Laoag City, Philippines (Philippine Information Agency) – Ilocos Norte is more than white beaches and centuries-old churches. Old-time tourists used to say that when you’ve seen Pagudpud beach and Paoay Church, you’ve seen them all.
Pagudpud beach, as all tourists probably know, is the home of the white sand beach which had been an all-time favorite spot of frolickers in the North. The world-renowned Paoay church is the most important religious and historical structure in that town famous for its centuries-old baroque church.
But there’s more to Ilocos than the iconic churches and beaches that any tourists would be naturally drawn to. As former Ilocos Norte Governor-now Congressman Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. loved to pitch: the sites, which have been Ilocandia’s best kept secrets, are endless.
This northern province offers alternative destinations for people who would want to explore and pause from the pressures of city living.
PAGUDPUD’s tribute to Ilocano bolomen
The northern most town of Pagudpud is a fitting route to those who would want to make a historic journey back to the landing site of the USS Stingray submarine which was instrumental in liberating the Philippines from Japanese invasion in World War II.
The sea vessel beached undetected in Caunayan Bay in Pagudpud town on August 27, 1944 and unloaded assorted weapons for Ilocano bolomen who, along with American forces, fought Japanese atrocities.
Their stories of heroism are etched in a monument built in their honor on the site where the Stingray unloaded arms and ordnance that Filipino guerrillas used in fighting the Japanese forces in Northern Luzon.
Crowned with an anchor, the marble stone and pebble marker was unveiled last year during a seaside ceremony attended by remaining war veterans both from the Philippines and the United States.
Its crown symbolizes the anchor that the submarine dropped off the waters as it left the Pagudpud bay.The US submarine decided to drop the anchor after unloading armaments along the bay because lifting it would create too much noise and, in the process, attracted the attention of the Japanese troops patrolling the area.
PARAISO NI ANTON (Anton’s Paradise). At the end of the long and winding scenic Patapat Bridge also in northern Pagudpud, motorists stop for souvenir items and cool down at three waterfalls believed to have healing powers.
Motorists cannot miss a stretch of stalls selling native products, fruits and trinkets made of shells and colored pebbles before cooling themselves at the falls flowing from a mountainside where the road turns into a canyon.
Margie Calventas, who has been tending her stall for more than five years now, says the falls, locally known as “Paraiso ni Anton,” is a natural attraction for motorists cruising along the Ilocos Norte-Cagayan route.
“Motorists would always bring along empty bottles of mineral water, tin cans and plastic pails and fill them up with cool water from the falls on the belief that their illnesses would be healed,” Calventas says.
Locals also believe that the “Paraiso” is enchanted that motorists would not miss sounding their horns when approaching and leaving the falls.
BANGUI WINDFARM. Going South, the next spot would be the Bangui wind power plant which was built in 2006 by Danish investors.
President Macapagal-Arroyo takes pride that the Philippines is home to the first wind power plant in Southeast Asia so she flew to the northern most part of the country last year and saw for the first time the first clean energy in the country.
The President had committed to put up other wind farms in Ilocos Norte noting her administration’s support to environmental-friendly wind generation.
A first in Southeast Asia, the wind power plant is composed of 15 turbines, each standing 70 meters or equal to the height of a 23-story building. The wind farm can generate a maximum capacity of 25 MW.
Burgos lighthouse. To this day, the over a century-old Burgos lighthouse (known locally as the Cape Bojeador lighthouse) remains a mute beacon to seafarers.
It is also a source of provincial pride after the National Museum declared it a national cultural treasure in December 2005.
Perched on Vigia de Nagpartian hill in Burgos, Ilocos Norte, the lighthouse, is composed of a 160-m tall light tower, living and office quarters and a courtyard.
Completed on March 30, 1892, the lighthouse was built by Guillermo Brockman from a design by Magin Pers y Pers. It is made of locally fabricated bricks and accented with cast metal grillwork.
Motorists driving north through the province of Ilocos Norte can catch sight of the lighthouse which dominates the Burgos skyline. From its top, one can easily take in the sweeping panorama of the sea and the surrounding countryside.
GAMET ISLAND. Gamet (black seaweed) surfaces in patches along Burgos’ cliffs periodically from September to February, also a period when the Burgos Bay is rough and the waves are swelling.
The equivalent of Japanese nori (the world’s most popular seaweed, according to a Japanese website), gamet comes as a black and flat seaweed sheet when dried.
The splash of waves combined with cool rain showers are said to be favorable to its growth and quality.
Gatherers would wait for the waves to retreat before they start picking the seaweeds stuck deep in the fissures of rocks and corals.
Gamet commands a higher price at the onset of the gamet season when the seaweeds are scarce and the first harvest is said to be of the best quality.
The gamet harvest is usually traded to balikbayans who take with them long mats of gamet abroad and give them as presents.
CAANGRIAN FALLS. The Department of Tourism started promoting the Caangrian Falls also in Burgos town as an eco-tourism site because of its natural wonder.
Located in the Paayas village, which is five kilometer-drive from Burgos proper, motorists would have to leave their vehicles at the head of the trail and start a four kilometer-hike to the falls.
The waterfalls are everywhere creating semi-circles of water that cascade down multi-layered rocks.
Capurpuraoan Rocks which means “White Rocks” were naturally carved by time. The massive mounds of rocks are made of corals that jut into the sea.
Burgos officials have made the dazzling white rock a dramatic backdrop for photo shoots with visiting movie stars namely Jericho Rosales, Heart Evangelista and singer-actress Regine Velasquez.
The sight of the massive rock-mountain could be mistaken for a scene from a sci-fi movie or could be an ideal location for the legendary Panday movies.
The Paoay Heritage House has been fully restored to its original glory after the structure has gained national fame for its bubble-topped octagonal house built by the owners’ patriarch the late Constancio Duque in the early 1940s.
Locally known as the Duque house, the American period architecture was given tribute as one of three heritage homes in Paoay along with the well-preserved twin Bahay na Bato (white houses to locals) owned by the family of Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales.
The Duque patriarch got the design in Chicago where he lived for 20 years.
The old Duque is said to have hired skilled carpenters to execute the architectural design that he had kept only in his mind. The octagon-shaped American architecture is made of wooden stone-cut façade with a bonnet of a roof.
GULING-GULING Festival. is an annual celebration that reminds Catholics among Ilocanos in Paoay town that merrymaking is over and that it is the beginning of the 40-day Lenten season marked by fasting and penitence.
Residents end the day of earthly pleasures on the eve of Ash Wednesday with a mardi gras before marking the season of sacrifice.
“Guling-guling” means to smear the sign of the cross on the forehead using the ashes of burnt leaves. Instead of lining up before a priest, however, festival participants receive the imprint made from wet, white rice flour called the “bellaay” from the town mayor.
Traditionally held the day before Ash Wednesday, the celebration gathers the old and the young on the streets for a day of dining, wining and street dancing. Town officials, however, kick off the event as early as February to generate attention throughout the Lent.