Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sights and Flavors of Ilocos Norte

March 26, 2011

From Vigan, we went back to the north.  We were running a bit late because we spent a considerable amount of our morning shopping on Calle Crisologo.  Our guide Steve was driving really fast just so we could reach the Marcos Mausoleum before lunch break.

Marcos Mausoleum (Batac)
We entered a dark room where some hallowed music filled the air. Right in the middle encased in glass was the corpse of former President Ferdinand Marcos. My mom, who was already alive during the heyday of the Marcoses, commented that FM seemed to have shrunk. Our guide gave a brief bio of FM.  Picture-taking was not allowed inside. Guards in civilian clothes inside the room were on the lookout for those who tried to sneak some shots. From the mausoleum, we went to the gallery at the back of the museum but it was already closed for lunch. So we went to Herencia Cafe to have our lunch. We made a table reservation and placed our orders. Then we crossed the vast park towards Paoay Church.

Paoay Church (Paoay)
This all-too familiar church is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Construction of this church was started by the Augustinians in 1704 and was inaugurated in 1896. This church has weathered earthquakes and wars. It stands tall in the midst of the green plain, a reflection of the town which can live independently.

Herencia Cafe (Paoay)
Once we were done with the photo shoot, we went back to Herencia Cafe. This restaurant is popular for its Ilocano dish-flavored pizza. But we were famished from the long drive and the scorching heat that having pizza for lunch would definitely not satiate our hungry tummies. So we ordered a typical lunch fare of rice, sinigang na hipon, kilawin, igado, the authentic crispy dinuguan and other Ilocano dishes. 

The resto was very homey with all its wooden furniture. I also noticed that they utilized the base of the Singer sewing machines as table stands. Ingenious indeed. 

Paoay Lake (Paoay)
After our lunch, we made our way to the Malacañang of the North, passing by the big, calm Paoay lake. According to our guide and the books as well, legend has it that the town of Paoay was inhabited with kind, generous, industrious and pious people. However, vanity and greed got the worst of them. An elder couple had a dream that the place would be flooded if the people would not change their ways. They were also told never to look back should the flood wipe out the town. They told the villagers about the dream but they just laughed it off. True enough, a flood came which drowned the whole village. The elder couple were able to flee but they forgot the warning. They looked back at the town and they turned into stones.

And if this wasn't enough, it is also said that the lake claims a life every year, particularly during the first week of January.  Not a few have been drawn or pulled by some force into the lake. Many have attempted to see what lies beneath the lake but they never lived to tell the tale.

Malacañang of the North (Paoay)
This two-storey mansion which has a view of the Paoay Lake served as the residence of the Marcoses while FM was still the president. It has big receiving areas for guests, dining halls where they would sometimes have Cabinet meetings and several bedrooms. 

According to our guide, while Bongbong Marcos had a bedroom in this house, he was actually living in a separate quarters for security reasons. The bedroom where FM was receiving treatment when he was sick was converted into a display area featuring life-size wax figures of the former president garbed in formal and casual clothes. The walls inside the house were filled with portraits of the couple and of the family. 

On one picture of the president, FM wrote a sweet note to IRM. 

This mansion is not as huge nor as grand as the Sto. Niño Shrine in Tacloban City but at least it is well-maintained.

Fort Ilocandia (laoag)
This brick hotel is popular among local and foreign tourists and is the premier accommodation in Laoag. 

Museo Ilocos Norte
The old tabacalera building now houses the Museo Ilocos Norte which chronicles the history of the region as well as the culture of the Ilocanos and other tribes who have settled in this part of the archipelago.  

Our guide also showed us the proper way to cook pinakbet. Vegetables are placed inside the pot in layers with veggies that take the longest time to cook at the bottom of the pile. Fish sauce is added and then the pot is placed over the fire, allowing the juices of the veggies to render a flavorful taste. That means no adding of water to the dish.  Once it is almost done, a wooden ware shaped like a pair of tongs is wrapped around the mouth of the pot to lift the pot and tilt the same several times instead of stirring the veggies with a ladle.

Marcos Museum (Sarrat) 
So it was in Sarrat where former president Marcos was born. On the ground floor are rows of Marcos memorabilia including his car plates. On the second floor, one can find a piano and a harp. On the walls are the family portraits and family trees of the Edralins and the Marcoses. In one bedroom, one can find the antique bed used by Josefa Edralin-Marcos when she gave birth to FM. There was also a cabinet filled with academic gowns when FM received his Doctors of Humanities degrees (Honoris Causa) as well as his swivel chair.

Sta. Monica Church (Sarrat)
This church built by the Augustinians has a view of the Padsan River. This was also where Irene Marcos exchanged "I Dos" with Greggy Araneta in the '80s. It has a curillo, a bridge that connected the church to the rectory which was once the Casa del Palacio Real. Even at that time, there was no separation of the state and the church. 

