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Ilocos Tour – Laoag, City of Sunshine » Waking up in the Sparkling Gem of Ilocandia

Then I woke up, noted where I am and started thinking “Are we really in Laoag? And alive to blog about it? Fascinating!”

This is the wonder of wandering around, you hastily jump in a van, sleep and let the driver take charge of you life, dream of a far off destination and wake up in unfamiliar place. Waking up in the same place every morning is boring, so I have to take a few out-of-goddamn-Manila trips once in a while.

Having this Ilocos tour is one of my ideal backpacking trips because this part of the Philippines can take in both stunning scenery, culture and history, and city life. Ilocos is also included in the top backpacking destinations in the Philippines because it offers an unbeatable combination of urban life, significant Spanish heritage points and jaw-dropping scenery which doesn’t cost a fortune.

Morning stroll at the historic Aurora Park

Image Source:  Laoag City Official Website

After sleeping during the whole 10-hour road trip, we had a quick stop at the Aurora Park located at the Laoag City Central Plaza for breakfast. I’ve been on this provincial capital before when I was assigned as MSAP Proctor in Northwestern University back in 2008 but I haven’t explored the area.

Souvenir photo of the backpackers at the Aurora Park, Ilocos Norte Capitol

We had a nice lazy stroll on that early Saturday morning where the only people on the wide streets are group of bikers and very few pedestrians. Unlike other major cities, Laoag City is easy-going and unhurried – maybe it is the direct effect of the historic sites dating back from the Spanish era around the area. Touring the place gave us time to relax from the long and tiring trip we had, making us ready for exciting activities ahead.

Being a central component city, Laoag is largest and busiest commercial center in Northern Luzon. It is located on the north bank of the Laoag River, a few kilometers from the sea and part of the North Luzon Quadrangle, which is being developed into a tourism center of the north outside Hongkong, Taiwan and even Japan.

This historic monument is the first peace pole to be erected in the Ilocos Regio (Region 1). This peace pole with a prayer written in different languages, "May Peace Prevail On Earth" is a project of the World Peace Prayer Society, a non-government organization (NGO) in affiliation with the Department of Public Information on the United Nations to help spiritually in the mission of the United Nations in attaining global peace.  
The city’s Central Business District is located at the middle section of the poblacion's southern boundary and the main shopping thoroughfares are Rizal and Bonifacio Streets which run east and west of the Aurora Plaza.

Quick Facts:
  • Formerly called Ylagua, Ylavan, Ilauag and Ildauag in early records, laoag is the Ilocano word for “light” or “brightness.”
  • Laoag was founded on January 5, 1586
  • It had three visitas: San Nicolas, San Juan de Sahagun and Sta. Monica de Sarrat.
  • On June 19, 1965, Laoag was converted into a city by virtue of Republic Act No. 4584.
Laoag City is the birthplace of: 
  • Fred Ruiz Castro (September 2, 1914-April 19, 1979) - Supreme Court chief justice and Father of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
  • Anastacia Giron-Tupas (August 24, 1890-September 28, 1972) - first Filipino chief nurse and superintendent of PGH School of Nursing.

Some of the tourist spots that we visited within the park are the neo-classical-style Provincial Capitol, Museo Ilocos Norte, Tobacco Monopoly Monument, Marcos Hall of Justice and the Sinking Bell Tower of St. William the Hermit Cathedral

The Classic Ilocos Norte Capitol

The Ilocos Norte Capitol (March 2011)
The Neo-Classical-style Provincial Capitol, started in 1918, was inaugurated in 1924 during the term of Gov. Florencio Castro. 

"To Thee I Give...." the Ilocos Norte Oblation
It was enlarged and renovated in 1957, during the administration of Antonio V. Raquiza, by adding a corridor in front to join the newer wings flanking the building.

Ilocos Norte Capitol at Sunrise

Treasures of the Museo Ilocos Norte

Museo Ilocos Norte
The Museo Ilocos, formerly the Ilocandia Museum of Traditional Costumes (inaugurated in 1977), is located at the cor. of Gen. A. Luna St. and Don Vicente Llanes Ave., beside the city hall (edit: Capitol). Also called Gameng (from the Iloco word meaning “treasure”), this museum is housed in the former Camarin de Tobacco de la Tabacaler or tobacco storage house and was inaugurated in 1999.

We didn't got the chance to check out the treasures inside because we dropped by too early so we just took souvenir photos outside.  

Tobacco Monopoly Monument

Tobacco Monopoly Monument
The Abolition of Tobacco Monopoly Monument, along A. Bonifacio St., at the foot of Marcos Bridge, is an obelisk of clay and brick built erected in 1882 by alcalde mayor (provincial governor) Don Jose Moreno Lacalle as a gesture of thanksgiving to King Alfonso XII of Spain for abolishing the hated tobacco monopoly.

According to historical records, the Laoag area in 1788 was one of the centers of opposition to the imposition of tobacco monopoly. It is reported that “about a thousand persons” rose up in arms as a protest, and major hostilities were barely averted through the intervention of a trusted bishop.

The Marcos Hall of Justice

Marcos Hall of Justice
The Marcos Hall of Justice, also located near the bridge, was built on the site of the former Carcel Provincial. This is where the young Ferdinand Marcos was detained when accused of murder. While in jail, he studied law, topped the bar examinations and defended himself and later was acquitted by the Supreme Court.

On my next post I’ll share my thoughts on the Sinking Bell Tower.

Enjoying my pre-summer treat

Waking up in Laoag, the Philippines’ City of Sunshine and the gem of Ilocandia was one of the pre-summer treats I had this year. Summer is kicking in but Metro Manila is still a little bit gloomy and damp and having this trip, though unplanned was a necessary activity to remind me that I am not a prisoner of this dark city directly affected by climate change. I can leave whenever I want and go to a place where summer still comes in March.


Sources of Facts and Citations: 
» Keesing, Félix Maxwell. The ethnohistory of northern Luzon. Stanford University Press, Standford Calif. p.160
» Philippine Almanac and handbook of facts. “Ilocos Norte” The university of Michigan Vol. 3. 1997: 195
» Aurora Park Historical Markers
» Laoag City Official Website. Culture and Tourism Page. . (10 April 2011)

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