Category: Philippines.

Way Up : Tapping some Northern Treasures


“Were you with these, my prince, you’d soon forget the pale, unripened beauties of the north,” or so says a quote from English playwright Joseph Addison’s play Cato, written back in 1712. Had Mr. Addison lived in the Philippines in the era of cars and road trips, he would have swallowed his words and retracted his pen from such an idea had he been given a chance to explore some parts of North Luzon.

However, in these modern days, time has become a luxury. In Mr. Addison’s case, if he was living now, his new version may have been that of an expat magazine writer who travels extensively but barely has a second to actually savor the essence of the places he visits due to a fast-paced lifestyle. If you find yourself going that way, with a few days to spare and a lot to go to, no need to fret. Here are some North Luzon jewels you may wish to consider:

Laoag, Ilocos Norte

It is not only the largest city in Northern Luzon and the capital of the Ilocos Norte province, but also the hometown of former Philippine president, Ferdinand Marcos. People make a stop at Balay Ti Ili, otherwise known as the Marcos ancestral home. In Barangay Lubuc in Batac, you can find the mausoleum of the former president. Entrance is free but picture taking is not allowed. However, the mini museum, just a few steps away from the mausoleum, is a friendly venue for shutterbugs. A small and modest place, it houses portraits and other memorabilia of Marcos during his term as president. Veering away from politics, Laoag City is home to other destinations such as the Tobacco Monopoly Monument, St. William’s Cathedral, and the Sinking Bell Tower, among others.

For a taste of Laoag, the best route is the town proper. You can shop for items such as clothing and food there. One must try Laoag’s empanada, a half-moon shaped pastry best eaten with vinegar which are sold in street carts together with sausages and barbecue.

Before you head off to Ilocos Sur, make sure to drop by Pinili. It is a town known for its garlic produce. Along the highway, there are stalls selling Sukang Iloco (vinegar) in bottles with garlic. According to the vendors, the concoction lends a healthy and unique taste to any food.

Vigan: Where the past and present mix

There is more to Vigan than its famed longganisas. Back in December 2, 1999, it was included in the roster of UNESCO’s World Heritage List of Sites and Monuments along with the Historic Centre of Warsaw, Poland; Portugal’s Convent of Christ in Tomar; among others. It’s easy to see why. The past still plays a pivotal role in the town of Vigan, architecturally speaking at least. This is particularly evident in the town’s main center. Branded shops are still housed in European colonial architecture. Within walking distance are museums for culture aficionados like the Nueva Segovia Museum. With just R20 entrance fee, you can marvel at different ecclesiastical items, archdiocesan artifacts, and religious documents. Another is the Padre Burgos Museum which is nestled in the ancestral house of martyred priest Jose Burgos. It contains pictures of Ilocano icons and household items used by some tribes. The house’s second level gives visitors a glimpse of Padre Burgos’ way of living through preserved furniture and the 14 Estaban Pichay Villanueva paintings portraying the Basi Revolt back in 1807.

If you want to have a feel of what it’s like when calesas reigned supreme and people walk to and from their destinations, don’t miss Calle Crisologo. It is a stretch of cobblestone road with old Spanish houses on both sides. The bases of the houses are converted into souvenir, antique, and furniture shops. The Vigan Casa Antigua stands out as a store selling pre-owned books in good condition. The books are sourced abroad as the owner is a New York-based Filipino who has a penchant for collecting even rare titles and makes an additional living by selling them. Make sure to also drop by the information office nearby to also orient yourself with other places to visit such as the Filipino-Spanish Friendship Park, the Arzobispado, the Museo San Pablo, and the Provincial Jail. You may opt to take a buggy ride or a tricycle to get around town if walking is not your style.

Baguio City: Urban Life meets Country Charm

The cool climate of Baguio City continues to lure both local and foreign tourists. For first time visitors, Mines View Park is a good way to get a panoramic view of the mountains and lush greenery. Have your picture taken with a horse whose hair has been dyed pink, an enormous yet humble St. Bernard dog, or even don a tribal costume. On the other hand, landscape garden fans may get their fix at the Botanical Garden, where different floras are aplenty. There is also an artist center there where you can get yourself sketched by a talented local artist. If you want some action, you may rent a horse at Wright Park instead, where fees vary depending on the places you wish to go horse riding to. For other leisurely activities, you may go to Camp John Hay to play golf, visit the Butterfly Farm, or do more shopping. Urbanites may head off to Session Road where gastronomic and shopping delights await.

