Married Backpackers, Philippines, Travel

The Road to Ilocos

Road To Ilocos - Words and Wanderlust

Once in a while, my staycation-loving, short-haul-traveler husband gives in to my madness. You see, I am on a perpetual rush. I live for spontaneous misadventures— the kind that races against itself.

The kind that happens straight after an eight-hour plane ride to Sydney the day after a hungover Christmas.

On this instance, our misadventure came in the form of a night-long road trip to Ilocos: the home, the olive-skinned, stingy, and undeniably Ilocano love of my life, has never been to.


It was our first time to take Popoy, the family vehicle, out for a long spin. With us were Jonat’s parents, arguably the most active senior citizens in Antipolo; his nephews, Marco and Basti; and Kuya Orly, a kick-arse Metro Manila taxi driver and family friend.

We left home around ten, after a quick dinner and a manic trip to the groceries. The boys settled at the back, with earphones on and were oblivious to the preparations. Papa settled as navigator for Kuya Orly who was at home in the driver’s seat. In the middle row, Mama and I sandwiched Jonat, who, even before we left, had already fallen asleep.


For the most part, it was dark and I was slumped exhausted on my husband’s shoulder. Save for Kuya Orly trying to maintain conversation to keep awake and Mama resorting to asking silly questions after running out of topics to talk, Luzon was quiet at night.

It was already 3AM when we reached La Union. In my almost knocked out and very disoriented state, I retraced the geography I knew, imagining that although it was pitch dark outside, we have driven past Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, and Pangasinan. Finally, I thought, by sunrise, I would have seen a part of Luzon outside Metro Manila.

Over coffee and instant noodles at a petrol station, I wished we could have stayed until the morning and catch some waves. But we needed to reach Vigan by morning, so my surfing dreams had to wait.

Road To Ilocos - Words and Wanderlust


By the time we took on the road again, we all have power napped and re-energized. Papa, an electrical engineer who has traveled extensively around Luzon in his working years, recalled his experiences in the towns we’ve passed by. We even egged him to admit if he ever sired a Campanilla in one of those towns, much to his chagrin.

Mama, on the other hand, recollected stories of summers she spent as a young maiden on the shores of Burgos and Narvacan. Many of her stories I could relate to, having grown up in the coastal communities of Lanao del Norte.

In the midst of chatting, the majesty of of the Old Quirino bridge dawned on us. Since it was very early in the morning, we parked Popoy right on the bridge and mused before the arresting landscape and waterscape before us, waiting for the sun.

When the sun finally peeped through, we found ourselves on the brim of the Abra river, by the foot of the mountain ranges lording over the provinces of Abra and Ilocos Sur. It was impressive how nature could fashion grand entrances like that.

Slice a river through a mountain range to mark the end of one fortress and the start of another, for example.

This post is part of a travel series featuring a six-week journey around my home country.

Published by Rain Campanilla

Born under the star of Sagittarius, the centaur of adventure; and in the year of the Rat, the ever curious--- Travel is my birthright.

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