Thursday, December 3, 2020
Home Essay When semester ends in Ilocos

When semester ends in Ilocos

From a terror professor to a perfectionist boss. From a thrilling thesis oral defense to unending weekly reports. From lively classrooms to silent offices. From a two-month annual summer break to a two-day, incomplete rest in a week. Indeed such big differences for someone who just went from sleepless nights due to school duties to sleepless days and nights due to what they call “adulting phase.”

Before I completely stress you out about why I do not like this stage of transition, let me at least share one of my greatest experiences in my last year of college with my friends as a break from all the academic stresses and the pressures of being a campus writer just to make sure that I will be able to march forward on that very precious day of graduation.

After finishing the first semester of my fourth year and getting a passing grade on thesis proposal defense, my friends and I decided to go to an Ilocos trip. We thought we needed to enjoy a few days away from our demanding academic life by traveling to a place in the Philippines that we always wanted to visit. We had our first stop in Vigan, then Laoag, then Pagudpud, then Vigan again. It was a thrilling three-day adventure with the people I will always be proud of (because we all graduated on time).

KISSING AN OLD MAN: A VIGAN TAHO EXPERIENCE

Probably the thought of not yet brushing my teeth after 13 long hours of travel to Vigan, Ilocos Sur with no bath and no breakfast made my morning a bit lousy. I was about go back to our van from where our driver dropped us for a little stopover when I suddenly heard a familiar sound. A very recognizable voice in a place where I’ve never been before—the sound of a taho vendor calling for his first customer.

Approaching the old man, whom I guess rises a lot earlier than I do on a regular basis, I saw him at approximately six feet from where I was standing. He was smiling at me. I am betting all my money, nothing beats the face of a taho vendor who’s ready to make his first scoop for his first customer. Before I even finished asking him about the price, he said “bente” gladly.

Even if we are calling it “taho” in Laguna, and they’re also calling it “taho” here in Vigan, I can distinguish the difference between the two and in every taho I’ve tasted before. They are like identical individuals having their own tastes and personalities. I am honestly saying that this one tastes like a burnt syrup, like burnt sugar from an overcooked banana-cue.

What’s better about the Vigan taho is that I was sipping it while embracing the view of the famous Calle Crisologo, with no tourists trying to invade my spot (because it was just 4 a.m.), just the quiet and good sensation that this taho—the taste of their history in every sip.

Calle Crisologo is famous for its houses and structures that bring the people to the past. The houses have large windows and doors made from wood and capiz that date back to 18th century. The walls are made of stones and timber with old facades. They have preserved the structure of our own Bahay Kubo with the first floor designed for commercial activities of the residents and the second floor serving as their living area.

So did I really kiss an old man? No.

What I know is that the place gave me the feeling like I am caressing and pressing my lips against the nostalgic walls of this old street as I was being smooched by the smile of a 63-year old taho vendor who just sold his first cup in the morning.

HISTORICAL LANDMARKS TO SLIPPERY SANDS

Visiting olden churches and its aged objects inside always gives me drips of cold sweats caused by both fright and excitement. It isn’t everyday that you enter an old structure and suddenly you can feel what it has been through—not just how the churches were preserved but how the culture of the community was kept by its people. Seeing artifacts and pre-colonial clothing and tools with my own eyes astonishes me more than just seeing their photos on social media.

It was really astonishing to see lots of churches and heritage built from the times of our ancestors.

I was feeling exhausted but I was really expecting more thrill on our first day on the trip. Luckily, our last stop brought us to La Paz Sand Dunes—a place where all you can see is sand which looks like a bunch of hills but just obviously, made of sand. There, you can rent a 4×4 rough riding vehicle. And if you always dreamed of going snowboarding, this is your chance. They have unlimited, sandboarding!

It’s no frozen slopes and no thick, bulky winter jackets but you’ll still get the hang of it in a blazing, pleasant afternoon. The 4×4 ride only allows five people, and our number exceeds that. We decided not to take it. Instead, we climbed on the top of the sand dunes to see the tremendous view across. It was exhausting and to tell you frankly, very slippery. But the view of the sea beyond the vast area of sand is worth it, not to mention I was with my friends up there.

We finished the day hopping from heritage sites to historical landmarks— quite an exhausting activity in Laoag for the first day. All we needed now was a comfortable bed and a relaxing spot to sit and muse about our stay.

Century Garden Hotel, a very sensational, classy, nipa-hut themed hotel located in Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte accommodated us for almost three days. After eating our dinner and resting for a few minutes, we decided to make a splash in their pool. It was a  fun night having good conversation with my friends while soaked in lukewarm water under a very serene night sky in Ilocos.

BIG WAVES LOVE AFFAIR

White sand. Enormous sea. Endless shore. Big waves. Rock pebbles. These excite me. And guess what, I just realized that I will never trade my flip-flops for fancy stilettos out there.

Seeing the itinerary for the second day, which was mostly beaches and rock formations, I really could not contain the bliss I felt that day.

Whenever I felt worn-out from being a student and an editor of our campus publication, I would go on a walk along the sea shore. I’d rest and just listen to what the waves were trying to tell me.

This time, I had my fill gazing at the towering lighthouses, breathtaking rock formations, and the well-known tourist attraction—Ilocos’ windmills. They were enormous and looked like they had a life of their own. The windmills were beautiful and awesome, standing near the sea, along the very road we took. The rush I felt from hearing the sea waves was indescribable.

And then finally, we had the chance to spend five hours on Pagudpud, at Hannah’s Beach Resort. We ran against the waves. I got a henna tattoo on the beach. Located right at the beach was what seemed to me as the longest zipline in the world, all 1.2 kilometers above the sea.

This is the place for all adventure lovers! From white sand beaches, steep lighthouses, to long ziplines and bridges at the foot of the mountain. They all have it. You’ll be drowned by the sight of superb blue waters and all the accessories that have shells and rock pebbles in it. You’ll never want to swim in the beaches of California without experiencing the waters of Pagudpud first!

MOLD IT!

Have you ever had that feeling where you know you can’t make a single mistake because if you did, everything will surely go wrong and you’ll end up picking the pieces and have to start over again? Well, if you are one delicate person and want a serene way to relax, then Vigan is for you.

We went back to Calle Crisologo and we decided to stay there and rent a tricycle to tour us around.What I can remember is that we went to a pottery shop called Pagburnayanand thought we will just drop by to see the products there.

To my surprise, the potters offered to teach us how to mold clay pots. I was hesitant at first because I might just screw the whole thing up and cause a mess in there, or worse, pay for the things I might ruin. But I always wanted to try something that I only saw in Asian dramas. I thought they were using a machine to spin the mud, but it was all done manually. For the record, it wasn’t easy. Just a little move of your finger and it can cause a big change to the design that you have in mind. As I finished the pottery I made, I put some details on it including my name. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to take it home because it takes a week or more to dry.

Preparing for home, I realized that you can both have your graduation and memorable trips with your friends. You should not restrict yourself from traveling, especially with your closest college friends. Everyone who are past this experience knows that the last year in college should not be taken as a burden. It is  an adventure. Who knows, you might barely see each other after walking up that stage and taking your diplomas. And truth be told, it’s harder to pack your bags and have some adventures when you’re held by your laptop and your boss at work. Until next time, Ilocos!

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