La Union

by Anna Maria Cos Alcantara

Last year, my friends and I took a road trip to La Union over the Undas break. We didn’t make any plans – we just booked a place to stay in for the night and tried to figure out our itinerary without any bias of what everyone on social media had recommended for every newcomer simply because we wanted to explore the city on our own.

The 2-day excursion began in SM North Edsa where my friends and I agreed to meet up at 5am where one of my friends offered his car to drive all five of us to La Union. It took us almost 4 hours with pitstops for breakfast and bathroom breaks, and the drive wasn’t all that bad considering that it was a holiday and the roads were clear and we had the scenic views of the expressway to amuse us.

As soon as we arrived in La Union, it was about lunchtime so we looked for the closest restaurant to our hotel where we found ourselves in Tagpuan – only to find out that it was the restaurant that specializes in Bagnet, a Filipino favorite that surprised us to be a specialty of the city considering that it was by the ocean. After lunch, we checked in our hotel and freshened up before heading out to explore the surf town.

Around 3pm, we took a stroll along the coast of La Union where it was luckily low tide, and we walked up until we reached Flotsam and Jetsam hostel, a place famous for their nightlife and go-to accommodation of surfers and budget travelers. At this point, their outdoor area wasn’t open to the public yet so we walked further along the stretch of the shore until we reached Vessel Hostel. This hostel had a small plane as part of their outdoor decor where outsiders can opt to rent out banigs by the hour to relax. We bought a couple of beers and barbecues and spent the next couple of hours unwinding and appreciating being away from the city.

At around 6pm, we walked back to our hotel and got ready to head out for dinner, where we ate in one of the many food parks in La Union. It felt very much like being back in the city considering that the food wasn’t any different from the food that was offered in the usual food parks, but we enjoyed it nevertheless. To my surprise, there wasn’t much of a seafood selection in this surf town, but it was great being in a new place anyway.

The next day, we took it upon ourselves to at least enjoy one of the top recommendations in La Union anyway before heading back to Manila which is this coffee shop called El Union – where I had a taste of a delicious cup of horchata and their famous grilled cheese sandwich. Quite honestly, I didn’t expect that I would be devouring this kind of meal by the ocean, but I understood why it was a crowd favorite because they had their own twist to the typical coffee shop food selection.

But what impacted me the most was the people in La Union – there were so many people from the city that found themselves in this surf town and there were also so many foreigners that found their space in La Union. A lot of them planted their feet by setting up food stalls and accommodations, and I understood why – this town, even with its increasing popularity and foot traffic, had a nice character to it. It was a small town that was by the ocean and close to the mountains where you can say that you are far away from civilization without losing the essence of actually being away from all the city drama. The town was far enough from Manila and very much close to the sea, but it was near enough to go up to Baguio. It was the perfect in-betweener for those that want to get away but still be within reach.

I guess the only thing that I regret not doing in La Union is actually going surfing – but maybe that will be an activity that I will get to participate in when I finally have the courage to get over my fear of open water. Nevertheless, I felt like even if I didn’t get the have the full La Union, I got to understand the hype that surrounded this surf town, and why more and more people are flocking to it.

Quite frankly I wouldn’t recommend this town to families with small children because they might not appreciate it that much, but I definitely recommend it for a weekend get-away with friends that want to experience a different kind of beach getaway. 

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