Location: La Union, Ilocos Region, Philippines
It is a fact that La Union is fast growing as a tourism-rich destination of the country. While you want to visit and enjoy them all, you really can't because of time constraint. Thus, you need to plan well to maximize your time and enjoyment while you also consider to manage your budget. Based on my experience, I did 20 things when I toured around La Union.
1. Enjoy a swim and a cliff dive in the majestic Tangadan Falls
. . . and enjoy nature trail of luxuriant flora and scenic green ricefields, clear and placid river, rock scrambling from the boulder rocks, and much more of its flora and fauna biodiversity.
A maximum of two hours in the water falls is not bad considering that the water is too cold. Remember, that the afternoon can be consumed for a city tour in San Fernando. Don't forget to bring with you trail food, enough drinking water and a light meal in going to the water falls.
2. Take a delightful meal when you are in the city from a variety of choices
For backpackers, affordable meals can be eaten for lunch in some fastfood chains like Jollibee, McDonalds, Kentucky and a few others. Besides, Jollibee and Kentucky are the nearest when you lift in the jeep terminal in the city. If you really wanted a food trip, you can read this link and pick your choice.
3. Stroll the lush town park
If you opted to take your lunch at either Jollibee or Kentucky, you just cross over the footbridge and enjoy the park's refreshing green with concrete benches and at night there is a soothing music to listen with.
4. Visit the historical Cathedral of Saint William, the Hermit
From the town park, you cross the street and presto! you find the Cathedral of Saint William in all its splendor. The street along it is a busy one.
You have the reason to visit this very historical landmark since it was originally built in 1773 but was damaged by an earthquake in 1892. It was again destroyed on February 26, 1945 during the liberation day from the Spaniards but it was reconstructed again by the residents through the efforts of Bishop Santiago C. Sancho in 1947-1949 and it was rededicated on February 10, 1949.
5. Gather some information of tourism value at the San Fernando City Hall
Coming out from the cathedral, turn right and just at the end of the block, you can cross to San Fernando City Hall. Its front is usually utilized as the center of city's activities like the first time I visited it which I witnessed an agro-trade fair and bamboo expo on February 22, 2016 on the occasion of La Union 166th Founding Anniversary
The city hall is just a block away from the town plaza where it also houses an amphitheater, the cathedral and from the establishments along its main national road. It's very accessible to any part of the city.
From this point, you can take a tricycle for an uphill ride for 5 minutes or walk for 10 minutes to the Pagoda Hill. It is in higher elevation anyway and a good vantage point overlooking the city.
6. Enjoy the breathtaking view of the City from the Filipino-Chinese Friendship Pagoda
You can take a tricycle to visit the Pagoda or trek uphill. It is in itself erected in what is known as Pagoda Hill where locals and tourists enjoy to unwind and relax.
7. Feast on the historical archive of the province in the Provincial Capitol's Tourism Office
From Pagoda, is only a 5-minute walk on the other end of the hill where the iconic La Union Provincial Capitol is located.
The very accommodating staff of Tourism office at the capitol were the ones who provided me with brochures and other relevant information to plan out for my second visit to the province.
8. Take pleasure in witnessing a Taoist culture
Take a tricycle from the Capitol to Ma-cho Taoist Temple and immerse yourself in seeing how the Chinese pray in this temple. This has been built and opened on September 11, 1975 by the substantial Chinese community under the leadership of Jose D. Aspiras and Dy Keh Hio.
The temple is open to the worshipers and non-worshipers alike, especially to the Catholics but proper decorum befitting places of worship must be observed. No entrance fee charge for the visitors.
9. Be a witness why San Juan has been tagged as the Surfing Capital of the North
Taking a jeepney right from the main gate of the Ma-cho Temple to San Juan surfing beach coast only costs P10 fare. The place has been dotted with accommodation facilities ranging from luxurious hotels and budget rooms.
This surfing destination has the best season in the months of October – April where it has the North Swell. It has the Philippine surf’s best kept secret, with clean waves reaching 8-10 feet on a good swell, it is perfect from beginners to advanced surfers.
For a detailed post about San Juan Surfing Capital and to see more of its vivid picture, you may read its related post in this link.
