The province of Ilocos is rich in natural landmarks, which I believe is much better than man-made ones. Every now and then I feel the need to reconnect with nature and its inherent beauty, and Ilocos is a perfect place for that. There’s a feeling of serenity in disconnecting from the real world and its trappings, and I achieved that on this trip. There’s something amazing about nature, at all the colors, textures, and formations, that it makes me want to become a devout Catholic. Someone must have created all these wonders, and it must have been a conscious decision.
One of the highlights on any trip to Ilocos is the sand dunes. Much has been said about the vast expanse of arid land, often appearing in films like Himala, Temptation Island (both the original and the remake), Born on the Fourth of July, Ang Panday, and Mad Max. Apparently, there are two sand dunes, the La Paz and the Paoay, and we went to the latter.
The dunes featured an hour-long ride on a 4×4 jeep on the wild terrain. It was a one-of-a-kind adventure and really scary. You go on high hills and rapidly drive down it, with you standing in the back and with nothing to hold on to but the jeep. I often found myself sitting out of fear that I’d get thrown off the jeep. It was really bumpy and scary but a lot of fun. The dunes were beautiful, with fine brown sand. There was a gorgeous view of the sea, sparkling like diamonds against the sun. It was really hot and the place offered no shade so it’s a very wise idea to bring a bottle of sunscreen.
We also got the chance to sandboard, one of the newest sports to hit the Philippines. It involves getting on a board and sliding down one of the dune’s steep hills. It’s easy and doesn’t require any special skills, all you have to do is lock your feet in and brace yourself for the fall. I had an exhilarating experience, which was clear considering I was the only one that screamed among the throngs of people.
Surprisingly, the 4×4 sand dunes ride cost only P2,500, to be divided by the group. There were six of us in the jeep and we had enough room to tumble around.
Another highlight of any trip to Ilocos would be Pagudpud’s beaches. Ilocos has been called the Boracay of the north, and a trip wouldn’t be complete without visiting either Saud or Blue Lagoon. We visited the Blue Lagoon, a less hectic alternative to the tourist spot that is Saud. The November sky was agreeable and it felt like summer. I literally ran to the beach to jump into the cool water. I haven’t been to the beach since 2011 so it was great fun. The sands were white, the water was beautiful, in short, the day was well-spent at the beach. Blue Lagoon didn’t have that much people so the area wasn’t crowded.
A unique feature of the province is the Kapurpurawan rock formation. Kapurpurawan is derived from the Ilocano word puraw, which means white, and refers to the stark-white formations created by the forces of the ocean. Stepping into the formation is like stepping into a surreal world, kind of like entering a real version of Ramon de Veyra’s Sputnik store in Cubao X. It was very impressive. The production team of Si Agimat at si Enteng Kabisote filmed there and built several housing structures that they left, adding to the appeal of the place. But with or without the movie sets, the charm of Kapurpurawan can still amaze even the most jaded of tourists.