While in the city, you may also visit Burnham Park, the Lourdes Grotto and other churches that abound in the area, or stop by the Chinese Temple. Public transportation is easy and affordable but walking is recommended.

The recent weather conditions may have hampered people from going out but one thing remains: North Luzon is still a treasure trove of great destinations. Some are even just waiting to be uncovered and explored by the modern traveler—whether they’re short on time or not.

The thrills of the Luzon trail

Tourism can be fun in northern Luzon and not just the beaches of the Visayas. The completion of the NLEX and the newly built Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (also known as SCTEX) makes travelling to northern Luzon more accessible.

One of the newest attractions in Pampanga is the Candaba Bird Sanctuary, frequented by migratory birds from South East Asia. In January this year, 17,000 birds (accounting to more than 80 species) have been spotted in the sanctuary.

Tourists wanting to catch an insight into the fascinating world of birds can now experience it. There is no direct buses going to the sanctuary itself but Victory Liner, one of the biggest and most trusted bus companies in the country, can make the journey easier. Take a Victory Liner bus going to Pampanga. Alight at the terminal at Robinson’s Mall San Fernando. Take a jeep going to the town of Santa Ana. From there, hire a tricyle going to Candaba Swamp. Be sure to reiterate that you are going to the swamp and not the town proper of Candaba. Once at the sanctuary, be mesmerized at the sight of our feathered friends.

Also gaining appeal to locals and foreigners is the Puning (Mt. Pinatubo) Hot Springs which feature steaming hot waterfalls, proven to give therapeutic effects. Guided by mostly indigenous Aetas, Puning Hot Springs offer sand steam, body mud pack and foot massage, all guaranteed to soothe away tense muscles, leaving you revitalized. The cascading waterfalls alone offer a magnificent vision of nature. Before taking the trip, it is advisable to contact a tour coordinator to make tour transportation transfer easier since there is no direct route to Puning and the journey involves riding a 4 x 4 vehicle.

Take a Victory Liner bus bound for Baguio that passes by Mabalacat or Concepcion. Alight at the Caltex gas station at Capas junction or at the Capas Tourism office near the municipal building. This will be as the meeting place with the Puning tour coordinator. From there, it takes 45 minutes to Sta. Juliana, which is the take off point to the 4 x 4 ride.

Subic Bay has always been a favorite vacation haunt, offering tons of attractions, restaurants and shops. Choose among various dive sites in Subic Bay. Wreck diving sites (one of the two sites in the country) include USS New York Sea Wreck, Wreck of AN LST, El Capitan Dive Site, Seiun Maru, Oryoku Maru, The Barges, Canyons and Camayan Reefs. Enjoy a picture perfect underwater exploration of vessels and the aquatic animals that thrive.

Subic Bay’s appeal is not limited to water alone. Animal lovers will certainly have an epic adventure at Bat Kingdom, Zoobic Safari, Ocean Adventure, and El Kabayo Equestrian Center. Meanwhile, extreme adventurers will get a kick out of Jungle Joe’s World, a theme park heaven where children and kids-at-heart can bask in beautiful attractions and rides like trampolines, slides, trekking and paint ball courses. Subic Extreme Adventure Theme Park is also another Subic favorite of theme park addicts.

Commune with lush greeneries at Tree Top Adventure, a manmade park shrouded in a thick forest. Duty-free shopping is also a big Subic attraction. Same goes for golf course, tennis court, and yacht clubs littered around. Environmental appreciation, exciting racing, gaming, outdoor adventures, eclectic shopping and endless fun, students and their family and friends are just a drive away from creating wonderful memories. Victory Liner also offers trips to Zambales. Book now at Victory Liner and experience an exhilarating sem break. For bus reservations, inquiries and information, call 921-3293 or visit

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Category: Philippines
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