Sunday, April 22, 2012

San Juan, La Union: Surfers' Northern Paradise

San Juan, LA UNION
Date: APR 21-22, 2012

Dubbed as the Surfing Capital of the Northern Philippines, the town of San Juan, La Union prides itself with its stunning beauty that attracts hundreds of surfers and tourists throughout the Philippines. This will be the first time that I will set foot in this province, and I am so excited about it. Let the journey begin!


I just came from work yesterday. It was too early, and I still wanted to sleep, but I have to wake up! Saturday, April 21, 2012. This is the day that I am waiting for – the day that I’ll set foot not just on the province of La Union, but on the Ilocandia Region (Region 1) as well. EXCITING!

Everything was already packed up when I went downstairs. My sister (PM) and my cousin (Ate Pops), along with her son (Kaeden), were all ready to go. We left home at 6:00 AM and fetched Kuya Luigi (one of my cousin’s friend) from his house. He sat on the driver’s seat and replaced Ate Pops from driving the vehicle, and we went on our way and drove to Petron NLEX. We waited for Ate Lyzza (one of my cousin’s friend), and while waiting for them to arrive, we decided to eat at a nearby Jollibee store. I ordered spaghetti for breakfast and stayed inside the fastfood chain for a little longer. After a couple of minutes, Ate Lyzza arrived, and we began our journey up north.

Sebay Beach Resort, San Juan, La Union
While driving along NLEX, I saw three accidents that caused small traffic jams, and when we managed to get through it, another traffic jam stood on our way – toll gate traffic at Dau toll barrier in Mabalacat, Pampanga. We managed to get through the horrendous traffic jams that we experienced along the way and continued driving to SCTEX. Being a first-timer on the Tarlac portion of SCTEX, and the province of Tarlac as well, I suddenly got curious and checked out what the province of Tarlac looked like. I peeked through the windows and saw endless kilometers of sugarcane planted on the vast plains of Tarlac, with occasional rivers made of lahar and a glimpse of Mt. Arayat from a distance.

Kayaks near the beach
After 3 hours, we managed to reach Tarlac City. We had a short stop at Petron, but I didn’t go outside because it’s scorching hot. We continued our journey, and this time, there was more scenery along the way. I never imagined Tarlac to be this big. We have to get through the towns of Gerona, Paniqui, Moncada and San Manuel before we could reach the province of Pangasinan. When we entered the welcome arch to the province, our enthusiasm to reach La Union was revitalized. Now, there were three provinces down and one more to go.

It took us an hour to reach the border between Pangasinan and La Union. Pangasinan was huge, and we have to get through the towns and cities of Rosales, Villasis, Urdaneta, Binalonan, Pozorrubio, and Sison before we could reach La Union’s gateway arch.

Few people swimming on a Sunday
Before entering the gateway arch, we had to pass through this long bridge situated above the Bued River. The scenery was terrific, and you could see massive deposits of sand and lahar down below the bridge. And there it was – the gateway arch of La Union province! The first town to greet us was Rosario, and then we passed through the municipalities of Santo Tomas, Agoo, Aringay, Caba, Bauang, and then the City of San Fernando. From the provincial capital, Sebay Beach Resort was just a few minutes away, situated in the town of San Juan.

We reached Sebay Beach Resort after 6 ½ hours of driving, and the whole coastline was dotted with several resorts that offer surfing lessons. The place was calm and relaxing – white sand, clear waters, and an ambiance that was comparable to paradise. There were few people as well, and the place was tranquil and calm. It was already 1:00 PM when we arrived, so we got into the hotel’s restaurant and ordered our lunch.

Me, Kaeden and PM

The food was excellent, and after eating our lunch, I went to the beach and started to enjoy my weekend vacation. I built sandcastles along the shore, made sand sculptures with my sister, rushed through the giant waves with my nephew and watched surfers as they rode their boards and crashed above the waves. Some were doing parasailing, and some were riding the banana boat. I enjoyed swimming the whole day, and as the dusk came, more and more people left the beach, and the waves get higher and higher.

While my sister and my cousin decided to go back to the hotel to eat, I decided to stay at the beach a little longer. I loved how the waves crash onto my body while the fresh sea breeze gusts into the shore. After a few minutes, I decided to go back to the hotel, but first, I have to wash away the sand inside my board shorts. I went to this waist-deep part of the sea to rinse out the sand when suddenly, a painful and excruciating sting tore through my skin.

Just chillin' out
I thought I was sunburned, but it was way more painful than that. It felt like your skin was being burned and would become extremely itchy after a few seconds. I rushed to the hotel to check what was going on with my arm. I asked my cousin what it was, and she told me that I must have been stung by a jellyfish. I poured vinegar over my now swollen arm and waited for the ointment that my cousin bought back at the city.

Dinner came, and we gathered back at the restaurant to eat our supper. I ate beefsteak for dinner, and then the discussion about the jellyfish attack began. My cousin told me that many people were stung by swarms of jellyfish that day, including one of our companions. I soon realized that this coastline was infested with swarms of jellyfish during the summer months, and decided not to go back to the sea the next day.

Scars - remembrance I got from the jellyfish

Good morning La Union!
Morning came, and I peeked through the windows of our room. From there, I saw that there were still people who were being stung by these nasty sea creatures. Those who were still at sea rushed back into the shore after seeing a giant jellyfish swarm. Those who were already stung try to cover their injuries with sand, to ease the pain. Because it looks dangerous for us to swim that day, I just decided to walk around the shore and explore the coast.

What I saw were rock pools with clear seawater, complete with different species of tiny fish inside, salt deposits trapped inside dead corals, and a long line of beach resorts. I took some photos and went back to the hotel.

Rockpools all over the area
We packed up our things after eating our breakfast and decided to go back home. We drove back to Urdaneta City, Pangasinan and ate lunch at Matutina’s, a famous restaurant that serves lots of mouth-watering seafood dishes with a twist. You can also see numerous reviews posted on their wall – a proof of how food critics enjoyed the taste of their seafood recipes. This was also the first time that I set foot in the province of Pangasinan (we never had any stopover in this province from yesterday).

Salt deposits
After having a feast at Urdaneta City, we continued on our way home and decided to have another stopover: this time, at Tarlac City. I went outside the vehicle, to make my first step on the province of Tarlac, and stayed outside only for a few seconds. We managed to get home at around 8:00 in the evening. Feeling very tired from the trip, I went upstairs to sleep.

I may have been bitten by the jellyfish back at La Union, but that won’t stop me from coming back. La Union is a great place to stay, and I would love to learn more about their history and culture the next time I return. J

I ♥ La Union!

1. Drive to NLEX, and then to SCTEX, and then to TPLEX.
2. At the end of the expressway, turn left.
3. Go straight to Rosales Junction (near SM Rosales), and then turn right (McArthur Highway).
4. You should pass through the towns of Villasis, Urdaneta, Binalonan, Pozorrubio, and Sison in Pangasinan, and then Rosario in La Union.
5. Turn left once you reached the junction going to Baguio City (via Kennon Road).
6. Drive to Rosario Poblacion, and turn left right after passing their municipal hall.
7. Drive straight to Damortis Junction, and then turn right. You would be passing through the towns of Agoo, Caba, Bauang, and then San Fernando City.
8. San Juan would be the next town right after San Fernando City, and Sebay Surf Resort is situated on the left.

1. Ride buses going to Vigan or Laoag, and ask the driver to drop you off at Sebay Surf Resort. Fare ranges from P500-P600.

1. New Region: Ilocos Region (Region I)
2. New Provinces:
12th, 13th and 14th Provinces out of 81

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