Places to Visit When You are in Ilocos, Norte

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Are you planning to explore the Philippines but couldn't decide yet where to begin at? Hmmm, why don't you start on the northern part? From the top. How about in Ilocos Region? At Ilocos Norte! Ilocos Norte is roughly a 10-hour drive away from Manila and 45 minutes if traveled by air. The province has a land area of no more than 3,500 square kilometers and composed of 22 municipalities which are characterized by amazing beaches, rock formations, old churches and more. This province is not only known for scenic landscapes but also for its rich history and culture.

How to get there?
By land, there are several bus lines that serves Manila-Laoag route. Some of these bus companies are Partas Trans, Autobus and RCJ buses. As what I stated above, travel time is more or less 10 hours. If you're not into long hours of drive or commute, you may book a flight at Philippine Airlines and/or Cebu Pacific. These airlines have daily Manila-Laoag-Manila flights.

As for this blog post, I'll try to cover some of unique tourist destinations and a must-visit spots in Ilocos Norte. Ready? Lets go!

Fort Ilocandia Resort and Casino

Heads up! We didn't stayed here so please don't ask me about their room rates and stuff. We still don't have such money to spent in an accommodation like this. We're only there to visit and just check out the place. Although I find the place having a grim atmosphere, Fort Ilocandia Resort and Casino is said to be a 5-star hotel. I'm not sure why I had that feeling but maybe because of our timing when we visited the place. The weather isn't fare and very gloomy that day. Nevertheless, if you want to experience a luxurious accommodation ala Ilocos Norte, this is the place to be. The resort is located in Laoag and it has 24/7 operating casino, swimming pool, beach, in-house restaurant, fitness center, recreation center, salon and spa, shooting range, horseback riding, bar, archery and a lot more! Too bad we were only there for half an hour and didn't explore the whole place.

One of the corridor in Fort Ilocandia
Walk around to learn more about Ilocos

Malacanang of the North (MalacaƱang ti Amianan)

Located in the municipality of Paoay, Malacanang of the North serves as the official residence/rest house of the Marcoses during President Ferdinand Marcos regime. This 5-hectare property was a gift to the president by his first lady and wife for his 60th birthday. To know more stories of this mansion, kindly refer to this blog post: Malacanang of the North of Paoay, Ilocos Norte

Senator Bong Bong room
Nice set at Malacanang of the north

Paoay Church 

Our next stop is the Church of Saint Augustine which is popularly known as Paoay Church. Paoay Church was built during the early 1700s and now renowned as one of UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Philippines. The church structure is a model of a Baroque church which is designed to resist strong earthquakes. The towering 24 buttresses on the sides of the church contributed a lot of its strong build. Want to know more of Paoay Church? Simply click on this link: The Church of Saint Augustine of Paoay, Ilocos Norte

Standing strong through the years
The bell tower - also made of Coral stones

Marcos Museum and Photo Gallery

The late President Ferdinand Marcos is the most famous son of Ilocos Norte. He was raised and grew in the province and done so many things to improve the life of the people here by serving them. That is why it is no wonder why there are so many spots in Ilocos Norte where they commemorate the 10th president and his whole family. Some of these spots are Marcos Museum and Marcos Photo Gallery.

Marcos Museum serves as a mausoleum which houses the body of the president. Yes that's right. Even though he died in 1989, the body still isn't buried yet. Why? It is a long story and I don't want to dig into it. Too bad taking photos and videos is prohibited inside the mausoleum. Then just a few minutes' walk away from the museum you'll see the Marcos Photo Gallery. From the name itself, it is a photo gallery of the Marcoses. It houses hundreds of photos showcasing the life of the Marcos family.

Marcos body is inside this mausoleum
Photos of the Marcoses
More photos inside the Gallery

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

Designed by Magin Pers way back in 1887, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse (also called as "Burgos Lighthouse") was intended to guide navigators during the era of Spanish colonialism in the country. The 65 ft. tall tower was built in an octagon shape using bricks. It is also said that the cupola of this tower is made of bronze. Cape Bojeador is elevated at 386 ft. and offers its visitors a good view of the West Philippine Sea. It is the highest point in Burgos and in the whole region of Ilocos.

Highest spot in Ilocos Norte
Left to Right: Claire, Madam, Ferds, Donna
Old yet so nice :)

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation

Still located in the municipality of Burgos, Ilocos Norte lies a stunning rock formation known as Kapurpurawan Rock Formation. Kapurpurawan was formed by the combined forces of the ocean waves and the wind. This chalk-like textured rock formation is one of the major tourist destination in Ilocos Norte. For further information of this place, click this link: Kapurpurawan Rock Formation of Burgos, Ilocos Norte.

