Category Archives: Tourism

Terrible Ilocos Norte hotels and resorts based on TripAdvisor

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ILOCOS NORTE has definitely made a mark as one of the Philippines’ top travel meccas, given the province’s amazing natural, cultural, and historical attractions, plus fun activities to boot. But, given the influx, how are our hotels meeting the demands of guests?

Many tourists depend on Internet-reviews to check the quality of hotels, restaurants, and other travel-related establishments. The most popular site is TripAdvisor.com which allows reviewers to provide both quantitative ratings and qualitative information based on their actual experience. Guests rate the establishment on a scale of 1-5 based on the following criteria: location, sleep quality, rooms, service value, and cleanliness. The written reviews are very useful for people planning their trip. One would not pay a budget price and demand five-star accommodation, but would expect decent services and facilities. In the same breath, expectations and demands run high when the price paid is high. At the end of the day, value for money weighs heavily.

I will write about the best and average hotels next, but let me devote this post to the bad and the worst.

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Filed under Ilocos, Places, Tourism

It’s Pagudpud, NOT Boracay of the North

In long past, some people branded Pagudpud, the famous beach town of Ilocos Norte, as Boracay of the North, because of its wide and long shoreline and its pristine white sand. Almost all write ups and promotional materials sold Pagudpud that way.

Many Ilocanos were thrilled with Pagudpud’s association with the more popular beach in the Visayas. Boracay, of course, was better known, more established, and was the place to be seen. Stargazing is also more fun in Caticlan as celebrities descend there, especially during summer.

Decades after, some still refer to Pagudpud as “Boracay of the North,” but a growing number of people are beginning not to be amused.

“Some say Pagudpud is the ‘Boracay of the North,’… But do we hear people say Boracay is the ‘Pagudpud of the South?’ Surely not,” laments Xavier Ruiz, who works with the Ilocos Norte Provincial Tourism Office. The BS Tourism cum laude graduate of Mariano Marcos State University  explains that such branding is “an obvious acknowledgement that what we offer our visitors are only second best with no clear identity and are constantly clinging to more established destinations thinking it would be the best marketing strategy.”  The young tourism professional says he thinks otherwise: “Our province is beautiful and astonishing.. I believe we can do better.” Ruiz’s boss, Ilocos Norte tourism head Ianree Raquel, agrees. “We always strive to give our visitors a unique taste of the North far from what they could experience in other destinations,” he says in an interview.

April Rafales, a reporter of the ABS-CBN regional station in Laoag City, shares the view of the local tourism professionals. “We cannot be a prototype of something;  a place can only be its own best version, setting its own standards and offering what it can,” she says, and warns that comparing Pagudpud to other tourist spots can also set false expectations among tourists.

I share the same sentiments, dear karikna. I have been to both beaches several times, and I figured that each has its own beauty and charm. Each has its own selling points. Boracay is for bored people thirsting for excitement. Pagudpud is for the wary soul thirsting for serenity. Boracay offers an outrageous night life while Pagudpud offers intimate spaces for bonding with family and friends. It’s a choice between an overdeveloped resort and a relatively Spartan one. It’s not unlike a competition between a virgin and a hustler. Continue reading

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Filed under Ilocos, The Good Life, Tourism

Tan-ok ni Edito, Tan-ok ni Vacie: Or why our Festival of Festivals is better off without ‘stage mayors’

Up, Sarrat Mayor Edito Balintona (left); Down, Bangui Mayor Salvacion Cimatu (center)

In her welcome remarks at the phenomenally successful Tan-ok ni Iocano Festival of Festivals, Nov. 17 at the Marcos Stadium in Laoag City, Governor Imee Marcos noted cheerfully that the delegations were well supported by their respective ‘stage mayors’, using the term in the same context as ‘stage mothers.’ Two mayors, however, went several steps further and took the stage, the center stage no less, and literally.

On a night of splendid dancing, heart-stopping stunts, and an overflow of Ilokano Talent, Honorable Edito Balintona, mayor of Sarrat, was no doubt the lousiest performer. Nearing the climax of his town’s Binakol Festival presentation, Balintona came out seated on top of a huge wooden structure, not unlike a parade float, together with a lady who, I would later learn, is his tourism officer, Dona Siazon. The mayor, who seemed at a loss, was seen being given instructions by Siazon as the performance went on, no doubt an insult to the efforts of dancers who attended painstaking practices for long hours so that they can perfect their act. But there was one thing the mayor did so well… wave at the crowd, a sea of humanity so huge it could have been impossible for him to resist the temptation of appearing on stage …to wave.

“What is their mayor doing there?” asked some spectators who also made comments that are too disrespectful to see print. Judges, sources say, gave Sarrat’s performance one of the lowest scores.

Honorable Salvacion “Vacie” Cimatu, mayor of the windmills town of Bangui, can surely dance. And I know she can sing as well. It was the second time she top-billed her town’s number. She performed, too, in last year’s inaugural edition of Tan-ok. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts, Festivals, Filipino Youth, Tourism, Traditions

Nuestra Señora de la Mantsa: The Case of the Laoag City Bell Tower ‘Apparition’

And we did it again.

