Out of the blue, one of my friends suggested we go to San Juan, La Union on the Holy Week weekend. It was the perfect idea since I would be in Pangasinan at that time, it was summer and I’ve been itching to try surfing again (and plan to succeed this time). This was a semi-unexpected trip because I only had a month to anticipate and prepare – I usually plan trips months in advance. The search for our accommodations and budget planning fell to me as the usual protocol during barkada trips.
The most annoying part of planning a barkada trip is that I don’t know who would really go until the day of the trip itself. There were some who said No to this trip and ended up going, Yes which turned to not going and Maybe’s who didn’t decide if they were going until the last minute. Such is life – full of uncertainties. Anyway, 8 was our final number. All of my companions were really good friends so I was looking forward to the fun times ahead.
Jhodan had his car so 5 of our number rode with him. The others had to commute to San Juan, La Union. It was a 3 hour ride from Pangasinan to La Union. There was moderately heavy traffic for the first half of the journey so we took longer than usual to reach our destination. I wish I could give the exact route, but I’m hopeless with directions. All we did was follow the highway. That is all I can remember. Please forgive me, it was still early in the morning when we left Pangasinan. My brain was still not functioning.
Our Accommodation: Normi’s Beachfront Resort
I searched for our accommodations 3 weeks earlier. My criteria for searching was the room could accommodate 6-10 pax and would not cost more than Php 500.00 per person. All the famous hostels and resorts which fit these criteria were already fully booked for Holy Week. Then more Googling led to me discover Normi’s Beachfront Resort where there was still an available room for 5 pax at Php 2,750.00 per night, inclusive of breakfast. Further inquiry revealed that in case there was more than 5 people in our group, we only had to pay Php 350.00 for each extra person. I immediately reserved the room for us with the hope that the room can accommodate all of whoever would be going on this trip.
I didn’t have to pay any downpayment or any reservation fee. All they require is that I call 3 days before we arrive to confirm our reservation. Otherwise, they would be giving our room to someone else. We gave the full payment upon check-in. This was not required but we decided to pay immediately so we don’t spend it on other things.
Normi’s is not located in the touristy part of San Juan, La Union (contrary to what I initially thought). We knew we finally arrived in San Juan when we saw many resorts, restaurants, parked cars and tourists along the road. But it was another 10-minute drive before we reached Normi’s, away from the hustle and bustle of the crowds.
Our 5-pax room was spacious enough for all 8 of us. All we had to do was arrange the beds side by side and place an extra mattress or 2 so everyone has enough room to sleep.
Wandering around Normi’s, I discovered that they had 3 pools: a semi-olympic pool (10 feet deep), the usual 3-6 feet pool and the kiddie pool. The pools are heated at night so it wouldn’t be so cold for swimmers. We lounged around the pool until it closed at 11 PM.
The breakfast that came with our room was a simple affair. It consisted of 2 slices of white bread, egg and banana.
We started our journey to La Union at 8 AM and arrived at 11 AM. It was early for check-in so we had to wait for our room until 2 PM. There were no waves when we arrived and I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to surf. We decided to wait for check-in before heading out to lunch and going to the crowded San Juan beach after to see if waves would show up.
Our day officially started at 3 PM after checking in to our room, resting for a bit and changing our outfits. The most urgent concern that we had to address were our growling stomachs. We headed to Urbiztondo Grill House along the highway to eat lunch there. Mae Ann’s cousin recommended this place to be affordable but delicious. We ordered kare-kare, adobo and grilled squid. Everything was delicious! No regrets about this place. I also ordered fresh buko for my drink and ate the coconut flesh for dessert. With everything that we ordered, each of us only had to pay Php 200.00.
Recharged for the afternoon, we headed straight to Kahuna Beach Front where we would meet Mae Ann’s cousin and to take surfing lessons. The standard rate for a surfing lesson in San Juan is Php 400.00 per hour: Php 200.00 for the instructor and the other half for the board rental fee. San Juan was so crowded when we got there. Those who were taking surf lessons were lined up at the water close to each other. The possibility of colliding with another surfer was high with this many people.
