Archive for ilocos norte

(lg2a) way to go

Posted in artifacts, culture, events, food, history, letsgopinas goes to america, lifestyle, locales, people, technology, tradition, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2010 by mijodo

 

It all started with a passion for photography, and some skill in writing.  Then I started to create a blog that should document all my travels , and probably show off a portfolio of pictures and articles which have been published not only in the world wide web but also in some of the more prestigious inflight and travel magazines that have literally crossed not only the shores within the Philippines, but across the whole globe.
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For many of the travel articles on this blog, Lets Go Pinas, the writing and photography are brought about not only by my interest and skills, but because of the circumstances that have brought me to many sections of the Philippines, and lately, to the vast areas of North America.
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Several weeks ago, I was invited by my cousin Barbara, and her husband, Eliot, to check on an idyllic community, west of Detroit, Michigan, using their Recreational Vehicle or RV. Basically an RV is a motorhome which can bring all the residential trappings as you go from one place to another inside a vehicle as large as a bus.  Our RV can accommodate probably about 4 people to sleep on its beds, even while the the RV is moving.  In  our vehicle, there is a full functioning kitchen and a restroom that can even supply heated water for showers.  Of course, there are amenities like the television, a comfortable couch, and table and chairs for dining. To travel the roads using such behemoth is truly a luxurious experience.
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Just recently, another posh mode of transportation that gives that high and exhilirating feel would be gondola lifts that are propelled by cable lines usually on steep areas such as atop the mountains. This kind of vehicle provides the riders stunning scenic vistas of verdant mountains during summers or ice-capped mountain areas during winter times.
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However obviously, it is not always that I get to ride such deluxe transportation.  Many times, while travelling alone to create articles and photos for magazine publication, I get to employ lowly vehicles, such as tricycles which I usually get to rent for the whole day, at very minimal cost, to take me into the hinterlands. For me, these trikes -not the jeepneys – are the real kings of the road in the provinces since there are more of them that take you directly to the exact places, even if they are quite remote.
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But for sheer excitement, the habal-habal of many island provinces in the Philippines takes the cake.  Again for some small fare, one can lease on such services of a motorcycle, and hop on at the back of the driver, and explore outlying destinations whether in the beaches or in the hills and mountains.  It may be a little dangerous as there is no gear provided just in case accidents occur. However definitely, using such motor bikes while my face is against the wind is already an adventure in itself.
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Many times, the proverbial line – the journey may be even more interesting than the destination itself – is quite true. I personally have collected some anecdotes and stories that have wiggled out during such trips.  One time, in Ilocos Norte, I had to ask my trike driver where La Paz Ilocos Dunes was.  But the driver seemed not to know where it was, or if there even was one around Laoag. So I had to describe it through another way – where Action King FPJ had done his epic movie classics: Ang Panday (series).  In a jiffy, he was able to bring me where I had wanted.
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By just constantly hiring tricycles throughout my trip to Ilocos, I was able to gather some quaint observation about the differences in tricycle sizes from one province to another,  The ones in Ilocos Sur are a lot roomier whereas the ones in Ilocos Norte may only fit one person inside their cabs, and one may even have some difficulty in getting out from the space as their trikes are short and squatlike. 
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I have met some interesting and even familiar faces just by waiting out at the airports or bus terminals, boarding on boats and ships, talking with cab drivers and fellow bus passengers, and hanging on to dangerous habal- habal and speeding jeepneys for dear life.
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However, it is most meaningful to share transport space with family and friends – from my great parents, Lita and Glicerio, constant, travel partner, Ate Mae in the Philippines to the people here in the United States and Canada, such as my sisters, Jane and Christie, brothers in law, Edgar and Rashid, beautiful niece, Ernestine, Uncle Isdoc and Auntie Lelita, Uncle Nary and Auntie Gaying, and cousins Al and Gisela,  Baby Liz, and of course RV owners, Barbara and her husband Eliot.  Thank you very much. Till our next trip together, guys. Happy New Year, and way to go, for Year 2011!
 
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duned

Posted in history, locales, nature, people with tags , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2009 by mijodo

lonely road at la paz sand dune

Cousin Mayette and I just had to go to our last destination after covering much of Ilocandia. It seems that every year, during summer there has been a place that we try to discover within the Philippines. Last year, it was the carved boondocks of Banaue, and then this year, it was the heritage places of Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte.

It was imperative to go this area as our last stop, not necessarily antiquated by the colonial past, but spectacular just the same. It was the La Paz Sand Dunes of Ilocos Norte. These hilly sands are just outside of Laoag City, thus after our quick tour of the Provincial Museum of Ilocos Norte, we had to look for a tricycle that should take us there.

“Mama, puwede bang dalhin mo kami sa La Paz sand dunes (Sir, can you drive us to La Paz Sand Dunes)?”I asked the trike driver who happened to passby.

