Warning: This blog post is very long and has lots of photos. Our last day of sightseeing in Ilocos was jam-packed. Plus we ate like there was no tomorrow.
Our first stop after checking out of Saud Beach Resort in Pagudpud was the Bangui Valley observation deck. It was a bit hazy and there were electric cables everywhere, but it was still quite beautiful. We couldn't see all 20 windmills, though, unlike in 2009 when I was standing right next to one and had an unobstructed view of the entire beach.
I decided against going down to meet the windmills face-to-face this time because we had to reach the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation before it got too hot. And boy, was it a hot day.
It was my first time at Kapurpurawan and the alien landscape was truly stunning. It's an easy walk along a concrete pathway or you could ride a pony.
The front, or the side that one sees first, has been roped off, but you can still climb up the back. It's slippery in some places and it was just scorching, so we didn't stay long. I wonder how it looks at sunset.
We were told that they're erecting 40 windmills in this area very soon. I'm all for clean energy and I hope they do it right. Fingers crossed.
It was barely 11AM and it felt like we had just finished breakfast, but when our driver Lawrence suggested lunch at a roadside eatery called Five Star, we all perked up.
Everybody loved the simple, no-frills pork adobo and fresh, clean-tasting fish sinigang...
But we all went nuts over the chicken nasty bits. Liver, gizzard, and yez, that's a teeny tiny heart.
The goat papaitan, made with bile, was amazing. For me, this dish perfectly represents Ilocano cuisine. It uses every part of the animal-- nothing wasted-- and the flavor is predominantly bitter. Ilocanos believe that you have to taste the bitter so that you can appreciate the sweet, and after four days of stuffing my face with the regional specialties, I tend to agree.
The star of our meal was the pokpoklo-- a local seaweed which I had never seen before. Topped with chopped tomatoes, sprinkled with rock salt, no dressing. Fantastic!
After lunch, we went to Pasuquin Bakery to buy some biscocho for the folks back home. Pillowy-soft and scented with anise, they were unlike any biscocho I had ever tasted. Definitely a must-buy.
And then we were back in Laoag. We stopped at Museo Ilocos Norte for a bit of culture and cake (next door) before driving to the lovely town of Sarrat.
So glad that I decided not to skip Santa Monica Church in Sarrat! Absolutely gorgeous.
Too bad we arrived during siesta time. There was nobody around to unlock the doors and let us in.
The Santa Monica Parish Museum to the right of the church was closed, too. Nevertheless, we were impressed by the exterior with the old window frames and brickwork.
The last time I was at Malacañang of the North, I only got as close as the parking lot-- crazy tricycle driver didn't tell us it was closed on Mondays.
It's much smaller and plainer than I thought it would be. I've been to Malacañang Palace in Manila, and this is like a poor relation. The façade and ground floor are unremarkable except for the life-sized portraits of Apo and Madam.
But the second floor is very, very nice. Spacious and airy, and the veranda has a breathtaking view of Paoay Lake.
It's just a shame that the old wooden furniture, oil paintings and hardwood floors are not taken care of properly. The Filipino people's blood, sweat and wears were used to build and furnish this house. Shouldn't let it all go to waste.
We couldn't not go to Batac, if only for the empanada. Fortunately, we made it right before the Marcos Mausoleum was closed for the day and were able to pay our respects to Apo. But really, I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into a freshly-fried nuclear-orange empanada.
(I've discovered that I much prefer this to Vigan's empanada. It's less greasy, the wrapper holds together better and the longganisa is more garlicky. Or maybe I just like the color.)
Ooh, empanada innards. Just look at that thing of beauty: shredded green papaya, mung bean sprouts, longganisa and egg in a crispy rice flour wrapper. I ate one and a half all by myself, dousing them generously with the caramelly dark sukang Iloko. I have developed a serious addiction to this stuff, but I don't think I will want to eat it outside of Batac anymore. Yez, I have been spoiled for life.
Our last stop on our Ilocandia adventure before we had to go back to Laoag City to catch our flight to Manila was Paoay Church. To be continued...