It turned out that only Mae Ann and I would avail of the surfing lesson while the others would only watch us and take selfies on the beach. My mantra for the next hour would be “I will ride a wave this time or I would die trying”. The lesson started with our instructors introducing themselves and then showing us the proper ways to lie, paddle and stand up on the board. They also taught us the parts of the surfboard and gave safety tips during surfing. The waves were small and tame compared to what I experienced in Baler, but I wasn’t able to stand up and keep my balance on the first few tries. I even fell face first into the water in one of those failed attempts.
I was lucky that my instructor was patient and observed what I did wrong everytime so he give me advice on how to correct my mistakes. AND FINALLY, on the fifth try I did it! It was a really nice feeling to be able to conquer the waves even if they were just so small! Riding the waves was the easy part, I realized. It was getting back on the board and pushing myself up that was tiring. The hour went by slowly it seemed. My instructor told me that waiting for waves could get boring and he was right. There was an instance when 5 minutes went by and I couldn’t ride any of the waves. Part of the experience was colliding with the other surfers who were also practicing a few meters away from me. After 45 minutes, I was feeling very tired and told my instructor that I wanted to stop. I told him I wanted to ride 1 last good wave and he agreed to finish early if I did it perfectly. But it took 3 more tries before he gave me a thumbs up and let me go. I finished the hour after all. Hehe.
After a few pictures with the surfboard, we went swimming and watched the sunset. Unfortunately, we only swam for about 5 minutes before Rose was attacked by a jellyfish. We had to search for vinegar for first aid. It took us 4 sari-sari stores before we were able to buy a pack. It turns out that many of the tourists were also attacked by jellyfish that day.
I, Rose and a few others decided to go back to Normi’s to take of the jellyfish problem while the others would go to the market and buy ingredients for our dinner. We would be cooking our own dinner at the resort.
We became our own cooks that night. Preparing dinner while lazing around the pool was quite relaxing. We didn’t have complete cooking utensils and ingredients so we had to improvise (and ask the hotel staff nicely for help). Bernie and Francis were the head chefs and we all helped in any way we can to speed things up because we were all so hungry!
Dinner was at 10 PM and everyone was happy with the way it turned out. We had grilled liempo, rellenong bangus, ensalada, itlog na maalat and bibingka. The meal was simple yet the company was special. Chos!
As it became late into the night, we relaxed by the pool or in our room and exchanged stories like long-time friends always do. Our conversations were just the right mix of gaguhan and serious talks. It was 3 AM when we all finally went to bed.
We woke up at 9 AM so we wouldn’t miss our breakfast. It turns out that we would have been better off sleeping until check out time because the meal was not substantial enough. I think there were only 300 calories in what the hotel gave us for breakfast: 2 slices of white bread, banana and (half an) egg. It was a good thing that Ian brought some food for this trip and we bought watermelon from the market last night.
We wanted to swim more but it was getting hot and no one wanted wet clothes to bring home. We checked out at exactly 12 noon and decided who will ride with Jhodan in the car and who will commute. I decided to commute this time. We wanted to stop by at Thunderbird Resort at Poro Point but only guests with private vehicles are allowed to enter. Not all of us would be able to go so we decided to head straight home.
The 3 of us commuters rode a jeep from San Juan to San Fernando to catch a bus to Dagupan. It was a 30-minute ride to the capital of La Union. We were lucky enough to catch an aircon bus that still had room for us. Our bus left the terminal not long after we arrived. Our timing was perfect.
We arrived in Dagupan at 4 PM. We remembered that we haven’t eaten lunch so Francis, Bernie and I headed to the foodstrip to eat. All of us were planning to meet up at Jhodan’s house in the evening but all were tired from the trip. We decided to head home instead and take a raincheck on the meetup.
I set the budget at Php 1,500.00 per person for this trip. Some of us were able to follow the budget and some went over by some hundred of pesos because of miscellaneous expenses. We came from Pangasinan for this trip so the budget is smaller compared to the rate if we had been from Manila. Here is the budget I initially laid out:
Gas allowance/Bus fare Php 200.00
Accommodation Php 475.00
Food allowance Php 400.00
Surf lesson Php 400.00
TOTAL……………………….. Php 1,475.00
Planning for barkada trips is still a pain. Good thing I had a little help with the planning so I didn’t go crazy this time. Almost everything went well and all of us were able to relax during this short but sweet getaway. I wish our schedules can match up more often so we could take trips like this more. Until the next adventure with these people! 😀
Because someone requested that I insert these photos to this blog entry. Here goes…