Paoay, Ilocos Norte: Sand Boarding and 4x4 Ride in Sand Dunes


The province of Ilocos is not only about the different historical sites and/or wonders of nature as it also offers extreme activities for adventure/thrill seekers. La Paz Sand Dunes in Paoay, Ilocos Norte is a known site where the extreme 4x4 ride and sand boarding are being held. Sand Dunes already gained popularity as one of the must visit place when in Ilocos Norte. It has been featured to different blog sites as well as on television and films. In fact, some scenes taken from the local movie, Panday (FPJ version) were shot in Sand Dunes.

How did we there?
The hotel we stayed-in offers a complete Ilocandia tour (Ilocos Norte and Sur). As for our group of 5, we paid 2,990 pesos/pax (price varies depends on the number of head count) which includes a private aircon van transportation to Laoag-Vigan-Pagudpud, a hotel accommodation for 2 days and 2 nights, a daily set of breakfast, entrance fees, toll fees, driver's meal, and as well as airport transfers. Airfare is not included. Oops, before I forgot, the name of the hotel is UKL Ever Hotel and it is located in Laoag City. It is also 15 minutes away from the airport. A trip to Sand Dunes is not included in the package above. We avail it separately from UKL. We paid 500 pesos per head to experience it. It includes transfer from UKL to La Paz Sand Dunes (two-way), 30 minutes 4x4 ride, and unlimited sand boarding experience!

Welcome sign at La Paz Sand Dunes
Registration Area

The "4x4 Ride"

I've jump to a lot cliffs, crossed the longest zipline in asia, tried to walk in the edge of a building, and passed through tunnels under the sea but I never thought a jeep ride would shake the hell out of me. Yeah, I'm not kidding here. This activity really weakened my knees at the end of the ride! The idea of this activity is simple. You have to stand at the back of the jeep, hold on tight and survive until you reach the last level of the ride without falling or fading out. Easy? Hmmm, not sure of that. You'll be going to different obstacles and big slopes. And what makes this activity more extreme is, there are no harness, knee pads, elbow pads, and even helmet. You will also have to sign a waiver before you do the activity. Still thinking it's easy?

Sand Dunes, Ilocos Norte
The whole area of La Paz Sand Dunes serves as the trail for the 4x4 activity. There are 3 levels as far as I can remember. The easy, medium and hard. The easy trail is just a warm up on what to expect on the ride. The road is pretty rough and designed that when the jeep passed through it, it will be really bumpy. Then next is the medium trail. You'll be heading on a bigger area where there are big slopes. You will be brought on top of a platform then your the jeep will stop on the edge of it (this is the time where you'll go crazy) then the driver will step on the gas so hard and drive you down! It was like you're being drop on a 45 degree platform. 

Then we reached the hard trail. Oh shoot. I can still remember the adrenaline rush it gave me. I never thought that I'd scream like that as if I am on a roller coaster ride. Well, its almost the same. The difference is that you have safety gears when in roller coaster. If in medium trail the slopes is in 45 degrees... in the hard trail, it feels like you'll be drop at 90 degrees platform. I couldn't see at the back of the jeep the trail anymore. Every time we stop at the edge of the slope (before dropping), I cursed our driver for dragging us. Well, I apologize afterward to them. It was just a burst of emotion and nothing personal. Hahaha. I knew as well that these are professional drivers and know the trail very well. If not, they will not be issued a permit/license to drive in Sand Dunes.

The easy trail area
Highest point in Sand Dunes
Our jeep. Thanks for not dropping us off you! 

Sand Boarding

Sand boarding is also held on the same place where the 4x4 ride is being conducted. It is the same slope that I am referring earlier you'll used in sand boarding. The driver who droves us in the 4x4 ride is also our instructor in this activity. They brought kinds of 2 boards. One is for the sitting position and the other one is for the standing position. Again, no protective gears for this activity so take extra careful guys! As a starter, we started on a sitting position as it seems much easier than the standing. At first, everyone were hesitant to try this activity. I guess it was because we're still in the recovery phase from the jeep ride. Since I am the guy on the trip, everyone point at me to try it first. Do I have a choice? I wish.

