I can’t think of any other way to describe my Ilocos Region adventure. No sugarcoating. No hidden charges. No hyperboles. Just all-in.
Everything just happened so fast and the rollercoaster feelings kept on firing up. But my wanderer heart would not ask for it in any other way. I went through how communities developed over time in different museums and historical houses to jumping from one island to another to meeting Philippine wildlife in just one huge stunning region.
And in this entry, join me as I relive one of the best tour I booked to satisfy my adventurer self.
Catching up with Philippine History
What can be a better outset than discovering more about the people and culture of the country you will be visiting? I have my fair share of going through the thrill of diving or hiking in different countries. But if you will ask me to take a look at how the locals built their community and culture, I will always grab the opportunity over anything else. Who knows? You might just end up understanding yourself even more in a foreign land.
Museo Ilocos Norte is just the right place to witness the life of the Ilocano people. It is located at Laoag City and currently considered as one of the excellent ethnographic museums in the Philippines. You’ll spend only less than a dollar to get in touch with the collection of traditional clothes, utensils, and even weaponry. I saw how much they preserved the Filipino-Spanish vibes. I was also lucky enough to see a replica of mestizo house, which was used during the Spanish time. During my tour, I was wondering how they were able to put up such a historic place and as much as to sustain the entire old building ambiance. That was when I learned that museum was built in 1878 but known as an ordinary building back then.
Unlike your first stop, Crisologo Museum is situated in Vigan City and will lend you a lens to see Ilocano life on a personal level. You don’t need to think about the entrance fee since it’s free. The museum was formerly established as the home of the late Congressman and Filipino World War II veteran Floro Crisologo. He greatly contributed on establishing the country’s Social Security System. The century-old family mansion allows tourists, especially foreign travelers, to have a glimpse of how a local household looks like. Much to my surprise, it also holds the family’s collection of santos and ethnography.
Conquering the Hundred Islands Challenge
Your Ilocos Region escapade will only be satisfying when you visit the world-known Hundred Islands National Park in Alaminos, Pangasinan. You’ve read it right. It’s not just one or two but a hundred of islands beautifully clumped together. Fan fact: there is a total of 124 islands but during high tide, you’ll only see 123 of them.
What else can be the main attraction if not island hopping and snorkeling? Despite the surprising number of islands, the boat rental still ranges around $16 to $25. Then you are off to your adventures. But, for the first time in my years of traveling, they gave me a no ordinary experience. It’s zipline island hopping! I got to cross from one island to another via zipline for just $5!
And buckle yourself up since you can have unlimited rounds of cliff jumping. When you get to Marcos Island, ask your guide to lead up to the peak of the island. This is where you will see the Imelda’s Cave. But here’s the catch: you can only enter the cave through jumping in and the only way out is swimming back to the open sea.
Another breathtaking experience I had was waking up with free bird watching while sounds of the ocean waves in background. If I can be given the chance to live here forever, I swear, I might as well take it. It was just surreal not see workloads, internet, and traffic jams the moment I opened my eyes in the morning. And the tent rental was only around $8 per night and I wouldn’t exchange this scenery over a $1000 air-conditioned hotel room.
Up-Close Interaction with Philippine Wildlife
White sand beaches, rock formations, and mountains worth hiking aren’t the only main attractions in Ilocos Region. You can and will experience the rare chance to meet some of the Philippine wildlife in Baluarte Zoo in Vigan City.
When I first visited the zoo, I felt like I was a deployed reporter from National Geographic Channel. Let’s be honest, it’s not everyday you can see camels and horses walking freely anywhere and approach tourists as if it is the most mundane event in the world. Ostriches even approached me like they were asking me to take photos of them. I can’t just make myself pass the chance to become a photojournalist and a tourist at the same time.
I can feel my chest burn with elation as I saw my country’s common and rare animals from different places in one place. They are also being taken care of and I cannot just ask for more.
The famous Ilocos Zoo is privately owned by the Filipino politician and businessman Chavit Singson. I was astonished when I learned that he just wants locals to see common and exotic wildlife without spending a cent or even flying overseas just to see them. All you have to do is ride a bus from Manila City that cost $16. Vigan City is also accessible via air through local-based airlines.
So, how interactive is an interactive zoo? Well, you can actually ride their horses. You may also feed their exotic birds and other animals in the area. And not mention having a photo with a tiger and a collection of reptiles. Are we done yet? The list goes on with a petting zoo and a butterfly garden. It is no ordinary butterfly garden since it holds kinds that only endemic in the Philippines.
Another place that caught my attention was the Chavit’s personal Safari Gallery. He was a hunter back when it was still legal so all of his hunting trophy collections were displayed here. You can also see his personal and functioning submarine, which according to the locals I talked with he uses it to look for treasures during his free time.
All-in package tours in Ilocos Region is no fairytale. It may look like straight out you’re your favorite book but it isn’t. As a travel agent, I may have traveled to almost all of the places you could think of but my experience in this paradise was just once in a lifetime. The privileged is mine if you can see what I saw, feel what I felt, and cherish what I cherished in this region.
Till next time.