I had just returned to my empty hostel room in a small town in Southern Palawan when I got a call from the North Philippines Visitors Bureau. They broke the news that I was chosen as one of the lucky travel bloggers joining the 3rd edition of the Lakbay Norte media tour. I was overwhelmed with excitement but I had to keep it to myself … I was traveling solo and there wasn’t anyone around that could relate anyways. The timing couldn’t have been better. It was the perfect way to kick-start my 2012 season of traveling.
I found out later when I got the chance to go online that I was going to be stuck with five other amazing travel bloggers on the Lakbay Norte 3 tour … that’s 8 whole days across 11 provinces in North Philippines! I almost fainted at the thought of traveling with Gael from thepinaysolobackpacker, Ed from soloflighted, James from journeyingjames, Angel from lakwatsero, and Christian from lakad-pilipinas.
Photo-op with the Lakbay Norte 3 Bus at Patapat Viaduct in Pagdupud, Ilocos Norte. Photo taken by Gael.
Lakbay Norte Road Tour
Lakbay Norte is an annual media familiarization tour organized by the North Philippines Visitors Bureau aimed at introducing media groups about travel destinations in North Philippines, which includes Baguio, Bulacan, Cagayan North, Greater Clark, Greater Subic, Ilocos Norte, La Union, Pampanga, Pangasinan, and Tarlac.
Carrying the tourism slogan, “Rediscover the North,” North Philippines Visitors Bureau and the Manila North Tollways Corp. play a significant role in marketing North Philippines as a premiere travel destination.
Within the circle of Pinoy Travel Bloggers, the Lakbay Norte is a much coveted event participated by our idols like Ivan, Ferdz, Estan, and Nina … all of whom are distinguished as winners of the Best Travel Blog category in the Philippines Blog Awards 2007-2010. When I was researching for itinerary ideas for my 11-day trip to Northern Luzon, I frequently stumbled upon their blogs and read about exciting experiences on their stopovers during the Lakbay Norte tour. I’ve always wished to join their ranks and experience traveling in North Philippines especially because being on a sponsored tour is a very different experience compared to how I usually travel :D
Crisis Averted. Lost my bag … again!
I flew on an evening flight from Iloilo to Manila via AirPhil Express. It was a very pleasant experience, as usual … and I savor every chance I get to transit through the beautiful Iloilo Airport. We were expected to assemble early morning the next day at Victory Liner (Kamias Terminal) for the start of the Lakbay Norte tour.
After arriving at the airport, I followed my usual route to Pasay Rotunda onboard the NAIA (airport) loop bus and then a taxi to my sister’s apartment in Manila. I was lugging a big backpack and several smaller bags at the time.
When I got to the apartment at around 10pm, I was starting to unpack and organize my stuff when I had the oh sh*t moment … not again! I left my bag, which contained my DSLR camera and the chargers of all of my electronic gadgets, at the NAIA loop bus. I started panicking. Not now and not on this trip! Oh, my beloved DSLR, I can’t afford to lose it when I’ve got so many trips planned for 2012.
I ran to the street and flagged a taxi back to the NAIA Loop Bus terminal in Pasay Rotunda. It was already around 11:00pm. The place was already empty since the buses only run up until 10pm. I knocked on the metal security door of the closed bus operator office. Fortunately, someone heeded my call.
The guy told me to come back in the morning since the drivers had already left for home. I shared how desperate I was to retrieve my bag the soonest because I was leaving Manila way before they resume service the next day.
I was advised to meet their supervisor who was still at NAIA Terminal 3 to ask for assistance. Since I’ve been a frequent rider on the NAIA Loop Bus, I knew how to describe the particular bus that I boarded so they could track whoever was the driver on duty that exact time.
The supervisor phoned one of the drivers and after a lengthy discussion, they informed me that they found my bag! I could pick it up back at their terminal in Pasay Rotunda *angels singing* … relief at last!
Alehandro, the driver and my savior, spent the night on the bus parked in one corner of the terminal. He handed out my bag with all its contents still intact. I’m not sure if he intentionally decided to stay up all night at the terminal to wait for the absent-minded passenger (me) who lost his bag. I was really humbled that he was sincerely dedicated with returning the bag to its rightful owner. I was beyond grateful.
I came back to the apartment past 12mn and wasn’t able to sleep thinking about the things that happened and getting excited again about the Lakbay Norte 3 trip.
