Sunday, June 24, 2012

[LAOAG] Ilocos at Last!

I think Ilocos hates me. Since I started getting addicted to promo fares, I think I've booked a total of three or four Manila to Laoag flights, not one of which went beyond PhP 500. However, it's only now that I actually got to use a flight ticket that I booked (more costly but still below PhP 1000), but not without hassles. First, I mistook the 4:20 PM departure time for 4:20 AM. Yes, you know what happened next. Waking up in the wee hours of the morning, I rushed to the airport only to find the information board without any Laoag flight slated for 4:20 AM. As I prepared to wage war against an unsuspecting ticket counter officer, I figured I would try to ask one of the security guards first, one of whom answered that there is no 4:20 AM flight because Airphil’s Manila-Laoag flights depart at 4:20 in the afternoon. It says so right there on your confirmation, sir. With a mix of embarrassment and disdain not really directed to anyone else but myself, I took a yellow cab home. Hooray Me! At least I still got to sleep once I got back home. Tradeoff.

The story does not end there. The bad signs just kept on coming which led me to think that Ilocos is really not for me. Remember the perk I told you about earlier? Well, that freebie you get with the cheap flight is almost two hours of delay. The plane to be used for our flight that that was supposed to leave at 4:20 PM did not arrive until 5:40 PM, for whatever reason which was no longer of any interest to any of the grumpy-faced passengers on that terminal. As I boarded the turbo-prop plane and stared at its propellers I suddenly had these jitters which spelled F-I-N-A-L D-E-S-T-I-N-A-T-I-O-N. Needless to say, I am an expert in scaring the hell out of myself, for which I deserve another Hooray Me! Yeah! Hooray Me!

There's supposed to be a free shuttle bus from Laoag International Airport all the way to downtown but the bus didn't show up so I ended up with two other individuals on a jeep that cost PhP 150 overall, supposedly divided equally among the three of us but the driver ended up asking for half of the said price from me. I couldn't complain though, I think that's just fair. Besides, those two contracted the driver and I just tagged along. Again, the disadvantages of flying solo. Besides, observing that road leading out of the airport, it would have been a very long walk and I would still have surrendered to a tricycle ride eventually.

Since I'd be heading off to Pagudpud early the next morning, I opted for dirt cheap accommodation, wherever I could find one. I was actually looking for a motel that offers half-day rates but I ended up at Texicano Hotel which is probably the cheapest alternative one could find here. After checking in, I walked back to that road where all the fast food chains are located and had a good dinner at Max’s. If you prefer McDonalds or Jollibee, you can also find a branch here. And I guess that is what I like about Laoag, it feels just like home.

There is this giant-subdivision kind of vibe going on, what with all the noise from the tricycles plying the main roads. On the other hand, the abundance of well-lit establishments simply means a lovely late night stroll, with that ubiquitous bell tower stalking you from the background. And then you have the wonderful Ilocos Norte Capitol, the white façade of which is bathed in purple lights in the evening with matching water fountains, an awesome photo-op waiting to happen! I think I'm going to like it here, but first, Pagudpud. I will leave tomorrow, Laoag, but let's see each other again after tomorrow. Ilocos, at last!

After Pagudpud, I went back to Laoag and stayed for one more night. I was thinking whether I should have just gone straight to Vigan and spend some time there but I figured that I would just stick to the north this time. What else can you see in Laoag? Well, I thought that the Marcos Museum was here but it turns out to be in Batac so, no. There is this small museum next to the capitol and so I just spent around half an hour there and made a video trying to read the information boards in Ilokano, then spooked myself inside an old model house inside the museum. A souvenir shop is located by the exit. I think the prices were reasonable but I no longer had space in my backpack so I decided not to buy anything anymore.

I find this museum very informative and on par with some that I have been to in Asia. It is not as big though. I guess the important thing is that Ilokanos are proud of their heritage and with a well-documented history they keep in that museum, I guess they would always be reminded of their ancestors' achievements and what they have been through as a region.

After having pancakes at McDonalds, I just snapped a photo of the church next to it which looked quite ordinary. A few steps away from it, across the street, is the sinking bell tower which, as every blog might tell you, was high enough decades ago that someone on horseback could easily pass through but sank low enough that now you have to crawl in order to fit in it. This structure, along with the kalesas prevalent in the area, makes Laoag a cute mix of old and new, and perhaps it is from that where this city derives its charms.

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