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Ilocos con Los Locos

Ren and I don’t usually go anywhere for Holy Week as we both dislike the crowds of people that come with it. But since her birthday this year fell on Black Saturday, we decided to give it a try especially since her crazy cousins were renting a mini-bus to go party in the Ilocos region. They’re a boisterous, animated bunch so this trip up north couldn’t have possibly been anything but fun.

Here are some pictures from our Holy Week 2011 adventure.

The Bus

Don’t let her lumbering, refrigerator looks fool you. She may be big, but she’s got the heart of a Mini Cooper. With the very capable Mang Nards at the helm, she got us through some tight and sticky situations.

Bus to Ilocos

After approximately 8 hours on the road, night turns into day.
View from inside the bus

Guess which one of us just woke up?
JB and Ren waking up

The natives are becoming restless…
Sep making kissy faces at Tiff

Vigan, Ilocos Sur

With the first leg of our journey complete, we arrive at our first stop: Vigan!

Calle Crisologo

Take a step back in time as you stroll down historic Crisologo Street…

Posing in front of a statue

Calle Crisologo sign

The lovely Renee leading the way
Ren walking on Calle Crisologo

Picture of old house

Picture of yellow house


Various goods for sale


Agut-agutan breaK
Ren posing in front of a door

Calle Crisologo sign

Casa Antigua sign and lamp post

I love the negative space formed by the rooftops…
Shot of houses and rooftops

Cobble stone street with kalesa

Calle Crisologo sign

Shot of houses

Renée de Crisologo de Ayala de Araneta de Madrigal
Ren posing in front of a house


Horse walking towards camera

Calle Crisologo sign

Popsicle break!
Family members eating popsicles

Grandpa’s Inn

This was where we stayed for the night. Very nice, inexpensive boutique hotel that fit right in with the spirit of the town.

Ren and Brooke posing in front of Grandpa's Inn

Me and Ren posing inside Grandpa's Inn

Checkerboard floor of Grandpa's Inn

Ren coming up stairs at Grandpa's Inn

Gastronomic Adventures

Some of the dishes we sampled here were adventurous indeed. It was the first time for all of us to try these exotic, local delicacies and we enjoyed them tremendously.

Bagnet wraps. A nice contemporary twist to the local delicacy.
Bagnet wraps

Ren enjoying the day at Los Majitos
Ren hamming it up for the camera

Me imitating Ren enjoying the day at Los Majitos
JB hamming it up for the camera
Uno Grille. Owned by and located directly across from Grandpa’s Inn, this is where we got to sample some of the Ilocos region’s truly exotic dishes. Everything was dee-licious!
Uno Grille sign

Insarabasab. Grilled pork meat and liver topped with tomatoes and onions.
Ilocos Cuisine

Bogi Ti Ikan. Seasonal fish roe harvested usually in the summer months.
Bogi ti ikan, an Ilocos dish

Adobo Nga Abuos. Now this was truly exotic! It’s a seasonal dish of mountain ant larvae harvested from the tropical rain forests of Abra, available only from March to June. Ren and I saw something similar on Extreme Cuisine with Jeff Corwin, but in Mexico. Who knew that we’d be able to sample something like it right here in our very own backyard?! Awesome!
Adobo nga abuos, an Ilocos dish

Closeup of adobo nga abuos

Crispy Bagis. Crispy fried pork intestines.
Crispy bagis, an Ilocos dish

Poqui-Poqui Balls. A twist on the Ilocano eggplant omelette. This was REALLY good.
Poqui-poqui balls, an Ilocos dish

Warek-Warek. Grilled pork head chop with liver and mixed with onions and vinegar.
Warek-warek, an Ilocos dish

One satisfied table of Manileños.
Family photo at Uno Grille

Los Majitos de Vigan. After our meal, we moved back to Los Majitos for the moody lighting, excellent service, and PHP 35 a bottle beers.
Las Majitos de Vigan sign

Hanging lanterns

Rock on dudes!
Family posing beneath hanging lanterns

The Axe effect
Ren licking JB's cheek

Ilocos Norte

We say goodbye to Vigan and make a few interesting stops on our way to Pagudpud.

Fort Ilocandia

We stopped here for lunch at the Red 8 Asian Restaurant.

Fort Ilocandia signage

Koi pond at Fort Ilocandia

Just call me Nimfa
Ren posing at Fort Ilocandia

San Agustin Church, Paoay

Beautiful church. Doesn’t it remind you a bit of Angkor Wat in some of these pictures?

Shot of San Agustin Church

San Agustin Church tower

Random shots of San Agustin Church

Gate to San Agustin Church

The boys posing in front of San Agustin Church

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, Nagpartian, Burgos

I loved this lighthouse. According to Ren, it was featured in a documentary about haunted places in the Philippines, which only added to its mystique.

