The City of Laoag is the capital of the province of Ilocos Norte and the northernmost city in the Philippines. Being the capital, it is the center of government, trade, and industry in the province. Most of its people remain loyal to their most popular leader, but their dedication and hard work translated to a vibrant modern culture and strong economy, backed up by well-established and fast-growing industries.
The catholic faith remains strong in Laoag and at the center of it all is the Laoag Cathedral. Also known as Saint William Cathedral, it is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Laoag. Its foundations were built in 1612 and has undergone numerous reconstructions and repairs. The cathedral boasts an impressive Italian Renaissance design and architecture. Not too far away from the Cathedral is the Laoag Sinking Bell Tower. It was built in 1783 and sinks an inch deeper into the ground every year.
The Museo Ilocos Norte is a must-see for history buffs who want to know more about the history of the province and the Philippines as well. The museum is housed inside an old structure that was used as a tobacco warehouse during the old times. It features different artifacts and items of the ancient people of the province. It also has galleries that chronicle the history of Ilocos Norte and featured exhibits on the history, arts, and culture of the country.
From Laoag, an ideal side trip would be to the town of Bangui, where the famous wind turbines are found. These structures are not only important sources of power but also serve as symbols of the ingenuity of Ilocos Norte.
The quickest way to get to Laoag from Metro Manila is via plane. The trip only takes about an hour. After which, you'll land at Laoag Airport. You can choose between Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines to take you there. Both offer direct flights to Laoag.
If you're up for a road trip, Laoag is about 9 hours' drive from Metro Manila via the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and SCTEX (Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway). But if you want to commute, travel time takes about 10 to 11 hours with some stopovers. Florida Bus, Partas, and Fariñas Transit are some bus lines you can take to get here.
How to Get Around
For those who wish to commute, you'll find jeepneys on Laoag's roads. These vehicles can take you to some parts within the city as well as to other destinations around Ilocos. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the jeepney routes but if you don't have the time to research, don't be shy to ask the locals for directions to the place you'll be visiting. PHP 7.00 is the minimum fare per ride.
Tricycles are also available in Laoag. You can ask the driver to take you to a certain destination. PHP 20.00 is more or less the minimum tricycle fare you can pay. Aside from one-way rides, you can also hire tricycles for tours.
Horse-drawn carriages, locally known as a kalesa, are also available in Laoag for a unique way of touring the city.
What to See
Laoag is filled with lots of interesting sights. From centuries-old churches, a sinking bell tower, museums and monuments, your itinerary will surely be packed when during your visit.
St. William's Cathedral serves as the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Laoag. Established by the Augustians in the early 17th century, the majestic church is patterned after Renaissance Architecture and is the perfect place to reflect during your vacation.
Just like most Spanish-era belfries, Laoag's bell tower is not built attached to its church. The Sinking Bell Tower can be found a few meters from the church, and is considered as one of the city's iconic landmarks. Its name is such because parts of the church have already been buried in the ground. Other churches you can visit include San Nicolas Catholic Church and Santa Monica Parish Church.
Another interesting landmark is the Tobacco Monopoly Monument at Aurora Park. This structure commemorates the abolishment of the tobacco monopoly in Ilocos. During the Spanish colonization, the only crops the Ilocanos were allowed to plant were tobaccos. The practice only stopped in 1881 when King Alfonso XII, then King of Spain, issued a decree to lift the monopoly.
While Laoag City does not have its own natural attractions, there are plenty of natural wonders in the nearby towns that you can visit.
First is the Calayab Beach in the town of Calayab. This gorgeous beach is perfect for swimming. Beach bums will definitely enjoy sunbathing and frolicking on the sandy shores. Meanwhile, in the town of Pagudpud lies Pagudpud Beach. With its white sand shores and clear, blue waters, this beach is considered as the "Boracay of the North". There are many beach resorts here if you're looking for an accommodation.
On the other hand, the mysterious Paoay Lake is the ideal spot for bird watching and of course, enjoying a relaxing view.
If you want to see some waterfalls, try Kaangrian Falls in the town of Burgos or Anuplig Falls in Adams.
There is a wide variety of artificial attractions within and around Laoag that will capture the varied interests of different kinds of travelers.
For history buffs, Gameng Museo, also known as Museo Ilocos Norte, is a great place to visit. It houses lots of artifacts and memorabilia that help give you an inisight to the culture and history of, not only Laoag, but also of Ilocos Norte.
The Marcoses have a huge influence on the Ilocos region. The Marcos Museum and Mausoleum in Batac and the Malacañang Ti Amianan or Malacañang of the North in Paoay are proofs of that. Visit these 2 museums if you want to know more about this powerful family. The Marcos Museum showcases some memorabilia of the Marcos family, while the mausoleum serves as the tomb of the late president Ferdinand Marcos. His preserved body is enclosed in a transparent glass coffin and can be viewed by tourists.
The La Paz Sand Dunes is suited for those who want to have an adrenaline rush in Ilocos Norte. Sand boarding and 4x4 rides are popular extreme activities here.
