|Our special, full body sticker-wrapped Victory Liner bus|
The 5-day, North Philippines Visitors Bureau (NPVB)/Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC)-sponsor Lakbay Norte 2, First Leg, was launched at the Victory Liner Terminal along EDSA (near Kamias St.), Quezon City last January 23, 2011, Sunday. Our special Victory Liner bus, its body sticker-wrapped with the tour's sponsors, left the terminal around 2 AM. The tour covered the 7 Northern Luzon provinces of La Union (Rosario and Pugo), Benguet (Baguio City and Tuba), Pangasinan (Pozorrubio and Manaoag), Zambales (Subic Freeport Zone), Tarlac (Capas and Tarlac City), Pampanga (Angeles City, Clark Freeport Zone, Bacolor, Guagua, City of San Fernando and Mexico) and Bulacan (Sta. Miguel de Mayumo).
Joining from the print media were Ms. Jacky Lynne Oiga of Manila Bulletin; Dandi Galvez of Philippine Star; Mr. Ivan ManDy of Tulay Weekly; Mr. Gabriel "Gabby" Malvar of Travelife Magazine; Mr. Art Villasanta of Philippine Daily Inquirer; Mr. Raydon Reyes of ExpatTravel and Lifestyle Magazine; Mr. Ramir Cambiado of Travel Plus Magazine and Monica Macalinao and Brian Joseph Casenas of Northbound Magazine. Travel bloggers include Ms. Esperanza "Nina" Fuentes (www.justwandering.org), Mr. Ivan Henares (www.ivanhenares.com), Mr. Ferdinand "Ferdz" Decena (www.ironwulf.net) and Mr. Karlo de Leon (www.karlodl.com).
Joining us from Yahoo! Philippines was Isadora "Izah" Morales while doing a segment for Travel Time (hosted by Ms. Cory Quirino) are the Studio 23 team of Ms. Hannah Barrios, Mr. Leo Lava Cruz, Mr. Joshua "Red" Nietes and Mr. Viktor Julius "Bads" Licos. Our trip was documented by professional photographer Mr. Franklin "Frank" Dizon and videographer Mr. Jayson "John Lloy" Casilang.
Joining us was MNTC Senior Marketing Manager Ms. Grace Ayento while Ms. Melissa Grace Dizon (Executive Director), Ms. Jesame Nabong (CVB Operations and Event Manager), Michelle Liza "Mishy" Co (Marketing Manager) and Ms. Rica Paz represented NPVB. MNTC Marketing Vice-President Mr. Renie Ticzon visited us at Mexico, Pampanga while NPVB Executive Director Vince W. Araneta saw us off at the Victory Liner Terminal in Quezon City. Rica has since migrated to the U.S. and now works at Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad.
Highlights of our tour include sipping kape alamid, the most expensive coffee in the world (sourced from civet cat poop) at S.O.U.L. Cafe in Rosario (La Union); having our portrait sketched, meeting Cordillera artists, sipping tapuy (rice wine), bugnay (blackberry wine) and native Arabica coffee and dining on pinikpikan at Tam-awan Village and savoring Mediterranean charm at Hotel Elizabeth in Baguio City; meeting National Artist BenCab and exploring his museum at Tuba (Benguet); flying like Superman, driving an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and wall climbing at Pugad Pugo Adventure Park in Pugo (La Union); observing the making of the Ilocano delicacy patupat in Pozorrubio (Pangasinan); lighting candles at the new Candle Gallery at the Manaoag Shrine in Manaoag (Pangasinan); riding 4x4 all-terrain vehicles and trekking Mt. Pinatubo in Zambales; having our tired bodies pampered at P.D.C. Spa Town in Sta. Juliana (Tarlac); dining on Kapamapangan cuisine and viewing Kapampangan lifestyle and culture at Museo Ning Angeles in Angeles City (Pampanga); dining on Korean and Italian cuisine; jetskiing, banana boating and sea kayaking and R&R at Lighthouse Marina Resort at Subic Freeport Zone (Zambales); pilgrimage to notable Kapampangan churches in Bacolor and Guagua; attending a cooking demo (and sampling her cooking) by culinary expert and historian Lilian M.L. "Atching" Borromeo in Mexico (Pampanga); bus tour of San Miguel de Mayumo's ancestral houses and retracing the footsteps of Philippine revolutionists at Biak-na-Bato National Park in Bulacan.
These 5 days have been great. I gain a better appreciation of the beauty, culture, arts, cuisine, architecture and excitement of the North and I've scratch a number of items in my Bucket List (kape alamid, Mt. Pinatubo, jetskiing, spa treatment and ATV ride). I've also learned how to sleep in buses and developed a fondness for oatmeal bars and Cloud 9 chocolate bars. I also found out that Jesame (rhymes with besame, Spanish for "kiss me") is short for "Jesus Save Me," that I'm not the oldest in the group (Art Villasanta is four years older than me), photographer Frank Dizon is also a registered architect like me, Mishy Co isn't Japanese (I thought she was Michiko), Grace has a very private Facebook account and that Dandi Galvez doesn't believe in Facebook, Tweeter or any other social networking site (kawawa). I also saw the power of the internet especially with regards travel blogs, so much so that I've created one of my own (F.Y.I: Fire Your Imagination). Finally, I've gain a new set of friends which I don't want to shed and a few extra pounds which I'm still trying to shed up to now. Congratulations to MNTC and NPVB for organizing a successful first leg of Lakbay Norte 2! More power to you all!
North Philippines Visitors Bureau (NPVB): 291 St. Joseph St., Oranbo Drive, Pasig City, Metro Manila. Tel: (632) 637-6798. Fax: (632) 631-1674. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.northphilippines.org.