So I sit down on the board then the instructor led the board at the edge of the slope. Then off I go! It didn't took me 10 seconds to reach the ground! That was one great ride and I really enjoyed it. Minus the sand that got into my face due to the speed. Tip: Don't open your mouth during the ride. Lol.

Are you ready to slide down?
Dona doing the siting position

And when all were tired with the sitting position, we then gone up a level. Standing position it is. As usual, I became a guinea pig again. I got to try it first. Well, it is more challenging than the sitting position. One reason is that, the board is more narrow than the one being used in the sitting position. Another reason is, it will be about balancing. I was hesitant at first as well. I imagined the things that may go wrong... like throwing myself in the mid-air, finding myself rolling on the sand, hitting the ground with my face first and other stuff. But I want to complete this experience. So I drag the board on the edge of the slope, prayed, took a deep breath, then slide down. Result, I fell off the board but... I was fine. I wasn't hurt at all and the sand were soft. Then we went all on a standing position!

At the latter part, I've noticed that it is somehow similar to water surfing. You have to bent your knees for better balance, used your arms to help you on balancing and also, put weight on the back of the board to reduce your speed.

Ferdie sand boarding like a pro
Dona dancing through the sand
And this is me :)
Then after more than an hour of sand boarding, we called for a time out. We were satisfied and decided to end the activity as the sun is starting to set high. If you are planning to try this activity, I suggest you schedule it early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid burning you by the sun. We started the activity at 7:30 am and call it off at around 9:30 am. It was a great experience! I recommend this activity for thrill seekers and adventurers! Also, this is a good bonding activity for friends and even to families. 

Breakdown of Expenses:
Sand Dunes Experience - 2,500 Pesos / 5 pax = 500 Pesos 

Philippine Holidays for 2015: 8 Long Weekends Ahead of Us


Most holidays this 2014 are a bit off as it landed in the middle of working/school days instead of having a long weekend. I am referring to these holidays: EDSA Revolution Anniversary (February 25 - Tuesday), Labor Day (May 1 - Thursday), Eid’l Fitr (July 29 - Tuesday), Christmas Day (December 25 - Thursday) and Rizal Day (December 30 - Tuesday). But let's not focus on these anymore because there's nothing we do about it. Instead, let's all look forward as next year, 2015, will be a boosted with long-weekend holidays. Yes! Plan now your trips now as 2015 will be having (8) eight long weekends!!! [Insert Kim Chui voice here] Isn't is amazing and exciting?

This is NOT one of those hoax news. Malacanang already published the list for next year's holidays as President Aquino signed Proclamation No.831 declaring all regular holidays, special non-working days, and special holidays (for all schools) for the year 2015. Mark your calendars now and plan your out of town trips and countries as here are the 8 long weekends I've been bragging about:

4-Day Long Weekend
Date / Days
New Year Season
Holy week
January 1 - 4 (January 2 is special non-working day)
April 2 to 5 (Thursday to Sunday) 
Holidays that fall on Mon/Fri
Date / Days
Labor Day
Independence Day
Ninoy Aquino Day
National Heroes Day
Bonifacio Day
Christmas Day
May 1 (Friday)
June 12 (Friday)
August 21 (Friday)
August 31 (Monday)
November 30 (Monday)
December 25 (Friday)

A total of 18 holidays were published in the proclamation and expected to grow as declaration of holidays for Eid’l Fitr and Eidul Adha is not yet included in list because it will still be determined by the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos.

Shot at Sumilon Island - Oslob, Cebu

A. Regular Holidays

New Year’s Day - 1 January (Thursday)
Maundy Thursday - 2 April
Good Friday - 3 April
Araw ng Kagitingan - 9 April (Thursday)
Labor Day - 1 May (Friday)
Independence Day - 12 June (Friday)
National Heroes Day - 31 August (Last Monday of August)
Bonifacio Day - 30 November (Monday)
Christmas Day - 25 December (Friday)
Rizal Day - 30 December (Wednesday)

B. Special (Non-Working) Days

Chinese New Year - 19 February (Thursday)
Black Saturday - 4 April
Ninoy Aquino Day - 21 August (Friday)
All Saints Day - 1 November (Sunday)
Additional special (non-working) day - 2 January (Friday)
Additional special (non-working) day - 24 December (Thursday)
Last Day of the Year - 31 December (Thursday)

C. Special Holiday (for all schools)

EDSA Revolution Anniversary - 25 February (Wednesday)

Gone snorkeling at Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro
Cliff jumping site at Hundred Islands in Pangasinan
The famous Calle Crisologo of Vigan, Ilocos Sur

So, save up now and use those vacation leaves wisely!