We also explored the ruins of what was once the tribunal room, the torture room and the jail. Currently, the ruins serve as a party venue. When we were there, the caterer was setting up one portion of the place for a christening dinner.

Ilocos Sky

Malunggay Pan de Sal (Sarrat)
We bought the famed malunggay pan de sal on our way to the sand dunes. It tasted sweet and best eaten when hot.

Empanada at Dap-ayan (Laoag)
After our thrills at the sand dunes and a bag of pan de sal, we decided to have light dinner that night at Dap-ayan located near the provincial capitol building. Dap-ayan in Ilocano means tambayan. It was here where we had empanada overload. I likened this place to a smaller Larsian (in Cebu). Other dishes served were noodles, soup and lutong bahay meals.

After our dinner, we committed a blooper. We thought we were treading on park grounds. But no, we were mistaken. Imagine us walking leisurely across the whole breadth of the rotunda. Good thing there were not too many cars that night. And our other companions cautioned us because the police officer already called their attention. Gosh, that would have made a terrible headline: Southerners jaywalking in Laoag. Geez!

March 27, 2011

Breakfast at Balay da Blas
This time we had our breakfast inside our room. 

Sunday Mass at St. William's Cathedral (Laoag)
We attended the 9:00 A.M. mass in this cathedral which was once a thatched chapel in the 1500s. The patron saint of Laoag is St. William the Hermit. This parish has seen the best and worst of times. The crown of the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary was stolen by a local chieftain. The church was razed by fire. The revolutionaries and American forces occupied it at the turn of the century. Even the Aglipayans contested ownership over this piece of property. And the Marian devotees converged in this church in the '20s and '40s.

Near the cathedral is the Provincial Capitol and the St. William Parish of the Philippine Independent Church.

Acrobatic Bell Tower (Bacarra)
The first town north of Laoag is Bacarra. It is said that the town was named after a basket called bacar. Now, locals and tourists alike visit this town for its acrobatic bell tower. And just like the other old churches, the church in Bacarra has dungeons which if given a facelift could be utilized as function halls, just like what they did in Sarrat.

Bacarra is also littered with big houses owned by Filipinos based abroad, particularly in the US. In the past, a lot of Ilocanos have migrated to the US.  It so happened that my mom has friends in the States who are from Bacarra. We asked the local priest if he knows the older Acob couple. And when he said yes and that they were currently in town, we arranged for a meeting. On our way back to Manila, we dropped by Bacarra again, this time to meet Dr. and Mrs. Primitivo Acob, healthy and active octogenarians who were my mom's hospital colleagues in Tacloban back in the '70s. It was a happy reunion and we had dinner at their place before catching our flight for Manila.

They say you have never been to Pasuquin if you haven't tried their biscocho. And so we stopped and hoarded packs of biscocho at the Pasuquin Bakery which, coincidentally, is owned by the teacher of our family friend who hails from Pasuquin. They have the soft (yummy especially with Nutella) and hard biscocho. The shelf lives: soft (2-3 days) and hard (can last up to 6 months).

Another product of Pasuquin is the salt. Too bad, Steve's friend wasn't around to show us how to make salt.

And before we left the town, we learned it got its name from the smoke which served as warning signal whenever there were invaders to this town. And lastly, our guide said that beachfront properties in this town are sold at low prices. Worth your money? I don't think so especially if your beachfront is facing the South China Sea and when high tide comes, your property's nowhere to be seen.

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse (Burgos)
We entered the town of Burgos which was formerly known as Nagparitan or a prohibited place because it was said that the natives prohibited the outsiders from moving into this place. 

Our next stop was the lighthouse on a hill which had a breathtaking view of the South China Sea. The lighthouse was designed by Magin Pers in 1887, constructed and finished in 1890 by Guillermo Brockman and has served as a beacon to seafarers since 1892. We were unable to get inside the lighthouse because it was still under renovation. So we contented ourselves with the view of the sea and the cool, strong winds.

Bangui Windmills
A trip to Ilocos won't be complete without a photo-op at the famous Bangui Windmills, the country's first wind farm project in the north.

I just had to take a photo of this because somewhere in that mountain is a town with only one barangay and that is Dumalneg.

A little trivia: Have you ever wondered why the belfries are found at a certain distance from the churches? Or why these bell towers are way older than the churches? According to our guide, when the Spanish friars went around Christianizing the locals, they built the belfry as a marker to the other friars that this town has been Christianized. And the church came later because building it was a major production work compared to a belfry, right? And so the churches were built either on a spot at a certain distance from the bell tower or next to the belfry.


kates said...

sol, the photos are fantastic! do u photoshop them?

sojournersol said...

Hi Kates. No photoshop program for me. If the photos are okay, I publish them as it is. If I see that it needs to be enhanced (lighting, color, sepia, B&W), then I use the available effects on iPhoto.

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