Ilocos: The Northern Frontier

Ilocos: The Northern Frontier

Ilocos is a land of dichotomy. Geographically, you have the Sur (south) and the Norte (north) provinces lining the western face of the island of Luzon. It is also the meeting place of two imposing, natural elements—the Cordillera Mountains to the east and the West Philippine Sea.
While traversing the Ilocos trail, one cannot help but take notice of and be mesmerized by the contrasts found in its surroundings. First, there are several man-made structures from ancient Philippines that have been preserved so well for present and future generations to enjoy.  Second, many natural wonders lie in this place as proof that Mother Nature is one outstanding artist.
For the creations of man, take Calle Crisologo in the city of Vigan, Ilocos Sur. Houses (or rather mansions) built during the Spanish colonization period are still standing today, having withstood several typhoons and earthquakes that are not uncommon in the country. This street is like a time machine as it instantly brings one back to the Spanish times hundreds of years ago. For Asian visitors, however, it is like a taste of Europe in Asia.
Most, if not all, buildings here have two floors, and it will be noticed that the ground floor is built with sturdy stones, while the upper floor is usually made of thick wood. Spanish missionaries forced Filipino and Chinese workers to build them this way to stand strong against earthquakes, and it proved to be quite effective. Recognizing the creativity, culture, and architecture of the place, it was then declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To get a good fix of local culture, one can ride a horse-drawn carriage, or calesa, to move around the historical place and to see the exhibits in Burgos and Crisologo Museums. Outside Vigan, there is also the birthplace of a national hero and painter, Juan Luna, which has been renovated and turned into a museum. Some reproductions of his works are on display inside, together with his personal effects. Outside is a huge monument of the artist, which is a masterpiece in itself.
There are a lot of old churches as well in the Ilocos Region that have been well-preserved, most of them still in use. Just a few kilometers from Calle Crisologo is the Bantay Church and Bell Tower, a structure made of bricks and a good place to get a 360-degree view of Vigan. There is also one found in Ilocos Norte, a two-hour drive from Vigan, which has been recognized as another world heritage site.
Paoay Church, founded by the Augustinian Missionaries in 1593, is another part of local history that continues to live and touch the lives of the present generation. Its unique interpretation of the Baroque style by Filipino and Chinese craftsmen makes it one of the most significant cultural and architectural wonders of the world.
It has also withstood the cruelties both of man and of Mother Nature. It was damaged by earthquakes in 1706 and, again, in 1927. It was also used in the revolution as an observation post by the Katipuneros, and by the Guerilleros during the Japanese occupation. The church has been rebuilt and renovated, proof that the people here value their history and culture.
Not too far from Paoay Church is an unbelievable creation of nature that is very unlikely to be found in a tropical country like the Philippines—the Paoay Sand Dunes. There are not too few sand dunes in Ilocos Norte, but the one in Paoay is the most idyllic, not to mention adventurous. In fact, it has been used several times as a location for local films, such as Himala and Panday, among others.
This geographical spot is a wide desert with a breath-taking view of the ocean. It can be extremely hot in the afternoon and extremely cold at night. But what makes this place unique is how the locals have turned it from a barren wasteland into a wonderland. The Paoay Sand Dunes is not only a site for shooting films but also for those seeking adventure.
Now, it offers a 4X4 ride that will rival rollercoasters found in huge theme parks, taking you down to some steep sand hills and other outrageous moulds. In the middle of the ride, there is an optional sandboarding activity for those who want more of the adrenaline rush. Beginners are likely to flop (and eat some dust), but it is safe. The sand is a perfect cushion for any fall.
But not for falling in love.
That job belongs to the sea. Since both Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte are situated on the northwestern part of the country and near the West Philippine Sea, all the coasts here face the sunset, ready to be marveled at twilight each and every day.
Whether in Currimao, in Fort Ilocandia, or in Pagudpud, one is sure to witness the spectacular sunset by the beach. It is like those found in Manila Bay and in Boracay, but with lesser crowd and noise. The only sound you will hear here are the waves of the ocean or the beating of two hearts.
Any couple can have the privacy that they want at this most romantic moment of the day. Even more, one does not have to go to an expensive resort to see this as shores in Ilocos are open and accessible to the public for free. Families usually go here early in the morning or late in the afternoon, just a few minutes before sunset, to have a picnic and enjoy some quality time with each other.
Luckily, the coasts of Ilocos got not only the beautiful sunset but also some of the strongest and most consistent supply of wind in the country. Because of this, the local government decided to make use of this free source of sustainable energy and built windmills in Bangui and other surrounding towns. There are a total of 20 windmills standing right now, generating about 23 megawatts of electricity, but more are expected to be erected in the coming years.
Apart from benefitting from cheap electricity, the locals here have also been lucky to make a living out of these windmills. These mega structures are a sight to behold, so people from all over the Philippines, and even in other countries, flock to Bangui to see them, making it an additional tourist attraction in the province. There is no entrance fee required, but the people here earn money by selling souvenir and food items.
The wind and the sea have been too helpful to the people of Ilocos. The interplay of these natural entities has also created some of the most beautiful landscapes in the province. A perfect example of this is the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, where the constant clash of the waves and the wind has resulted in a geographical spectacle that is both gritty and sublime.
Visitors have the option to explore the wide landscape by foot or by riding a horse. The curious minds will even find this place full of excitement, as it provokes questions of its origin or how it came to be. Just by looking at its geography, one can imagine the harsh forces of nature that sculpted the land. There are hills and cliffs that also resemble some of those found in Batanes, the northernmost province of and also one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the Philippines.
For those who want to get a good view of the sea (and the sunset as well), Cape Bojeador is the place to be. It is an old lighthouse built on top of a hill, not too far from Kapurpurawan, that remains functional up to this day. This aged building faces the West Philippine Sea and serves not just as a guide for seafarers but also as a romantic setup. It is the perfect site to experience man’s and nature’s architecture way above sea level.
Whether it is a man-made structure or a masterpiece of Mother Nature, Ilocos always delivers. Everything has been well-kept despite the lusting of urbanization. It is rural, it is rustic, but it is progressive. It is one of those rare places in the world where man and nature have a mutual understanding, where the old and the new are in harmony, and where warmth, friendliness, and hospitality are part of its people’s DNA.

TOP
Email Email  |  Print Print
No
Comments

Leave a Reply