The Best of Ilocos Norte, Philippines
The company was perfect. What more can one ask for when going on travel? The three of us friends decided to visit some places in the country where we grew up. We had heard such great reviews of sites in our former country that we decided to visit up north when we happened to be all together there.
We chose Vigan as we have heard so many good things about the recent improvements they have made to this old city. But, as we were already going to Vigan, we thought it would be a great idea to visit both the capital cities of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. The plane anyway lands on Laoag, which is the capital city of Ilocos Norte.
Smug world travellers that we are, we didn't expect to be awed. We only wanted to spend time together, and doing this in a different setting seemed to be a fun idea.
So, we took the evening flight to Laoag and what surprised us was that the plane was full. So many Filipinos from Ilocos living abroad, especially in Hawaii, filled up the plane. Even though most of them just got out of a long flight, the excitement filled the plane as they gained more energy as they get closer to their families. The flight took forever to start as huge pieces of luggage had to be loaded.
By the time the plane landed, it was already dark, so there was not much to see. Besides, we got exhausted, waiting for our luggage from the heaps unloaded. Thankfully, our tour guide stayed and welcomed us with a big smile. Yes, we asked for a guide and a driver. At our age, we wanted to be comfortable and enjoy the experience.
The guide brought us to Fort Ilocandia Resort, our hotel for the first night. The hotel was like a fantasy land with the lights and huge manicured lawns with flowering bougainvillea vines climbing its walls. All we could manage was to have something to eat. We had a taste of the authentic Ilocano cuisine. We enjoyed it so much that we looked forward to breakfast the next day.
Breakfast did not disappoint us as some of the best Filipino sausages are from this area. After our fill, we explored the grounds and found that we were right on the South China Sea. It's inviting to stay and enjoy the enormous space and a beautiful view, but our guide was already waiting for us.
Off we drove down south towards the city of Vigan. On the way, we visited the Malacanang of the North. Malacanang is the President of the Philippines' official residence, and Ilocos's famous son lived there for 20 years, Ferdinand Marcos. So, they built this two-story mansion overlooking the Paoay Lake. It has seven rooms, seven being a lucky number for the Marcoses, displaying the impressive Marcos years' memorabilia.
The legend the guide told us about Paoay Lake, the largest lake in Ilocos Norte, was even more intriguing. This lake used to be the site of a prosperous village, Saint John of Sahagun. Its villagers were kind, generous and thriving, as evident in their expensive clothes, houses and jewelry.
As their riches increased, the villagers got embroiled in a fierce rivalry over who had the best material things. Everyone got involved in this rivalry except for the couple, Juan and Maria, who kept to their simple ways. One night, a dream told one of them that a flood would destroy the village unless the villagers change. This dream they shared with villagers who just shrugged it off as a mere product of their imagination.
One morning, the couple heard a voice telling them to leave the place once they hear the sound of thunder and never look back. So, the couple headed for the hills. After the thunder, the earth beneath trembled, and water rampaged the village. Maria couldn't help herself. She turned back to have a look at what was happening. She shook and almost fainted, so Juan tried to hold her. The tugging that followed gave the local name to this lake, Nangguyudan. Juan failed as they, as they turned into rocks, which the locals claim, can still be visited at Barangay Pugaro.
On the site emerged this Paoay lake, and anglers continued to fire the story by reporting that they would catch fish with some jewelry on it, which they alleged came from the prosperous but greedy villagers of San Juan.
We continued our tour and visited the San Agustin Church of Paoay. Completed in 1710, it has 24 massive buttresses, which protected it from earthquakes. It is a World Heritage site as one of the baroque churches of the Philippines.
But this place still had a surprise for us. As we were driving, we saw a sign toward the Luna Museum. We know about the Luna brothers, Juan and Antonio, from our study of history. They were prominent in the Filipino fight for Independence, but because they lived in Manila, we never associated them with Ilocos. Just to show you that we are not natives of this place.
Anyway, when we saw this, we can't go on. We had to visit the place, and we begged the guide as this was not in our schedule. This museum-shrine is located in Barangay Barreta, Badoc, Ilocos Norte. Excited about our find, we went in and knowing how interested we were, the Museum guide gave us a thorough tour of the place. We listened intently and took in every bit of information he shared with us about these two brothers, one a painter and the other a general.
With no further ado, we proceeded to our destination for the day, Vigan. We arrived at dusk, but it doesn't matter because the city is at its best at night. I will focus on Vigan in the next series of travel in the Ilocos Region of the Philippines. I know that I have built up the excitement for Vigan since the start of this article but I can't just not let you see what Ilocos Norte has to offer. I hope you enjoyed the visit.
Copyright 2020: aesta1