Corn and the Sun: My Trip to Ilagan City, Isabela

My Trip to Ilagan, Isabela

As a student with a busy schedule, I don’t get to travel much. The only time that I do travel is for academic purposes. While that may sound boring to most of you, I consider it to be exciting. In the cases that I travel, I travel alone to represent my school. Moreover, all my school trips are all-expenses-paid, down to every meal I eat. That sounds like the dream vacation, doesn’t it?

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My Trip to Ilagan City, Isabela photo via Ilagan FB Page

My latest school trip happened in March, in Ilagan City, Isabela. Ilagan City is known for its main crop: corn. And truly enough, during my whole trip, I saw cornfields everywhere. Corn was also being dried by the side of the road.

Departure to Day 1 (March 6, 2020)

We left Pangasinan early in the morning, at 1:30AM. The school had contracted a van to take us there. I don’t remember most of the trip because I tried to get some sleep and it was too dark, anyway.

At around 6-7AM, I was awake and saw mist. Everywhere. It was very misty as we traversed this road up a hill. I thought we were in Baguio, as the only time I saw fog like this was when I visited Baguio. I later came to realize we were in the province of Nueva Viscaya, which is similar to Baguio in topography.

The side of the road up the hill was covered in colorful paintings depicting traditional Nueva Viscayan life. It was very interesting to see.

We had breakfast at a fast-food restaurant in Nueva Viscaya. I don’t remember the name of the town in particular but the streets were empty as it was early in the morning. It was quite cold, too. The interesting things I noticed while walking to the fast-food were the buildings. The buildings were very Spanish in style. But they were painted in vibrant colors.

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Sulong Pa City of Ilagan

It wasn’t until 10AM that we finally got to Ilagan City. I knew it right away because an arch of blue welcomed us: “Sulong Pa! City of Ilagan” the arch said.

The very first baranggay that you enter once you get to Ilagan is Alibagu, where, conveniently, our hotel was located. We stayed at the Dreamwave Hotel and Resort. The resort wasn’t the best in terms of maintenance and utilities. However, I must say, the staff there are certainly helpful and accomodating.

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Dreamwave Hotel in Ilagan City

After checking in our hotel, we head to the city proper for lunch. We rode a jeep that took us there. Along the way, I saw cornfields. Cornfields everywhere. There was also a giant rocking chair displayed in the middle of the city. It was also evident that blue and white were the city colors.

The jeep dropped us off at an eatery joint along the highway. And that’s when I realized that it was very hot in Ilagan.

We had fried crab, liempo, chicken inas, and Ensalada with iced-cold Coke. Nothing gets more traditional Filipino food than that. We ate our fill until our stomachs were satisfied. The food wasn’t the best and my chicken inasal was even undercooked.

We went back to our hotel annex. The hotel was connected to Northstar Mall, where we spent a few hours buying groceries and shopping.

Around 5, near dusk, we went on to walk to the church that we saw on the way there. The walk was very long. We thought we can walk to the church because it looked close by. But in reality, it took us 20 minutes. However, it was very much worth it.

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Church in Ilagan Isabela

The church was very beautiful amidst the sunset. The sun was exactly right behind the church and you can clearly see the rays of the sun against the sky. It was breathtaking. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. It was the St. Ferdinand Parish Church in Sta. Ana St. Ilagan, Isabela.

When we came there, the doors were closed and we were almost frustrated that we walked 20 minutes to get to a closed church. But thankfully, there was a small door that opened inside.

It was grand. It was absolutely majestic. The setting sun against the stained glass windows was beautiful. And then I Kneeled down to pray and thank God for everything that led me up to this moment.

We had dinner on this small panciteria outside of Ilagan, between our hotel and the church. They served us in shacks and we tried the Pancit Batil-Patong that is very well known in the province.

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Pancit Batil Patong photo by Josiphine Tagudin

The serving of Pancit Batil-Patong was quite large. It could be a full meal by itself. It was also served traditional style: with a poached egg on top, as well as some accompanying broth and diced white onions that you are meant to stir into the pancit. It was delicious.

Day 2 (March 7, 2020)

For Day 2, we had to get to Sta. Isabela Sur in the morning, to meet with other delegates from our province.

The tricycle ride to Sta. Isabela Sur was very long as it was the last baranggay in the city. Ilagan was so wide and most of the land was still underdeveloped.

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Author at Ilagan Japanese Tunnel

After going to Sta. Isabela Sur, we went to the Ilagan Japanese Tunnel where we dressed up in Japanese kimonos, took pictures against the ponds, and learned about the history of the Japanese tunnels.

For lunch, the tricycle driver took us to Bahay Kubo, a small KTV carinderia in the city proper. We were absolutely hungry and spent 400pesos worth of food. We had traditional Filipino dishes like dinuguan, beef steak, sinigang, ginisang amapalaya and others.

Food at Bahay Kubo was delicious and tasty.

In the afternoon, we spent our time in the Ilagan Sanctuary.

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Ilagan Sanctuary

The highlight of our trip there were the cave formations. The tour guide that accompanied us was a funny and outgoing man and I certainly enjoyed my time with him.

The cave formations were cold, and formed wonderful pillars. It was my first time coming to one and learning about the science behind this beauty of nature.

Some notable formations are: one that resembled a baby hugging a mother, one that looked like a small Sto. Niño statue atop of an altar, pillars that were slowly meeting in the middle, and other funny NSFW formations.

The sanctuary also had a treetop adventure, where my teacher almost fainted because of landing wrong on her feet. Be careful with these activities you guys. We weren’t wearing the proper gear as we didn’t really know we were going that day.

We visited the Animal Kingdom on the way out and saw two large Bengal tigers. So large they probably could eat me if they wanted. Pythons, monkeys, peacocks and other animals were present there, too.

Day 3 (March 8, 2020)

The whole morning was spent shopping and checking out the stalls in Northstar Mall.

In the afternoon, we headed to the Ilagan City Sports Complex where the opening ceremony for our event was held.

The Bayle sa Kalye competition was also held, where I got to see dancers in colorful dresses dancing to their natuve culture songs.

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Pancit Cabagan

Dinner was spent behind the sports complex, back to the eatery joint we had on the first day. We ate sisig and Isabela’s well-known Pancit Cabagan.

We were trying to wait for the fireworks but we were told that it would be difficult to get back to Alibagu if we waited until later.

However, just before we rode a jeepney, the fireworks came. And it was absolutely breathtaking. They were launched right below us, under the hill, and so it felt like it truly was raining fireworks.

Day 4 (March 9, 2020)

Our last day was spent preparing for my competition.

I had bad nerves that day. But nevertheless, I think I delivered an exemplary performance.

We had to leave early by 8PM that night as the news of the coronavirus lockdown came.

My trip to Ilagan marked my last school trip as a highschool student. It was hot, delicious but certainly memorable. I can’t wait to see what college has in store for me.

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