The Church of Saint Augustine of Paoay, Ilocos Norte


The Church of Saint Augustine, commonly known as the Paoay Church, started its constructions in the year 1694 and was completed in 1710 in the province of Ilocos Norte. It is a supreme model of an Earthquake Baroque church which is designed to withstand earthquakes as Philippines’ has a reputation of an earthquake-prone country during that time.

Ever since I've been stung by the travel bug, I have been wanting to see Paoay Church. Just seeing the photos of this church in the internet and different SNS makes me wonder what more does it looks like up close and in-person. That's why when me and my friends booked a flight to this province, Paoay Church is one of the spots I've been looking forward to see. And when I was there already, it doesn't disappoint me. The beautiful structure and the mix of Gothic, Baroque and Oriental designs of this church makes me fall in love with it. This is by far the number 1 church on my list.

How did I get here?
The hotel we stayed-in offers a complete Ilocandia tour (Ilocos Norte and Sur). As for our group of 5, we paid 2,990 pesos/pax (price varies depending on the head count) which includes a private aircon van transportation to Laoag-Vigan-Pagudpud, a hotel accommodation for 2 days and 2 nights, a daily set of breakfast, entrance fees, toll fees, driver's meal, and as well as airport transfers. Airfare is not included. Oops, before I forgot, the name of the hotel is UKL Ever Hotel and it is located in Laoag City. It is also 15 minutes away from the airport.

Full view of Paoay Church
Inside Paoay Church. Just plain and simple

Paoay church was built using bricks, tree sap, and lumbers but what makes it special and strong is, it is mainly built using coral stones/rocks. Huge coral stones were used in the lower portion of the church to have a great hold of its weight. Its bell tower, although it is separated from the main building, is also made in coral stones. With its striking look and architectural design, Paoay Church was proclaimed as one of UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Philippines which took part in 1993. Other Baroque Churches in the Philippines which are recognized by UNESCO are the following: Nuestra Señora dela Asunción in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur, San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila, and Santo Tomas de Villanueva Church in Miag-ao, Iloilo.

Rains stop. Cameras out. #groupfie

Though it was raining when we visited the Church of Saint Augustine due to a low pressure area (LPA), I am still thankful that I have given the chance to see this beautiful church in person and have a selfie and groupfie as well (as the rain stops in about 20 minutes).

Island Hopping: El Nido, Palawan Tour A and B


El Nido lies in the northern most part of Palawan and with its land area of 465.1 square kilometers (as per wikipedia) hold the most beautiful beaches, extremely beautiful lagoons, and picturesque islands & islets in the Philippines.

And as I promised on my previous blog post where I featured our combination tour on C and D, I'm now giving you the other half of our tour wherein we explored A and B. This is another combination tour prepared by Northern Hope Tours. If our tour on C and D makes my eyes pop with the beautiful sites, Tour A and B took my breath away. El Nido really has a lot, lot, lot to offer when it comes to tourist attraction.

Alright. Enough with the introduction and let's start your 2nd half of virtual tour on the beautiful islands of El Nido!

Small Lagoon

In order to explore Small Lagoon, you'll have to passed through a crack between rocks. Don't worry because the crack/hole is much bigger compared to Hidden Beach. However tour boats can't still get in it so you'll have to swim to it or use kayak to explore the area. Small Lagoon is enclosed by colossal marble walls. It is also divided into different chambers. I suggest you explore its innermost part, where it is much peaceful and less crowded.

Big Lagoon

Seeing the wide entrance of Big Lagoon really excites me as its entrance has this beautiful rock formation. And when we were finally inside it, it was breathtaking and priceless. I felt an indescribable serenity. When people got to see the Big Lagoon, they'll probably say that they already saw what they came for in El Nido.

