Abaniko Cottages


We keep talking about vacationing in Adams—but we knew better. We purchased the property beside the Chen’s with retirement in mind. It had a beautiful view of the river and a perfect spot to build a vacation/retirement home.


But somewhere along the way, that home (using repurposed wood from old houses) turned into three cottages that we turned into a bed and breakfast intended for the more discerning travelers, and we’ve, in fact, managed to lure some city folks to come visit. Adams is about 2 hours from Laoag and a 45-minute (thereabouts) drive up bumpy roads (for now).


For nearly three years now, the cottages beside Ilyn’s Homey Place, which we named Abaniko (from the shape of the lot), has been home to more than a few travelers visiting Adams.  Our rooms are simple but has all the basic comforts such as clean, crisp linens and towels, screens (to keep the bugs out), cold and hot showers, and a lovely balcony that can ease your stresses away.  Me and my book in the balcony makes me a happy camper


Ilyn of Ilyn’s Homey Place is Ilyn Chen, an energetic woman with big round eyes and a warm smile. She met her husband while working in Taiwan. The couple came for a visit and Chunyi fell in love with Adams, Ilyn’s hometown. They eventually settled there and opened their home to visitors, mostly backpackers and locals from neighboring towns. We met them because everytime we go up, we stay with them. We have become friends and like Chunyi, we fell in love with Ilyn’s town.


Chunyi, on the other hand, loves his fish. He has tilapia and koi ponds around the properties.


He also likes to cook and dishes out fantastic food. He said that every meal he creates are those he misses (from Taiwan) or merely loves.

chinese-pork-adoboChinese Pork Adobo

It wasn’t easy convincing him to cook for our guests, but he eventually relented, and his meals have become part of the highlight of our guests.

ulang-in-sate-sauceUlang in Sate Sauce

It has its ups and downs, our little B&B—typhoons, collapsing bridges, floods, landslides… you name it.   But small wins like discovering Chunyi’s culinary passion, happy guests, good feedbacks, lush garden, beautiful blooms, improved road conditions, all make up for the obstacles.


It’s an open invitation, folks. It’s glorious here. Come on up while the weather is still lovely and crisp.



My New Paradise

AdamsCredits: JSprague Digi in Deeper course material.

Adams.  A familiar name yet peculiar for the Ilocos Norte, yes?  With names like Laoag, Pagudpud, Paoay… Adams sounds off.  The first time I heard of Adams was 16 years ago when Anton explored the river with fellow guides. He raved not only about the river but its natural surroundings as well.at-the-river

He went back several times to raft and to kayak the Bulo River but never with me. In 2009 on an Ilocos Road Trip, we attempted a visit to Adams to hike to the waterfalls. It rained, and we chickened out.  We never made it to the town.

2009-AdamsThis was at the junction where we’d take a habal-habal (motorcycle for hire) to take us to town.

view-of-the-townSprawling over a land area of 159.31 square kilometers on the northern coast of Ilocos Norte,

floraAdams is a treasure trove of rainforests with rare flora and fauna, centuries old trees,

hanging-bridgehanging bridges and waterfalls.

anuplig-fallsAnuplig Falls
cultural-danceWe were treated to a cultural show.

It is a small town of only one village but is a melting pot of ethnic groups composed of the Yapayao or Itneg, Ilocano, Igorot, Kankan-ay and Ibaloi, which explains why their cuisine is different from the Ilocano dishes we know.

local-produceWe had fried frog, udang (river shrimps), stir-fried pako, and mountain rice.

It is a hodgepodge of the various ethnic groups and what is locally available like gabi (Taro), crab lets, baby damo (wild boar), frogs, Udang (river shrimps), purple mountain rice, and my favorite, stir-fried pako (fiddlehead fern).

baguio-climateLike its name, it is a divergent from the rest of the region.  The climate is pleasantly cool especially at this time of the year, with temperatures just a few notched higher than Baguio.

I wish I had made more effort to visit this mountain-river town. It took me fifteen years to finally set foot here. My first trip to Adams was last year around this time. Ask me how many times I’ve been back since. Four so far. I have fallen in love with the area. Expect more posts from me. Meanwhile, here are some photos to whet your appetite for the place.  This is my new paradise.

bulu-riverThe Bulo River from a bridge.
enroute-to-anupligLush forest en route to Anuplig falls.
entertainmentHospitality to the hilt.  Entertainment provided by the villagers.
Ilyn's-HomeystayIlyn’s Homeystay: our home in Adams.
lover's-peak-2A beautiful point called “Lover’s Peak”
lover's-peakLovely grounds at Lover’s Peak.

