8 Things To Do in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, Philippines

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    After the soak in Anguib beach (and not even taking a shower), I took the bus to Laoag City.  Few hours later, I smelled like a dried fish. I did not know that Sta. Ana to Laoag City will take 8 hours.

      I arrived around 10pm and concluded that night life in the city is boring. There are no loud music in the streets. Here are the 8 things you can do in Laoag city:

1.) Check-in Texicano

      I did not have any hotel bookings then. When I checked the booking app the hotels were already expensive. So I just asked the tricycle drivers where I can stay for a night. They recommended me Texicano or Star dance– perhaps their favourite place where they bring their special someone. I followed the advise of the elder tricycle driver. Perhaps, he knows better from experience.

      The hotel is one of the first hotels in the city. I was scared at first for ghosts. BUT I just really have to spend the night here as all of the places I will visit are only within 1KM perimeter from this hotel. Plus, I afforded the room for only 600 philippine pesos (11 US dollars). Not that bad.

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2.) Eat Empanada 

      The security guard in my hotel, who is actually just watching netflix on his phone, advised me that the city is safe even at night. I roamed around the dark streets to look for food. I chanced to pass by a food stall selling Empanada- one of their famous dishes.  Empanada is a fried pasty with fillings of egg, vegetables and meat. Sometimes, you put vinegar for additional taste. I bought one for dinner.

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3.) Sinking Bell Tower of Laoag 

     The centuries-old 45-meter tall bell tower built by the Augustinian friars in 1612 is one of the tallest in the Philippines. The construction is typical of the earthquake baroque structures found in Ilocos. Tales by old people mention that a person on horseback once could enter its vaulted entrance without stooping. Now, a person of ordinary height has to stoop to enter thru the tower door, because the tower has sunk considerably and evenly, thus its reputation as “The Sinking Bell Tower of Laoag”

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4.) Visit the Ilocos Norte Capitol

    The capitol was built according to the design of Ralph Harrington Doane and to the administration of Jose Paez and Tomas Mapua, 1917-1925. When the Japanese troops came in Laoag on  December 21, 1941, the capitol was abandoned by Governor Roque Ablan to continue his government in the mountains of Maananteng, Solsona, Ilocos Norte.  In February 12, 1945, a day before valentines, it was taken back by the 15th infantry, United States Army Forces in the Philippines- Northern Luzon, Currently, it is famous for picture taking with the big letterings Ilocos Norte in the background. The provincial tourism office is also in this building.

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5.) Jog around Museo Vivo De Ilocos

      On my jog, I liked the different varieties of bonsais in this park.  This park is just on the left side of the capitol.

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6.) Visit Museo Ilocos Norte

      Erected in 1878 and known as the Tabacalera Building, the edifice was originally designed as the Administrative Centre of the Tobacco Monopoly in Ilocos Norte during the reign of Spain over the Philippine Islands. Currently, the museum now houses GAMENG– the vast cultural heritage of Ilocos Norte.

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        Museo Ilocos Norte showcases the varied ethnicity and multi-faceted cultural heritage of a sturdy, hard-working people known for their industry, resourcefulness and loyalty. The Museo is nicknamed Gameng, from the Ilocano word meaning treasure, symbolises the wealth of Ilocos Norte. The museum was primarily designed  to instill a sense of pride for the roots of the young Ilocanos, Papayas, Itnegs, Igorots and other citizens of the province. It aims to deepen among both the young and old, feelings of belonging to their ancient homeland.

           There are artefacts from each of the province’ 22 towns and sole city (Laoag). The museum is subdivided into 17 areas: The Land, The Sea, Abel Iloco, The Highland, Farm, Town, Basket Gallery, Market, Ancestral House, Museo Sarusar Shop, Dap-ayan, Historical Glimpses of Ilocs Norte, Special Exhibit, Musical Instruments, The Pugon, Teatro, and Tabacalera Gallery.

The Land- Ilocos Norte is a narrow plain bounded by water on the north (Babuyan Channel) and the west (the West Philippine Sea) and jammed in by the mountains on the east and south (the Cordillera of the provinces of Cagayan, Apayao, Kalinga, Abra and Ilocos Sur). The culture of Ilocos Norte before the 16th century have not been properly studied. Large settlements were encountered by Juan de Salcedo, the first Spaniard in this region. The province of Ilocos Norte was born in 1818 when a Royal Decree divided the old Ilocos into Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.

