Up North, We Went

When you feel burnt out, what do you do? Do you chill out in a club, indulge in your food craving, get yourself absorbed in a really good book, or perhaps head to the nearest cinema and randomly pick a movie for the sake of passing the time? Well, if you have an itchy feet like mine, in a good sense though, then you'll probably book yourself a flight and incessantly dream for the day when you'll be able to set your foot on an unfamiliar territory in the hope that'll entrance you to no end while unconsciously reviving your jaded self.

A recent trip to the Northwest regions of the Philippines didn't only create a new delight to the wanderlust in me, but also invigorated my worn out system. Although the nine-hour land trip was one tough ride and flatly uneventful, the scenery that greeted us, Kat, a handful of companions, and me, at the early break of dawn was beyond our imagination. It was MAJESTIC! Seeing centuries-old structures, cobblestone alleys, and horse-carriages called "kalesa", we instantly thought we were reliving the past or with a dash of a little imagination we envisioned being in a place uprooted from a little corner of Europe and etched in this unsuspecting town of our beloved homeland.

The grandeur of Ilocos, though, isn't only limited to its age-old cathedrals, bell towers, streets, and lighthouse. Another boost for its tourism are the ancestral homes, which are strategically scattered and turned into a living museum, of famous and infamous persona in the country's recorded history - to mention a few, Pres. Elpidio Quirino, former Pres. Ferdinand Marcos, and Juan Luan, a world renowned painter. Unfortunately, as we were pressed for time, we visited only a few of them. And knowing that such dwellings were built at the time when even my late grandfather hadn't been conceived yet, it brought shivers to my spine. Setting my fears aside, I dared myself to do some exploration. In the end, I had zero regret because right after the tour my hungry cerebrum was already overflowing with information that I nearly considered giving up my career and become a historian :LOL: Realistically speaking, I was kept in awe the entire time, as what were once seen only in the boob tube and read in books were right before me. For real!

After a somewhat educational tour, we proceeded to a place where our physical stamina would be put to the test. It is surprising to note that Ilocos isn't only the place to be to get a dose of Philippine history, but also a playground for those who have a penchant for extreme sports. As a self-confessed dare-devil, the SAND DUNE ADVENTURE RIDE was a must-try sports during our trip. Going up and down the sandy hills inside a vehicle which was set to dive anytime in the "Devil's drop", an 80 degrees dropping point, onlookers would undoubtedly think we're deliberately offering ourselves to the "Angel of Death". But that wasn't exactly the case. The ride wasn't even close to a near-death experience. It was just PURE THRILL coupled with ear-breaking screams.

A side trip to La Union, the neighboring town of Ilocos, gave us the most coveted opportunity to try surfing. My lack of swimming skill, in spite that my zodiac sign carries the symbol of a fish, didn't stop my drive to try anything that could defy my fear. Oblivious to the scorching heat of the sun, plus with our let's-worry-about-the-burnt-skin-later attitude, we hit the beach and tried our best to stand on the board for a good few seconds. Fortunately, our non-sporty physique didn't disappoint us and we're able to experience how it is being a surfer even for a short while.

The last leg of our trip led us to the City of Pines - Baguio. With temperature that could drop as low as 7.5˚C, Baguio is indeed the best summer destination in the Philippines. One of the highlights of our visit was sleeping inside an "Ifugao's" hut at Tam-awan Village. I must say it wasn't the best accommodation one could ever imagine - try to visualize six people inside a tiny room which has an approximate measurement of 2x2 sqm – but the experience did give us a taste of how the indigenous people had once lived. And because Baguio is a place teeming with the freshest harvests, we didn't pass the chance to satisfy our yearning for good food. For a day, we disregarded our diet and gave in to Forest House's lip-smacking cuisine.

All in all, the trip to Northern tip of Luzon wasn't only remarkable, but unforgettable as well. For sure, the memories that we have of Ilocos, La Union, and Baguio will be treasured for the years to come.

by nash 2009/9/20
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