Going Back in Time

Unless it is really impressive, I rarely write about accommodations on this blog. But this beach resort has definitely impressed. It’s a destination of its own, a place to pause and recharge, do nothing and pretend that you’re from an era of yesteryear.


In Victoria Village in Currimao, on an 18,000 square meter land facing the South China Sea sits an amazing recreation of a typical mid-20th-century village. little-detailsUndeniably a work of love by owner Dr. Joven Cuanang, a Medical Director of St. Luke’s Hospital, his love for the arts greatly manifested in this stunning village he calls Sitio Remedios.

salvaged-doors-and-windowsIts main attraction is the rows of vintage-style Ilocano houses made of salvaged bricks and woods from mid-century houses (about to be demolished) to resemble old ancestral houses. Most of them were named after the town of Ilocos Norte such as Batac, Dingras, Piddig, Bacarra and San Nicolas.

balay-dingrasThe bungalow assigned to us, Balay Dingras, has 2 rooms, dining-area-dingrasa living and dining area, and a spacious front porch that leads out to the plaza.balcony-to-plaza Furnished with antique furniture, a daybed even in the sala, decor are vintage and to complete the look, crocheted tablecloths, vintage-motif-bedInabel (a local weave) woven bedding, and blankets were used. Each room has a Queen sized bed and its own bath.

welcomeA welcome message on our bed – a nice touch.

Dingras and all the other balays (house) face the square they call Plaza Manzanilla. housesLaid out in a grid typical of Spanish times, fencing off each house are manzanilla (hence the name), Bougainvillea, and gumamela bushes and few ancient trees adding character to the square.  chapel-and-plazachapel-interiorA chapel that opens out to the plaza, a pool facing the sea and a dining hall that serves exceptional home-cooked Ilocano favourites completes this village.dining-hall

Tucked quite away from the main highway, all our dinners were had at the resort. Turned out to be the best decision we’ve made. Meals were simple yet superb and very well prepared.  foodThe dishes were served buffet style and depending on what’s available in the market.  dinner-by-the-poolDinner venues change every night, one night in the main dining hall, another near the pool area and our last night was a romantic setting at the plaza. candlelit-dinner-settingHow can you not feel special and totally recharged with such detailed service?

Currimao is in the southwestern part of Ilocos Norte, near the northern border town of Paoay. An hour away from Vigan, and only 25 minutes away from Laoag, Sitio Remedios is an ideal base to those who prefer to explore the Ilocos Region leisurely.

Useful Info:

Sitio Remedios: Barangay Victoria, Currimao, Ilocos Norte.  Tel (63)917-3320217

Ilocos UNESCO Pride

Three UNESCO World Heritage Site found in one region, that’s right, all found in Ilocos – Vigan City, Santa Maria Church both in Ilocos Sur and Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte.  That’s two out of four Baroque Churches in the Philippines inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list.  Can’t get any cultural than that — a perfect post to end this road trip series.  So without further ado:

Santa Maria Church

Along the western coast of the Ilocos Region, an hour drive south of Vigan is the town of Sta. Maria.  Somehow the Spaniards like building churches on top of hills because again on top of a hill overlooking the town, the blue sea and the verdant fields nearby is another World Heritage Site, the massively baroque Sta. Maria Church.  Built in 1769, this church was used as a fortress during the 1896 Philippine Revolution.  The church’s façade is not impressive but more striking and quite unique is the tower that is slightly tilted.

St. Augustine Church

Is also popularly known as Paoay Church visited by many due to its interesting architecture.  A unique example of Filipino architecture from the Spanish period, the main distinction though are its buttresses which supports its walls, 3 meters thick, from earthquake.  For that reason, it was cited as one of the most outstanding “earthquake baroque” structure.  Aside from its function however, I think the buttresses add a very Asian touch, almost reminding me of Balinese architecture.  The church is an example of east meets west architecture (Filipino, Asian and Spanish) which is uniquely Filipino, I think.

I hope you enjoyed Ilocos as much as I have.

Keeping Watch Through the Years

Just a stone’s throw away from Vigan is an old bell tower standing alone on a hill watching guard over the town of Bantay.

It is without a doubt one of the most dramatic belfries in the region (and one of my favorite) owing to a superb view of  the mountains of Abra

and exquisite sunsets bringing forth a golden charm to the brick and slime walls.

Also used as watchtower for invading enemy forces during World Wars I and II, it was constructed separately, as many Spanish churches are in Ilocos, from its main church, St. Augustine Parish Church, also known as Bantay Church.

Built in 1590 with design reminiscent of the Old Spanish architecture using local indigenous materials like brick and slime.

Damaged during World War II and was restored in the 1950s in neo-gothic design as seen today.

