“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber
Phew! Finally, I found the time to write. October flew by in a breeze, and before I knew it, the month was already over. If what I planned became reality, I would have been regaling you with stories about my travel around the islands of Panay and Negros, even making you jealous of the fun I had with the recently-concluded Masskara Festival.
But no, nature had its way of making a joke on me. Just as I figured out everything, made reservations and did a rebooking, a family emergency forced me to cancel my plans. After all, family comes first. But somehow, I still find myself regretting cancelling my reservations and missing my supposed flights — not only because of the dent it caused on my already sinking fund, but also because I let go of the only concrete travel plan I had since I quit my job.
Hence, since the middle of October, I have been shuttling back and forth to Ilocos, the home province of my parents. I remained in Sinait for the larger part of my stay, and spent another half of a week in Narvacan. While I spent most of my childhood summers in Ilocos, this has been the longest visit I had since my pre-teen years.
Allow me, then, to start a series of posts about my most recent visit to the province of Ilocos. Let me bring you around some of its towns and reveal some of its secrets to you.
Unless you’re heading to the northern tip of the Philippines, I see almost no point in taking a flight. Not only does it cost much more, but the time savings are almost negligible if you take the night trip. In case you’re an avid flyer, both Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific fly to Laoag.
Several bus companies ply the route to the Northwest Luzon region. Ilocos Norte-bound buses are Florida Transport, Farinas Transit and Maria de Leon Trans. Partas Trans, Dominion Bus Lines, Viron Transit and Aniceto Bus Line cater to Ilocos Sur passengers. (Note: Partas also has buses to Ilocos Norte, but they still don’t have restrooms.)
Buses bound for Ilocos Sur often do not have a comfort room inside the bus, with the exception of Dominion. Aniceto remains to be the cheapest, with its fare to Vigan being just P400. Partas is the most expensive at P680. Viron has a very uncomfortable seat, which was covered in plastic hence making you slide when the bus goes into a full stop. Buses bound for Ilocos Norte generally have more comfortable seating and even have restrooms inside them as long as you take the deluxe bus. Upgrade to the super deluxe bus and you get wider seats, with only three seats in every row.
My favorite remains to be Florida, in spite of the horrible accident it had last year. Of all the buses I’ve ridden on this route (I haven’t tried Farinas and Dominion though), Florida still has the best value for money. It has comfortable seats, fairly new buses and reasonable fares. The downside? Florida only accepts reservations on the day of travel. The other bad thing now that it resumed operations is that there’s no fixed schedule for the trips yet. The only sure thing is that they have an almost hourly departure for the Ilocos region.
A word of warning: Bring a jacket, a blanket and a pair of socks for your travel. Don’t wear shorts! You will surely freeze during the ride. This applies to most of the buses plying the Ilocos route.
Thinking of driving? Make sure to use the expressways NLEX, SCTEX and TPLEX to reduce travel time.
Travel during the night ranges from 6.5 hours (to Narvacan or Vigan) to 8.5 hours (to Laoag). Travel during the day takes considerably longer.
Another word of caution: Partas is notorious for having so many long stops throughout its trip. My cousin who left Manila at 12 midnight arrived at almost 12 noon due to this! Apparently, it’s a well-known fact among Ilocanos.
Just in case you love glancing at your watch, here’s my idea of travel times. Note that I usually travel to the region at night, while travel within Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte during the day.
Expressways – 2.5 hours (From Balintawak to Rosales)
Pangasinan – 30 minutes
La Union – 2 hours
Ilocos Sur (Tagudin to Narvacan) – 1 hour
Ilocos Sur (Narvacan to Vigan) – 30 minutes
Ilocos Sur (Vigan to Sinait) – 30 minutes
Ilocos Norte (Badoc to Laoag) – 45 minutes
Ilocos Norte (Laoag to Pagudpud) – 1.5 hours
As of October 2014, there are a lot of road works between Vigan and Sinait, making the travel time double than the one suggested above.
Got more tips? Feel free to post below. Don’t forget to check my DIY travel guide to Ilocos.
Until next time…happy travels!