Monday, April 14, 2008

Pilipinas: Laoag City & The Heritage Town of Paoay

The “Pilipinas” series is this blogger’s way of expressing how beautiful the Philippine Islands are. This is a detailed account of his experiences while backpacking through the majestic islands of The Pearl of the Orient.

I have always wanted to go to Ilocos Norte. The province is very rich in culture and heritage. Good thing I was able to avail of Cebu Pacific’s P1 fare. While Senator Trillanes was busy in his latest A-Class Hotel hopping, I was busy preparing for my own personal vacation. This would also be the first time I’ll be traveling with Wiks.

My flight was delayed for an hour (yes, they still get delayed). That gave me an opportunity to see what kinds of people are in the passenger waiting area. I noticed that most of those bound for Laoag City were Chinese businessmen. It seems that the article I read about Ilocos Norte as a casino haven was right after all. After flying for an hour, my plane landed on very rough tarmac.

Laoag International Airport was built from red bricks giving tourists an idea how old school the province is. Also, Ilokanos are known for crafting really nice pottery.

I boarded a jeepney after getting my baggage. Making things a little spontaneous, I decided not to book a hotel beforehand therefore missing an opportunity for a free airport transfer. The jeepney driver and his son provided me assistance in locating my preferred hotel. The driver was so nice he addressed each passenger as either “madam” or “sir.” This strengthens the notion that Ilokanos indeed are one of the nicest peeps here in the Philippines.

It was a good 15 minute ride from the airport to Laoag City proper. Before entering the town proper, you’ll be welcomed by a huge arc before the bridge. The town proper is not that huge but very urbanized compared to other provincial cities.

Because most reviews I read promoted Tiffany’s as the ideal place to stay in downtown Laoag, I decided to book there. Its proximity to the plaza is a plus. Also, there is a Jollibee nearby which is open for 24 hours. I was also excited to have breakfast there… because breakfast at Tiffany’s is always cool.

Tiffany’s interiors were frolicked with old Hollywood pictures. The rate for an overnight stay in a single room was P675. My room rained with blue, orange and purple spots. It somehow looked like a hospital room to me though.

After parking my things in the hotel, I was off to Paoay Church. On my way to the terminal, I noticed that Calesas here are quite wide. I boarded a jeepney and paid a fare of P25 to Paoay. I discovered that jeepney passengers in Ilocos Norte pay only upon arriving to their stop that’s why drivers here make sure they have enough coins for change. The ride to Paoay is approximately 35 minutes with stops at Batac Public Market, which I heard was the largest in Ilocos Norte, and General Ricarte Park.

Paoay Church is heavenly! No wonder it was classified as a heritage treasure by the UNESCO.

At the side of the church are benches made from original Paoay bricks. Behind the church is a tennis court (Ilokanos sure love to play tennis) and a basketball court. I even took a picture of Paoay hoops!

Across the road fronting the church is a souvenir shop. I bought some Ilocos Wine and tried some of its famous empanada. I found out that they use the same breading for Kwek-Kwek. I tried tuna. It took them 10 minutes to cook my order but it was all worth the time.

On my way back to Laoag, I met Vicente Ocol. He was kind enough to make a stop in front of Immaculate Conception Church in Batac for me to take a picture. He also shared a ranting about our country’s current political system and how abundant life was in Ilocos Norte during Macoy’s time. I find him very educational and will share his story on another blog post.

Manong Vicente dropped me in Laoag’s “Barangay Liga Gym” located beside the city hall. I witnessed the championship game between St. Joseph and the team wearing FEU Tamaraw-ish uniforms. I can tell you that they got game. The fans were also very supportive yet very organized. I miss that type of fan support in Pampanga.

I visited St. William’s Cathedral after the pre-Sunday mass. The lighting was superb inside which very well supported the church façade. I saw some of the passengers from the morning’s flight visiting the cathedral.

Outside the church were talented skateboard junkies. The kids were about the age of 7. They reminded me when I got my first skateboard. It was then that I also realized how peaceful it is in Laoag City. If you do those skateboard stunts in the streets in Manila, you’ll get ganged up.

I was excited to try Macy’s Diner below the hotel. Unfortunately, it was too late for me to discover that restaurants here close at 8PM. I had no choice but to grab my Chickenjoy. It was a first for me to have Jollibee on my breakfast, lunch and dinner. Before I went to bed, I watched the Suns burn Superman and his Superfriends. It was an awesome first day for me.


Abaniko said...

Wow, you also went to Laoag, ha? But I guess you're able to explore the place more tan I did. I share your sentiment about the place. Beautiful! :)

Yam said...

@ abaniko-

Extravagantly beautiful indeed! :)