Our road trip from Vigan to Tuguegarao (the city where my parents currently reside) took almost 12 hours . There were plenty of interesting places to stop and explore (not to mention the incredible view) along the way.

Paoay Church
Paoay Church

Our first stop was at the St Augustine Church, commonly known as Paoay Church. Located in Paoay, Ilocos Norte, this Roman Catholic Church is a historical landmark in the region. It was declared a national treasure and also included in the UNESCO World Heritage list as part of the collective Baroque churches of the Philippines.

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The church’s architecture is highlighted by the massive buttresses located by the sides and back of the building.

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Behind the church is a lush garden and a gift shop. They sold souvenir trinkets but I found a really cool yellow hat for 175php (about $4) that I thought was far better than the ones sold in department stores.

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Along the way we briefly stopped at a popular site for zip lining. I thought of my boys and wondered if this was something they would enjoy doing when they come to the Philippines for a vacation in 2016.

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We had a brief stop at Bangui, home of the first and largest windmill in Southeast Asia.

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Bangui’s tourist office had a view deck that provided a back drop of the luxuriant scenery of Ilocos Norte.

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From Bangui we drove for about a good 3-4 hours nonstop. The view of the ocean on one side and the mountain on the other made me nostalgic thinking how much I’ve missed the Philippines.

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As I was about to doze off, my mom announced that we were nearing Pagudpud beach and my excitement was once again awoken.

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This beach is not widely visited by foreign tourists since it is not as fully developed as the other popular beach destinations in the country. Hannah’s is the largest resort in Pagudpud but to my disappointment, it was tackily decorated by life-sized dinosaurs and superheroes. But fortunately its poor taste did not manage to ruin the magnificent sight in front of me: the amazing powdery white sand beach and the crystal clear blue ocean.

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Pagudpud is known for its abundance in lobsters. We were not fortunate to get some in this trip but the good news is there will always be a next time.

As I ponder on the road trip, I’ve come to a realization what a beautiful country the Philippines truly is. Yet at the same time, I was swept with an underlying loneliness knowing how many of its leaders have abused its resources. No Filipino should ever take their country for granted.