Unlike in Small Lagoon, tour boats can passed through the entrance of Big Lagoon so just sit back, relax and enjoy the view while exploring the site.

Now this is what I call a Grand Entrance (photo from Mariz Marcelo)
More tourist at Big Lagoon (photo from Mariz Marcelo)
One of the best site and view in El Nido (photo from Julius Magdasoc)

Secret Lagoon

Secret Lagoon is located on one of the island in El Nido. I think it was so called Secret Lagoon is not just only because it can be found at the edge of the  island but also because it has this small entrance that when you see it, you'll not think that on its other side, there's this small lagoon where people can enjoy some private and shady swim. By the way, its opening is much smaller than the entrance of Hidden Beach.

We also had our lunch on this island.

I'm the king of the world!!! (photo from Mariz Marcelo)
Parking area of Secret Lagoon (photo from Mariz Marcelo)
Mighty and big boulder in the lagoon (photo from Mariz Marcelo)
Explore the other side (photo from Mariz Marcelo)

Snake Island

I know what you're thinking but you're wrong. The island is called Snake Island not because it is nested by snakes but its is because of the natural sandspit (an s-formed sand bar) which connects 2 islands. People can island hop from one island to another island through feet during low tide as this sand bar is only visible on low tide. Too bad because when we went there, it was already high tide. 

There is also a view deck on the island. One must trek 5 to 10 mins in order to reach the said view deck. The whole sand bar that connects Snake Island to another island is visible when you're up there. You'll also love the view from the view deck.

Famous sand bar of El Nido, Palawan (photo from Mariz Marcelo)
Those people are actually using that sand bar to island hop (photo from Mariz Marcelo)
Other side of the view deck (photo from Mariz Marcelo)

Cudugnon Cave

I really admire the people who discovered the spots in El Nido, Palawan as most of them were hidden and enclosed. One of them is Cudugnon Cave. Just like Hidden Beach, Secret Lagoon and Small Lagoon, the entrance of Cudugnon Cave is small. You have to crawl plus roll in order to get inside. The cave isn't big and can be explored in less than half an hour. It has interesting rock formations and story as it is believed that this cave serves as a burial site during the Neolithic period.

Photo op inside Cudugnon Cave (photo from Rodel Bianan)

Cathedral Cave

I have nothing much to say to this place as we only went there to have a picture of it (and selfies) because this cave can't be explored and I don't know the reason why. People are only allowed on its entrance/opening.

The tall entrance of Cathedral Cave (photo from Mariz Marcelo)
Selfie at the entrance of Cathedral Cave (photo from Rodel Bianan)

Papaya Beach

As for our last spot to visit, we went to Papaya Beach. It is where people can enjoy playing beach volleyball or just rest on a hammock installed in the island. It was our chill time. Some of us did play volleyball, some did kayaking, and others done snorkeling (including myself). The underworld of this beach is really alive and fascinating. I saw different species of fishes, corals and plants. We even reach the other side of the island as we really explored the whole area while snorkeling. 
Chilling time at Papaya Beach (photo from Mariz Marcelo)
Beach volleyball at the shore of Papaya Beach (photo from Rodel Bianan)

Now that you've reach the end of your virtual tour on combination Tour A and B. I just hope that you enjoyed it. If you missed out our combination tour C and D, just click this link: Combination Tours C and D in El Nido, Palawan. And if I have influence you to see El Nido yourself, this blog post might help you on planning your own trip: Island Hopping and Tours in El Nido, Palawan.

Island Hopping: El Nido, Palawan Tour C & D


El Nido is also considered as a top tourist destination in the Philippines. It houses the nicest beaches, islands and lagoons in the country and it is now gaining popularity on both local and foreign tourists.

Since I've already gave you an idea on how to book tours in El Nido and also suggested tours and accommodation on my previous post [Click Here], well its time for me to share on you our tour on those exquisite beaches, lagoons and islands of El Nido, Palawan. We only stayed in El Nido for three days (2 1/2 days to be exact) so instead of availing single tour each day, we decided to do a combination tour which will save time and will cover more spots of El Nido despite the time constraint. And as for this blog post, I'll be featuring the Tour C plus Tour D prepared by Northern Hope Tours. So sit back, relax and just keep that mouse ball rolling!

