I’ve been dreaming of visiting the provinces of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur for the longest time. I’ve heard and read about the beauty of the provinces so I feel disappointed every time a travel plan to go there does not push through. In August last year, I finally got of a taste of the best things Ilocos has to offer. We had an work-related event from August 7-9 in Laoag City last year, so I and a few co-workers decided to stay until the 11th so we can also visit the nearby towns.
During our first three (3) days in Laoag, we weren’t able to go around that much in city since the event activities run until nighttime. On Day 1 though, we had a meeting at the Mariano Marcos State University so I was able to get a quick glimpse of Batac. The school served us a sumptuous lunch consisting of Ilocos bagnet and pinakbet. Bagnet is just…superb. It looks like the standard lechon kawali but it is more superior because it is already tasty on its own. No need for soy sauce or lechon sauce like Mang Tomas!
On the afternoon of Day 2, there was also an organized tour around Paoay and Batac for the guests. Thankfully, there were enough slots to accommodate me and three of of my co-workers (Io, Ate Kate and Ate Beth) so we got to tour these two towns for free!
We left Plaze del Norte, the conference venue, at around 3 PM. Our first stop was the Marcos Museum and Mausoleum in Batac City. Inside the masoleum, a wax (?) representation of Ferdinand Marcos’ remains was displayed. It was amazing the it still felt so eerie inside despite knowing that the remains was just fake one.
Just beside the mausoleum is one of the old Marcos’ houses that has been converted to a museum. Various Marcos family memorabilia were displayed including the things Ferdinand Marcos’ used when he was still a student in UP and Imelda’s clothes among others.
From the museum, we proceeded to the beautiful church of Paoay. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has been on my bucket list since I discovered the wonders of traveling, so seeing it was indeed a significant achievement for me. The architecture and the massiveness of the church was such a sight to behold. Just near the church was its equally old bell tower. There was also a newly cultivated garden just beside the church which offered a mix of shrubs and flowering plants.
Just in front of the church is the Herencia Cafe. I could not forget this place as we had a very funny incident with its famous pinakbet pizza. One of the doctors in the tour bus ordered a box of pinakbet pizza and shared it to everyone. However, when the box was passed to another pizza, the box fell and pizza tumbled on the floor. But for all for the sake of curiosity, she picked up the pizza, tried a slice, and then passed the box to the next person. Everyone in the bus was laughing so hard that I hardly forgot about the “fallen pizza” when the box finally came to my lap!
Paoay Sand Dunes
From Herencia Cafe, the tour bus brought us around several stores where we could buy pasalubong like chicacorn and inabel blankets. It was already late in the afternoon when we were done shopping so I was surprised when the tour bus still dropped us at Paoay Sand Dunes. It was not part of the itinerary I planned for our extended stay so I was so happy that I was able to get a glimpse of the sand dunes. When we arrived, it was almost sunset so the colors of the dunes were gorgeous! I can definitely say, it was one of the most magnificent scenes I’ve seen in my life so far.
From the sand dunes, we proceeded back to hotel for dinner and so that we could prepare for the cultural night arranged by conference hosts.
Malacanang of the North
The activities for the last day of the event were only until lunch so we already had the afternoon to ourselves. Before heading out to the hotel in Laoag where we will be staying for the rest of our extended trip, we visited the Malacanang of the North which was just a tricycle ride away from Plaza Del Norte. Malacanang of the North served as the official residence of the Marcos family where they were in Ilocos.
The house was very spacious and well-ventilated, as expected of old Philippine Spanish Houses. The rooms and the personal belongings of the Marcoses are well-kept. Some of the rooms however were converted into display rooms.
The balcony at the back of the house provided an excellent view of the Paoay lake. It must have been nice to live in that house and wake up to a magnificent view everyday!
We did not stay that long in Malacanang of the North as we have to check out of Plaza Hotel already. From Plaza del Norte, we proceeded to La Eliana Hotel in the city proper of Laoag. We just left our things there then proceeded to walk around the city. It was the start of our “actual travel mode”. I will be talking about our escapades in Laoag City, the rest of our Ilocos Norte escapades, and our quick trip to Ilocos Sur on separate posts.
My first three days of stay in Ilocos Norte provided me a glimpse of what the province has to offer–VARIETY. I was surprised that in just two towns, there’s so already so much to see: old house, lakes, sand dunes, churches. I learned from my travels that one variety is one the factors that could make or break a place for me. And based only on the places I’ve seen in Paoay and Batac, I knew Ilocos Norte would be one my favorite travel destinations in the Philippines. See you on my next Ilocos post!
This is Part 1 of my Ilocos series: