It was the year when DSLRs started capturing video, and memory cards began dethroning mini-DVs in the film and photography industries.
At the Dominion Bus terminal in Cubao, Quezon City. Circa 2008.
The year was 2008. It was the semestral break of our third year in film school. For the following term, we would be asked to present our production theses and proposals. And the pressure was just so overwhelming that we felt lost and did not know what to do.
We all knew where our compasses pointed and so we decided to find ourselves further north. We went on a trip, not towards the Cordilleras where most people would go to, but somewhere northwest.
After more than eight hours of traveling by bus, we found places willing to share their experiences with lost souls like us. And they were none other than the provinces of Ilocos.
A Place to Look Around
In Science, the first step in the scientific method had been to observe. And where could we go to see an overview of the whole situation? High places had always been perfect spots, just like the Bantay Belfry.
Situated on top of a hill, the campanile of the municipality of Bantay provided one of the best views of Ilocos Sur. Built during the 1590s, the brick establishment served as a watchtower for enemies since the Spanish Period up to World War II.
The Bantay Belfry, towering over Ilocos Sur. Photo by Ami Gatchalian.
But the tower was not made only to spot intruders. It was also a good place to check what the vast world could offer young castaways like us. And upon seeing the entirety of the picture, we decided to visit the Spanish checkerboard of the nearby city of Vigan.
Crossroads at Vigan
Intersecting roads might be more confusing to those seeking the right path. But the timeless beauty of the cobblestones and the capiz shell windows were telling us that they might be holding the lead to our search.
A piece of technology amidst the centuries-old surroundings. Photo by Sheig Encelan.
The Heritage Village of Vigan never lost its magic through the years. The calesas continued to transport guests back in time. The place was even hailed recently as one of the New 7 Wonder Cities of the World.
Calle Crisologo and its old Spanish houses would always remind us of our rich history. The place taught us, that for us to be able to move forward, we should, every once in a while, look back to our past.
Pottery is a process
Pottery had been a craft practiced around the world ever since mankind began. And it remained to be a process ever since.
Danboard overseeing the burnay-production. Photo by Sheig Encelan.
The Pagburnayan of Vigan, located a few minutes from the Heritage Village, was a living demonstration that the best things in life never happen overnight.
From the gathering of clay to the molding of the jars up to the kilning process, pottery sure was a craft requiring specific skills and a lot of patience. And so was film and other significant forms of art.
Test of Strong Winds
So did we really have the patience? We braced ourselves and embarked on another three-hour bus ride to witness the coastal towns of the nearby province of Ilocos Norte.
And just before we reached the municipality of Pagudpud, the first test of endurance greeted us, “Hello!” Strong winds came rushing, blowing away everything on its path. And they were no ordinary winds. They were strong enough to make 20 colossal pieces of steel rotate to produce energy.
The epic Bangui photo of Sheig Encelan.
The Bangui Wind Mills, inaugurated in 2005, were one of the major sources of electricity in the region. Because of the strong winds, the shore was covered with chunks of polished stones instead of the usual white sand.
Journeys were made exciting by these strong winds. And the best way to get through them was just to glide and go with the flow.
A Long and Winding Road
A few more minutes on the journey and the winds finally subsided. But it was just a starter. We were welcomed after by a majestic view of the West Philippine Sea and a significantly winding road.
Are you willing to go through Patapat Viaduct? Photo by Ami Gatchalian.
The 1.3-kilometer Patapat Viaduct connected the Ilocos Region to Cagayan Valley. The word viaduct came from the Latin words via meaning ‘road’ and ducere, meaning ‘to lead.’
The ride through it was nice and sweet. And true enough, this winding road was really kind to lead us to our final destination.
The North Star
Finally, the fine white sand beaches of Brgy. Saud in the town of Pagudpud brushed the soles of our feet. And being on a journey to find our true north, the Polaris Beach Resort caught our attention. And luckily, they even offered us a fair student discount.
It was already dark. The six of us sat quietly by the shore, staring down at our sand-laden feet, while enjoying the sweet hum of the waves.
Everything was so calm and serene. There were no bars by the shore. There were no drunk people dancing around bonfires. There were no loud music. It was just the sand, the sea and us.
Hours passed by quietly. Drowsiness was slowly pushing our backs flat on the sand. Looking up now, we finally saw what we were looking for.
Apparently, we were not alone that night. We were accompanied by the stars, beautifully arranged in the velvet sky.
And there at the center was the genuine Polaris, outshining all the other stars. And the experience was like an electric shock to our veins. Right there and then, sweet smiles were etched on our faces. Every trace of being lost was now temporarily gone.
There was a rainbow behind us. There was… really. haha. Pagudpud 2008.
After 3 days and 2 nights, we were able to find what we were looking for. We went back to the bustling streets of Manila bringing with us those shining ideas for our theses.
Seven years after, in the year 2015, we are still wandering, this time in this so-called real world. And being lost in the real world is nothing compared to being lost at the university. We were now on an intensified search of ourselves, hanging somewhere in the time-space continuum.
Consulting the compasses of the real world can be overwhelmingly confusing. They point to a variety of paths that lead to a variety of goals.
But upon looking back on this trip, we are reminded. The night sky offers a wide range of stars and dreams. All we need to do is to find our true North Star, the one that outshines them all.