The driver just responded with a quizzical look, not exactly knowing the place that I was referring to. Mayette had to intervene, and asked almost the same question but in a different manner, “Manong, saan po ba nagshooting si FPJ ng Ang Panday (Sir, where did FPJ shoot Ang Panday)?”

The trike driver recognized her question right away and was able to readily answer, “Malayo po yon, P300 daan po. (That’s far, P300 pesos for the fare)”

 We had no choice but to consent with the seemingly huge expense, despite the very uncomfortable ride inside his cab. We agreed with one trike driver in Vigan, Ilocos Sur as he had boasted that tricycle cabs in Vigan are much roomier, and can comfortably seat two adults. The ones in Ilocos Norte aresquat-like and small in proportion thus we had to squeeze ourselves inside the cab going to the dunes.

Panday and the Dunes. It was about a 15 minute ride from the busy streets of Laoag until we reached the place that was bucolic in character – dry, dusty, and sparse in residential homes. There was just one rough road, covered with seeming dust all over, and somehow was occasionally used. The place was desolate, but turned out to be the just the entry point to a more expansive locale, with mounds of fine sand all over, light khaki in shade, with thin layers of wild vegetation growing randomly. At this juncture, we had to get off the tricycle, and had the wide vista for ourselves.

Suddenly my mind had this vision of the iconic movie of “Da King” himself, the late and almost president, Fernando Poe, Jr or FPJ (for short) as had mentioned in Mayette’s query to the driver. In the epic series of all the movie installments (3) of “Ang Panday (The Blacksmith),” I would watch FPJ as the highly principled, Flavio, brooding and making a trek in this hilly area of La Paz, trying to find his arch nemesis, Lizardo, played by the unforgettable contrabida (movie goon), the late Max Alvarado.

The scale of the whole dunes brought about also the hugeness of the main characters to the moviegoers – both the good and the bad. La Paz Sand Dunes provided a striking backdrop to the fight sequences, usually sword battles, between the protagonist and antagonist together with his cohorts. It had been an impressive choice by FPJ who doubled as the director to employ the whole La Paz dunes as an important feature to the movie.  Its dryness and barrenness created a dramatic emphasis on the richness of Flavio and Lizardo’s personas. Since these outstanding and highly popular movies were made, the landscape of La Paz has become truly iconic – as if the whole breadth of the place was the third most important personality in such films.

Other notable movies which had the dunes as part of the backdrop were Nora Aunor’s Himala and Tom Cruise’s Born on the 4th of July.

Wind Power. My visualization of such films was cut short by a key question. “How did this happen?” Mayette asked, still dumbfounded by the powerful and poetic undulations of the dunes.

No one could answer it, not even the trike driver who was patiently waiting for us to crawl back to our little trike hole. Of course we would rather be enjoying the virtual limitless space of the desert where occasional boulders and strange looking trees were almost thoughtfully placed.

But if one is to research the internet, we can find out that dunes are basically formed by the incoming wind within perhaps eons of years. The geographic location of the La Paz area is just right beside the deep blue waters of the South China Sea and the winds coming from the coast push up the sand very slowly to create the dunes that can be used as protective barriers to wave surges coming in also from the sea.

And truly we saw the coastal line of the South China Sea running parallel to the extensive sand dunes of La Paz. It was a little too far from where we are, but we saw a couple of all terrain vehicles or ATVs that saunter at the beach front area. Apparently, the provincial tourism officials, together with the Department of Tourism promote the dunes to those wanting to explore a unique Philippine geophysical formation, supposedly only found in the province of Ilocos Norte, and have fun, driving through its atypical topography with such rides. It is said that one can rent out such ATVs also inside the premises of the exclusive Hotel Ilocandia nearby where a smaller portion of the sand dunes are found too.

Footprints in the Sand. During the heat of the midday sun, we decided to climb a high portion of the area, but our feet would sink into the loose ground, thus the ascent was a little bit tricky. Not really able to get to the peak, we chose to go back as we feared that the unusual afternoon showers even during the height of summer would stall our early evening bus departure for Metro Manila.

As I was just about to get out of the sands, I just had to make a last look back at the foot imprints Mayette and I had made. And I pointed out these tracks to Mayette. It was our trail from the high point where we came from. We knew that in due time such prints would be obliterated eventually by the winds coming from the China Sea, but I was deeply aware that such footprints symbolized also the tracks of all the interesting points of the Ilocos Region that we had been able to visit. We might have been gone to many remarkable and historical places within Ilocos, and the physical traces of our visit would have been wiped away thereafter, yet our memories of these places, including the La Paz Sand Dunes would never be erased for many years to come.

in good hands

Posted in artifacts, culture, history, lifestyle, locales, people, tradition, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2009 by mijodo

man toiling at burnay factory

It has been said, time and time again, that probably among all Filipinos, the Ilocanos could be the most hardworking people. Pretty much, the environment and the climate, may have pushed the folks from Ilocos region to work harder and toil longer.  The soaring heat during summers makes cultivation and farming more arduous. Searing photos have been taken of cracking soil, as water resource gets depleted and becomes more precious.

