My first trip to Ilocos Norte will always be my my most memorable. I was going to be there for work, but had gone up in advance so that I could spend the weekend in Pagudpud before meeting my co-workers the Monday after. I took a plane to Laoag, then proceeded to make my way to Pagudpud with just a few scribbled directions taken from the internet and a lot of hope to guide me.
Pagudpud is a beach town and is known to have one of the most stunning beaches in the country, if you have enough patience to get to it. It’s about a couple of bus rides away from Laoag. As soon as I landed, I hailed a tricycle and asked the driver to take me to the bus stop. There are two bus lines that go to Pagudpud from Laoag, but only one with a late trip, with the last bus leaving at 9:30pm.
I thought I had made it to the GMW Bus Terminal with time to spare, only to find out that a lot more people had arrived earlier. As a result, all the seats for the last trip had been taken and it seemed that even though I was disabled, I would have to squeeze in and make the two hour trip standing up. I waited for about an hour, fretting about how I was going to make a two hour trip standing up, and even more worried that with all the people waiting around who were obviously stronger than me and who could get on the bus faster, I wouldn’t be able to make the trip that night at all.
Just when I was about to give up and start looking for a hotel in Laoag, the conductor asked me and a Korean couple to get on board. My guess is that the province or the bus line has a standing order prioritize tourists, as they have hotel and resort reservations to get to, and because they also mean revenue for the province.
The bus was cramped, with so many people sandwiched inside that no one needed to hold on for support because the crush of bodies was keeping them up. So on we traveled for two hours down a barely lit highway. I got a window seat, and spent the whole time staring out at a beautifully dark landscape. The Koreans were let off first. As the bus continued on, I began to get worried that I may have somehow missed my stop. I had told the driver where the resort said to let me off (in front of a sari sari store called Bong Bong’s) but now I doubted that he had heard me. Just when I had given up and come to terms with maybe having to spend the night in Cagayan province, the bus’ last stop, my stop was called.
I was deposited onto a darkened highway on a rainy night, in the middle of a provincial town that had gone to bed. The sari sari store I was supposed to hail a trike from was closed, and there were no tricycles in sight. Thankfully, it had a porch with a table and bench underneath a lone lightbulb. Aside from a nearby street light, it was the only illuminated thing in the area. I felt like I was in a movie, the kind that does not end well. I managed to call the resort (only Smart works well in the area) and explain my situation. They quickly called a local tricycle driver, who they told me was going to take about 30 minutes to arrive. So I waited in the wet and cold and semi dark for what I was sure was more than 30 minutes. I was very relieved when the tricycle finally arrived, the sound of its motor a beautiful noise that broke through the quiet. The ride from the sari sari store to the resort proper took about 20-30 minutes. The rain was still pouring, so the driver had to put a plastic sheet over the entrance to keep me dry, but I still managed to enjoy the beauty of the dark shapes that we zipped by.
When we finally got to the resort, I asked how much that long trip cost, the tricycle driver gave me a sheepish look and said 70 bucks. I gave him a hundred, because it was a long ride, and he had to be roused to deliver me to my resort on a rainy night. I later found out that a tricycle ride from the sari sari store to the resort costs Php60, but I didn’t mind. It was worth more than that, because apart from getting me safely to the resort, the ride was a crucial part of one of the most memorable nights of my traveling life.