San Juan surfing site was my last destination of my Day 1 as I already arrived as late as 8:30 P.M. in my Tangadan tour guide's house in the name of Raymond Macaraeg in Barangay Bucao in San Gabriel for free accommodation. I regret I did not had my dinner in San Fernando City because I barely find an open restaurant in San Gabriel for dinner. I needed to buy one whole chicken for my dinner because they are not selling half size.
10. Trek and plunge to the mystical Kapandagan Falls
I started my Day 2 activity with a 40-minute drive from San Gabriel town proper to the jump-off point of Kapandagan Falls through my tour guide, Robert Nebres, in Barangay Amontoc and a 30-minute trek followed.
I consider the trek as very rewarding as I was completely communing with nature. The trail was moderately easy with occasional gradual assaults. However, as we got closer to the falls, boulders of rocks were increasingly evident.
On our drive way back to San Gabriel, I was completely astonished with the dramatic and picturesque hills, meadows and golden rice fields. The overlooking view of the lowlands was such a magnificent showcase of the countryside in all its splendor.
11. Refresh yourself in La Union Botanical Garden
As the Kapandagan Falls trekking requires almost the whole morning of Day 2, the rest of the afternoon can be spent for some other attractions i like the 5-hectare La Union Botanical Garden in Barangay Cadaclan which also serves as a recreational park which showcases itself as a research and conservation center of flora in the province. At the same time, it became a habitat of several species of birds and other animals. Its trails are trek-friendly.
12. Harvest grapes, guapples, dragon fruit and other high value crops at Lomboy Farms
From San Fernando City, you travel south to Barangay Urayong in the municipality of Bauang (La Union) to have the feeling of immersing yourself in a vast farm where unbelievably it is growing grapes and other fruits. I really can't believe that in a tropical country like the Philippines, grapes can be grown abundantly. This distance is only for 10 kilometers away from San Fernando City. You also have to consider the traffic factor because in San Fernando City alone, the main road has always have a heavy traffic.
If there is strawberry picking in La Trinidad of Benguet, there is also grape picking in Bauang, La Union here at Lomboy Farms for P300 per kilo. There are bed and breakfast accommodation for those who wanted to have an overnight stay or longer for farming experience immersion.
13. Spend your overnight of Day 2 in the Municipality of Balaoan
Instead of spending an overnight stay in Lomboy Farms, travel north for more than two hours because of traffic for a distance of 36.1 kilometers via MacArthur Highway/Manila North Road/Manor to the municipality of Balaoan in preparation for a Luna experience for Day 3
Actually, there is no bus that directly passes the municipality of Luna. Balaoan is the entry point going to Luna and as per request from the driver, I was dropped by him on the tricycle terminal leading to Luna. However, it was getting late and I was worried that staying overnight in Luna as a famous destination would be more expensive and so I decided to stay in Balaoan for a sleepover.
Arriving in Balaoan at 8:00 P.M. in my opinion was still early and I was glad I can see a few of restaurants around. I asked a balut vendor what is the best place to stay and he replied, the place has only El Navi Hotel for transients where I was forced to check-in. Tired of the whole day tour, I decided to sleep in my hotel room. When I woke up at 9:00 P.M., I was hungry then and decided to order food from the hotel but the hotel staff told me, they only have rice and no viand anymore as according to him, the kitchen staff do not stay in the hotel at night. I look for an open restaurant but there was none as they were all closed. Good that there was a chicken grilling station but unlike Mang Andok's in Manila that you can buy half grilled chicken, there you should buy one whole chicken. I had no choice then because I was so hungry.
14. If you are a Catholic, you can attend early morning mass at Balaoan Church
Since El Navi Hotel is just next to Balaoan Church or they call it San Nicolas de Tolentino Parish Church, I was awakened by the loud ringing of the church's massive antique bell. Thus, I started my Day 3 by attending a holy morning mass.
15. Be a pilgrim to the miraculous image of Saint Catherine of Alexandria housed in Luna Cathedral
Luna is only 5 kilometers from Balaoan which can be traveled through a tricycle by 10 minutes the most. The tricycle will drop you right in front of the Luna Cathedral.
While I just attended the early morning in Balaoan Church, I again attended another mass in Luna Church. Every after mass, I can see a queue of devotees and pilgrims giving veneration to the miraculous image of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. After such, I toured the whole church vicinity.
