Monday, September 16, 2013

Dream Destination: Ilocos

Today I write about Ilocos Norte of my Philippines. Ilocos Norte is bordered on the west by miles and miles of the beautiful coastline of the West Philippine Sea and Bangui Bay in the North.
Ilocos Norte is 488 kilometers  (303 miles) from the capital of Manila. Travel time is 10-12 hours by land, 45 minutes by air. The region's weather is always cool, with a constant breeze coming in from the West Philippine Sea. During the wet months of July to October, the region gets its share of the annual rainfall (which is a lot), and the occasional typhoons. The mountainous terrain of the surrounding provinces east of Ilocos serve as barrier to the destructive winds of tropical cyclones that hit the country.

Vacationing in Ilocos is worth the long travel time one has to endure to get there. Local and foreign tourists feel like they have been transported to a different time. Let us visit Ilocos Norte.

Paoay Church
The mere mention of the name "Ilocos Norte" brings to mind the late Philippine President, Ferdinand E. Marcos. Born and raised in the town of Sarrat, President Marcos was a major factor in preserving the landmarks that ensure a steady flow of tourists in the province. One would notice the numerous churches in the area, all of them remnants of the time the my Philippines was under Spanish rule. The Paoay Church is one example. Built centuries ago, the stone edifice stands its ground despite the wear and tear of Mother Nature. 

Fort Ilocandia Resort and Casino
To entice foreigners, President Marcos ordered the construction of a five star hotel, the Fort Ilocandia. One can just marvel at the majesty of the structure. Vacationing in luxury and enjoying a night at its casino is an experience one can treasure in their lifetime. Another structure worth visiting is the Malacañang ti Amianan (Malacañang of the North). This served as the official residence of Mr. Marcos whenever he was in his hometown. Sad to say, however, this large colonial inspired structure has not been very well maintained. 

The lobby of Fort Ilocandia

The Sinking Bell Tower in the town of Laoag is one spot that should be included in one's itinerary. According to locals, this structure has been slowing sinking into the ground, as evidenced by the fact that one has to stoop way low to get into the belfry. Never leave Laoag without visiting St. William's Cathedral, one of the largest cathedrals in the country and is currently the seat of the Diocese of Laoag. For those interested to learn more about the history of the province, the Museo Ilocos Norte is the place to be. 

Pagudpud beach
Nature lovers would love the beaches of Pagudpud. Wide stretches of white sand beaches greet the tourists, where they can just enjoy a day of relaxation under the sun and a refreshing swim in the warm waters. 

Bangui Windmills

Surfers need to travel further north, to Bangui Bay, a surfer's paradise. Also in Bangui, one would be fascinated by 15 wind turbines, standing along a 9 kilometer stretch of coastline. These 70 meter tall structures provide electricity to the region. 

Currimao, Ilocos Norte

In Curimao town, one can stand in awe at the natural rock formations along the beach. It has been said that these rocks are actually dried up coral beds. 

Sand Dunes of La Paz

One can also have taste of Hollywood by visiting the massive sand dunes in the town of La Paz. This place was where one of the scenes of the movie Mad Max and Born on the Fourth of July was filmed. Rent an ATV for a minimal fee or go sand boarding down the slopes for uber enjoyment.

Ilocos Bagnet

Before I burst by dream bubble, I have to mention about food. Who would want to go hungry while travelling? Ilocos is famous for its Bagnet, which is deep fried pork meat in all its crispy, flavorful glory. 

Ilocos Empanada

The Ilocos empanada is one more palatable experience. This is basically a meat and vegetable pie, spread on a specially prepared rice dough, and then deep fried to crispy perfection. Not to worry about all that oil. It is coconut or lauric oil that is used, therefore, less cholesterol. 

Pakbet Pizza

Ilocos townfolk are also big on vegetables, with some of the enterprising ones creating a so-called "Pakbet" pizza.  This is a basic pizza topped with local vegetables and of course, mozarella cheese. I am in digestive heaven. 

As a tourist in my own country, the need to visit this place in my lifetime. To get away from the malls, the hustle and bustle of city living, the unresolved traffic situation in the metro is going to be bliss.

Visit my Philippines!


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