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Mabuhaykers Log: Ilocos Sur

It’s the last day of May! I’ve been home for just a handful of days since the RCS left for the US in April, then Masbate, Bicol right on time for my birthday on the 1st of May. A few weeks after that, we went to Candon, Ilocos Sur to perform at their 1st music festival. That last one, being the shortest of all the trips, is the one I’ve been able to sum up (somewhat poorly) in a short video. I’m writing this from Iloilo, while on another work trip, so for now, I’ll just share the link below.

* The skipping on the video is not a transition effect but an error on Quik’s saving process. I tried it several times and my final render is okay, but the output always comes out choppy, and I’m way too lazy to figure it out.

Edit: I added some stills from our trip below.

Vitalis Villas: Santorini-esque Lodgings with Filipino Comfort Cooking

Sunset cruise with red wine around Vitalis Villas

Wine and deli platter on our sunset cruise around the cove

We arrived very early in the morning of May 22nd, so after spending the day napping and eating really good, home-style meals, our host took us out to see the sunset. We had prosciutto and salami, brie and blue cheese, a choice of red and white (red for me!) which we enjoyed while sailing the calm waters of the cove. There’s “a line that meets the sea” ? that made the waters suddenly choppy, so the drinks had to be gulped at one point. ? I’d never had a similar experience before, and I used to dream of having a yacht party with my best friends (hasn’t happened yet), so this was a close approximation of that.

Sunset at a cove in Ilocos Sur

Sunset of Northern Luzon, the lights of Vitalis Villas appearing like the stars

Bougainvillea Trees

I loved walking to and from our villa because the white paths were lined with trees of my favorite flowers: bougainvilleas <3

The Worthwhile Search for Aw-Asen Falls

No many locals knew of this destination, but this was what had caught our eye when looking for things to do in Ilocos Sur. As is typical, the most beautiful places are the harder ones to get to. I’ll let my Instagram captions tell most of the story below, and watch this super funny vlog by my #NotAHiker friend VJ. ?

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My favorite type of picture is where I’m just a speck in a vast landscape. I used to say it highlights how big the Earth is and how insignificant I am in comparison. Lately, I’ve been leaning toward the sentiment that despite my smallness, I am not insignificant at all. My words and actions have the power to create or destroy, to repair or to ruin. There is weight in my being here, and in the everyday choices I make. There is hope in the fact that I’m still growing, and maybe someday I will learn to recognize that I can be as big as the universe itself. Thanks to everyone who sent me happy thoughts when I needed it. ? ? @nicatupas ? This Jurassic scene is from the same waterfall in the previous post. Aw-Asen Falls, Sigay, Ilocos Sur ??

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Without a guide, we went the wrong way twice, under a thankfully cloudy noon sky. Third time’s a charm, and we finally found this waterfall roaring with power, in spite of El Niño. Our adventure had become unexpectedly long, but despite thirst and growing exhaustion, I’d never felt more alive. Nature is my balm, and today has soothed my heavy heart. ? @vjcaber . My @wandersolesph were ideal for this wet-dry terrain ? . .

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Getting here was a test of patience. Several guesses turned into dead ends. When finally on the right track, we crossed a river, walked past more than a handful of friendly carabaos. With most waterfalls, you climb a portion of mountain until you can hear and follow the sound of rushing water. This was different. Crickets and locusts were playing a heated symphony, so all I could make out was a muted hum that seemed to be everywhere and nowhere in particular. With no preamble, the trees thinned out and we entered a clearing that looked like a giant bowl carved out of stone. To the right were wild goats, jumping away as they looked at me curiously. To the left, this magnificent force of nature; a soup of clear emerald, sparkling in the sun. That journey was a time machine, and this was a land before time. P.S. Mahangin sa labas ??‍♀️ ? @vjcaber . . . . #awasenfalls #ilocossur #northernphilippines #philippines #pilipinas #wowphilippines #beautifuldestinations #outdoors #nature #explore #adventure #waterfalls #falls #mountain #phmountains #hike #hiking #hiker #thoughts #stories #travel #traveling #traveler #instatravel #travelgram #bikinihikers

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Tall waterfall with basin in a gorge

Elusive Aw-Asen Falls of Ilocos Sur

Can you imagine spoiling something so beautiful? Well one of the men we encountered didn’t seem to mind as he downed his water from an orange soda bottle and threw it into the basin with a flourish. His group was already making their ascent back from where they came, and I just didn’t – DON’T – understand why people can’t hold on to their trash until they can dispose of it properly. I shouted my displeasure above the din of the water and across the basin from where I was, and instead of looking apologetic, he laughed and blew me a kiss. You can imagine how that made me feel. ?

But accepting the fact that there will always be @$$holes, and their existence is beyond my control, I just fixed the anomaly he had introduced into my perfect waterfall. When they had gone, I  swam to the other side of the pool, a good 20 feet or so, picked up the bottle bobbing in the water, an eyesore that couldn’t be overlooked, and brought it back with me. All the way back to the jump off, I stuffed it with plastic litter I found along the trail.

Plastic soda bottle filled with plastic wrappers

You’re welcome, litterbugs of the Philippines ? Please throw yourselves in the trash

Pinsal Falls: A Picture of El Niño

Dry Waterfall during El Niño

Thirsty Pinsal Falls

The next day, we went to check out the waterfall that they had all been suggesting since we arrived. When the season is right, I suppose the water spills over all the pale parts of this rock formation. We had forgotten that our host had mentioned a hot spring behind this fall, but honestly, a hot spring in that heat probably wasn’t ideal. I’d much rather have something to go back for.

Rock and coral beach, blue green ocean water

Suso Beach really reminded me of China Walls in Oahu, Hawaii

On our way to Pinsal, we spotted this unassuming beach from the highway. We stopped by on our way back to the Villas. It had clear, gorgeous waters, fairly white sand, and best of all, only about a handful of people.

There are so many, much more beautiful places than what is advertised! I hope to have the opportunity to explore Ilocos more. Next time you’re looking for an alternative to all the hyped vacation spots, consider Ilocos Sur. 4 days definitely wasn’t enough!

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