Seldom do I recall names of strangers, and more often than not, these are not etched within the secret compartments of my mind. But I don’t think I’ll be naming my future child (God-willing), Neil.
First of all, I’ve got tons of cool Neil friends and this has absolutely nothing to do with them. Second, I am aware that at one point in our lives, we’ve all been Neils just trying to make a living. But this dude who drove us from Metro Manila to Laoag, Ilocos Norte (back and forth, probably an 11-hour ride per trip) some years back, gave me and my friends experiences on the road that would forever be the subject of talks during holiday reunions.
While storytellers are often victims to embellishment and I, at times, enjoy wielding the power of the pen in the face of those who, for hours without end, scroll TikTok feeds, my sentiments with the name “Neil” are for real.
Having said that, my friends and I had a blast during our trip visiting Laoag City and the City of Vigan (Ilocos Sur). It’s as far north as I’ve been and to see a part of the Philippines with spots that looked like movie sets was truly both an exhilarating and rejuvenating experience.
How many Cebuanos have held on for dear life while a truck goes wild in the middle of sand dunes? How many have swum in a beach where it’s literally in the topmost part of our archipelago facing the open sea? How many of us have tried the original, freshly prepared orange empanadas with that runny yolk breaking as you sink your teeth into them?
Well, I have. And I think, all of these experiences, and more, are what make Laoag City a must-visit for everybody.
Flights to Laoag
Imagine my delight, when I learned Philippine Airlines (PAL), starting Dec. 15, 2023, now offers direct flights to Laoag from Cebu. The approximately 2.5-hour flight is expected twice a week, on Tuesday and Friday. PR 2251 departs Cebu at 7:35 a.m. Flight PR 2252 leaves Laoag at 10:25 a.m.
This development is in line with PAL’s recent initiatives in mounting more flights and routes out of Cebu, as the Philippines’ flag carrier sees Cebu as a “prime center of economic innovation, sustainable tourism and progress” for the entire country.
“We are steadily building up our network of flights in and out of Mactan-Cebu, with new routes in December and further plans for new connections in 2024,” said PAL president and chief operating officer Capt. Stanley Ng.
Captain Ng was joined by PAL Express president Rabbi Vincent Ang, PAL VP-sales Salvador Britanico and PAL regional head Leonard Bryan Sansolis during the open forum with members of the Cebu media at Radisson Blu Cebu on Nov. 24, 2023. Moderators were PAL VP-corporate communications Josen Perez de Tagle and PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna.
Aside from the brand-new Cebu-Laoag flights, PAL is resuming routes to General Santos, Legazpi and Ozamiz. I’ve been to only one of the three — where to next?
I pray Neil is still driving at the ripe old age of 32. But never again to sleepless, 11-hour road trips. I can’t say the same for Laoag, though. It’s a beautiful place with plenty of culture, stories and flavor. And thanks to PAL, more and more Cebuanos now have the opportunity to get a taste of the North.