The Sea- The proximity of the Luzon Sea has challenged the people of Ilocos Norte to plough its coastal waters for whatever food and livelihood opportunities it can yield. Local folks trap and gather fish, snails, clams, octopus, shrimp, seaweeds and other edibles for personal consumption. Salt making and bagoong production are likewise conducted on a commercial scale.

Abel Iloco- Historically, Ilocos Norte has been one of the most notable producers of textiles in the country. You can view samples of clothing and weaves popular until a few generations ago.

The Highland- The highlands of the eastern and southern parts of Ilocos Norte are homes to a number of ethano-linguistic groups. In Adams, Carasi and Dumalneg are people who call themselves Isnag, Isneg or Yapayao. They are culturally related to those along the other side of the northeastern border with Cagayan and Apayao. There are also pockets of Igorots from Ilocos Sur. Historically, there was a group known as the Adanes who inhabited the area around Bangui. They seem to have left no traces and may have intermarried with other communities who call themselves Tinguian or Itneg. Highland peoples value their traditional way of life and have selectively resisted inroads from the West and from other Filipinos as well. Certain Communities in the northeast use the palace (adze), a type of hoe known in Philippine Palaeolithic Sites.

The Farm- Every farmer in Ilocos Norte is preoccupied with the innate desire to produce as much of his needs as possible. Despite the poor quality of the soil, the Ilocano farmer manages to wrest a bountiful harvest from the land. To supplement the family’s rice supply, he plants corn, peanuts, tubers, sweet potatoes. To further maximise the use of land, he alternatively cultivates Virginia tobacco, cotton, garlic, onion and sugarcane, which is an important sources of basi (sugarcane wine) and vinegar.

The Town- The towns of Ilocos norte are beehives of traditional crafts and trades. The  making of pots, mats, cloth, blankets, bolos (multi-purpose knives) and basi (sugarcane wine) are important sources of livelihood. In particular, the abel Iloko (handwoven cloth) has found ready markets both here and abroad. Through the centuries, each town has developed its own specialties. San Nicolas, for instance, is famous for its clay jars while Pagudpud is known for its pandan mats. Other traditional industries include bamboo craft and processed meat delicacies such as longaniza (sausage) and banged (deep-fried pork).

Basket Gallery– Basketry symbolises one admirable character of the Ilocano-enduring flexibility.

Market- The market is regarded as a social and economic institution by the people of Ilocos Norte. In Laoag, the market is open everyday. In smaller towns, market day is held once or twice a week. Here, one can find sellers and buyers haggling with each other. Noisy vendors broadcast the merits of their goods. For many, it is the perfect place to mix business with gossip.

Ancestral House- In as much as the people of Ilocos Norte are clannish and traditional, they always come back to the ancestral house. Whether of bamboo, wood or brick, the ancestral house is a treasure chest of heirlooms and memories. Families hold reunions during fiestas, especially Christmas. Special food such as lechon, kilawen, papaitan, pinakbet, and saluyot are indispensable in gathering like these. The facade of the Museo’s house is based on the Lazo residence in Bacarra.

Museo Sarusar Shop- Museo Sarusar Shop is a showcase of the finest products of Ilocos Norte. At the same time making it well known emporium of a wide selection of the most finely crafted works of art not available elsewhere. Purchase of museum souvenirs will help the museum.

Dap-ayan- This modest structure is usually found in the barangay. Made from light materials, its cool, confines are where barangay officials usually holds meetings. Young and old enjoy sliced green mangoes, tamarind and other fruits in season dashed with salt and dipped in vinegar, while neighbours exchanged the freshest news. In progressive baranggays, the dap-ayan has evolved into a Multi-Purpose Centre with a reading section, a day-care centre and garden or seedling bank.

Historical Glimpses of Ilocos Norte- The history of the province from 1572 to 1999 is presented in an outsized book with dates, events and photos.

