Laoag : Mountains to the South China Sea

After a late night at the club which was downstairs from the hotel, we dragged ourselves out of bed, not wanting to miss the free breakfast. After recharging, we checked out and asked the hotel desk to look after our bags. We had negotiated a deal with some tricycles taxi drivers, and they would show us the places on our list for P350. We made our way out of town and it was not long before we were on a dusty highway. There were not many cars and I didn’t know where I was going. The whole day was like that, as my partner’s sister was with us and she is studying tourism and took the trip as a way to practice her tour guide skills.

Marcos Memorabilia Museum.
The Marcos’ are from Iloco Norte, the area we were in. We were about fifteen minutes out of town and wound our way down past a golf course and across some train tracks. We disembarked from the tricycle and walked down a small incline to be confronted with a very nice two story house on the banks of Paoay Lake. The entrance fee was P60. The museum is at the lake house that used to be the official residence of the ex-president, Ferdinand and his wife, Imelda. The place was nice, very stately and oozed money. After the entrance and walking through the large, downstairs living area, you find yourself in a perfect entertaining area. It reminded me of a mansion on the Mediterranean. There was an extremely large courtyard, with fantastic views of the lake. I try not to get into other countries politics; however the museum did seem a little propagandistic and showcased all the wonderful things that Marcos and his wife did in their careers. What else should I have expected at their museum? Either way it was interesting to look around at the many bedrooms, studies and living spaces. It was a touch voyeuristic. Looking through this museum, the distance between the rich and poor of the Philippines was quite apparent.

The Church Of Paoay and Bell Tower
About five kilometres around the lake and a bit south from the museum, we come across the Church Of Paoay. I love history and discovering old sites and buildings, so this church was a great find. The parish was founded by the Augustinian missionaries in 1593, however the cornerstone of the church was not laid until 1704, and the belltower was begun in 1793. The tower was used as a lookout by Katipuneros (A revolutionary society of anti-Spanish Filipinos) during the revolution and guerrillas during the Second World War.

The plants growing out of cracks of the building all the way up are probably what make the place for me and added that little extra to make the buildings look hundreds of years old. The church is famous for its large Buttresses on either side. In 1993 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site as one best examples of the Baroque Churches of the Philippines. It was over 30 degrees Celsius that day and my t-shirt felt like it has just been ironed. I was surprised that the church was open and I had a look inside at the architecture and the stained glass windows. As we were about to leave we noticed a decrepit building across the road, and I guess was the parish convent.  All that remained were the walls, with no roof or floors and the overrun with dirt. It looked like the same age as the church.

Paoay Sand Dunes and Beach
The next stop was the Paoay Sand Dunes. A large rising and falling of sand dunes, reminiscent of a desert. It was possible to arrange a 4 x 4 to drive you around and then you can race your friends while sand surfing. It was roughly P2000 to hire a driver and the 4 x 4. We were not to interested, but could see the beach not 400 metres away, so we ventured down there for a while. The beach faced the South China Sea and was deserted. The sand had a brown tinge to it, and because of this I could see why it may not be appealing to all. I like the place, take off my thongs (footwear for you non Australians) and wade in up till my shorts. Being such a hot day it was fantastic, and I wish I knew we would be at the beach as I would have brought my swimming gear. We cool off for a while and I contemplate a skinny dip because the water is so refreshing, but don’t want the others to feel uncomfortable, so I keep my pants on. After not too long, we head back into town.

The Sinking Bell Tower of Laoag
This was the third Bell tower I had visited in two days. It was getting a bit run of the mill, but I had to visit this one as it was sinking! It was right in the middle of Laoag city. It was built by the Augustinian Friars in 1612 and at 45 metres tall is one of the tallest and most massive in the country.


The construction is typical of earthquake baroque structures found in the region. Built of old brick and stone-face with lime stucco plaster, the tower rises in four tiers. The tower is crowned with a double dome topped with a cross.
Legend has it that a man could once ride into the vaulted entrance way on top of a horse without stooping. Now a person has to stoop just to enter through the tower door, because the tower has sunk considerably and evenly into the ground, and that is why it is known as the ‘Sinking Bell Tower of Laoag’.

Museo Ilocos Norte
Our day tour is almost over, but we stop off at the Musueo of Ilocos Norte. The place is not too large and we manage to see everything in about ten minutes. It is basically a collection of old things from the region. On display are such items as tools, carts, baskets and clothes from yesteryear. It gives an insight into how life was lived in rural North Philippines over the last few centuries. For less than $2 AUD it was worth a visit


The next journey
We collect our bags from the hotel and head to the bus depot. We are lucky to find a bus about to depart, so we hop on. After a minute or two we are on our way. It is an old, economy bus with no air conditioning, but it should only take a bit over an hour to get to the beach side village of Pagudpud. Read about my time at Pagudpud here.

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Vigan : Oriental and European FusionROAD TRIP! Ilocos StyleHidden Paradise : Coastal Resort Town of PagudpudHistoric Macau10 Things I Love About Manila

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