Lakbay Norte 2016: Day 1
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Every year, the NPVB (North Luzon Visitors Bureau) invites travel bloggers and members of the media to a weeklong familiarization trip up in North Luzon. I’ve seen some amazing photos of this before so when an invite like this popped up, I jumped right at it. On its 5th year NLEX Lakbay Norte 2016 zeroed in on the regions of La Union and Pangasinan. That said, read on and find out what you could do on your next trip up north of Metro Manila.
On the first day, we were asked to meet up at 5 a.m. in the Victory Liner bus terminal in Cubao. Here we boarded the bus exclusively reserved for Lakbay Norte participants. It was covered in a huge NLEX Lakbay Norte campaign poster so it was certainly hard to miss. Soon as I got up the bus, I was thrilled to find that there was wifi onboard! Now this is something we all value, if we want to keep our social media feed up to date!
NLEX Control Center
Our first stop out of the bus terminal was the NLEX control room. Now on its 10th year in operation, their staff gave us an orientation on how their system of monitoring manila traffic is carried out on a daily basis. They currently have a total of 70 CCTV cameras, 106 emergency call boxes, 23 variable message signs, among which are essential in monitoring the number of cars. These data, when gathered, all help them make forecasts for the upcoming holidays, special events, etc. Their GPS now show which patrol members are in which location. They also have the incident response teams.
After that we started heading up San Fernando for our first official stop. We got there at 12 pm, which was just the right time for lunch in Natalna Restaurant. It’s a restaurant that serves great Ilocano food. Locals and even expats are known to frequent this place that is essentially a large-looking hut. One thing that caught my attention upon arrival was its beachfront view! While it was crazy hot in Manila, where we came from just a few hours before that, we were transported to the seaside where the breeze gave its visitors a cool welcome. This made for a great chance for everyone in this trip to be oriented with one another as well.
LU Art Gallery
From there we headed to the LU Art Gallery, where they exhibit works of artists in La Union. It’s a non-profit gallery in which its aim is to simply showcase the current and up and coming artists of La Union. It was established in 2012 but it only went full blast in 2014. An interesting thing to note here is that also serves as a workshop area for young artists during the weekend. Among my favorite works of art in this gallery was by a local artist named Rodel G. Rillera, who is incidentally one of the most known artists in the local scene. His style in painting is very distinct, making it easily recognizable even outside of the gallery. I’m talking about restaurants where his works are also showcased (more about that later on).
Kahuna Resort and Spa
It was around 4 in the afternoon when we finally had a good feel of the place. We were then brought to Kahuna Resort in San Juan, where we will be staying for that night. This luxury beach resort boasts of its beachfront view of the West Philippine Sea, making it one of the most visited spots for beach goers and surfers alike.
We had enough time to freshen up before heading down the beach. For those considering heading to La Union as a huge group for surfing, its rest house is certainly worth considering. I fell in love with their 2-story house with 3 spacious bedrooms, an all-functioning kitchen and dining area, plus a spacious living room, overlooking the infinity pool. All this makes for the perfect setting for bonding over cooking, chilling and surfing.
The waves were too strong then so we decided to leave the surfing lessons for the day after. When the sun finally set, we all headed back to the beach for a bbq night, where they lit up a bonfire for us and toasted hotdogs and marshmallows. That was a great start to almost ending our first night in San Juan, but not without giving us a taste of their other restaurants in town.
For dinner, we headed to LU BBQ, a restaurant that advocates local Filipino ingredients and local artists. I enjoyed the food they served which includes the LU barbeque, the dinakdakan and their char-broiled LU bbq burger! For dessert, they served us something I’ve never really tried before – red velvet balls with vanilla ice cream, which came to be my new favorite! Restaurant owner, Ross Nisce, quips that he had his brother bake it for them whenever he’s available. I guess were we lucky he was free on the day of our visit!
Complimenting that night’s dinner was a “Spoken Words” presentation, in which on selected evenings they invite LU students to come and perform some of the songs and poetry they wrote themselves.
This was definitely a good way to end our first day in Lakbay Norte 2016. The schedule wasn’t as fully packed but it was enough to get us oriented with our first destination. We headed back to our hotel for a good night’s rest so we can rise up early for a full day ahead the day after!