be. :)

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our epic adventure!

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