Lakbay Norte 3 Begins
At 3:30am, I arrived at the Victory Liner Terminal in Kamias, Quezon City. I was greeted by the organizing committee from the North Philippines Visitors Bureau and got acquainted with the Lakbay Norte Bus, which basically became our mobile home for the whole 8 day journey.
Soon enough, I exchanged smiles with familiar and new faces. I knew it was going to be an epic trip right from the get-go.
It was a pleasant surprise to find out that Kara from TravelingUp, Karlo from KarloDL, Ivan from IvanHenares, and Hannah from TheYellowAdventures would also be joining the tour aside from the five bloggers mentioned.
I reviewed our itinerary from the media kit they gave out and couldn’t contain my excitement when I saw we were going to experience surfing in Pagudpud (Ilocos Norte). Then I started skimming through the other activities: White Water Rafting in Kalinga, Spelunking in Bulacan, Sport Fishing in Nueva Ecija, Paddle Boarding in Paoay (Ilocos Norte), Airsoft in Baguio, Go Kart in Tarlac, Off Road Adventure in Pampanga … whoa! Our trip was filled with so many adrenaline pumping activities!
I looked around, examined the other participants from print and tv media. There were around 30 of us all-in-all. I immediately noticed how most of us belonged to a young age group.
My speculations were indeed true. The organizers shared that they intended to promote eco-adventure activities in North Philippines for Lakbay Norte 3 … but were surprised as well to discover how young the participants were. It was a big plus since all of us enjoyed the exhilarating activities the organized had planned.
My Best Experiences
The experience on the Lakbay Norte 3 tour was really amazing. I had already expected to visit many beautiful places, enjoy fun activities, and get stuffed with delicious food. I shared @JourneyingJames that my favorite activity during Lakbay Norte 3 was surfing in Pagudpud but my most cherished part was actually getting stuck with so many interesting and like-minded travelers for eight whole days.
Lakbay Norte 3 Itinerary
Lakbay Norte itinerary map
Here’s a rundown of places we visited and activities we did during the Lakbay Norte 3 media tour:
Day 1 – January 22, Sunday (Bulacan – Nueva Ecija)
- 3:30 AM – Call Time. Meet at Victory Liner, Kamias Station
- 4:30 AM – Departure from Victory Liner, Kamias Station
- 4:30 – 7:00 AM – Travel Time Manila to Norzagaray, Bulacan via NLEX
- 7:00 – 9:00 AM - Spelunking in Pinagrealan Cave, Norzagaray, Bulacan
- 9:00 – 12:00 PM – Travel Time Norzagaray to Cabanatuan Nueva Ecija via NLEX-SCTEX
- 12:00 – 1:00 PM – Lunch in Liquid Coffee Bar and Resto
- 1:00 – 2:30 PM – Travel Time Cabanatuan to Pantabangan Dam
- 2:30 – 5:00 PM – Pantabangan Dam Sport Fishing in Nueva Ecija
- 5:00 – 5:30 PM – Travel to Lake Side
- 5:30 – 6:30 PM – Early Dinner in Lake Side
- 6:30 – 7:30 PM – Travel to San Jose, Nueva Ecija
- 7:30 – 8:30 PM – Washup in Casa Teodoro, San Jose, Nueva Ecija
- 8:30 PM – 5:00 AM – Travel time Nueva Ecija to Tuguegarao
- Sleep in the Bus
Day 2 – January 23, Monday (Cagayan North – Kalinga)
- 5:00 – 6:00 AM – Checkin at Las Palmas Hotel and Resort, Tuguegarao
- Breakfast c/o McDonalds
- 6:00 -9:00 AM – Travel to Kalinga
- 9:00 – 2:00 PM - White Water Rafting in Kalinga with Adventures and Expeditions Inc.
- 2:00 – 2:30 PM – Travel Time to Tabuk
- 2:30 – 3:30 PM – Lunch at Tabuk c/o Adventures and Expeditions Inc.
