I tried to keep myself from posting this as if that in itself will lengthen my summer vacation. Although I am still literally on vacation, aside from the sweltering heat, I don’t feel like it’s summer as somewhere along the way, it stopped being fun and turned boring. Hence, to become somewhat productive, I went back to learning Spanish (Hola! Mi nombre es Teesh.) which I never really had the time to pursue in the past few years. One of the things that is on my bucket list is to be able to converse freely in at least four different languages and I already got to tick off two (Filipino and English). Dad bought me a conversational Mandarin kit, but I probably would try to learn Italian once I get past Spanish. If anyone here speaks Spanish, let’s talk. I need practice.
The first thing we did on our last day up the North is.. well, eat complimentary breakfast in the quaint dining area of Balay da Blas. Hot chocolate for the three pigs kids siblings. It’s not legit hot chocolate though, as I was expecting it to be. The best hot chocolate I ever had in Ilocos is served at Grandpa’s Inn in Vigan. Tapa for my sister. Hands down to whoever made the sauce that went with the meat, as it was flavorful and had just the right mix of salty and sweet. Corned Beef for my brother. Dad decided on having Crispy dilis. We all took a piece of it – and liked it – that we bought a kilo from the market to take home. I had Native Longganisa for breakfast and the first thought that came to mind when it was served was “why is it so tiny?”. And Daing na Bangus for my mom. Old wine bottles were ingeniously used to serve cold water.
After breakfast, we headed to St. William Parish where a mass was ongoing. Dad had us sit through the entire thing although he was the only one who understood, as it was in Ilocano (the dominant dialect in the North). It was Holy Week after all. Once the mass ended, we went and lighted candles at the parish’s Chapel of Candles.
From St. William’s, The Sinking Bell Tower of Laoag is a simple five-minute walk. As the name suggests, the Bell Tower is popular among tourists as it sinks right where it stand. No one is allowed to enter the bell tower as a safety precaution. When the tower was first built, men aboard horses can enter through this doorway. At the time we visited, even my sister would have to slouch real low to get in.
The Provincial Capitol is located near a lot of tourist spots among the city, namely, the Sinking Bell Tower.
Museo Vivo de Ilocos features a variety of bonsai trees. Behind the bonsai exhibit is Museo Iloco. The museum “building” was formerly a tabacalera (Spanish Tobacco Monopoly) warehouse, and the grounds within the vicinity is called the La Tabacalera Complex. The museum was supposedly closed for the Holy Week, but luckily for us, we toured on a Thursday and they were open only until 12 NN. The museum houses a lot of antique jars, clothes, weapons, fishing, and farming paraphernalia. I love how the mini two-story house part of the museum is a bit interactive. If you try opening wardrobes and kitchen cabinets, you’ll find porcelain bowls with labels among other things.
However, once you get out of the museum, you walk out in a fairly industrialized area. We ended the first half of our Laoag tour by going to the market to buy goods after eating our lunch.
The later part of our day started after checking out. My parents already booked us a tricycle tour with Mang Esmer (Esmer Santiago) and friend (sorry, I wasn’t able to get his name). Our first stop was Marcos Museum – Birthplace. And yes, this was where the late president grew up. This seems to be the starting point of most tours and half the tourists you meet here, you will bump into the rest of your stops. It was very unfortunate though, that the exact tour group composed of a big Chinese family (not being racist here as their language was a distinct identifier.). All the kids in the group were rowdy and kept pushing other tourists. There was even this one instance that I was trying to take a photo and this man stood in front of me and would not budge even if I tried to talk to him. However, in the Malacanang of the North, another man from the same group was taking photos while I was doing the same thing and kept saying “excuse me” as he insisted on taking photos of the same spot that I was in. Ugh, so annoying.
Sta. Monica Church
Unfortunately, it was closed when we got there. Too bad since I really wanted to find out what the Whisper Wall is. I find old structures interesting because of all the untold stories within it.
The Ferdinand E. Marcos Presidential Center and Marcos Mausoleum had the most tourists of all the places we’ve been during our stay up North. Once we got in, I kind of felt suffocated with the number of people inside. Visitors are not allowed to take photos while inside the mausoleum. Rumor has it that the body displayed there is not the actual body of the former dictator, but who knows, right?
For me, the highlight of our Laoag tour is the Church of Paoay. The church and its grounds are breathtaking. It is also one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites as it is one of the best baroque churches in the country. The details that have surpassed more than a hundred years is what makes it stand out for me.
Next stop was the Paoay Lake. The legend surrounding the lake is similar to those of Noah’s Ark, however, whispers among the locals is that the lake is man-made, contrary to official claims. This might stem from the fact that the Paoay Lake serves as the splendid view from the Malacanang of the North. Only Tin and my dad went down to the actual lake shore to take photos. I just can’t stand walking on hot sand.
Honestly, I was expecting more than barren land from the Sand Dunes as I’ve seen it on Temptation Island. According to Mang Esmer, you’d really need to avail of the 4×4 to get to the actual desert. My parents wouldn’t allow us to ride the 4x4s as they think it was too dangerous (my sister is considered small for her age). Now I have a reason to go back to Ilocos Norte. Sand boarding is also offered here and both services cost Php 2500 per hour.
Our second to the last stop was Malacanang of the North itself. Visitors would have to walk through the long driveway to get to it. And the backyard, which had a sprawling garden. I wonder how rich I’d have to be to get a majestic view like this from my balcony. And I probably would buy a jet ski that I could use during weekends. Haha! The biggest bed I have ever seen in my entire life. It is bigger than the king-sized beds normally found in hotel suites. A lot could be said about Imelda Marcos, and one of those is Imeldariffic “classy”. I’m not really a fan (I never got to experience the Marcos regime but know that their regime has a lot of deaths left without justice), but she does pull off wacky photos (there are around five in a separate bedroom of hers). Haha!
To wrap off our Laoag tour, Mang Esmer and friend brought us to Fort Ilocandia. As our luck goes, my camera’s battery ran out and mom’s camera got no more space left. Our flight home was scheduled for 9 PM, but we were dropped off at the airport by 5 PM. Dad and I availed of the airport masseuses and had four different massages. As a notorious sleeper, I could seriously sleep anywhere. Even in uncomfortable plastic chairs.
I can’t wait to get back up North. I hope you guys enjoyed this series of posts! 🙂