April 06, 2005

Laoag escapade (part 1)

As I always tell myself, great gimmicks happen when they are least planned. Ü

Last weekend's trip to Laoag has been planned almost a month ahead. The gameplan was simple: take the van, hire a driver, leave on friday after office hours, then tour Laoag the whole weekend.

But then came the glitches: both van and driver won't be available. On public transport, the budget for the whole event went up by almost half. One by one, those who signed up for the trip backed off. By thursday morning, only our host, Aileen, was intent on going.

I was intent on going, too, with or without the driver or the ride. Problem was, I wasn't so vocal about it by the time the glitches came up. I only spoke of it on Thursday evening while having some beer with the officemates. It must be the spiral of silence theory at work -- the drinking session ended with three of us going, and one more joined us come Friday morning.

The bus trip wasn't bad at all, despite tales of legendary rigors of traveling to Ilocos by land. The key is finding a good sleeping position (which may require that you are in good terms with the person sitting beside you Ü), keeping yourself warm (bringing a scotch tape to plug the aircon duct worked pretty well), and making sure your fluid retention capacity is at their fullest before the bus leaves the terminal.

We left Manila Friday, 10 p.m., and arrived at Laoag Saturday, 6 a.m.

Our first stop, and already quite a find, was the house of Aileen's grandmother. "Bahay ni Lola", as I call it, has the distinct architecture reminiscent of the olden days -- capiz shell windows and window panels that allow natural lighting, mostly hardwood construction, and an array of memorabilia in every corner that boasts of over three generations of families. I lost count of the doors and rooms that have no clear pattern of entrances and exits. Truly an antique.

After a quick breakfast and some preparations, we're off to Pagudpud on a handy-dandy owner-type jeep with jolly ol' Manong Edi at the driver's seat. From Laoag it took us less than two hours to reach Pagudpud (I never thought a Saturn engine owner-type jeep can go that fast).

The place has all the makings of a great beach -- light, powdery sand, blue waters, and a view that was made even lovelier by the surrounding mountains. But my first question was, "Why isn't there anyone swimming out there?" People were just wading at chest-high waters a few feet from the shore.

I found out that the beach has one of the steepest slopes I've ever encountered -- standing ten feet from the shore with arms stretched upward, the water depth already exceeds the tips of my hands (I'm 5' 6"). Good thing the undertow is minimal and the water is amazingly bouyant, otherwise this setup makes for a perfect trap for non-swimmers.

I tried swimming farther out to check why no one ventures into deeper waters. I got the answer right in my face (or should I say, entangled in my goggles).

Seaweeds. *Ack!*

It must be the weather that day and the high tide. The wind and waves were unusually strong and chilly. Underwater visibility was unfavorable. I dived just in case there's something to see at the floor, but found only cloudy sand and some fishes.

More to follow. Ü

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