I first went to Fort Ilocandia a few months after it opened, nearly 30 years ago. I was in a a big group of advertising agency people who were invited by a major TV network for rest-and-recreation in this much talked about hotel – – a typical PR activity by media companies wooing advertisers’ budgets.
I have been coming to Fort Ilocandia since then.
Today, I am told the hotel is being run by foreign investors, the same group running the casino at the second level of the hotel. I have played a few games on the black jack table. I just make sure I leave my ATM cards in my rooms, so I don’t lose more than I the little that I had budgetted for an hour or so of fun.
The hotel has kept its grandeur and, in my book, is still the best hotel in Laoag. For many reasons.
Its architecture is unique. Two-storey buildings sprawling the magnificent garden facing the ocean. Bougainvillas creeping through the brick walls on the verandas, accentuating the lovely balconies of each room.
A fountain that will make you feel like you are in a European plaza.
Guests will not feel idle. They can ride horses along the shore, drive all-terrain-vehicles thru the property, practice their swing on the driving range, or do hole-in-ones in the putting green. There is an Olympic-size pool, beside another one with a cascading waterfall. Drinks can be enjoyed at the bar beside the reception, at the Sunset bar, or at the Lagoon bar, my favorite spot in the resort hotel. There are also beach huts where guests can picnic on the beach. Not to mention the slot machines and the gaming tables at the casino.
The hotel also offers package tours for groups of at least 5 persons. A half-day tour around Ilocos Norte, visitng Paoay Church and the Marcos Museum, among others, costs P750 per person. There are two whole day options. One goes south to the Vigan Heritage Village, and another goes north to Pagudpud, with stops at the beautiful Cape Bojeador lighthouse and the Bangui windmills. The whole day tours cost P900 per head.
WHY FORT ILOCANDIA?
I stay at Fort Ilocandia because the rooms are nice and comfortable, and all rooms have verandas.
Room rates start at P5,600 for a standard twin, to the P50,000 a day Ambassador Suite.There are also several types of suites, the Sunset Suite having been booked by me once or twice.
Sunset Suites cost P15,400. Rooms rates are generally discounted at 30% during off peak. I have also tried, and got, the same discount rate even during peak season – – – these dates are set by the hotels. But when I notice that occupancy rate is low, like in early January (which they classify as” peak”) I usually get the off-peak rate. Try bargaining, but be prepared to pay the full rate if they happen to be hosting a convention and only few rooms are available.
If you are not taking the tours offered by the hotel, you can do these on your own. I usually drive from the hotel to Sarrat where the biggest attraction is the Sta Monica Church where Irene Marcos and Greggy Araneta were wed.
Locals say that the whole route from Fort Ilocandia to Sarrat was planted with bougainvillas, sourced from landscape contractors throughout the country. It has been said that there were not enough flowering bougainvillas, and teachers started making paper flowers so that those without flowers also looked like they were in full bloom.
From Sarrat, you can drive to Batac to visit the Marcos Mausoleum. Observe silence while inside the air-conditioned mausoleum, viewing the preserved body of the late president.
From Batac you can drive to Paoay Church and drive on to Paoay Lake.
After marveling at the church and having climbed the tower, have some snacks at Herencia Cafe. Try their pinakbet pizza, the only one of its kind in the world.
Hopefully, the Malacanang ti Amianan would have been open again to the public ( I have visited this beautiful mansion several times, but was told last January 5 that it was closed to the public on orders of the provincial government).
Fort Ilocandia can be booked via +(6377) 6709001, fax (+6377) 6709101, email firstname.lastname@example.org
I spotted some resorts for low-budget travelers right beside Fort Ilocandia, sharing the same beach. Access is thru the Fort Ilocandia compound, where a driveway to the left, if you are facing the hotel, goes straight to a cluster of huts selling cheap beer, cheap meals, and inexpensive overnight accommodations.
HOW TO GO TO ILOCOS NORTE
From Manila, take the North Luzon Expressway and exit in Tarlac. Drive north passing thru Pangasinan, la Union, and Ilocos Sur. Laoag is about an hour’s drive from Vigan, Ilocos Sur.
Several bus companies ply the Manila-Laoag route. PARTAS and Farinas, are the most popular. Farinas Trans is located in Lacson Blvd. (between Dapitan and Laon Laan Sts.) in Sampaloc, Manila.. Partas Trans has a terminal in Laon Laan, Sampaloc, Manila and in Cubao, Quezon City. (thanks to a reader for providing these details)
Travel time from Manila to Laoag is around 11-12 hours.