Scenic Sunday

A Peek at the Lives of the Crisologos

Credits:  Template by Jen Caputo;  Papers by Jessica Sprague Thank You Kindly kit

The Crisologos – one of the most prominent political families of Vigan, a principal political dynasty, so to speak.  The most popular street of Vigan was in fact named after them.  Their lives were filled with political drama and violence.

Floro Crisologo was a veteran and a long time congressman.  On Oct 18, 1970, while standing in line for communion, a lone gunman entered the church and shot him.  The assassin escaped during the chaos that ensued and the murder case remains unresolved to this day.  As rumors have it, it was politically motivated.

His wife Carmeling, once a Governor of Vigan, survived him.  She also had her fair share of political violence when she was ambushed in her car in 1961.  She lived to tell the tale.

Their son Bingbong on the other hand, served time in the Bilibid prison for burning down two villages in Ilocos Sur in 1970.  It was rumored that it was done in retaliation for the residents voted for his mother’s opponent.  Today, he is a congressman for a district in Quezon City.

Housing the memorabilia and antique collections of this family is their ancestral home now turned museum, the Crisologo Museum. Truth be told, when compared to the well-kept Syquia Mansion, this was a let down and anti-climactic.

Did you ever own one of this?

Or this?

I hope not this.   🙂

A Tourism apprentice who knows very little about the family and its (very colorful) history took us around and when bombarded with questions, the poor girl couldn’t answer most of it.

The house however, albeit not as well kept as the one of the Syquia’s, was interesting enough showcasing a lot of paintings and photos of the family.

Syquia Mansion

Credits:  Papers by Jessica Sprague Home Away From Home Paper kit.

This colonial mansion built in 1830 at the corner of Quirino Blvd. and Salcedo St. is the ancestral home of Doña Alicia Syquia, wife of Philippine’s 6th president, the late Elpidio Quirino.

It is today a museum that offers free entrance to visitors.  In the house are 19th century furnishings, memorabilia and various photos, providing a glimpse to the man.

Doña Alicia did not live to become first lady however, because she was a casualty of World War II — she along with 3 of her children were killed by the Japanese.  Elpidio did not re-marry and his daughter, Doña Victoria served as First Lady.

The mansion had become the official residence of President Quirino thus claimed as the first Malacañang of the north.

A portrait of Doña Victoria graces the wall of the Receiving Room

A single wooden stairs leads to the receiving room on the 2nd floor where a replica of the Spolarium hangs.  Rumor has it that Juan Luna’s assistant painted the replica and this was what they referred to when the real Spolarium was restored.

The rooms are spacious with various doors linking one room from the other.  One can enter one door and exit another door leading to another room.

Capiz windows up close

The mansion was well kept and retains a lot of the 19th century details.

Glass window detail

I am a fan of Machuca tiles — flooring used in the Azotea

Looking out to the Azotea froma room (nice grill detail too).

The guide was very knowledgeable and equipped with many information.  Definitely a must see when in Vigan.

This is my entry to My World this week.  Click on the icon below for a glimpse of more worlds from around the globe.

Timeless Vigan

Ilocos Sur is where many culture and histories meet, all sharing space in this timeless city called Vigan – shrines, landmarks, museums, churches, ancestral homes, a cobbled-stoned street.  Inscribed in 1999 in the UNESCO World Heritage list, citing that, “Vigan represents a unique fusion of Asian buildings and construction with European colonial architecture and planning.”

Established in the 16th century, Vigan is still the most intact example of a Spanish colonial town in Asia today.  It is best known for its cobbled-stone street, Calle Crisologo, lined with many old buildings that are intact, restored or in (dis)repair.

One can see remnants of the old-Spanish architecture throughout the center of the city.

Although the street is now busy with souvenir and curio shops, it still transports one back to the Vigan at its peak.  It is the oldest surviving Spanish colonial city in the country, not many of the historical buildings are left after WWII.

The old Vigan colonial houses, built mostly by rich Chinese traders, are made of thick brick walls and red clay.

They conduct their business on the ground floor and reside above.  It is a characteristic of Chinese culture and other Asian countries as well.  The resulting townscape is a unique display of a harmonious blend of Ilocano, Chinese and European elements, a unique display of the multi-culture nature of the Filipino society.

Captivated by colonial towns and its culture, this road trip all started with Vigan in mind.

From their longganisa and bagnets to their ancestral homes, we savored it all.

the street at night

We spent the 2 days walking up and down Calle Crisologo soaking in the heritage,

wondering how life was back in those elegant days of yore.  An interesting city albeit far from the capital with about 400 kilometers (that’s about 8 hours) of travel needed if you are coming from Manila.  Vigan is charming and I urge every Filipino to make a visit at least once in their life.   🙂

Not your typical McDonald’s facade

Al fresco dining in the evenings is a wonderful thing

Scenic Sunday