Special Exhibit- Sometimes, some Ilocano artists rent an area to showcase their works

Musical Instruments- Bamboo has been the source of musical instruments in the province: pito (flute), kulkutong (bamboo zither) and jaws harp among others. Other traditional instruments are the ludag (log drum) and tangguyob (carabao horn). Western influenced instruments include the arpa (harp) and tambor (drum).

The Pugon– tobacco leaves are flue-cured in at all structure known as the pugon (from Spanish fogon or English fume). The walls of the pugon are made from interlaced bamboo slats covered with a mixture of mud, dried leaves and carabao dung. The tobacco leaves are hung in tiers. Heat is conducted through a system of flues or ducts, and temperature is raised over a period of several days until the desired color is obtained. The whole process must be carefully handled because improper curing results in discoloured low quality leaves.

Teatro– Everbody loves a show, and a small stage-decked out in provincial style, has been set up for lectures and informal performances for the benefit of small groups. A 15-minute video provides an introduction of Ilocos Norte Musical traditions.

Tabacalera Gallery- Hall of changing exhibits

 

7.) Appreciate Taoid: A Museum of the Cordilleras in Ilocos Norte

      I did not know that the Cordillera people has this amazing culture until I visited the Taoid: A Museum of the Cordilleras in Ilocos Norte.

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8.) Have some intellectual conversations with Northwestern University Students

      I got a free tour of the Taoid Museum from Tourism students of Northwestern University- Glydel Rhovy Natividad (with light blue shirt), Tricia Mae Magbual (with dark blue), and Zharinah Kainah Leano (with yellow shirt). Some of my misconceptions against people from Apayao (one of the provinces of the Cordillera) were rebutted by them.

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Other Places To Visit Nearby Laoag:

       Laoag is the capital city of Ilocos Norte. Thus, it is also the centre all transportation hubs connecting to all of its towns.

Marcos Trail- Relive the live of a former president. Start off with the Marcos birthplace in Sarrat and learn Ilocana mothering traditions and womanhood; visit the Malacanang of the North in Paoay with galleries featuring the accomplishments of the Marcos administration; and finally end the tour at the Marcos Presidential Centre in Batac.

Nature under the Ilocos sun- Pass through the scenic Patapat Viaduct and trek the Kalbario Patapat Natural Park in Pagudpud and Adams. Enjoy the virgin forest teeming with wildlife until you reach the base of a picturesque waterfall. The Tanap Avis and Kaangrian waterfalls of Burgos are also worthwhile destinations to visit and satisfy your thirst for adventure.

Cultural Treasures– Ilocos Norte is home to many renowned Philippine Cultural treasures: the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse is the tallest of its kind in the country and was first lit in 1892; the Baccara Church, known for its brick architecture; the Sarrat Church with its outstanding system of roof trusses, is famed as the longest in Ilocos; and the Spanish Watchtowers found throughout the province.

Ilocos Rocks- Ilocos Rocks literally and figuratively! The coastline boasts unique rock formations shaped by the powerful waves and winds. Some are creamy-white and massive like the Kapurpurawan Limestone Formation; some streak the beaches and create natural pools like the Curimao Coral Formations; and some come in pairs like the Dos Hermanos Rocks in Pagudpud. Some are pink, black and even volcanic in origin!

Sustainable Energy Facility- Ilocos Norte is known as the sustainable energy capital of Southeast Asia. with 100 turbines to date and counting, the first and largest wind farms in the region can be found here. Solar and hydro plants are also finding their way to the province.

Beaches- If you need your dose of vitamin sea, Ilocos Norte’s got you covered. Said beach is ideal for swimming while Caparispisan and Bkue Lagoon are best for water activities, all can be found in Pagudpud. The shallow beaches of Curimao through blotched with broad coral formations are ideal for snorkelling.

World Heritage Site- Paoay Church built from 1694-171, is the most outstanding example of earthquake baroque architecture in the Philippines. The coral stone and brick walls are supported by 24 buttresses. It was inscribed as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1993. The massive coral stone bell tower was built half a century later and stands at some distance from the church as protection against damage during earthquakes. Around the church are several points of interest such as the San Agustin Prayer Garden; the Paseo de Paoay which houses restaurants, shops and exhibit halls; Old convent which is an ideal venue for events and functions; and the Arte Luna art gallery.

 

 

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