Ten years ago, I wondered in an essay why this Catholic Nation has produced only one saint so far while Thailand, Japan and China–all non-Christian countries–have more. Maybe, unlike Filipinos, I said then, people from those nations have more sensible things to do than creating miracles by desperately looking for images in the stains of tree trunks and forcing statues to shed bloody tears.

Recently, an image of a woman, believed by many as Mama Mary, reportedly appeared at the midsection of the Laoag City Sinking Bell Tower. With pictures of the ‘apparition’ circulated on Facebook, the phenomenon generated public interest, especially after it was featured on national television evening news.

Make no mistake, I love Mama Mary, and I always turn to her for guidance and protection, but, on a personal level, and with all due respect to anyone who does, I don’t believe the image is extraordinary. The blurry figure is obviously a product of stain and discoloration which any old structure, such as the 400-year old Laoag Bell Tower, would have. You can find stains anywhere and assume them to be something, anything. My friend Luvee from Pagudpud says there are also a lot of stains in their toilet wall, and, as a child, it was her hobby to spot them and identify certain images, some of them religious. Rizal Javier, a retired philosophy professor from Batac, is obviously no longer a child but he still spots some images in their restroom and has actually considered publishing those in his Facebook account. There was one problem though: he does not have a Facebook account. Continue reading

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Filed under Church, Debate, Ilocos, Media/Journalism, Religion, Sociology, Tourism

Michael, how could you?

The bell tower of Paoay Church is defiled by a man named Michael, or by someone deeply in love with a Michael. That this graffiti has been there for over a year disturbs me. Now, there are at least two other names “inscribed” at the base of this tourist attraction. What person in a healthy state of mind would do this to a Unesco World Heritage Site?

Paoay Church Belfry (11/21/2011)

TRIVIA: The three-storey coral stone bell tower which stands to the right of the church served as an observation post in 1896 for the Katipuneros during the Philippine revolution against the Spaniards, and again by the Filipino guerillas during the Japanese occupation in World War II.

According to historians, the bell tower also served as a status symbol for the locals. The bell would ring more loudly and more times during the wedding of a prominent clan that it would during the wedding of the poor.

Source: http://digitaljournal.com/blog/3098

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Filed under Ilocos, Tourism

But did tourists come?

I ARGUE, dear karikna, that the Ilocos Norte Tourism Office folks are the busiest bees in this part of the world. And I argue further that their queen bee, Governor Imee Marcos is Awesome with a capital A. After the successful staging of the Sineng Pambansa here in Ilocos, they initiated a series of events for Halloween, the most notable being the Parada Iloca-locana held last October 31 in Laoag, from the cemetery down to the centro.

Viewers, including my dad who sits on a wheelchair, were so happy with the event. He was even doing the high five with zombies, white ladies, and elementals. I heard others who saw the event murmur, “First time detoy aya? Nagmayat.” (This is the first time, right?  Beautiful.) Beautiful, however, may seem an inappropriate term, because the parade participants were no doubt at their scariest best. But really, the event is very uplifting. It makes you feel that something good is really happening in Ilocos. Day after that, it was the eerie Tumba Festival’s turn to paint the town black in Paoay.

Did tourists come because of these recent events? No, not yet. But we are definitely moving in the right direction. We must continue to make Ilocos a fun place so guests would be enticed enough to hit the long road up North. There must always be a show to go to, a spectacle to marvel at, an experience to try, and temptations that are impossible to resist.

I am glad there is no stopping. Before I can even congratulate the masterminds, here comes the Tan-ok ni Ilocano Festival of Festivals unfolding next week.

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Filed under Festivals, Ilocos, Tourism

Ianree kayganda

DEAR AIAN,

On June 1, you took your new job as provincial tourism officer of Ilocos Norte. You left a teaching career in the university to assume a responsibility where you feel you can be of better service to society.

I talked to you against it, first because you are a real gem in the academe, and second because I will miss working with you, but you seem resolute and eager, and so I fully support you and wish you well, as any real friend should.

You have always had my respect, and you know that. You know, too, that I believe you are one of the most creative minds in the province, er, in the country. You loved your job in the university, and your job loved you back. As a result, students under your tutelage won regional and national awards. With your theatrics, showmanship and exceptional talent, you have endeared yourself to your colleagues.

As you endeared yourself to me. Thank you for doing the cover and layout of “The He(a)rd Mentality”, a perfect testament to your Dionysian ecstasies. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is an old maxim our book defies, for the cover you skillfully crafted gave perfect justice to my work’s content. You made me cry with your difficulty in beating deadlines, but that is not exactly unusual with real artists whose worlds defy both time and space. I am glad the end did justify the tearful means.

You are a real gem, Aian, but not all good people, of course, must hide inside academic walls and content themselves with passionate theorizing and making students believe in an idealized world. Leave that dreamy job to fools like me. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, Ilocos, Marcos, Tourism