For two years now, Carlo and I have had a tradition of Flying North during long vacations — Christmas, Holy Week, Thailand’s Songkran.
This year we crisscrossed Luzon — Pampanga, Zambales, Pangasinan, Benguet, La Union, Ilocos, Nueva Ecija, Aurora. Always looking for the best food, the friendliest people, the most spectacular views.
I first discovered Ilocos decades ago. No, I didn’t march north with Juan de Salcedo in 1572. I went in 1979 with my first girlfriend’s parents. They hailed from Lapog, Ilocos Sur.
All I remember from that sojourn is that Lapog and Vigan were sleepy towns, where even the flies were grounded, numbed into senseless torpor by the searing summer heat.
Five years ago, I flew to Vigan airport, which in a Cessna 152 is equivalent to falling off the edge of the world.
I think that was in 1884. Maybe 2004. The details are blurry.
Then Carlo and I re-discovered Ilocos three years ago. We flew to San Fernando in La Union, where we stopped overnight to fortify ourselves for a trip into deep space.
At a beach resort in Bauang, Carlo flight-planned the trip north.
We had to buy the J-12 Operational Navigation Chart. The one that covers, northern Luzon, Taiwan, Hong Kong, the Romulan Neutral Zone and the edge of the known universe.
Now, several hundred flight hours later, Carlo and I fly to Ilocos like you go to the beach — it’s not quite our backyard, but it no longer feels like the voyages of Juan de Salcedo. We’ve been there every year for the past three years.
This Easter weekend, I flew to Ilocos four times in six days. The breathtaking pastels of Ilocos scenery still captivates us.
I can’t get enough of Ilocos by air, pulled north by stunning coastlines, the vivid tobacco fields and river sand dunes, old Spanish churches and bell towers.
I sometimes try to “dumb down” the color saturation on these pictures, because nobody would believe the colors. I don’t even own a copy of Photoshop.
Some of the heartiest Filipino dishes beckon, too.
Pinakbet, pinapaitan, diningding, bagnet, igado, pipian, and the embarrassingly explicit poqui-poqui.
We used to do day trips, but this year Carlo and I discovered a boutique hotel just off Calle Crisologo, a block from Cafe Leona.
Only three weeks old, it’s an original Spanish-era building that was gutted and then restored, capiz shell shutters, wide plank floors and all.
Carlo and I flew an aerial visita iglesia over Ilocos on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. We circled over cathedrals and churches at Paoay, Batac, Lapog, Santo Domingo, Vigan, Santa, Narvacan, Candon, Tagudin.
Actually, Good Friday isn’t the best time for a voyage to Ilocos — you can’t eat bagnet without getting a double dose of guilt — one for your doctor and one for your soul.
But if you visit Vigan on Maundy Thursday, you can light lots of candles at the cathedral in penitence.
Then you can have bagnet, igado and Vigan longganisa at Cafe Leona, the cholesterol guilt assuaged by a dish of fresh arosip seaweed.
Getting hungry? Well, you need to fly to San Fernando, La Union, first. First the airplane eats, then you can eat.
Posted from Vigan, April 17, 2009
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