A couple of months before the holy week, my travel buddies planned a trip to Ilocos Norte for an adventure. And as you all know, I have never been to that part of the Phillippines. Yes, that’s why I was super excited! We have been planning it for a hell lot of times for the past years. But with just only two days left, with my vacation leaves all requested and filed and all, my buddies pulled out. What a bummer?! I was soooooo mad I could kill.
Sad, because I’ve been looking forward to this trip forever. Like, I can’t explain how much I am craving to go to that place, especially Vigan. That’s why I was still decided to go there solo. 100 percent. But then my friends insisted to go together and rather shift to another location which is: Pangasinan, the 3rd largest province in the Philippines. Of course, with all my love for them, for another time, I didn’t choose Ilocos Norte… I’m so sorry.
So on our way along NLEX, I asked myself why am I going at that time of the year? It was damn traffic. Seriously. Too many people from different parts of Manila were off to their long weekend! But there was nothing I can do about it, I was already seated at my friend’s pickup and there was no going back. And going back to Manila would mean being stuck in a traffic jam as well. So might as well continue.
Our first stop was at Mark’s house in Tarlac where we spent a day with his family. By midnight, we left the pickup and rode a bus off to Alaminos, Pangasinan. Next thing I know, we were already at this cute little port going to the islands. I swear to the greek gods I have never seen a port as sweet as that! But it was hell jump-packed like crazy. Thank goodness it was dawn, and the color of the rising sun and the skies were as magnificent as my dreams. So skip all the waiting games, we still did went to explore the islands. And that day gave me a lesson: stay away from peak season. Hundred Islands National Park has been super iconic to me ever since I was a kid. Going to this place should be noteworthy but I wasn’t able to feel any magic. “I’ll be back at the right time,” I told myself as we head back to the jump-off.
Without any thoughts and any clues what’s going to happen next, we rode a bus going to Bolinao. Sometimes, I stop for a while and think why did I do to deserve such an impulsive set of friends? Haha, I always feel lucky when I think of that. Anyway, the bus ride going to Bolinao was a pretty ride. That feeling of sitting inside an empty and air-conditioned bus after a long day under the sun was extraordinary.
Fast-forward after an almost 1-hour bus ride and another hour tricycle ride to Patar White Beach, finding a place to stay was a challenge. Fully damn booked. Delightedly, we ended up at this inn that just had their soft opening. The price was kind and the owner was extremely nice! Every time we go to her lobby, she always offers something to eat. That afternoon, we did that one thing that we have been longing to do ever since we left Manila for this trip… beaching! The touch of salty waves on sunset was a hit. I can’t remember how late we stayed in the dark, but we didn’t care so much about time then.
And by that, I will say that maybe I think we really do stay a little bit too late because when we were looking out for something to eat for dinner, majority of the stores were closed already. Thankfully, we found a place to eat near our place. The woman who served our food was very genuine (even though it was late already) and turns out to be the owner of the restaurant. Here’s the fun part, she and her husband were so welcoming that we instantly became friends! We joked about being drunk that night and fantastically, they invited us to drink! So me and my friends bought beers to a nearby store as they close their restaurant. After the beers, the husband offered some tequila and the wife even served us our favorite cravings at that time: grilled squid! Because she heard I was requesting it since the time we arrived there. We had a great time talking about how Bolinao started. We all had a great time and what a very nice couple.
The next morning, we woke up early because we were going on a tour! We hired 2 tricycles for that and the first stop was the Bolinao falls. The road going there was long, rocky and dusty! It was hell hot that day but the gift of mother nature waiting was worth it. It was a refreshing dip. Though, still, a lot of tourists. But I can imagine how serene it would be without many people.
Our next stop was a cave. It was fun! We stayed there longer than expected because it was super refreshing. I feel like I was swimming under the magnificent Earth. Away from up above, calm and still down under. We also went to this rock view garden resort and spent a little more extra time there because first of all, the view was beautifully landscaped. And second, I felt like I was in Hawaii. I’ve never been there but those photos that I saw from the internet make me feel as if I already went there. Weird. I remember it was still 2 in the afternoon and we were still under the sun with our skins coated with tanning oil. Yup, the joys of being golden. And watching the waves was like a requirement. It was quite a fantastic time.
Before we head back to where we were staying, we stopped over to see the second (that’s what they say) tallest lighthouse in the country, Cape Bolinao Lighthouse. Created in the 1900s, it bears the rich history of Bolinao and is still looked strong up until today. What a wonderful art of architecture.
We went back to our place to get cleaned up and left. And as I was seating inside the bus going back to Tarlac that evening, I was browsing the photos that I took using my phone and looked back to what I felt for the past few days. That wasn’t the kind of trip that I was looking forward to, a few months back. But I’d be a big snob if I say it wasn’t fun! From Alaminos to Bolinao, some things might have turned out to be awful, but there I was again, going home with new lessons that I learned.
Did I mention how nostalgic it was to see the view of Patar beach from a vantage point of a moving tricycle? Man, that was charming! I feel like I was heading home because it reminded me of the view from my childhood in Antique. And that smell of the sea reminds me I why I am me. Yeah cheesy but because sometimes I wake up while I’m on the road, I ask myself “Why do I have such itchy feet?” and then I will not know the answer. Later on when I see an exquisite art of nature, suddenly I will just feel so free. And it will answer my question then everything feels like it’s going to be alright.
When we arrived at Mark’s house at Tarlac, we went straight back to Manila riding Keenan’s pickup. Past midnight, windows down, with our souls refreshed by unexpected undertakings and Donna Lewis’ Always and Forever on the radio. And that, my dear, was the most adorable NLEX drive so far.
I went to bed at 4 in the morning, at the same time when I’m from a closing shift. Dead tired, reunited with my bed and I knew I will wake up craving for new adventures.