Events and Festivals
Pamulinawen Festival is Laoag City's annual fiesta. It is celebrated every February 10 in honor of the town's patron saint, St. William the Hermit. The city celebrates with a parade, street dances, and some pageants and competitions.
Where to Eat
Fast Food Chains
Since Laoag is an urban destination, you can expect branches of your favorite fast food chains here. Have your meals at Jollibee, Chowking, Yellow Cab, McDonald's or KFC.
Maximize your Ilocano experience in Ilocos Norte by feasting on Ilocano food. Preciosa's Restaurant and Eagle's Nest are some of the well-known restaurants that offer delectable Ilocano fare on top of other cuisines in their menus. Meanwhile, Saramsam Ylocano Restaurant is famous for its Ilocano dish- flavored pizzas. Try their dinuguan pizza or their poque-poque pizza for a satisfying fusion. AJ Seafoods Haus, as its name suggests, specializes on seafood dishes if you're in the mood for delicious meals made from the freshest catch.
However, cuisine in Laoag is not only limited to Ilocano dishes. Head to Macy's Diner if you're craving for some delectable American dishes. Aside from the delicious food, the out-of-the-box 50s-themed interiors add to a more pleasant and enjoyable dining experience. Meanwhile, if it's Italian food that you're in the mood for, Don Saro's offers authentic Italian dishes that won't burn a hole in your pocket. The quaint interiors of this establishment project a cozy feel that add to a positive dining experience.s
La Moda Panciteria is one of the establishments that both locals and tourists keep coming back to because of their delicious noodle dishes and their local and Ilocano food offerings.
Eateries are also available in Laoag for those who want affordable meals that don't sacrifice taste and quality.
Bars and Clubs
Cockhouse Restaurant is one of the go-to places in Laoag for a nightcap. After enjoying a sumptuous dinner, loosen up with a drink or two and enjoy the performances here.
Where to Shop
While SM City Laoag is still undergoing construction, visitors can get their shopping fix at Robinsons Ilocos Norte which is located just near the city. Here you can get access to a wide selection of dining, shopping, and entertainment options.
The Sarusar Shop at Museo Ilocos Norte offers a wide selection of souvenirs you can buy as mementos of your Laoag trip. You can buy souvenir shirts, trinkets, and local handicrafts like woven bags here.
The Laoag City Public Market is a one-stop shop for pasalubong and souvenirs. Here you can buy Ilocano delicacies like bagnet, empanada, and Laoag longganisa. Aside from these food products, you can also buy some souvenirs here like T-shirts, Don't forget to buy some onions and garlics, too as they are cheaper here than in Manila.
You can also find street vendors in Laoag selling different kinds of souvenirs and pasalubong. From trinkets like keychains and bracelets, to snacks like tupig (a native delicacy made from glutinous rice and coconut meat), you'll find that buying from street vendors will not only cost you less than buying from malls, but you'll also be able to help the livelihood of the local community.
ATMs and Money Changers
There are banks and ATMs in Laoag if you need to withdraw some cash for your expenses. There are also money changers, pawnshops, and remittance shops here.
Fare: PHP 700.00 to PHP 1,000. (By bus); 4,000.00 ++ (By plane)
Bus fares depend on which bus line you'll be traveling with, the route that your bus will be taking, and the amenities of the bus. Some buses offer free WiFi and are even equipped with their own comfort rooms.
Riding a plane is the quickest way to get to Laoag if you are in a hurry.
Food: PHP 50.00 to PHP 500.00
There are lots of ways to cut costs when you dine in Laoag. You can eat at carinderias or street food stalls, or you can order budget meals at a fast food restaurant. Doing so will only cost you about PHP 50.00 to PHP 100.00. Meanwhile, if you choose to eat at a mid-range to high-class restaurant, the price range is usually PHP 200.00 to PHP 350.00 for a meal.
Shopping: PHP 50.00
Your PHP 50.00 can already buy you a keychain that you can give your friends as pasalubong. Meanwhile, a T-shirt costs as cheap as PHP 100.00. One kilo of bagnet costs PHP 500.00, while one kilo of Laoag longganisa is at PHP 300.00.
Accommodation: PHP 700.00 to PHP 3,000.00
There is a wide variety of accommodations in Laoag. There are budget inns and lodges for backpackers and mid-range to high-class hotels as well.
Activities: PHP 30.00 ++
Entrance fees to the following attractions apply: Malacañang of the North (PHP 30.00), Marcos Museum and Mausoleum (PHP 50.00), and Museo Ilocos Norte (PHP 50.00).
If you want to avail of the Paoay Sand Dunes tour, 4 x 4 ride, and sandboarding package, you only have to pay PHP 2,500.00 for a group of 4 people. You can add ATV rides to your package for PHP 800.00 per head.
Other Fees and Taxes: PHP 200.00++
A terminal fee of PHP 200.00 for domestic flights and PHP 700.00 for international flights is charged at Laoag Airport.