Since production delivery becomes scant,  Ilocanos have learned to stretch whatever stock and possessions they have until the next crop yield. In due time, Ilocanos earned the monicker of being the “most frugal Filipinos.”  Apparently, they somehow have been proud of such description as it captures their resilience and the know-how in handling their finances.

As Ilocanos try to come up with greater agricultural production efficiency through the centuries despite the conditions, they have also gone to other homebased entrepreneurial activities, which have been esteemed and marvelled for several centuries as well.  Such traditional crafts have also made use of the great handskills of the people from the north. Ladies have gone to abel-weaving while the men have gone to burnay-pottery.

Abel weaving is a centuries old craft that produces abel- iloco or inabel, using wooden loom equipment. The cotton threads, used in abel weaving, during the old times were usually dyed before the weaving which should produce interesting folkloric color combinations that only the Ilocanos could produce.  It is said that abel weaving started out in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, but there has been production coming from parts of Ilocos Norte as well.  As the weaves are thick and coarse, the cloth is usually utilized as rags, blankets and other home products. However somehow today, designers have treated the same inabel material for high fashion.

Introduced by Chinesed merchants, burnay is an earthenware produced in different sections of Ilocos region, but is said to be popularly made in Ilocos Sur. Burnay has been used as a vessel to store grains and rice, and to ferment kitchen needs such as bagoong, wine or vinegar. Burnay-makers would use special clay such that water would not seep out from the jars, and maintain cool temperature. Such vats are sturdy enough because of the way they have been baked. Consequently, jars, done centuries back, are much sought after by antique collectors.

It is a testament to the Ilocanos that such old traditional backyard activities have survived until now. They have honed these specific handskills through history, just like any other Ilocano way of life activities – with effort, adept, and passion.

wedding of the year

Posted in architecture, artifacts, events, fashion, history, lifestyle, locales, people, religion, sports, tradition, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2009 by mijodo

sta monica church of sarrat 

The story could have come from a tv soap opera in epic proportion.

A story of strong political couple, willfully ruling a place for some decades, with a vision of creating a perfect  familial image.

In the early 1980s, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos might have  tried mightily to control the minds of the Filipinos from their Malacanang Palace, but surely enough, they were not able to restrain the heart of their first daughter, Imee.

Apparently, Imee, who was already making her own political mark, as National Chairperson of the Kabataang Barangay, fell in love with a married sportsman, Tommy Manotoc. Obviously, during that time when there were no cellphones, no text messaging, no emails, and even no freedom of the press, such salacious, portently scandalous story would have to be spread through hushed tones, and word of mouth.

And the story took a wilder, more frighteningly turn.  Tommy Manotoc was kidnapped. The alternative press such as We Forum, the precursor of Malaya Newspaper, had a heyday reporting the story, albeit there was a strong possibility of the paper being clamped down by Malacanang. Then all of a sudden Tommy Manotoc just came out of nowhere, reportedly from the New People’s Army camp in the mountains of Sierra Madre. But of course, the popular conclusion about this sordid tale was that Imelda masterminded the abduction.

Some years later, during in first few months of 1983, the youngest daughter, Irene would marry Greggy of the pedigreed and landed Araneta clan. Although Imee could maintain relationship with Tommy, and even start family of their own, they were not able to get the grand nuptials that the Marcoses wanted for them. Tommy who was able to get a divorce from beauty queen Aurora Pijuan could not merit another marriage as the Catholic Church would not allow such. Thus this time around, the Marcoses saw to it that a fabulous wedding would have to be prepared for Irene and Greggy.

Ryan Cayabyab, Irene’s personal friend and musical mentor from University of the Philippines, involved himself in composing a whole wedding cantata.  European designer Renato Balestra was tasked to do the Italian silk and Philippine pina cloth wedding gown.  The exclusive, and red bricked Fort Ilocandia Hotel in Laoag was rushed to beat the nuptial date deadline, as it was where many of the invited foreign dignitaries, esteemed government officials and chic members of the society would stay before, during and after the wedding. It was also the venue for the reception.

And of course, Irene and Greggy chose the heritage church of  the sleepy town of Sarrat, where the Edralin side (mother) of Ferdinand Marcos came from, and where the ancestral house still stands. The Baroque and Neo Classical Sta. Monica Church had to be cleaned up, spruced and refurbished for the wedding.  Hundreds were deployed to paint the walls of the edifice, and install large airconditioning  machines in the cavernous church building. And beside the church,  a huge tent was put up for the town’s local officials and people who might  not have the necessary credentials and status to get inside the official reception area, and yet should partake in the lavish food prepared.

True enough, it was the grand social event of that year for the Philippines as  the Marcoses, particularly Imelda would have envisioned. The local press put the event as the banner story, and paralleled it with the Diana and Charles’s royal wedding, a year before.

Some months later in  August, 1983, a strong earthquake shook the church. And some days later, again in August, Ninoy Aquino arrived and shook the Marcoses. And the seeming  telenovela story continued.