Kapurpurawan from afar
Ahmmm... excuse me, do you mind? This is suppose to be a selfie. hahaha

Patapat Viaduct

Patapat viaduct is one of the major project during the regime of President Marcos. It is considered as the 4th longest bridge in the Philippines having a total length of 1,300 meters that connects the Maharlika Highway (Laoag, Ilocos Norte) to the Cagayan Valley Region. People usually stops here just to take photos of the bridge.

Pres. Marcos project is brilliant!
The bridge is still operating and in great shape

Maira-ira Beach (Blue Lagoon)

Ilocos is not only blessed with rich history, picturesque landscapes and old buildings and structures but it also has pristine and drop dead gorgeous water. Maira-ira Beach for which popularly known as Blue Lagoon is one of the most visited spot in Ilocos when looking for water adventures and beach bumming. This beach in Pagudpod is characterized by fine coarse creamy sand and having a bluish beach water - a reason why it is so called Blue Lagoon. The water here is calm during the summer season but after that, big waves are expected to form into this beach in which activities like surfing and kite surfing takes place. Aside from surfing and swimming, activities available in Blue Lagoon are zip lining, banana boat ride, and jet skiing.

Just look how beautiful the water is! 
My model that day :)
This is another piece of heaven here on earth!

Bantay Abot Cave

Bantay Abot Cave is not really a cave. For me, it is just a hill with a hole in it. As per our guide, the hole was formed due to an earthquake that struck the region decades ago. In the native Ilocano dialect, Bantay means mountain and Abot means hole. Although its translation still does not give justice of its look because it doesn't look like a mountain either, the term mountain is much better than cave. Anyway, it has already been called it that way so lets just move on and leave it as it is.

Landscape at its finest form!

Bangui Windmill 

This tourist spot in Bangui, Ilocos Norte is a project of the city government which started in 2005 to practice and utilize renewable energy sources specifically wind energy. Bangui Windmill has not only generating electric supply for Ilocos Norte but also another reason for tourists to visit the said province. Read more about Northwind Bangui Bay Project: Bangui Windmills of Bangui, Ilocos Norte

Another great project of the government!

La Paz Sand Dunes 

Have you already tried skate boarding and gone surfing? Yes? Hmmm, how about sand boarding? Sounds fun right? Visit La Paz Sand Dunes in Paoay, Ilocos Norte and experience not only sand boarding but also the thrilling 4x4 ride. The activities in Sand Dunes really shake the hell out of me and my friends. This part of Ilocos Norte is really a perfect spot for adventurer and thrill seekers. Here's our full experience in La Paz Sand Dunes: Paoay, Ilocos Norte: Sand Boarding and 4x4 Ride in Sand Dunes

Stress reliever activity!
I want to try it again!

And there you have it! You've already reach the end of this tour. I hope I have inspired you to visit the province and see it yourself. The places and spots above are just some of the tourist destination in Ilocos Norte. There's more spots that one will surely enjoy when in Ilocos Norte.

Can't get enough of Ilocos? How about having a tour on one of the city in Ilocos Sur -- Vigan Tourist Spots: Calesa Tour of Metro Vigan Inn?

Bangui Windmills of Bangui Ilocos Norte

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Windmill is a machine which uses wind energy to generate electricity or extract groundwater. Here in the Philippines, we also have our own windmill farm and it can be found in the municipality of Bangui in Ilocos Norte. It is also said to be the first power generating windmill farm in Southeast Asia. The project was named NorthWind Bangui Bay Project (oftenly called as the Bangui Windmills).

How did we get 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 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.

Sun down but the beauty of this site still not fading

Going back, there are different stations of windmills in Bangui, Ilocos Norte. There are Phase 1 and Phase 2 which are spread along and facing the coastal line of South China Sea. Bangui Windmills was said to be providing 40% of source power in the province of Ilocos Norte. That is why the government is now on their feet constructing Phase 3 that will add more windmills and will generate of course more power.

As always... group shot!
I envy this local...
So lucky to visit this place!!!
Its getting dark now

Though the main purpose of this project is to practice and utilize renewable energy sources such as the wind, the site itself has become a tourist attraction as well. It is mainly one of the reason why tourism in Ilocos has boomed. Who wouldn't be amaze to see those towering electric-fan-like structures? Seeing 20 windmills in Phase 1 lined up and having a size of 70-metre (230 ft) high each is such a stunning scene to witness. Standing in front of these windmills makes me feel like an ant. Plus, not to mention that it is situated on a beach front. Imagine walking on the shore while waves and wind splashes on your body. Refreshing!

