{The Wandering Cook}Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur – Part 1

After two long years, I have finally had the chance to post another entry but this time, something new — a travel entry under the The Wandering Cook category.

The Ilocos region is in the northwestern part of the the Luzon islands here in the Philippines. It is known for their salt beds, pungent vinegar, varied empanadas, garlicky longganisa and crispy bagnet. It is divided into two distinct provinces – Ilocos Norte (the northern province) and Ilocos Sur (the southern province).Because of their location, the long drive from municipality to municipality will not matter since most of the time, on one side you will marvel at the West Philippine Sea while on the other side, the vast farmlands.


Clockwise (from top left): Bantay Bell Tower, Marcos Museum, Paoay Church, Ilocos Norte Capitol and Plaza

Our journey started at 9 in the evening where we went to the meeting place straight from work. The travel agency, McTrail Travel and Tours, provided a well-organized itinerary. Since it would take around 8 to 10 hours to reach Ilocos, the 9pm trip would be ideal for us to reach Vigan, the capital city of Ilocos Sur and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, by 5 in the morning and take photographs of the famous Calle Crisologo inside the Heritage City while there are not much people around. I can still remember how cold it was when we stepped out of the van and as we walked along the street at 5am. I was so thankful that I brought with me a thick jacket with a hoodie to protect me from the cold. This was a recurrent theme during the whole 3 days we spent in the region. December for me and according to our guide is the best time to visit Ilocos since there are not much people (compared to summer) and the weather, the cold yet relaxing weather.

After the initial stop to the famous street, we headed over to Hidden Garden for breakfast. It was a choice between 3 -silogs (sinangag or garlic fried rice and itlog or egg): longsilog which is Vigan longganisa or sausage, tapsilog which is tapa or meat jerky, or bagnetsilog for bag net which is famous in Ilokano cuisine. I opted for the longsilog and not the bagnetsilog because I wanted to start the trip with low cholesterol. It was not what I was used to. It was grainy in texture with some sort of a canned liver after taste instead of that sour garlicky flavour the the Vigan longganisa is known for. Also, the egg they served was not runny. I want my egg to be runny with my longganisa. The bagnetsilog which 75% of our group had was crunch-amazing and succulent as it should be. And yes, I grabbed a bite of it!


Longsilog from Hidden Garden

At around 11am, after a trip to Gov. Singson’s Baluarte, which, if I may say, was not properly maintained, we headed over to Paoay at Culili Point for the sand dunes. It was amazing! The sights were awesome and it was an experience to remember. It all ended after an hour with unlimited sand boarding – didn’t get to stand though.


At the sand dunes of Paoay and the endless stretch of sea.

Since we were in Paoay already, we had lunch in some side street store where I had igado, a flavourful stew of pork meat, pork liver and some other seasonings, and pakbet, sautéed vegetables with fermented fish sauce – both classic Ilokano dishes. We then crossed the street to see the UNESCO Heritage site that is the Paoay Church.

We ended our first day in Ilocos with dinner at Saramsam Restaurant in which we ordered mostly Ilokano food. For me, they were exceptional. But for the Ilokanos in the group, they were unimpressed. Below are the photographs of the food we ordered at the restaurant.

okoy and lumpia

Foreground: Saniata lumpiang shanghai – a fried spring roll filled with dragon fruit flowers | Background: Okoy – a mixture of batter and tiny shrimps deep-fried in oil


Poqui-poqui – a vegetable dish comprised of mashed grilled eggplants sautéed with garlic, onions and tomatoes finished with eggs


Insarabasab – a mix of grilled pork meat and sometimes parts from the pig’s face mixed with chillies, onions, vinegar and other spices


Dinakdakan – Comprised of grilled pig face parts, this is known as the Ilokano’s version of sisig. According to some, an authentic dinakdakan has pig’s brain.


Bagnet with KBL – KBL is short for kamatis (tomatoes), bagoong (fermented fish sauce) and I’m guessing leeks for the green onions heh.




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