The Long Drive North

Hubby and I took a week-long vacation up north – this trip marks a lot of firsts for us: first time to drive this far (think 300+ kilometres from Manila to Vigan and another 300+ to Pagudpud for one of our day trips), the longest vacation together, the longest time away from our kid, and the longest trip with our friends from college. 

And this being hubby’s first real test as a driver, our convoy decided to make its way slowly with several stopovers and sigh-seeing. We entered the NLEX around 9:30am and reached Manaoag, our first stopover, around 1pm. Not bad, eh? 

We weren’t really familiar with restos around the area and had it been just hubby and me, we would have gone with any of the more familiar fast food chains in the town proper. Luckily, we had our friends who grew up in the region and they introduced us to Ruperto’s, which was a little further from the town center but also along the main highway.

Ruperto’s isn’t just a restaurant; it’s actually a hotel-resort-restaurant, built on what used to be farmland. I am not sure if there are many guests checked in but the place itself looked nice and clean and pool was inviting. 

pardon the cut on the panorama shot – my hands were a bit shaky that day

the restaurant
Food was great too! I enjoyed the fresh fish very much, even though it was a bit “fishy” for me. 

We stayed in Manaoag for a few more hours to pray at the shrine. People attribute lots of miracles to the lady of Manaoag, and while I personally haven’t experienced any obvious miracles, I was in awe of the stories I’ve heard. 

Our next stopover was already in La Union for dinner. Our Manaoag stopover had set us back three hours so McDonald’s would have to do for dinner if we were to reach Vigan before 9PM.

Which we unfortunately didn’t. Traffic was very light but the road leading up to Ilocos was poorly lit. In fact, I don’t recall seeing brightly lit lampposts and the road was bumpy with lots of unfinished construction so it was a little before 10PM when we reached our hotel. 

Return Trip
There were a lot of tourists up North and I think it’s just a matter of time before it rivals the Boracay crowd. Unfortunately, this also meant driving back to Manila on the last day of the holidays would be a nightmare so we left one day earlier to avoid the mad dash to the capital.

Our return trip took around the same time but this time, our stop over was in Agoo – at the Ice Tea Rue restaurant for dinner. I don’t know what the name meant nor the specialty of the place but given the Japanese accents inside the resto, I would assume it’s supposed to be Japanese.

In any case, food was great. We had chili garlic prawns which were to die for (and quite a steal as I think we got five pieces of prawns for only Php225!), roasted chicken, and bagnet, plus fruit shake for all five of us. Can you imagine our tab was only Php1100+? I would definitely visit this place if we do get to travel this side of Luzon in the future.

On a side note, it seems the town (or city?) of Agoo benefited a lot from Judiel Nieva. For those of you too young to remember, he was the “visionary” from maybe, 18 years ago, who supposedly saw the Virgin Mary in Agoo, Pangasinan. Pilgrims would trek to Pangasinan to see him and the previously sleepy town progressed into a bustling center with establishments popping up everywhere.

He was later proven a fraud after a Church investigation, with the supposed messages all copied from Fatima and Lourdes (and had wrong grammars that added to evidence against him), and the “crying” statue of the Virgin Mary rigged with a contraption to make it look like it was shedding tears. Judiel has since come out of the closet but we’re not sure if he has undergone a sex change operation. Last I heard of, he’s now living in a condo in Paranaque.

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