There is no entrance fee when visiting the area. Everyone is invited and go near to the windmills. However, going inside it is restricted. There are also stalls in the area where you can buy souvenirs such as keychains, mini-replica of the windmill and t-shirts.

naahhhh...
Souvenirs they sell in the area

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation of Burgos, Ilocos Norte

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Located in the municipality of Burgos, Ilocos Norte lies the rock formation called Kapurpurawan Rock Formation (simply, Kapurpurawan). Kapurpurwan is one of the best and a must-see tourist destination when visiting the province of Ilocos specifically, Ilocos Norte. It is situated in the coastal part of Burgos and were said to be formed by the combined forces of the ocean waves and the wind.

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 depends 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.

The actual site of Kapurpurawan can't be reach by vehicles. People are require to walk from the jump off point in order to see it. It will take less than 15 of minutes walk...well still depends on your pacing. Or if you have some spare bucks, you may rent a horse to take you there. Horse ride is 100 pesos (two-way).

Off we go!

Kapurpurawan comes from an Ilocano word "puraw" which means white and there's no doubt why it is so called like it due to its evidently creamy white rock formations. I was able to see it half way from the jump off point because of its stunning white form. Locals say that the best time to go here are during summer season. Though it will be extremely hot because it is in an open area, the rock formation will be in its whitest form due to the direct rays from the sun plus it will be super dry.

I prefer to walk than rent a horse :)
Reminders along the way
And another one...
Extending the windmills construction reaches this area. They called it Phase 3

I was overly amazed as I reached Kapurpurawan Rock Formation. I must agree that this spot is a must visit destination in Ilocos or should I say in the Philippines. The elements of the white, tall and striking rock formations and the ocean view makes Kapurpurawan enticing to the eyes of its visitors. I/we actually didn't mind staying long under the sun. We posed and took photos everywhere as the whole place is picture-perfect.

Presenting the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
Idle time at Kapurpurawan
How can you resist a groupfie?
Selfie... can't blame me for having one. Haha
Tamayo's Tower... Really don't know what it is
Chalk-like texture rock formation

I noticed that visitors come and go from time to time which I think a positive sign that the governance of tourism of this place is implemented correctly and on track. I just hope that despite the increasing numbers of tourists visiting Kapurpurawan, the local government will still be able to support and maintain the cleanliness and the whole look of the area and so future generations can witness it as well.


Gardenia Plant Tour at Binan, Laguna

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Here in the Philippines, when you ask for a brand of high quality and premier tasting breads popular answer would be Gardenia breads. Reasons of its popularity are 1) of its "Grate Tastes". It is so good that you can eat and enjoy it even without looking for a spread/stuffing. 2) of its "Softness". You may roll it or fold it anyway you want and your bread are assured that it will not break into pieces which is a proof of its freshness. 3) of its "Aroma". Gardenia breads have this tempting fresh-from-the-oven-aroma that pumps up your appetite. With all those pointers, I must confess that my whole family is really a fan of Gardenia. That's why I am truly thankful when a fellow blogger, Alice, invited me to join an event (headed by Ms. Grace Nicolas) on having a visit and tour inside the Gardenia plant.

How to get there?
Gardenia's plant is located in Laguna International Industrial Park (LIIP), Mamplasan, Binan, Laguna. The plant tour is free and can be book by visiting Gardenia's website at www.gardenia.com.ph. Just download and answer the booking form. You may also call them at (02) 845 0971 and (049) 539 1136 to 40. Tour hours are from 7:00am to 4:00pm, Monday to Friday and Sunday. Gardenia's plant in Cebu also allows tours. You may reach them thru this hotline: (032) 341 2895.

Let the tour begin!

As our group reach the plant, we were welcomed by with smiles from the employees of Gardenia. Everyone was excited with the tour. I even felt like I was traveled back on my elementary days where I used to attend field trips. We were first directed to the registration area and got our plant ID's with our names on it. We were then escorted on one of their rooms where the first part of the tour will be conducted.

Getting our IDs :)
Can you name all these Gardenia products?

The first part of the tour was headed by Mr. Jun Umali (Gardenia PH's President & General Manager). He gave us an informative talk about the company. Mainly about the history of Gardenia like how did they started, how are they doing now, and how did they manage to be on top in the baking industry.He also talks about how important to them the nutrition of their consumers and how important is sanitation to this industry. He even pointed out so many times that they have the most modern bread factory in the country that they're proud to say that they are "baking breads untouched by human hands". Amazing, right?

