Along with Pangasinan and La Union, Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur make the Region 1 or the Ilocos Region (Ilocandia) of the Philippines.
Related Article: Letting go in the wonders of Ilocos
Ilocos Norte has over half a million of residents while Ilocos Sur has about 100,000 more people than the Norte. The term Ilocano depicts both the people in Ilocos and their language. Farming is one of the main sources of income of the populaces amidst the vulnerability of the provinces’ locations to strong typhoons. Though annually exposed from a disaster, Ilocos has been among the favourite spots for tourists and travellers in the Northern part of the country, due to sole charm from beaches to history. Aside from the rich heritage in the Provinces, people admire the most known quality of Ilocanos – Matipid/Masinop (thrifty/frugal). Ilocos are commonly categorised who value their finances well and thus managing a sustainable lifestyle. From the people and food to unending discoveries in Ilocos Norte and Sur, what things you should not really missed? To assure that you will have a memorable Ilocandia Trip, here are the awesome things to do when visiting the provinces of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.
Naimas! The Ilocano term for delicious. Surely, you will utter that word as you do a food trip in Ilocandia. Longganisa (pork meat and fat filled into intestine wrap), Bagnet (crispy pork belly), Okilas (Chicharon with Dinuguan Dip ala Vigan), and Empanada (stuffed bread) are the top food you should definitely try.
Longganisa is perfect for breakfast as you eat it with fried egg, fried rice with garlic and a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. A great way to start the day as you get ready with an exciting Ilocos tour. What makes the Ilocos longganisa different from the rest in the Philippines? Vigan’s variety of longganisa is said to be salty and best paired with Ilocos Vinegar. Makers of Vigan Longganisa shared that the 20 kilos of meat to 10 kilos of fat ratio makes it more appealing to every diner.
Looking for another meal in the morning? Then Bagnet might be another choice. Warning for people with high blood pressure though. A part of the pork, Kasim, is used for the Bagnet, frying it deep with salt from two up to three hours until it softens and the color becomes red. Dip the Bagnet with vinegar and chili, or just ketchup. Follow your taste bud! Ilocos Bagnet is known for being crispier and tastier.
Craving for some snacks? Okilas is the answer. It’ s the chicharon paired and dip in Dinuguan (pork blood stew). The pork skin is turned into chicharon by hanging it from three up to four days until it goes for frying. The Dinuguan’s secret, on the other hand, is the seven-hour slow cooked. Vigan’s Dinuguan version is creamier than the usual liquid texture which Filipinos know.
If still not full, grab some Empanada along your way. It is stuffed with papaya, longganisa and eggs in yellow orange-colored dough.
Specialities of the place are certainly the best to try. But if ever you feel to have some ‘usual’ food, why not just get some ice cream in cone to make your hot trip a bit colder?
Little learning while relaxing would not be the worst combination in a tour. So better get some history lessons on the province of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. Here are some of the sights you must include in Ilocandia and look how long they have been symbolising Ilocos.
Newly listed as one the seven city wonders of the world, Vigan is attracting a number of visitors through its illustrious Calle Crisologo. Also known as the Mena Crisologo street, Calle Crisologo is filled with Spanish houses were the rich people used to live.
The famous street is allotted only with Kalesa (horse-drawn calash) and thus, prohibiting any other kind of transport to pass by.
Marcos, a name which will always be coordinated with Ilocos. It’s been about 27 years since former President Ferdinand Marcos died from a complication related to lupus in Hawaii and it’s been 23 years from the day his body was moved in the Marcos Museum in Batac, Ilocos Norte, after a long fight of his widow, Imelda Marcos with the Philippine government. The late President’s embalmed is on displayed through a refrigerated, vacuum-sealed glass coffin.
Malacañang of the North
Depicting the Marcos Family during Ferdinand Marcos time as a President, Malacañang of the North showcases portraits, study room, bedrooms and memorabilia during the years of Marcos ruling. It is serenely located next to Paoay Lake.
The St. Agustin Church or Paoay Church is standing in the town of Paoay for over 120 years now though the construction was started in 1694 by the Augustinian friars. A mixture of Gothic and Baroque designs with some Oriental elements, Paoay Church’ façade is with little style of Chinese. The niche topping the walls is commonly associated with Indonesia’s Borobudur Temple, defining some Javanese influence. The three-storey bell tower made of coral stone of the main attractions of the church, located few meters from the church and was served as one of the observations posts for the Katipuneros in 1896 during the Philippine Revolution against Spain.
Sinking Bell Tower
Situated in the City of Laoag in Ilocos Norte, the Sinking Bell Tower is estimated to ‘sink’ one inch per year due to its sandy foundations. The 45-meter bell tower welcomes you as you enter the city proper and recorded in 1612 when the Augustinians constructed the huge tower.
Bantay Bell Tower
Viewing the vicinity of Vigan, The Bantay Bell Tower or the Bantay Belfry serves as the people’s watchtower that was erected in 1591.
