Saturday, 27 December 2008

Manila to Ilocos in a Picanto, Part 4 (Around Laoag)

We crossed Laoag River at about half past five in the afternoon and had to call our host Sammy for directions to his Balay da Blas. We arrived there and instantly fell in love with his place. Our room (PhP 1,650, with breakfast for two thrown in) was fantastic. Vigan tiles on the floor, a little sitting area, dining area with fridge and small cooker, a bathroom with hot water (still no tub though) and the bedroom is clean and bright and fantastic. I'm not surprised people rave about this place in the blogs I read before arriving here.

After dropping our luggage on the bed, we showered and headed out to Sammy's Saramsam Cafe in Rizal Ave. It was about a two-minute drive from the hotel, and it had a great selection of amazing food, with the Pinakbet pizza as their signature dish. We didn't have that, of course. We wanted something familiar, something substantial to reward us for having gone through the nightmare that was Vigan. Pedro had pasta with all sorts of veggies in it and I had roasted pig's ears and blanched veggies with bagoong. Nice.

Quick drive about town searching for dessert. We've been quite unlucky with dessert on this trip. We found La Preciosa a few blocks past Samsara Cafe and had coffee and chocolate cake and carrot cake there. Time for bed.

Woke up and had breakfast at Balay da Blas, then had a brief chat with Sammy to enquire about what's interesting and finally decided on Batac and Paoay. Driving not 30 minutes, we got to Batac town proper and immediately found the Marcos Mausoleum and Museum. Crowded. And the mausoleum was eery, but it was probably the only airconditioned room in Batac, so it was a nice little breather in there. Staring at Apo Makoy was surreal. On one hand it felt strange that I was standing beside the great Ilocano. On the other hand, I wondered if that was just wax. I guess we'll never find out the real score there. A quick potter about the compound took us to Bongbong's office (shut) and the Marcos ancestral house (shut). I got a couple of cones of ice cream outside and asked the Manong if the Marcoses actually stay in the house. He said yes, when they're in town, they stay there. And yes, they come at least once a month. Oh.

Quick drive to Paoay where we saw the church and not much else. Oh, we saw Paoay lake on the way. We also thought we'd go to Fort Ilocandia but I still can't get over the fact that they were so inept at handling reservations that with a sigh of relief we ended up staying at Balay da Blas.

Drove back to Laoag and ended up at our favourite Saramsam Cafe for a spot of lunch. We ordered a bowl of noodles with veggies and finally the Pinakbet pizza, which was actually quite delicious. I'm not a big fan of fusion food and those horrible experiment-type cuisine, but this one was a hit. I think we might go back there tonight to try their other Ilocano pizzas.

Finally we visited the Museo Ilokos Norte, which was just off Rizal Ave. and is a very well-setup affair indeed. Lots of local history and displays which visitors can actually hold (I did anyway, I'm not really sure if we're allowed to). We drove around for a few minutes then picked up the map and decided to drive to Sarrat for another cathedral only to get lost and end up in a town called Vintar which was conveniently having their town fiesta so I had my fill of Vigan empanada ang longganisa in the plaza. After waiting for the procession to come back so Pedro can videotape it, we walked back to the car and discovered a little gambling den beside the Comelec office. I won some, then lost some. Nakakamiss ang beto-beto ng kabataan ko sa Balite. Perya kung perya, diba. Naalala ko tuloy si Ina na mahilig magbingo at umuuwi na lang na may dalang mga pinggan at baso na napanalunan nya.

We decided to get out of there and eventually found where the parade was and watched until the road was clear enough to head back to the hotel. Nice way to finish Laoag before driving some 70-odd kilometers to Pagudpud in the morning.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just a friendly notice - the website for Balay da Blas has moved to :

The official website for Saramsam is now at :

If it would be possible to please update your links. Thank you so much for your time.



(webdesigner for Balay da Blas)