16. Wander into the uniqueness of Bahay na Bato of Luna
From Luna Church which is situated in the heart of the town, you need to take vehicle going to outskirts of the town around 10 minutes drive to Bahay na Bato.
Bahay na Bato is the resthouse of couple doctors Edison Noble and Purita Chan built in the year 2000 located in Barangay Nalvo Norte of Luna town, is now turned into an Open Art Gallery for public viewing with a general admission fee of P20 but those who are below 4 years old are free. It is mostly made up of pebbles where Luna is famous of because some of its locals make picking of pebbles as their means of income.
Its location is outside the town proper. If you have no vehicle, it is wise to charter a tricycle because there is no public transport going there. And let the driver wait for you while you are inside the area because there is no assurance that there will be an available transport for you in going back to the town proper.
17. Satisfy yourself with a little bit of historical value of Baluarte Watchtower
Boarding the same chartered tricycle, ask the driver to take you to the Baluarte watchtower. I realized then that this location is somewhat nearer to Luna church and I should have asked the driver to visit this site first had I knew it.
The town of Luna has an original name of Namacpacan but was later named after the two famous Luna brothers during the time of national hero, Jose Rizal since they were from this place where Juan Luna was an accomplished great painter while his brother Antonio Luna was a brilliant military strategist who led the troops against the Spanish forces.
18. Buy some colorful pebbles from Luna
When I was walking within the vicinity of Baluarte watchtower, some enterprising kids were offering me a pebble-filled bottle which when I looked at it, the pebbles were of different striking colors like precious gems. They were selling it for P100 only. Unfortunately, it was too heavy and my bag which I filled with my personal stuff for 3 days was also heavy. Thus, I did not buy them but I really regret having not bought one bottle for my souvenir.
19. Visit the miraculous image of Our Lady of Charity
From Luna town, you have to board again a tricycle going back to Balaoan to take a bus, just the same route as what you did in the morning. Since visiting Basilica Minore of Our Lady Charity was in my itinerary, I took a bus heading for Agoo which is travelling south of La Union where it took me 2 hours and 50 minutes for 61.8 kilometers via MacArthur Highway/Manila North Road/Manor.
20. Buy some pasalubong and souvenir items and take lunch in Agoo
After touring around the church, you can roam around the commercial district of the town to buy some pasalubong, herbal and ornamental plants, vegetables and some souvenir items. There are some establishments just opposite the street of the church.
Finally, the trip is over and you can now board a bus going back to Manila.
Below is an itinerary patterned from my actual travel just to give you an idea how long would it take to move from place to place but traffic should always be observed, thus, an allowance should also be considered:
23:30 ETD Partas Bus Terminal Aurora Blvd, Cubao, Quezon City
05:00 ETA Partas Bus Terminal San Fernando City
05:30 ETD San Gabriel Jeep Terminal in San Fernando City
06:15 ETA San Gabriel Municipal Hall
06:20 Breakfast nearby Eatery
06:45 ETA Raymond Ancestral House (optional since the guide can be met at the municipal hall)
08:00 ETD Raymond’s ancestral house boarding a tricycle
08:20 Jump-off point Brgy. Dagup and starts the trek
08:50 ETA Tangadan Falls
10:30 ETD Tangadan Falls
11:00 Jump-off point
11:20 Raymond’s house and take shower
12:00 ETD Raymond’s house
12:20 ETD San Gabriel Municipal Hall
13:20 Late Lunch at Jollibee San Fernando City opposite town plaza
13:50 Town Plaza
