I watched the movie Panday when I was young. I can't remember the story - I just remember the late Fernando Poe Jr. fighting his enemies in this desert. I can't remember who in my family said that this was shot in Ilocos. So - as a kid - I wanted to see this Ilocos desert.
Last year, my friends and I embarked on a quest - which we called the great northern Luzon journey. It started in Baguio and ended up in Pagudpud. From Baguio to Pagudpud - with my driving, it would have taken us close to eight hours - so we actually decided to break down the trip and going north, we stopped by Laoag and Paoay. The Ilocos desert - I discovered is actually the Paoay sand dunes. I'm not really sure if it's an actual desert - but since it's actually close to the sea, I'm thinking it was actually a portion of the land which was under water so many years ago ( actually I think there are a lot of deserts like that - except that those were actually lakes that dried up ).
Anyways - when we reached the Paoay sand dunes, there's only one thing in our minds --- we had to ride the sand dune buggy. I have heard of the first world version of this ride from people who have visited Dubai. In the first world version, you are strapped in. You wear seat belts. In the Philippines version, there are no seat belts. You just have to hold on to the bars. You have to hold on tight for dear life. If you are unlucky and you bruise up easily - you will end up black and blue. But I must say this --- I think that when you have that thought that you can die from the ride - and you survive it, you end up thinking that it was a lot of fun.
The whole ride is half an hour to an hour. At the end of the ride, you get to try sand boarding ( standing up or sitting down ). Again - no safety equipment. No safety briefing. Just try to have fun - and if you break a bone ( or bones ) while doing it --- tough luck.