Laoag was about two hours away from Vigan, and we checked into Fort Ilokandia hotel.
Kes paid for our room, and Ems and I were so tired from all the daytime excitement that we just ordered the Ilokano specialty bagnet from room service for dinner. We also ate some of the bibingka which was supposed to be our pasalubong. We couldn’t resist!
The next morning we had luxurious hot showers before changing and having a buffet breakfast at the hotel. We complained about the thick hard bacon and loved the cheese omelet. Kes ate all the watermelon pieces from our shared bowl of fruit salad.
We were back on the road in a while, and lucky for us, Les, who was behind the wheel, knew the place and we need not consult a map nor ask for directions from roadside strangers which would have been the case if Kes had been the one driving.
He took us first to the Malacañang of the North, the home of the Marcoses while they were in power in the 70’s.
I got quite a scare when I first stepped inside because some Korean guy inside resembled the late president and my heart did a flip because for a split second, I wondered if I had seen a ghost.
The rooms and beds were really huge, especially Imelda’s (the first lady). When we sat on the bed to have our picture taken (Les had taken over Minggoy’s role as tour guide-slash-photographer), some Koreans also photographed us.
When we asked Les to join us and if they could take our picture, the Korean guy complimented Les, saying, “Such a handsome boy!”
Lesli’s reply? “You too.”
We girls bit our lips to keep from laughing out loud. Why couldn’t he have just said thank you?
We toured the entire house and when we were out on the balcony, the Korean was there again, taking our picture.
Before we left the place, we had some coconut juice fresh out of the shell and we felt the eyes of two buses full of Koreans on us. They probably found amusing the sight of tourists in their own land.
Our next stop was the Paoay Church, where the breeze was so strong that Kes and Ems had a hard time controlling their long hair for our pictorials. This is one moment I’m glad that my hair is so short and manageable.
Next in line was the sinking bell tower, which was not as remarkable as the one in Vigan.
Then we stopped by the Marcos mausoleum, where the preserved body of President Marcos was encased in glass. The room was very dark, with strains of creepy music playing, that we felt the hairs at the back of our neck stand as we looked at him in eternal repose. My imagination was running wild, I felt as though he could stand up at any moment, so I was quick to get out of there.
We then had lunch at the Laoag plaza, where we had a jumbo empanada (Laoag’s is colored orange compared to Vigan’s yellow) and miki, which was thick and tasty.
Then we were enroute to Pagudpud, and see the Bangui windmills on the way. Unfortunately there was a typhoon and it began to rain, so we decided to head back to Fort Ilokandia. Anywhow, we were already able to see the windmills the previous day when we drove from Tuguegarao to Vigan.
Once at the hotel, we rented a horse-drawn carriage to tour the entire place. Les did not join us but decided to wallop 40 golf balls on the driving range while we were touring.
Fort Ilokandia, unlike your typical 5 star hotel, was also a resort, so there was a lot of ground to cover and sights to see.
We had several stops for photo ops along the way, and our driver, completely garbed in cowboy attire (with hat and boots), was ever ready to take our shots. We checked out the paintball fields, the beach, the swimming pool, the ATV tracks, the sunset lounge.
When we were deposited back on the driving range, Les managed to ask for 10 golf balls so we could also try our hand at this sport for rich folks.
While none of us were able to get any holes in one, at least we were able to get some magnificent shots with the backdrop of the setting sun.
Then we headed back to our rooms to freshen up, and along the way, we saw a fountain and decided to have some more photo ops.
Then we changed and had dinner at a Chinese restaurant inside the hotel. Kes did not like Chinese food, so we picked a meal for her that was not too Chinese. Les was a fan of it, though, and he had us try the seafood rolls and the chicken feet.
In the end, he footed the bill and would not accept our money.
Ems asked, “Why are you like that? Heidz and I budgeted for this, okay?”
He just laughed and said, since we’re not always together, this was his treat. I shot a look at Ems, because our dinner last night and our lunch today had also been his treat. Omigosh!
After dinner we girls decided to hang out in Lesli’s room with the pack of cards that Minggoy had given us. We taught him our favorite card game, the memory game, and we beat him at it so that he had to dance the papaya dance as a consequence.
After much persuasion, he finally obliged, and we shrieked with laughter upon seeing his shaking shoulders. After one game we decided to go back to our room.
The next morning it was still raining so we did not go outside anymore. We had the buffet breakfast once again before packing our things and checking out of the hotel.
Les drove us to the Laoag airport, and after verifying from the guard that our flight had not been cancelled due to the typhoon, Ems and I bid our goodbyes and checked ourselves in, whereupon we discovered that our flight had been delayed for two hours but that they were serving us lunch for this inconvenience.
Lunch turned out to be Jollibee chickenjoy, which we enjoyed after having a back massage which we paid for. We were able to take off at past 3pm, and when we landed in Manila and I turned on my cellphone, my first text message was from my teammate Jewel, informing me of an office issue. Crap.
I texted back that I would head straight to the office from the airport, which I did, in my shorts and flip-flops, with my carry-on luggage in tow. I stayed in the office till 10pm to close some issues that cropped up.
The vacation was over. I was back in the real world again.