You have to love those serendipitious last-minute offers, especially if they involve all-expense paid trips out of town. That’s exactly what happened to me on a dreary Friday afternoon, when Nikko invited me to Ilocos the following week. Our trip would be sponsored by Parana Tours, who tapped When In Manila to feature the province. I had to say yes. I promised myself I’d visit four cities this year and my trip to Capiz late last month was cancelled because everyone insisted I stay in Manila after finding out I’d be there for Halloween and the days of the dead.
I’ve always been intrigued with the Ilocos region. It’s in touch with the modern world but still embraces the past, from its architecture and ways of living. It still has that touch of provincial air with the relative convenience of this century. I mean relative because there were times when I would lose signal on my cellphone (hint: Smart has the best connection in Ilocos).
As far as I can tell, there isn’t much nightlife. Perhaps the locals have their own watering holes, but Ilocos isn’t known to travelers as a prime drinking spot. However, they make up for it by offering lots of nature-related and historical sights that are better than a pitcher of Mindoro sling. Ilocos is perfect for those who want to rejuvenate, meditate, or in my case, catch on some sleep. I was so tired that by the time we got to our cottage, I stayed in bed and slept right away.
Ilocos is rich in heritage, evident in the World Heritage Site Vigan City, the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse that dates back to the 1890’s, and other culturally significant areas like Kapurpurawan Rock and the Malacanang of the North. Of course, Ilocos wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the fabulous beaches of Pagudpud.
Ilocos isn’t for the cosmopolitan traveler. Ilocos is for those who want to get in touch with nature and their inner self. It’s for those whose pleasure is in wild adventures by the beach and quiet nights in your cottage, with the sound of the sea punctuating the still air. Of course, private debauchery can be at hand. But don’t expect the glitz, the glamour, and the fireworks of other tourist destinations. And it’s perfectly fine.