One must not underestimate the difficulties of Holy Week Travel. If you are reading this, then, I hope you can take this as a lesson in preparedness for next year (and the year after that and so on and so forth).

Buy Bus Tickets in Advance

Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 10:00 PM. I take full responsibility for this. My procrastination has led this trip’s travel buddy and myself, waiting in the Florida bus terminal for a good five hours. We are hoping to chance a ride on the bus bound for Cagayan, which will have a quick stop over in Laoag.

We found a few vacant seats by the back of the small terminal. The place was full of travelers, waiting for the next buses going to Pagudpud and/or Cagayan. The local news showed a disturbing video of people struggling to get seats aboard a bus in Pasay City, with some climbing through the windows of the bus to get to the seats first.

Good grief! I still count us lucky. On Palm Sunday a few days before, I had gone to the Florida Bus Terminal in Sampaloc, Manila, hoping to reserve tickets for that day’s trip. All trips leaving from the afternoons to the late evenings were full, so our best option was to reserve a seat on one of the morning trips, which was what I ended up doing. This was not the ideal option, of course. Booking a ticket on one of the morning trips meant we will arrive in Laoag at night. From here, we have to chance a seat on another bus going to Pagudpud or Cagayan.

We were able to secure seats at the back of the bus to Cagayan

We were able to secure seats at the back of the bus to Cagayan

We got lucky and got ourselves a seat on the 2AM bus to Cagayan and at thirty minutes past four, we had arrived at the baranggay outpost in the far-off point of Balaoi in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte.

So yes, buy your bus tickets in advance if you are traveling at the peak of the Holy Week Traveling Season (Holy Wednesday to Easter Sunday). I suggest visiting the bus stations that cater trips to your desired destination and asking what is the earliest date you can reserve a ticket. In our case, the bus terminal was Florida Bus’ in Sampaloc and the earliest would be about a month before. You may also call ahead, but from my experience, the reservations for Florida Bus can only be done in person.

Book Your Accommodations Way Ahead of Your Trip

Yes, way ahead. Like even a month or two ahead of the scheduled trip. Overkill? Maybe. But also, maybe not. The Holy Week holiday is a four-day weekend for most Filipinos. That means they take advantage this time to go out of time and go on vacation with their families. This also means that most hotels/hostels/homestays (and what have yous) get booked really fast.

We arrived at Wally's Word Surf and Homestay at 4 AM

We arrived at Wally’s Word Surf and Homestay at 4 AM

I made the mistake of only attempting to call the different homestays in Saud, Pagudpud, three weeks before our trip—try twenty!—and finding out that they were all full. We ended up getting a room in Wally’s World Surf and Homestay (09386159568), near Maira-ira Beach (also known as Blue Lagoon).

The room was overpriced, no doubt, but I'd rather sleep here than on the ground.

The room was overpriced, no doubt, but I’d rather sleep here than on the ground.

Now, I’m not one to complain about fan rooms or basic accommodations, but there was no question that where we stayed is overpriced for what it was. I did a bit of research and it turns out most places jack their prices up to about 3 times more than their regular prices. And since we were running out of options, I had to swallow an enormous amount of pride and stomach the crazy price to ensure that we have somewhere to sleep that night.

Beautiful sunrise over Maira-ira Beach, right in front of Wally's World Surf and Homestay

Beautiful sunrise over Maira-ira Beach, right in front of Wally’s World Surf and Homestay

I just want to put a disclaimer here that Wally’s World also has better accommodations than what I have pictured above, but all of those rooms were already, you guessed it, booked!

Be Patient

I am certainly not known for my patience, but if there’s something that this trip taught me, it’s this: be patient.

It will be hard. You will be tested several times. From overpriced everything—accommodations, tours, souvenirs, even water—to trying to haggle down those overpriced things. ‘Trying,” being the operative word, because I have never been any good at haggling. I know we are tourists and granted have a bit of money to spare if we can afford to travel and check out all these places, but we are not made of gold! I know that the locals’ Holy Week earnings probably accounts for 50% (yes, this may be a gross overestimation) of their earnings for the year, but, it still makes me sad to see this side of people. I’m no stranger to traveling or tourist-ing but I realize I still have this naiveté when it comes to what I expect from other people. People are generally good, right? **Big exasperated sigh**

Agoraphobic? This may not be the best season to travel for you.

Agoraphobic? This may not be the best season to travel for you.

There’s also the matter of crowds (Crowds! Crowds! Crowds!) everywhere. This cannot be avoided because all of Manila will probably be flocking to wherever destination you choose this Holy Week. Some places more so than others, I presume. But the point is, prepare yourself for the crowds. If you want peace and quiet, you probably have a bigger chance of getting that by staying in the city, which turns into a ghost town during this four-day weekend. Expect this especially in the tourist spots. No lighthouse or street or monument or beach will be spot free of tourists. So, the best way to go about it is to expect it and embrace it. Case in point: I’ve decided to take this time to people watch and use every opportunity to improve my street photography skills.

Waiting in the Partas Bus Terminal

Waiting in the Partas Bus Terminal

The waiting, there will be a lot of it. A direct result of the crowds I speak of from the previous paragraph. Anecdote: On Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013, we were ready to go back to Manila from La Union. We had arrived at the Partas Bus Terminal at 9:00 AM. We immediately got behind the long line of people to get a ticket back to Manila. It was hot, a dehydrating crazy 32°C that felt like 38°C. Bus after bus arrived taking the crowds back to the city, but the swarm didn’t seem to wane.

Long Lines Everywhere

Long Lines Everywhere

People were tsk tsking and complaining about the sun and the heat and the people, an exercise in futility if you ask me. The guy at the counter was doing his best to keep up with the mob, but he can only work so fast. We were finally able to secure our ticket a quarter past 11 AM and didn’t get to ride the bus until around 12:30 PM.

So yeah, point is, there will be a lot of waiting and there is really nothing to do but to ride it out.



After all those negatives, it is easy to forget the point of it all. Religious folks would say it is to reflect, but really, for me, the point of the whole trip was to see Ilocos and to have fun and relax. So yeah, don’t forget that.


In times of distress, take a deep breath, count to ten, and then put a freakin’ smile on. Things may get better, things may not, but there’s no point in stressing yourself out.

* * *

This post is part of a series I made on a recent trip I was on during the Holy Week holiday. Read the other posts by clicking on the links below:

Download a copy of my itinerary here.

15 thoughts on “Lessons I Learned from Traveling During the Holy Week

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s