Not all the bells in the highest portion of the tower are still functioning but remains as one the top spots for those going in Ilocandia.
The Burgos Light House or the Cape Bojeador is a 65-feet tall structure. The Lighthouse’s octagonal tower was used as a guide of the trader ships, going in the rocky coastline of the town. It was first lit on March 30, 1982 and was damaged 1991 earthquake. The current display in the tower is a solar-powered electric lamp.
Ilocos will never be left behind when we talk about natural assets. From flora to fauna; and from land to water, Ilocandia can give them all to you. It is essential to visit some or all of the following to have an ultimate Ilocandian Tour.
Located at the heart of Vigan City, The Hidden Garden is warmly accepts guests for its fine-looking garden and superb potteries. The Hidden Garden also caters a well-refined restaurant, offering local cuisines. The Whole Garden is a well-though arrangement of nature, collections, food, talent and hospitality.
For the fauna side of Ilocos, Baluarte is the right place to be. The mini zoo, displaying Philippines endemic animals as well as from other countries make it a must to see.
The golden multi-storey house of Vigan native, Chavit Singson is also resting around the locale, together with his Safar Gallery where visitors can see portraits of his hubby on hunting.
With a total of 387 hectares coverage, the Paoay Lake classifies as one of the main attractions in Ilocos Norte. It can be reached for about 15 minutes from the Paoay Church. Locally tagged as the dakkel danum, Paoay Lake was a favorite spot for the family of Ferdinand Marcos during their holidays.
Paoay Sand Dunes
The whole Ilocos Sand Dunes embraces the Curimao to Pasquin towns in Ilocos Norte. One of the most popular sand dunes is the Lapaz located in Laoag City and the Paoay Sand Dunes has been gaining fame as well for visitors. Hiring a 4×4 Rough Riding vehicle and Sand Boarding are the best activities at Paoay Sand Dunes.
Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
Kapurpurawan means White and it perfectly justifies its names by the famous Rock Formation, lying along the popular Kapurpurawan beach or the Bangui Bay. Truly, nature made its own way to get people stunned by it and that includes how Kapurpurawan Rock Formation was moulded.
It was in 2005 when Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” installed the first phase of the North Wind Bangui Bay Project as a solution to the power shortages, declining the economic growth of the province. Promoting a renewable source of energy using Bangui’s modern wind turbines, the 240 up to 400 Megawatts (MG) innovation can supply power to 6,000 up to 10,000 households. The project was completed in 2008, covering 8,000 up to 13,000 households.
With about 120-feet drop, the Kabigan Falls is situated in Barangay Baloi, giving visitors a cool relaxation after sweaty kilometres of walk.
Bantay Abot Cave
Another creation of nature, the Bantay Abot Cave was formed from a rocky hill after an earthquake. Bantay Abot Caves defines “a mountain with a hole”, resting along a clear blue sea.
Though a concrete highway, the Patapat Viaduct was made, following the mountainside in the northernmost part of Ilocos Norte. This was created to resolve the continuous vehicular accidents due to the landside in the area. A magnificent view of Pasaleng Bay can be spotted several meters from the mountain side.
Also known as Maira-Ira Point of Pagudoud, Ilocos Norte, the Blue Lagoon is a superb beach with genuine fine white sand. As the name Blue speaks, the water’s bluish hue leaves you speechless.
As calm as it can be, the Blue Lagoon is also a place of adventure activities such as the well-known long zip line, displayed along the water.
LOCAL TALENTS DISCOVERY
In every destination, there are locals who will surely distributed in making their place a must visit. Aside from attractions, traveling to Ilocandia will also give you a glance of people’s skills on arts.
The Vigan’s Pagburnayan is a remarkable pottery place in the town. The name comes from the root word burnay which means hand-crafted earthenware pots made from Vigan. The process of burnay jar creation begins by mixing locally-sourced clay with fine sand, anay in a circular pit crushed over by a carabao. The next stages will need rough and an immense of patience. Dirty yet a true symbol of well-done job is what the pottery makers prove.
Native Hammock Making
Reaching the Kabigan Falls in Barangay Baloi will let you stroll in rice fields, houses and of course, residents who will welcome you in their village. One thing not to miss is some people trying to make a living out of talent, including the Native Hammock making. No proper shop to display; just a genuine production of his well-loved Duyan (local term for Hammock) is what this man’s main selling asset.
Planning for an Ilocandian Tour? Things To Do listed above can be done in three days through an Ilocandia Tour by Shawn Sam Travel and Tours.
About the Writer:
Jessica Ayun is a Freelance Writer who writes if 5-10 cups of coffee a day will be served. She used to work as a TV Researcher but her feet are always curious to step into new places so she decided to work in the communities of Visayas and Mindanao as a Documenter for almost two years, through a non-government organization (NGO). She tries to see the “real happiness” in every person she meets and every place she goes to. She will always choose mountains than beaches.