- 3:30 – 5:00 PM – Travel Time Tabuk to Tuguegarao
- 5:00 – 6:00 PM – Washup and Free time
- 6:00 -7:00 PM – Dinner at Las Palmas Hotel
- 7:00 PM – Free Time, Rest
Day 3 – January 24, Tuesday (Ilocos Norte)
- 5:30-6:30 AM – Breakfast at Las Palmas Hotel
- 6:30 -1:00 PM – Travel Time Tuguegarao to Pagudpud Blue Lagoon, Ilocos Norte
- 1:00 – 2:00 PM – Lunch in Kapuluan Vista Resort
- 2:00 – 5:30 PM - Surfing in Pagudpud
- Wash up
- 6:30 – 8:30 PM – Travel Time Pagudpud to Laoag
- 8:30 – 9:30 PM – Dinner at Johnny Moon
- 9:30 – 10:00 PM – Travel Time Laoag to Paoay
- 10:00 PM – Check-in at Plaza del Norte
Day 4, January 25, Wednesday (Ilocos Norte – La Union)
- 6:30 AM – Call Time
- 7:00 -7:30 AM – Travel time Hotel to Paoay Lake
- 7:30 – 8:30 AM – Breakfast at Malacanang Ti Amianan
- 8:30 – 10:30 AM - Paddle Boarding at Paoay Lake
- Quick sidetrip to Paoay Sand Dunes
- 10:30 – 11:30 AM – Travel Time from Paoay to Batac
- 11:30 – 12:30 PM – Miki and Empanada Lunch at Batac
- 12:30 – 5:00 PM – Travel Time Batac to Poro Point, La Union
- 5:00 – 8:00 PM – Cocktails and Dinner at Thunderbird, Poro Point
- 8:00 – 9:00 PM – Travel to San Juan, La Union
- 9:00 PM – Checkin at Kahuna Beach Resort and Spa
Day 5 – January 26, Thursday (La Union – Baguio City)
- 6:00 – 7:00 AM – Breakfast at Kahuna Beach Resort and Spa
- 7:00 – 8:00 AM – Travel Time from San Juan to Bacnotan, La Union
- 8:00 – 10:00 AM - Trekking at Holcim Ecotrail
- 10:00 – 11:00 AM – Travel Time from Bacnotan to San Fernando, La Union
- 11:00 – 12:00 NN – Lunch at La Union Provincial Capitol
- 12:00 – 2:00 PM – Travel time La Union to Baguio
- 2:00 – 2:30 PM – Snack at Microtel
- 2:30 – 3:00 PM – Travel Time Microtel to BCC
- 3:00 – 6:00 PM - Airsoft with Baguio Airsoft Club at Baguio Country Club
- 6:00 – 6:30 PM – Travel Time BCC to Manor Hotel
- 6:30 – 7:30 PM – Check-in and Rest at Manor Hotel
- 7:30 – 9:30 PM – Bonfire Dinner at Manor Hotel
Day 6 – January 27, Friday (La Union – Pangasinan – Tarlac)
- 5:00 AM – Call Time
- 5:30 – 7:30 AM – Travel time Baguio to La Union
- 8:30 – 10:00 AM – Travel Time La Union to Dagupan,Pangasinan
- 10:00 – 12:00 NN - Dawel River Cruise at Dagupan
- 12:00 – 1:00 PM – Travel Time Dagupan to Urdaneta
- 1:00 – 2:30 PM – Lunch at Matutina’s, Urdaneta
- 2:30 – 4:00 PM – Travel time Urdaneta to Tarlac City
- 4:00 – 8:00 PM - Go Kart at Kart City
- Dinner and Socials at Kart City
- 8:00 – 8:30 PM – Travel Time Tarlac City to Luisita
- 8:30 PM – Checkin Microtel
Day 7 – January 28, Saturday (Subic Bay)
- 7:00 AM – Call Time
- 7:30 – 8:30 AM – Breakfast at La Majarica and Microtel
- 8:30 – 10:00 AM – Travel Time Tarlac to Subic
- 10:00 – 12:30 PM - Jungle Survival, SBMA
- Lunch onsite with Greater Subic CVB (GSBTB)
- 12:30 – 1:00 PM – Travel Time Jungle Survival to Ritz
- 1:00 – 5:00 PM - Massage and Free Time at Ritz Thai Spa
- 5:00 – 6:30 PM – Travel Time Subic to Clark
- 6:30 – 8:30 PM - Dinner at Veranda, Mimosa hosted by Clark Development Corp
- 8:30 PM – Rest at Hotel Vida
Day 8 – January 29, Sunday (Clark – Pampanga)
- 7:00 AM – Call Time
- 7:00 – 8:00 AM – Breakfast at Hotel Vida
- 8:00 – 2:00 PM - Puning’s Spa and Off Road Adventure in Angeles
- Sapang Bato 4×4 jeepney ride
- Lunch at Camalig Restaurant
- Snacks at Prado Farms
- Travel Time to Robinsons Starmills, San Fernando, Pampanga
- Shopping at Robinsons Starmills
- 5:00 PM – Depart for Manila