I've always dreamt of going to Ilocos. Snapshots of Vigan has fueled my yearning to visit this side of the archipelago. I almost had the chance of going to Vigan back in college but I had to pass up that opportunity because I was busy with academic stuff. As the years passed, I never let go of that dream vacation, wishing and hoping that one day I'll find myself in the northern part of the Philippines. Finally, thanks to an airline promo, I booked Laoag tickets for myself, my mom and my friends.
I had four months to plan our itinerary. Originally, I was planning on a backpack trip which I usually do when traveling solo. But then, a couple of months before the vacation, our travel group was growing so it was best to hire a tour guide and all the works. That way, the travel would be comfy and hassle-free plus it's way cheaper. And we'll get to learn more and appreciate the places we'll visit.
And so my googling and blog reading started. I'm grateful to travelers who blogged about the their escapades because it gave me an idea on how I will map out my itinerary. By December 2010, I was already emailing/texting several pension houses and home-stays, inquiring about their rates and amenities. Once I had a fair idea of the accommodation, I made reservations and confirmed the same by making 50% deposit a month before our arrival.
Thanks to a thread on Calvin's Hub, I came across the number of a guy who would make our Ilocos vacation memorable and educational (in a fun way). Steve Hardin B. Maximo served as our tour guide/driver/entertainer for the duration of our stay in Ilocos. Plus Ivan Henares' post on Arce Mansion got me intrigued so I also booked a colonial dinner which became one of the highlights of this vacation.
Since the start of 2011, I have been counting the days to my week-long vacation. Who wouldn't be? It was my first time in Ilocos plus it was a birthday treat to myself. Actually, one of my friends MJ and I decided to celebrate our birthdays in some far-away land but since we had things to do during our birthday week, we decided to have our trip a week after our birthdays.
Fast forward. March 24, 2011. My friend MJR and her beau EA plus their couple friends OSV took the morning flight from Davao to Manila. They had the whole day to explore Mall of Asia. I, together with my friend CC and her mom FC, took the afternoon flight from Cebu, making sure that we had a layover of about two hours before our next flight. On the other hand, my Mom took the afternoon flight from Tacloban. MLM made her way from Quezon City to the airport. At around 5:30 p.m., nine of us converged at the Cebu Pacific check-in counter for Laoag at NAIA 3. After checking in our luggages, we had an early dinner in one of the restos inside NAIA 3. By 8:00 p.m., we were boarding our plane. I was glad that a big plane (was it a Boeing or Airbus? I forgot.) and not a propeller jet was flying us to the north. After an hour, we were already in Laoag City and Steve was already waiting for us. We settled inside the spacious green MB van with plate number UNW 918 which would take us all over Ilocos for the next four days.
Steve drove us to Balay da Blas which was to be our home while in Laoag. He sensed that we were a bit tired and it was already late in the evening, so he reserved all his tales of Ilocos for the next few days. We called it a night with him telling us the meaning of Laoag which is bright, clear or light.
When we arrived at Balay da Blas, we were led to room which I thought was the foyer but no, it wasn't the pensione house's receiving area but our very own room. The deluxe suite was spacious and homey. Wooden and antique bric-a-brac and furniture filled the room. It has one airconditioned bedroom with a queen-sized bed and a sofa bed and a private T&B. The living room has two long seats which can be converted into beds. It also has cable tv and free wifi connection. Plus, the kitchen was big enough complete with burners, refrigerator, sink, cupboards and a table for four. Perfect if you'd like to prepare your own meals. But who would want to cook when on vacation? Sammy Blas (of Balay da Blas) also owns the famous Saramsam Ylocano Restaurant and Bar. Plus there are other restaurants in the city to choose from to save you time from preparing your meals. Unless of course you'd want to unleash your culinary skills and so the deluxe suite would definitely be a perfect place.
The receiving area which also served as a sleeping quarter.
Half of our group stayed at the deluxe suite while the other half slept in the junior suite. The latter is smaller compared to the deluxe suite but nonetheless cozy. It has a room with double bed, two sofa beds in the living room, private T&B and a bar with refrigerator. For our two-day accommodation in Balay da Blas with breakfast, we only paid Php 10,100.00.
Although we were stuffed, we craved for some late-night snacks. So we chose from the Saramsam menu: Chorizo de Laoag pasta and Saramsam pasta. It took quite a while for the dishes to be served in our rooms.
Chorizo de Laoag Pasta: spicy pasta with marinara sauce and chorizo
Saramsam Pasta: Pasta topped with salad (shrimps, mangoes, red and green peppers, tomatoes, onions, parmesan cheese and olive oil)
And before we dozed off, Mel of Balay da Blas took our breakfast orders. May I add, Mel was very accommodating and gracious. He attended to our needs and made sure that we had a comfortable stay at Balay da Blas.
Tours in Ilocos, you may contact:
Steve Hardin B. Maximo at 0926-7124472; firstname.lastname@example.org
Balay da Blas (www.balaydablas.com)
#10 Giron Street, Brgy. 7-B
Contact Person: Sammy Blas
Contact Details: (077) 770-4389; 0917-5702110; email@example.com