14:05 Saint William the Hermit Cathedral
14:25 San Fernando City Hall
14:45 Filipino-Chinese Pagoda Temple
15:00 La Union Provincial Capitol
15:25 Ma-cho Taoist Temple
15:50 San Juan Surfing Beach
18:00 ETD San Juan Surfing Beach
18:30 San Fernando City
19:30 San Gabriel and had late dinner
20:30 ETA Raymond’s House (Rest Overnight)
05:00 Wake-up call
06:00 Meet the guide in San Gabriel Municipal Hall and had breakfast
06:40 ETD San Gabriel Municipal Hall boarding single motorcycle
07:20 Jump-off point in Barangay Amontoc and starts trek
07:50 ETA Kapandagan Falls
10:00 ETD Kapandagan Falls
10:40 Jump-off point
11:20 ETA Raymond's house in Barangay Bucao and take shower
12:00 ETD Brgy. Bucao
12:30 ETD San Gabriel (consider waiting for the jeep to be fully filled)
13:30 San Fernando City and take late lunch
14:20 ETA Botanical Garden
15:00 ETD Botanical Garden
16:30 ETA Lomboy’s Farm
17:30 ETD Lomboy’s Farm
17:50 ETD Agoo
20:00 ETA Balaoan for sleepover
05:00 Wake-up call
06:00 Attended mass at Balaoan Church
07:30 ETD Balaoan
07:45 ETA Luna and took breakfast in the Public Market's Food Court
08:30 Attended mass at Luna Cathedral
09:50 ETA Bahay na Bato
10:30 ETD Bahay na Bato
11:00 Balaurte Watchtower
11:20 ETD Luna
11:45 ETA Balaoan
11:50 ETD Balaoan
14:20 ETA Agoo
14:25 Late lunch
14:40 Basilica Minore of Our Lady of Charity
15:00 Quick town tour and buying pasalubong
16:00 ETD Agoo
23:30 ETA Manila
Actual Budget Breakdown
The expenses has been shown here in the order they were incurred from Day 0 to Day 3
|1.||Bus fare airconditioned Partas bus fare from Cubao to San Fernando City|
|2.||Jeepney fare from San Fernando City to San Gabriel|
|3.||Tricycle fare from San Gabriel town proper to Raymond's house|
|4.||Breakfast and packed lunch with the Guide|
|5.||Life vest rental|
|6.||Tricycle fare from Brgy. Bucao to San Gabriel town proper|
|7.||Jeepney fare from San Gabriel to San Fernando City|
|8.||Jeepney fare from San Fernando City to San Gabriel|
|9.||Tricycle fare Saint William, the Hermit Cathedral to Pagoda Temple|
|10.||Tricycle fare from Provincial Capitol to Ma-cho Temple|
|11.||Jeepney fare from Ma-cho Temple to San Juan|
|12.||Jeepney fare from San Juan to San Fernando City Town Plaza|
|13.||Jeepney fare from San Fernando City to San Gabriel|
|14.||Tricycle fare from San Gabriel Poblacion to Brgy. Bucao|
|15.||Snacks and refreshments Jollibee (San Fernando City)|
|16.||Dinner with one whole chicken and rice for Day 1|
|17.||Tour guiding fee (Raymond Macaraeg)|
|18.||Tip and Goodwill for Raymond for free accommodation|
|19.||Tricycle fare from Brgy. Bucao to San Gabriel Poblacion to start in Day 2|
|20.||Breakfast and packed lunch with my guide, Robert Nebres|
|21.||Life vest rental for Kapandagan Falls|
|22.||Tour guiding fee (Robert Nebres)|
|23.||Round trip habal-habal from San Gabriel to Kapandagan Falls jump-off point in Brgy. Amontoc and vice versa|
|24.||Tricycle fare from Brgy. Bucao to San Gabriel Poblacion (Special trip)|
|25.||Jeepney fare from San Gabriel to San Fernando City|
|26.||Roundtrip Tricyle fare from San Fernando City proper to the Botanical Garden in Brgy. Cadaclan and vice versa|
|27.||Bus fare from San Fernando City to Bauang for the Lomboy's Farm|
|28.||Bus fare from Bauang to Balaoan|
|29.||Dinner in Balaoan for whole grilled chicken|
|30.||Hotel Accommodation (El Navi Hotel in Balaoan) for 12 hours only|
|31.||Tricycle fare from Balaoan to Luna|
|32.||Breakfast in Luna Food Court|
|33.||Chartered tricycle from Luna Poblacion to Bahay na Bato back to Poblacion and to Balauarte and back to Poblacion|
|34.||Entrance fee Bahay na Bato|
|35.||Tricycle fare from Luna to Balaoan|
|36.||Bus fare from Balaoan to Agoo|
|37.||Lunch in Agoo|
|38.||Airconditioned bus fare from Agoo to Carmen, Pangasinan|
|39.||Airconditioned bus fare from Carmen to Cubao|