Exploring the Northwestern Province of the Philippines: Ilocos
The Republic of the Philippines is an archipelago consisting of 1707 islands. It is situated at Southeast Asia at the western Pacific Ocean. These islands are divided into 13 different regions each offering tourists something truly beautiful and amazing. There are natural wonders like beaches, mountains, forests, falls, and many more. There are also man-made attractions such amusement parks, buildings, and water parks.
For this article, we would focus on a two northwestern provinces: Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. One could not visit one province without taking a peep into the other. Both provinces have a lot to offer to their valued guests: beautiful beaches, windmills, world class hotel, and historic churches. These two provinces are great for a weekend escape with friends and families.
Here are a few things one could do while at Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur:
1. Walk along the beautiful beaches
The most popular beach in Ilocos, and perhaps the whole country would be at Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. Tourists love the beach because of its fine white sand and crystal blue water. Some popular beaches here are Maira-Ira Point, Saud Beach, and Blue Lagoon.
Aside from Pagudpud there are other famous beaches in Ilocos Sur such as Sinair or Imelda’s Cove in Cabangatalan, and beaches in coastal towns like Santa, Santa Maria, San Estebam, Candon, and Santiago. At Santiago, there is a famous resort named Santiago Cove which is a great picnic spot and has amenities for different water sports.
Beach at Santiago, Ilocos Sur
2. Be amazed at century old churches and cathedrals
The whole country has been greatly influenced by the Spaniards during their settlement. They have been able to convert majority of the natives to Roman Catholics. Furthermore they built several churches that still stand today.
The most famous church is Saint Augustine Church, also known as Paoay Church at Paoay, Ilocos Norte. The church was built from 1686 to 1710 and inspired by Spanish Baroque style. Large buttresses were placed at the back and side of the church to withstand earthquakes. A three-story coral belltower was built next to the church. The church had received several national and international recognitions such as National Cultural Treasure in 1973 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.
Another church worth visiting is Laoag Cathedral or St. William Cathedral at Laoag City, Ilocos Norte. The cathedral was built in 1612 under Italian Renaissance architecture. Adjacent to the cathedral is the so-called Sinking Bell Tower. According to experts, the tower sinks at an average of an inch per year.
St. Williams Metropolitan Cathedral
Sinking Bell Tower
There are also famous historic churches at Ilocos Sur. To top the list is the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption or Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion. This church has been known to the locals as Santa Maria Church. The unique thing about this church is the location. Santa Maria Church is built atop a hill overlooking the surroundings.
It stands a top of an 85 step stairway made of granite rock. It is built primarily of bricks and mortar and exhibits an earthquake Baroque architecture (there are large buttresses distributed throughout the building).
The Church of Sta. Maria
One could also find Saint Augustine Parish Church, also known as Bantay Church at Bantay, Ilocos Sur. Others call the church as the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity in which the church was dedicated to. The church was built in the year 1590 and has been considered as one of the oldest churches in Ilocos.
Shrine of Our Lady of Charity
These are just four famous churches at Ilocos Province. There are many more noteworthy and astonishing churches at each town.
3. Take a tour along a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Aside from the above mentioned UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the City of Vigan at Ilocos Sur has been considered as a World Heritage Site in 1999. The city is a reflection of Filipino, Chinese, and Spanish culture.
Vigan is proud of its century old buildings, cobbled stones, and horse-driven carriages, also known as calesa. The most famous street in Vigan is Calle Crisologo or Vigan Heritage Village. It is a street reflecting Spanish inspired houses – tiled roofs, hardwood floorings, balustrades, and azoteas. There are also a number of festivals such as the Vigan City Fiesta or Longganisa Festival, Viva Vigan! ‘Binatbatan’ Festival of Arts, and Raniag Festival. Other buildings to see are Vigan Cathedral or St. Paul Metropolitan Cathedral, Archbishop’s Residence, Father Jose Burgos’ Residence, Plaza Burgos, Vigan Emapanadaan, Baluarte, Crisologo Museum, and many more.
Recently, Vigan has been included as one of the NEW7Wonders Cities.
Cultural Heritage Monument
4. Be blown away by the famous windmills
Throughout the Philippines, Ilocos Norte had been famous for its windmills located at Bangui Wind Farm. Twenty windmills with a height of 70 meters stand in a single file that spans nine kilometers.
Bangui Wind Mills