Helicopter Island

What can you say about its shape?
Helicopter Island is also called as Dilumacad Island. The island gained its name from its shape. From a distance, the shape of this island resembles to the shape of a helicopter. On one side, people can enjoy snorkeling and see fringing reef and different kind of fishes. It is also ideal for beach bumming even in the afternoon because of the massive mountain and rock formations of this island as it block the sun rays.

A closer look of the island
A nice day to swim!
Selfie time!

Hidden Beach

I consider Hidden Beach as one of the best site in El Nido. I believe it is so called Hidden Beach because this beach is literally hidden between 2 colossal rock formations. If you'll look at it from afar, the rock formation on the island/shore turned into a background which appears to connect the 2 colossal rocks. Making an illusion that it is one tall wall and a dead end. However, getting closely to the beach, you'll see that there is a passage.

From afar, that white sand is not visible and all those walls look flat

Matinloc Shrine

"Matinloc" is a local term for beautiful. This island offers an awesome view of some neighboring islands and islets in El Nido. Although the way on the viewing deck is kind of dangerous as it is not cemented and the improvised stairs is not furnished, I recommend that you still go for it and risk it as the view up there is really worth it. Just take extra caution when you'll try it.

Also, a shrine was built in the island in1982 to honor the blessed Virgin Mary which later they called the Shrine of Our Lady of Matinloc.

A port at Matinloc Shrine (photo from Aj Maisog)
Breathtaking view at Matinloc's view deck (photo from Aj Maisog)
Another shot from the view deck (photo from Rodel Bianan)
Food trip prepared by our boatmen (photo from Rodel Bianan)
Yup, they know a lot about food art (photo from Rodel Bianan)
How can we eat something this cute? (photo from Aj Maisog)
Left (photo from Rodel Bianan) | Right - The shrine of the Virgin Mary (photo from Aj Bianan)
Groupfie before we left Matinloc (photo from Aj Maisog)

Secret Beach

Secret Beach is one of the spot in El Nido that WOW-ed me. I was really amazed of its beauty and secrecy. Yup, that's right. I was amazed on how the people of Palawan discovered this beach. It is because in order to witness the beautiful beach of Secret Beach, one must swim into a small hole. The entrance is in between rocks with a hole. Boat couldn't fit in or even go near the hole due to strong current so one must swim in order to see the secret beach. The water is really deep and the wave here is pretty strong so it is suggested to wear life vest going inside.

Once you're inside, you'll be amaze. The water is calm, warm and waist deep. It's like a paradise in a tiny form.

** Still waiting for my friend with Go Pro to upload our photos at Secret Beach

Cadlao Lagoon

Cadlao Lagoon's water is mostly shallow therefore it is a perfect site for swimming and snorkeling. So gear up those goggles & flippers and explore wonderful creatures and corals underneath this lagoon. And since this is a lagoon expect that the water here is calm. So aside from swimming and snorkeling, other suggested activity here is kayaking. With its aqua blue water and towering limestone rocks one will surely have a nice chill time while paddling around the lagoon.

Welcome to Cadlao Lagoon (photo from Mariz Marcelo)
Swim, Kayak and Snorkeling time! (photo from Julius Magdasoc)
Kayaking with Ius  (photo from Mariz Marcelo)

Bukal Island

As for our last stop on Tour C and D, we visited the Bukal Island (also called as Bukal Beach). This island is also known as a snorkeling site as there are amazing underwater creature in this part of El Nido. Also not to mention the beautiful coral garden which can be found even on the shallow part of the beach.

Foreign Tourists we met during this trip  (photo from Mariz Marcelo)
Final swim that day  (photo from Mariz Marcelo)

There you have it. That's the end of our combination Tour C and D in El Nido, Palawan. I hope you enjoyed your virtual tour on 2 out of 4 tours in El Nido. For the second half of our exploration, you may refer to this link. It features our Combination Tour A and B to the beautiful island of El Nido: Island Hopping: El Nido, Palawan Tour A and B. And if you are planning to visit it El Nido, this blog post might help you out: Island Hopping and Tours in El Nido, Palawan.