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Ilocos Norte: At Home in the North

Ilocos Norte: At Home in the North

Abet Lagula’s repeat visits to his hometown have yielded a great many images of life up north.
By Abet Lagula

Familiar with the province's varied offerings, this native Ilocano shares the sights and sounds (and tastes!) of Ilocos Norte.

There is no place in the Philippines where I am more at ease than Ilocos Norte. Being an Ilocano myself, born to Ilocano parents but raised in Manila, Ilocos Norte is like my second home. I've been here almost a dozen times, and each visit has provided me with a different experience.

This province virtually has it all: panoramic views, beautiful beaches, century-old Baroque churches, and rich cultural traditions. With all that it has to offer, it is no surprise if travelers feel the need to visit it again and again. Everything you could ask for, from adventure to relaxation, can be found in Ilocos Norte.

Ilocos Norte is located on the northwest tip of Luzon. Its capital city is Laoag, which can be reached from Manila by road in 12 hours, or just an hour-long trip by plane. It is also the birthplace of former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, who led the country for more than two decades.

The Ilocos Region is appealing to tourists despite the long travel time as most of its points of interest are easily accessible from the main road and can be visited in a day or two.

Ilocos Norte is also one gastronomic feast. When in the province, don't forget to try samplers of their dishes: from pinakbet and dinengdeng, to bagnet and empanada. Once you've had a taste of Ilocano culture, you will certainly come back for more. I've been there, done it, but will still keep on going. A repeat visit to Ilocos Norte never becomes tiring.

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St. Augustine Church

Also called Paoay Church, being located in the town of the same name, it was built in 1694 and was completed two hundred years later. St. Augustine is one of the four Baroque churches in the Philippines that have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

St. Augustine Church

The church combines Gothic, Baroque, and Oriental designs. The lower levels of the church and the bell tower were made entirely with coral stones, and the upper layers were built with bricks.

Coral Stone

A closer view at the building material used for Paoay Church.

St. Augustine Church

A view of the interior showing the altar and the galvanized roof above. The original design for the church used thatched roofing.

Santa Monica Church

Found in the town of Sarrat, it is the largest church in the whole province made entirely of red brick. It also has the longest aisle among Philippine churches. One of the daughters of former President Ferdinand Marcos got married here in a lavish ceremony.

Marcos Museum

Former President Marcos was born in Sarrat but was raised in the town of Batac, where his ancestral house and memorabilia are located. Inside the property are the former president's remains, open to the public, free of charge. Cameras are not allowed inside the crypt.

Malacañang ti Amianan

With an Ilocano name meaning Malacañang of the North, it was the official residence of the former President Ferdinand Marcos in Ilocos Norte. It has been converted into a museum. Entrance fee is 20 pesos per person.

Antique

A glimpse of the furniture on the second level of Malacañang ti Amianan.

Bed Room

This used to be one of the bedrooms of the former President's family.

Capiz

Malacañang ti Amianan features the extensive use of capiz shells for all windows, still a common design element among Philippine rural houses today.

Lawn

This is the lower level of the house overlooking Paoay Lake.

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

Found in the town of Burgos, it was built during the Spanish colonial period and continues to be operational to this day. The lighthouse marks the northwestern tip of Luzon.

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

The lighthouse was first lit in 1892. The tower is made mostly of bricks. Cape Bojeador Lighthouse was declared a national landmark in 2004.

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

One of the windows surrounding the tower, this illuminates the spiral stair leading to the top.

Seascape

Ilocos Norte is noted for its fine white sand beaches, most notably in the town of Pagudpud, but it also has its share of rocky seascapes and jagged coasts, much to the photographer's delight.

Kapupurawan Rock

Kapupurawan means "white" in Ilocano. The majestic rock formation can be found off the coast of Burgos, just 5-6 kilometers north of Cape Bojeador Lighthouse.

Herd

On your way to Kapurpurawan, encountering a herd of goats is a common sight.

Rice Grains

While Ilocos Norte is one of the top tourist destinations in the country, it still has a primarily agriculture-based economy. Here, a farmer is drying his newly-harvested rice grains along the national road.

Bangui Windmills

One of the newest attractions in the province is the Windmills of Bangui, which began operations in 2006. It is the first "Wind Farm" in the Philippines.

Bangui Windmills

Phase I of the project consists of 15 windmills, designed to supply electricity to the Ilocos grid.
Phase II is underway, installing an additional 5 windmills to generate more power.

Bangui Windmills

Despite being built primarily for renewable energy purposes, the windmills have instantly become a landmark. Tourists flock in droves to get near one of the windmills, so much so that a cafeteria has been built in the vicinity to serve the guest's needs.

Sunset at Bangui

The windmills are a favorite subject of photographers all day, all night.

Kabigan Falls

The town of Pagudpud is famous for its white beaches and crystal blue waters, but aside from that it also has a majestic waterfall of its own. A sign along the national road in Pagudpud serves as a marker and temporary parking lot for visitors who wish to see it. Kabigan Falls is just an hour-long trek from the registration area and can only be reached with the assistance of accredited guides.

Blue Lagoon

Maira-ira Point, also called "Blue Lagoon" in homage to a famous movie from the ‘80s, is a 20-minute drive further north from the more famous Saud Beach. Possessing fine white sand, clear blue waters, and with little or no commercial development, it is a favorite spot among backpackers and budget travelers. People who plan to spend a night or two must have their supplies ready, as food may be much more expensive than in Saud Beach due to lack of resources.

Saud Beach

Saud Beach is the most popular spot in Pagudpud. Majority of the commercial resorts are found here. People who have been here compare it to the world famous White Beach of Boracay, albeit less crowded and with less noise. It has been unofficially named "Boracay of the North."

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