Friday, January 18, 2013

Our Laoag City Travel Journal

The Sinking Bell Tower
Coming from Vigan City, it took us around 3 hours of non-stop drive to reach Laoag City. We headed to the capital of Ilocos Norte on 26 December, the same day they were celebrating Damili Festival. Hence, upon reaching San Nicolas town, before crossing Marcos bridge, we were ordered by a cop manning a checkpoint to take a detour road going to Laoag City. We drove on a dusty and rough road in the middle of nowhere until we reached Laoag City's airport road. There were 4 vehicles in our convoy. The detour consumed at least 45 minutes of our travel time. It was frustrating since I knew that we were few minutes away from our hotel.

Actually, we noticed on our way to Laoag City a detour signboard at Barangay Baay Public Market but we thought that the marking was simply to show an alternative road to our destination. We were wrong. Lesson learned.

Anyway, upon reaching Laoag City at almost 5 PM we received an SMS from Isabel Suites inquiring about our reservation. We replied that we were already in Laoag City and searching for the hotel's location. We knew that the hotel was near a Jollibee outlet so we proceeded to the first Jollibee we saw upon entering the city proper. The hotel was nowhere to be found. I never thought that there would be two Jollibee outlets at the center of Laoag City; another mistake on my part.

In short, after receiving additional instructions from Isabel Suites, we were able to reach our hotel at past 5 PM. After settling in our rooms we strolled near Ilocos Norte Capitol. My family went to SM Hypermarket, directly in front of Ilocos Norte Capitol, to replenish our stock for our trip to Pagudpud the following day while I strolled around the area.

Ilocos Norte Capitol

Aurora Park & Tobacco Monopoly Monument in front of Capitol

Pamulinawen Garden Clock at the Capitol

Around the Capitol, the area abounds with picturesque places such as Aurora Park, Laoag City Hall, Marcos Bridge and so on. Residents of Laoag City are extremely fortunate to see these beautiful and historical places daily

The following day, after a quick visit to Pagudpud and lunch at Kang Kang Windmill Cafe, we drove directly to Fort Ilocandia Resort & Casino. To my surprise, the asphalt road from Laoag City airport road up to Paoay was in pristine condition. The entire length of this road was devoid of traffic and potholes. Not to mention the thick vegetation and greenery on both sides of the road.


Santa with his reindeer at the entrance of FIR

A Wedding Reception

We were apprehensive initially upon entering the compound but the security staff simply waived us to the visitors parking area.

The place seems depressed and desolate. This is a five star resorts and hotel but the atmosphere is far from lively and festive; perhaps because of dimly lighted corridors and hallways plus the effect of dark colored bricks, wood panels and floor tiles.

After loitering around the place for less than an hour, we decided to go to nearby Malacanang of the North which is overlooking Paoay Lake.

MALACANANG OF THE NORTH (Malacanang Ti Amianan)

Paoay Lake

We paid 30 pesos each at the entrance or 150 pesos for five of us. A free guided tour was conducted by a young lady con photographer; yes she would gladly take your pics. She toured us to different rooms while giving us a brief history about them. Moreover, while explaining about some Marcos paraphernalia on display she also emphasized and expounded the accomplishments of the former president during his tenure as well. It is obvious that the Ilocanos here still love and adore the Marcoses, to say the least. I can't blame them since I have seen with my own eyes the development initiated by the Marcoses such as excellent roads, Patapat Viaduct, preserved greenery, Bangui Windmills - to name a few.

From Malacanang of the North, we headed to Paoay Church

I can't believe that I am in front of one of the most famous Baroque Churches in our country and designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site. I used to see this only in pictures and even then I was already in awe on its magnificent design and historical value. In my opinion, the grandeur of this church is comparable to the old catholic churches in Europe. I have seen centuries old catholic churches in Grenoble and Lyon, France but our Paoay Church is a stand-out among them. More so, this church has been designed to be earthquake proof thus it is still standing after 300 years.

Usually, you would see the picture of this church showing its full front facade but for me, I prefer to see it in on this perspective.

After visiting Paoay Church, we headed to Batac for a quick bite at Jollibee. I knew that Marcos Museum was nearby but since I got some feedback that the place was creepy I decided to drive back to Laoag City and called it a day.

Having eaten Ilocano dishes during the past few days, we craved for pizza and interestingly, we haven't seen any Pizza Hut or Shakeys in both Vigan and Laoag Cities. We settled for Greenwich takeout for our dinner in the hotel.

Unlike Vigan City where people starts to disappear at sunset, Laoag City proper remains alive until late at night. Maybe because of the presence of several big supermarkets such as SM and PureGold. Further, motorists heading to northern part of Ilocos Norte also pass at the city proper.

The following day while preparing for our trip back to Manila, my kids asked me about the preserved body of former president Marcos. I described to them how the place looks like; they promised me that they won't freak out so I decided to pass at the center of Batac, Ilocos Norte where Marcos Mausoleum is located.

The entrance to mausoleum is free but photography is not allowed inside. Visitors need to fall in single line and enter at the right side. Upon entering the dimly lit mausoleum you'd be greeted by Gregorian-like chant and floral scent of countless white flowers surrounding the clear glass and sealed casket. Marcos body is dressed in Barong Tagalog and black pants with matching black socks. The place is creepy according to my kids and I agree with them.

We spent half an hour in that place and bought Tinubong (glutinous rice cooked inside a young bamboo) since the free taste was yummy; 100 pesos for 3 pices. However, we found out later that the Tinubong we bought was good for nothing. The glutinous rice inside the bamboo was hard and tasteless compared to the free taste. My tip; don't buy Tinubong at Marcos Mausoleum area.

We decided that it was time to start our journey back to Manila. It would be a long trip ahead of us thus we can't afford to spend more time to check the museum.

Apart from the fact that we haven't visited all touristy places around Laoag City, we are convinced that  the entire Ilocos Norte province is teeming of Marcos legacy. It was fortunate that even after the deposed of the former president, the following administrations allowed his legacy to live on so that future generation would have an insight on former president life.

To check our complete travel journal: Road Trip to Ilocos (Vigan/Laoag/Pagudpud) 

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