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

Textures at Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

Close-up of the lighthouse
Ren was too scared to go up to the lighthouse so I carved her initials on the brick wall – “To my one and only Renee.” Sobrang Cheeeeezy!!!

Extreme close-up of the lighthouse

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse from a different angle

Bangui Bay Windmills

Breathtaking. That was the first word I thought of when seeing these for the first time. I had never seen one of these windmills from up close before and was amazed by how striking they looked. These massive, monolithic all-white structures spinning silently against the jet blue sky were just a sight to behold.

Bangui Bay Windmills

Shadow of Bangui Bay Windmills

Close-up shots of Bangui Bay Windmills

Row of Bangui Bay Windmills

Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

Finally we reach our destination!

Sign to Pagudpud

Hannah’s Beach Resort & Convention Center

Going down the road towards the hotel, we had to stop at a checkpoint to pay an entrance fee – PHP 20 per head. They said it was a municipal ordinance to help maintain the area. The whole thing felt dodgy to say the least and was a portent for things to come at Hannah’s.

Soon as we entered the complex, we were shocked to find heavy traffic and hordes of people. Apparently the beach area of Hannah’s is public so anyone can come for the day, and come they did in droves. Whoever owns this place didn’t seem to have much concern for the environment. The whole area was chaotic and felt polluted, not exactly the pot of gold we were hoping to find at the end of our rainbow.

Overcrowded beach
Crowded beach at Hannah's Beach Resort & Convention Center

People and boats at Hannah's Beach Resort & Convention Center

The room was spacious but lacked the rustic island charm and character we were looking for.
Inside room at Hannah's Beach Resort & Convention Center

Swimming pool with Hannah’s Hollywood-style sign. Most people swimming had their shirts on. Enough said.
Swimming poop at Hannah's Beach Resort & Convention Center

The grounds were spacious but tacky sculptures abounded.
Tents at Hannah's Beach Resort & Convention Center

L: “Why thank you. Thank you very much.” (You can’t see it in the picture but Elvis’ guitar was covered in plastic.) R: Uhhhmm…Okaaay. I’m a big Tim Burton fan but I gotta draw the line somewhere.
Kitschy statues at Hannah's Beach Resort & Convention Center

L: Raaaawr! R: Boobylicious pirate with hook for hand. Nice.
T-rex and pirate statues at Hannah's Beach Resort & Convention Center

This is the convention center and where they served all the meals. Again, enough said.
Inside the convention center at Hannah's Beach Resort

“Ser, may PHP 100 dighay fee po dito…”

To make things worse, they charged you extra for everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. For example, there was a basketball court but you had to pay PHP 100/hour for the ball. They offered guitars for rent at PHP 150/hour. They had pool tables which you could use for free….eaaaking PHP 100/hour. Get my drift? Look, I understand you need to make money but do you really have to charge for everything? Doesn’t customer happiness and satisfaction account for anything?!

But just when we thought all was for nought…

…the pot of gold turned out to be just a few more meters down the way. Exiting Hannah’s, make a left and take a scenic 10 minute stroll. Noises fade, crowds dissipate, and just like that, you’re in a whole different world.

Ren looking lovely
Ren posing on the beach

Coconut trees and plants

A surf shop along the way…
Surf shop signage

That’s gnarly dude
Close-up of small tree

Bushes and trees

Close-up of bushes

Neither of us knew what this was but it was strangely beautiful, in a Lady Gaga-ish sort of way.
Strange tree or plant

Kapuluan Vista Resort

Is it Tropical Hut? No, even better. It’s Kapuluan Vista Resort.

There was nothing not to like about this place. Secluded and peaceful, it had the rustic island charm that Hannah’s lacked. The decor was tastefully done, the rooms spartan but comfortable. The menu offered a varied array of local and internationally inspired dishes like Dinakdakan and lobster burritos. They grow their own organic vegetables and even offer vegan meals. Plus they recycle and are kind to the environment. We absolutely loved it here.
Kapuluan Vista Resort

Beautiful, rustic decor appropriate to the surroundings. Note the use of the rich cerulean blue sofas as an accent to all the wood and natural finishes. Very nice.
Dining area at Kapuluan Vista Resort

Bar at Kapuluan Vista Resort

Ren posing at Kapuluan Vista Resort

Coconuts on tables at Kapuluan Vista Resort

Decorative bottles at Kapuluan Vista Resort

Still-life with Renée
Ren posing with the bottles at Kapuluan Vista Resort

I’m a designer so I’m always happy to see well laid-out, conceptually relevant menus, especially in a remote place such as this.
Menu at Kapuluan Vista Resort

Simple, but elegantly plated dishes
Longsilog breakfast at Kapuluan Vista Resort

Scrambled eggs and toast at Kapuluan Vista Resort

INTERESTING FACT: Kapuluan Vista Resort is owned and operated by a young Filipino surfer couple from Southern California who 5 years ago decided to sell all their belongings, move back to the Philippines, and find the life they always dreamed about. This was where the wind took them and what a beautiful life they’ve built for themselves. This is what I dream for Ren and myself (though in the mountains somewhere or lakeside) and hopefully we can be as lucky as Mike and Alma one day. Truly inspiring.