Mr. Umali even share some pointers on how they maintain or how we can prolong the freshness of our breads:
  • Air dries out the bread. So, after we get our needed slice/s, it is recommended to re-seal again the pack.
  • If possible, save the top slice of the loaf and use it as a cover of the remaining loaf.
  • Keep the bread out of hot areas because it may cause the bread to moisten which may lead to premature molding. Store your bread in a cool and dry place.
    • He even recommends to put it inside the refrigerator. Then if you are planning to eat it, just reheat in toaster the slices you needed. 
  • Keep it away from items that emit odors because breads absorb odors.
  • Make sure that your hands are clean. Bacteria can also cause premature molding.
  • Lastly, he advised that if possible, consume your bread immediately :] 
But what caught my attention on his talk was when he discussed how they make sure that we, consumers, get the fresh bread possible and how Gardenia reaching out to help our society. Gardenia breads freshness can last up to 14 days but they only indicate on the G-lock (Gardenia's seal/loaf seal) 7 days for best before days. They also pull out their breads on their respective re-sellers every 2-days, replacing it with new ones. Yes, they did not wait until the bread reach its 7th day before they replace it. I know what you're thinking. Waste? No. The pull out breads (which we can still consider quality breads) are being sold to fishermen. These are made into food for cultured fishes (like bangus, tilapia, etc). Poultry owners also buy these breads to feed on their pigs and chickens. Lucky animals huh?

Not only that, Gardenia also support charities here and there where they donate thousands of breads on these organizations. I'm not sure if they give newly bake ones or the pulled out breads. But hey, its just a 2-day old breads and considered edible so it's not a big deal if they feed it also to people. They even encouraged us that if we are looking for sponsorship for charity work and alike, we may contact them for collaboration. Nice!

Mr. Umali giving his talk
Selfie with Mr. Jun Umali

I think I've written too much already. Let's now move forward to the actual tour. Are you ready? Just keep that mouse ball rolling and enjoy your virtual tour on a state-of-the-art-plant that produces 650,000 loaves and buns everyday!

1) Giant Silo. It is where the production starts. These towering silos are used to store raw materials used in baking. These are stainless steels and being manage by computerized systems.

2) Hi-Tech Automation. This part of the plant features their fully automated and computer-controlled system for bread making production. Some of these are used for handling the mixing, proofing, baking, and slicing. All of the said actions are again handled by machines. There are few people in the area but they're only needed once the machine fail. If not, then they can just roam around the area and check other things out. Like what I said above: Gardenia is baking breads untouched by human hands.

Start of the tour in the production area
Machine that ensures Gardenia breads are equal in weight
All dough are set!

3). Fresh from the Oven. You'll see breads coming out of these ovens which extract irresistible aroma all over the the production area. Even in our place which is covered by glass and kilometers away, we can still smell that out-of-the-oven-aroma.

Bread's aroma starts here

4) Twin Spiral Cooling Towers. This is my favorite part of the tour on the production area. You'll see two towers surrounded by thousands of breads. According to the tour facilitator, each tower holds 3,000 breads. The main purpose of this moving conveyor is to cool-off the loaves.

Amazing part of the tour
That tower holds 3,000 Gardenia Classic Breads!!!

5) High-Speed Bagging. Yes that's right, even the packaging/bagging part of the loaf is machine operated. Same goes on sealing the bread. Sealing it with G-lock is also being done by machines. Tip: “G-Locks” help customers know when did the bread was baked and packed and it is color coded:
  • Tan – Monday
  • Orange – Tuesday
  • Yellow – Wednesday
  • Blue – Thursday
  • Green – Friday
  • Red – Saturday
  • White – Sunday
Using the guide above, if you're buying a Gardenia bread on a Wednesday it is strongly suggested that you look for Yellow, Orange or Tan G-locked breads. Got it? Now, aside from expiration date, we should also check the color of G-locks before buying Gardenia bread. 

We're almost done with the tour
Bagging and sealing of bread
People only touches the bread to put it on their storage area. 
The storage area. Soon be delivered to our houses!

The High-Speed Bagging area is the last part of the production tour but the fun never stops there. Upon reaching the end of this tour, you'll also be heading at the back door where there are standees for photo-op! I really love how'd they make the 3D bread production standee.

That's a 3D wallpaper/standee
This is how it looks like from a far...
More standees!

Before we bid our goodbyes and end our tour, Gardenia still impressed us by preparing a buffet style snacks made of Gardenia products (prepared in a creative and re-inventive ways)!

Yes, these are all made using gardenia bread
Click here to learn how to do these
Desserts still using Gardenia products
Thank you Gardenia PH for the very informative and wonderful tour

So what are you waiting for? Book now a tour at the most modern bread factory in the country. Learn about how they made their best quality breads and also know the importance of proper nutrition and sanitation practices. It is really recommendable for school field trips and alike.

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