March 11, 2008

Ilocos Norte road trip: the journey

Pasuquin bakery

Pasuquin Bakery

On our second day in Ilocos, we headed north, up along the western shoreline. The idea was to visit notable places in Ilocos Norte before capping the tour with a leisurely lunch in Pagudpud. So Gani picked us up right after breakfast and then we were off. It was a beautiful drive and we enjoyed the views of the ocean on one side and the Cordilleras on the other.

You know the saying, "happiness is a journey, not a destination"? Well, in travel, there can be as much happiness in the journey as the destination. This is why I love road trips, there are always surprises along the way. Those unplanned pitstops that yield happy little discoveries and spontaneous explorations. This particular road trip had its fair share of interesting pitstops which I felt were worthy of mention.

The first was the Pasuquin Bakery where we bought more of that delicious soft bischocho - rolled bread with a hint of anise - we tried back in Sitio Remedios. It was the perfect first stop since we pinched and pulled happily from our biscocho stash all throughout the rest of the trip. Pasuquin Bakery is a favorite for biscocho lovers because they're known for using freshly-baked bread instead of day-old bread even for their hard biscochos. Please read Rene's post about the bakery's interesting history here. If you're driving on the national highway, you can't miss the bakery, there's a big sign advertising it just off at a fork.

Ilokano kids 2

Aside from the Bakery, Pasuquin is also famous for it's salt factories and roadside stalls along the country road that sell the fine sea salt in large plastic bags. Salt-making is a traditional livelihood in these parts, passed down from generation to generation. Aside from salt, the stalls also carry bundles of native crops such as garlic and shallots and bottles of sukang Iloko (or Ilokano vinegar). I couldn't resist photographing the kids who were helping their mom with the business. It was their fault I bought much more than I needed. :)

Native garlic & shallots

Pasuquin sea salt

The Motocross rally we chanced upon was quite a surprise. A large crowd had gathered just off the road where it was all happening, trucks, motorcycles and jeepneys were parked on both sides of the road, and various refreshment stands, including empanada and halo-halo stands, were set up across the road for the spectators. We parked for a while and joined the crowd, watching the loud action on the track through the chicken wire through which I managed a couple of action shots.


Motocross spectators

the spectators

Empanada stand

Empanada stand across the street

Halo-halo stand

Halo-halo stand

Unlike in the south where I am used to seeing rice fields and sugarcane as far as the eye can see, corn fields make up a big part of the Ilocos landscape. And ears of corn and corn kernels left to dry under the sun on the sides of the concrete road are also a common sight. Gani tells us that it's seeds will be planted for next season's harvest. I wonder if these are what's used for chichacorn too?

Sidewalk corn

The kuliglig also become a familiar site as we drove up and down Ilocos. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of what it looks like, but it is basically a two-wheeled tractor with an engine used for farming, and when connected to a trailer, it is also used to transport produce.

Something else I didn't get to take a photo of were the La Paz sand dunes. It took Gani a while to find it because he said the roads leading to the sand dunes no longer looked familiar. Driving among the sand dunes made me feel like I was in another place like the beaches of North Carolina , and then later I started to picture myself riding the dunes on an ATV or starring in a Mad Max movie. Speaking of movies, this is where FPJ's Panday movie was filmed. The Ilocos Norte sand dunes is a National Geologic Monument, declared as such because of it's uniqueness in the Philippine landscape and it's significant role in educational and scientific studies. Here's a beautiful shot of the dunes taken by my friend James.

Next: Ilocos road trip: the destinations


katrina said...

Why didn't you take pictures of the sand dunes? Did you get there too late? From what I've seen of them in movies and commercials, they're beautifully otherworldly.

Ben said...

"Well, in travel, there can be as much happiness in the journey as the destination." Yup that is something I would not expect to hear from many but from you! :-)

joey said...

Thanks for taking me on a second "virtual" trip back to Ilocos! That motocross was so random but fun :)

The soft biscocho from Pasuquin still haunts me!

christine said...

Katrina, good question. While we were driving through it, I kept thinking we were on our way to somewhere where we could stop and take photos. But then we just kept driving and driving, and next thing I know, we're back on the road. I didn't wanna take a shot through the car window just for the sake of taking a shot. Sayang no?

Hey Ben, it's true. :) I'm sure you agree.

Me too Jo! I wish they'd sell some here in Manila.

Anonymous said...

BEAUTIFUL shot of the motorcross and spectators! Both. Very real, and very colorful!

Marvin said...

I'm taking notes with each of these posts Christine! ;)

christine said...

Thank you, anon!

Please do, Marvin! You'll have an awful good time in Ilocos I promise. :)

Veron said...

ooooh....the garlic....ooohhh the corn. But most of all I want halo-halo!

christine said...

Actually Veron, so do I! We're starting to feel the summer heat and the halo-halo would be even more perfect now. :)