Celebrating Renée’s Birthday

Suffice to say it was a no-brainer to celebrate Ren’s birthday here. Mike is a super nice guy and he allowed us to hang out here as long as we liked even though we weren’t staying at his resort. He even gave us a bottle of Bugnay wine (currant wine) as a birthday gift to Ren. Cool!

Alma’s must-try margaritas to kick off the festivities. Deliciously refreshing!
Margaritas at Kapuluan Vista Resort

Family enjoying lunch at Kapuluan Vista Resort

Ren’s mouth-watering plate of chicken burritos
Chicken burritos at Kapuluan Vista Resort

Candy showing off her lobsters. Yum!
Brooke showing off her lobsters at Kapuluan Vista Resort

Tasty dinakdakan
Dinakdakan at Kapuluan Vista Resort

After downing a few drinks, the girls decided to get in the drink themselves.
Ren and Tiff in the pool at Kapuluan Vista Resort

Pa-bungisngisan contest. I think Cands is the clear winner here.
Tiff, Ren, and Brooke in the pool at Kapuluan Vista Resort

Ziggy, the cute resort puppy, gives me an earful after I’ve had one too many.
JB playing with a dog at Kapuluan Vista Resort

Our Last Day

Today we drive back to Manila so Ren and I head back to Kapuluan for our final breakfast.
Ren walking on a dirt road towards Kapuluan Vista Resort

Today is Ren’s actual birthday. Happy birthday MBH! I love you!
Ren posing on the beach in front of Kapuluan Vista Resort

This is how Ren looks every time I tell her how beautiful she is…sobrang cheeeeezy!
Ren having coffee at Kapuluan Vista Resort

Just a few parting shots around the resort
Kapuluan Vista Resort swimming pool

Walkway at Kapuluan Vista Resort

Cool veranda. Love those corner chairs.
Rooms at Kapuluan Vista Resort

At first I wasn’t sure what this water jug was for, but at its base you’ll find a small stone with the following inscription: “Please be sweet and rinse your feet.” Love truly is in the details.
Water jug to wash your feet in front of rooms at Kapuluan Vista Resort

EPILOGUE: If you ever visit the Ilocos region and are looking for places to stay in Vigan and Pagudpud, we highly recommend Grandpa’s Inn and Kapuluan Vista Resort respectively. You won’t regret it. Embodying the spirit of the towns they represent, they’ll take you away but make you feel right at home.

Thanks for all the memories Ilocos! Till next time. 🙂

Found this article useful? Help us help other travelers by sharing it!

JB & Renée

Friday 22nd of August 2014

Thanks for stopping by and the kind words Pepe! We really appreciate it! :)

Kapuluan is awesome right? Did you meet Mike and his wife? Such a nice couple. Living the dream too! What an amazing, inspiring life they have. :)

Pepe Samson

Friday 22nd of August 2014

I went to Ilocos just last month, and I agree with both Grandpa's Inn and Kapuluan being the best in their respective towns. Grabe! And Kapuluan's food? DAMN.

PS: Your blog is awesome. I can't believe I discovered this only today. T_T


Tuesday 6th of September 2011

Great blog and post! I have a trip planned to Boracay for late February but was planning to visit Ilocos Norte beforehand because Vigan and Pagudpud sounded amazing when I was reading about them. Your post (and awesome photos) confirmed this for me. Oh, and thanks for the tip about the vegan food - we were planning on staying there anyway.

Can I ask your opinion on something? We're planning on staying in Pagudpud for about 4 days. In your opinion, is it worth staying on Saud beach for a couple nights, or should we just stay in the Blue Lagoon area (Kapuluan Vista Resort) the whole time? We don't like super busy beaches (and as I said before, I'm vegan).

Thanks so much and all the best!

JB & Renée

Tuesday 6th of September 2011

Hi Angela,

Thanks for visiting our blog and the compliments!

If you're just looking for some peace and quiet, I think staying at Kapuluan the entire time will suffice. We were there at the peak of peak seasons, and it was still pretty quiet. We haven't been to Saud in years, but I do remember that it's a lot more expensive. Kapuluan is great and very relaxing so I think you'll be fine staying there the entire time. Hope that helps.

Enjoy your trip!

JB & Renée

Wednesday 29th of June 2011



Wednesday 29th of June 2011

wow!! parang sobrang nag-enjoy ka talaga with your tons of pics.. grabe ang saya ng trip nyo.. ganda ng mga pics :)