Ever since my first fur baby passed, I’ve had this realization how short life is. Since then, I wanted to make sure that I get to spend as much quality time with loved ones. Taking my family, especially my parents, on a vacation have become a yearly goal.

I decided to write about our latest family vacation first – Pangasinan. Hopefully, this will inspire me to finally blog about the other places we’ve been to. Our road trip to the Ilocos and Bicol regions were quite epic.

Getting There

So far, our family vacations have been confined to the island of Luzon. Places that can be reached by car. We’ll have to try going to other islands via RORO next.

There are several buses that go straight from Metro Manila to many of the bigger towns in Pangasinan. Googling will very likely return better, updated results than me trying to list them all here.

Travel time from Metro Manila takes around 4-5 hours. The expressway makes for good driving conditions.

Clark is the closest airport, if you’re traveling by air.

TIP: Download a map of Pangasinan on Google Maps. It works great offline. You’d still be able to get directions, as well as search for shops, restaurants and other establishments as you would when you’re online. Minus the photos and reviews.

Our Lady of Manaoag

The first stop in our six-day family vacation is Our Lady of Manaoag Church. The last time I went there was 2006, I think. An unplanned day tour I took with one of my closest friends, for reasons I can no longer remember.

Back then, we had a hard time finding a place to eat near the church. The surrounding area had that slow, small village way-of-life feel. There were very few vehicles. It was comforting.

Twelve years on, I barely recognize the place. Fastfood chains surround the church. Peddlers, hawkers and stalls selling all sort of things form a wall around the church compound. There are lots of tourists. Perhaps it’s due to the holidays.

The church is as grand as I remember it to be. Though I didn’t get the same sense of serenity I got during my first visit. There were fewer people then and none were taking selfies in the middle of the aisle leading to the altar.

Ciudad Elmina Fishing Village

Ciudad Elmina Fishing Village kept popping up during my research of places to eat in Pangasinan. Reviews were generally positive, so I thought we should give it a go.

Ciudad Elmina is located at Bacayao Norte in Dagupan. Which was perfect since we were heading to Bolinao from Manaoag.

We saw villas and a pool in the compound, so I assume you can stay the night at the fishing village if that’s your thing. Though we didn’t see anyone doing any fishing, you can catch your own (for a fee) and have them cook it for you.

The restaurant is big and seem to market itself as a dining place for large groups. Staff are attentive and courteous. Prices are budget-friendly. We spent less than PHP 2,000 for a group of nine. Dishes are your typical Filipino home-cooked meal. Food is good. Though it’s not somewhere I’d go out of my way to visit again.

Wrong Turn

It’s still approximately a 3-hour drive from Ciudad Elmina to Bolinao. We will be staying at a guesthouse in Patar Beach. So we made our way.

We followed Google Maps’ directions to get to Patar Beach. The app avoided the main road to save some time on traffic. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the best route to take. I suggest staying on the main road.

We drove in complete darkness on an unpaved, one-lane road. It was some of the roughest roads I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. Even my father who have driven almost his entire adult life said it’s not a route he’d take on again.

The “shortcut” led us to one of the places I listed on our itinerary, Cape Bolinao Lighthouse, and back on paved road. It was such a relief to see light other than the headlights of our vehicle.

Bolinao At Last

We finally arrived at the guesthouse and were greeted with warm welcomes by the owner. After unloading our things and having dinner, I immediately set out for the beach hoping to gaze at the sky and see the milky way.

Unfortunately, it was cloudy. There’s a storm warning after all. I headed back to the guesthouse and called it a night. Hoping the weather will be kind to us the entire duration of our family vacation.

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