Could an invitation be more exciting than the actual trip? In my experience with La Union, it’s a ‘YES.’
It was sometime in May when one of my favorite travel writers, Gretchen of Filipina Explorer, invited me to join her and the rest of the Northbound Magazine team to cover La Union and Baguio for the publication.
While I’ve written for my own websites, my clients’ corporate blogs and a US magazine for authors (Insight Magazine), I thought of Northbound’s writing assignment as nothing short of amazing (and overwhelming). It was, after all, the first ever local magazine I was lucky enough to write for.
Anyway, I was grateful for the opportunity, and I totally had a great time learning about La Union’s unusual side.
La Union: More than a “Surfing Capital of the North”
La Union rode the wave of fame with its great swells. With the recent closing of Boracay, celebrities and vacationers flock to the “Surfing Capital of the North” to surf, swim, or just unwind. But there’s just so much more Elyu has to offer.
Together with well-informed local guides and inveterate travelers from the NORTHBOUND team, we scoured the new, less explored parts of the province to find out what it can offer to every type of traveler.
I followed their recommended itinerary and managed to squeeze in La Union’s best sights, eateries, and experiences in just 60 hours. Here are some recommended tours for you:
Serving a delectable fusion of Filipino and international dishes plus special homemade bread, Barefoot at Le Point Bar is a hit among surfers, social drinkers, and sunset watchers. If you’re craving for fish like Blue Marlin or Golden Tilapia, swing by the River Farm for lunch and the Blue Marlin Resort for dinner. Looking for tried-and-true local favorites? The new, hip, and enormous food hall in Elyu, called The Food Project, may have exactly the dish you’re craving for. Dining with a group you want to impress? Head straight to The Big Kahuna Restaurant and Clubhouse and share a platter of seafood, lechon, barbecue, and more.
Want to shake the hands of those who feed you? Visit the family-owned, TESDA-accredited farm and farming school of Mr. Rolando M. Rocapor. Find gorgeous gigantic sunflowers, pick fresh vegetables, and purchase them at farm-gate value. Meanwhile, fruit-lovers can sate their cravings for ripe, juicy grapes at Ramos Integrated Farming. With a small entrance fee of P20, visitors can take unlimited photos of the vineyards but they ought not to pick more than three grapes for free tasting. Of course you can buy the farm’s grapes at a bargain price if you want to eat more or bring some home.
For Art Aficionados
If Luna’s Bahay na Bato is closed for visitors, visit the Stone Hand instead. The same artist built them. This art museum boasts various sculptures, paintings, clay art, and other contemporary artworks. The art gallery cum event space was an idea of Mr. Kim (the artist) and Beverly, his Filipina wife. When the government prohibited the import of beach pebbles from the municipality of Luna, Mr. Kim decided to turn these spare, unsold stones into works of art for visitors of all ages. Ain’t it brilliant?
For Avid Souvenir Collectors
Skip the generic souvenir shops and look for a local craft center to shop for a trip memento. I like souvenirs that I can actually use but in Elyu, this desire was not only met but exceeded. I got a blanket made from inabel – a traditional handwoven fabric popular in the North. At De Castro’s Inabel, the tradition lives on. When you shop for anything inabel – from scarves to tablecloth to blankets – you are not just buying a useful, high-quality souvenir, you’re bringing home a piece of culture from Elyu. Bonus: Silk lovers will find a great bargain at Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University, where high-grade hand-woven silk fabrics are turned into fabulous fashion pieces.
For Beach and Surfing Fanatics
Nothing beats San Juan when it comes to surfing (and if I may add, dramatic sunset). I have surfed in Siargao before but after riding the waves of Urbiztondo beach, I was converted. I liked Elyu more. Their waves and sandy shores were better – I got fewer scratches and I was able to stand up more frequently because my surfing instructor from DJ Surfschool was encouraging and well-trained. Fun fact: the owner of this school is none other than Daisy Nerisa Valdez, an international surfing champion. I got to meet her, too, and boy, I was starstruck!
For Island Explorers
When I saw Immuki Island on our itinerary, I was baffled. Could there really be an island off the coast of La Union? During high tide, paying a 10-peso per person fare on a raft is necessary to reach this rocky islet. But when it’s low tide, you can really just walk toward the island – the shallow waters would allow it. Immuki has pockets of lagoons, big and small, where you can swim with small tropical fish. Some folks jumped off while others traversed through canals that connect the lagoons.
For Churchgoers or Architecture Buffs
A local travel guide told me that the Marian shrine at the St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish or Our Lady of Namacpacan Church miraculously healed a crippled girl named Rosal Roldan. After seeing the shrine of the Virgin Mary, she was able to walk again. According to historical data, the shrine was transported from Spain for a church in Vigan, however, the priest of Namacpacan Church had trouble moving the 1.92m-tall shrine from their town to Ilocos in 1690 so he made a deal with the Vigan friar to give them the Marian figure and the town folks would raise the money to pay all the transport expenses incurred.
P.S. Where to Stay in La Union
Nestled along Urbiztondo Beach, Urbiz Garden (room rate starts at P3,000/night depending on season) is a family-owned, beach-front property surrounded by a gorgeous garden featuring relaxing, native-style cottages. The main beach house is a great choice for families while the private cabanas are excellent for couples. Situated near the pool, the cabanas are equipped with a plush bed, an outdoor shower and a bathtub (perfect for honeymooners looking for a blissful getaway). Breakfast is available as fish or meat dish with egg, rice or pancake. For coffee, drinks and special snacks, the beach house features on-site cafes such as Choka and Clean Beach.
Photo Credits: Header Image & Surfing image by Martin San Diego and Northbound Magazine.
P.P.S. Liked this post or found it helpful? Don’t forget to like or share. Thank you and enjoy your trip to La Union!