To the North! (Ilocos, Part 1)

A few months back, Mabuhay Miles offered a promo by taking out half the mileage fare for some trips.  I availed that and decided to go to Laoag.  Well, that’s where my mileage could fit in anyway, hehehe.  So, on the last day of September, the sisters went to the (almost) northernmost part of the Philippines: Ilocos Norte.

From the airport of Laoag, we took a tricycle to Balay da Blas Pension House (  Wow, that was one ride I will never forget.  Taxis are not popular here.  In fact, there is none.  The Laoag tricycle had a low roof but wide body.  Nessie and I were sitting with our baggages on top of our feet in front of us, our handbags on our laps.  We were both hunched over and felt I’d retain that position when we got off.  After 15 mins of my chin tucked on top of my knapsack, we got to the pension house.  It was a house and looked like we were visiting relatives.  Nice…

After checking in, we rested for awhile.  Nessie didn’t get much sleep the night before because of a party so she took a nap and I lounged.  After an hour, we prepared to start our tourist duties.

The first thing we did was go to Saramsam Restaurant to have some late lunch.  A few blocks from our B&B, it is also owned by Samuel Blas, the proprietor of our B&B.  We got two of their famous dishes: the Saramsam pasta and poque-poque pizza.  Both dishes were a salute to vegetarians- no meat at all.  The description from their menu:

Saramsam Pasta

  1. Saramsam Pasta – spaghetti with shrimps, cilantro, green and red peppers, fresh tomatoes, onions, green and ripe mango slices, with olive oil and grated parmesan cheese.Poque-poque Pizza
  2. Poque-poque Pizza – A quartet 0f grilled eggplant, tomatoes, onions and eggs.

After eating, we stayed in, killing time because the heat was unbearable outside.  At 3pm, we ventured out.  Looking at our map, most of the tourist spots were concentrated in one area, covering a couple of blocks.  So, we walked to the most obvious one, the Tobacco Monopoly Monument.

Tobacco Monopoly Monument

Built in 1882 at the foot of the Marcos Bridge, it served as a memorial to the lifting of the Tobacco Monopoly in 1881.  It was a gesture of thanksgiving to the Spanish King Alfonso XIII for lifting the tobacco monopoly which from 1872 to 1881 gave the Ilocanos untold miseries as they were obliged to plant tobacco to be delivered solely to the government.  (excerpt from the Ilocos Norte travel brochure)

After that, we went to the Laoag Sinking Belltower.  Not much to see, just the façade.  The entrance was corded off with chains.  A passerby told us that it was not safe inside thus the barrier.  Oh, well- off to the next site- St. Williams Cathedral.

St. William CathedralOne of the biggest cathedral in the country and the seat of the Diocese of Laoag, its construction began in 1612 and was the site of the Diocesan Congress in 1932 and 1949.  Its unique 2-storey façade is held by 4 pairs of coupled columns.  The deeply recessed niche shows the image of the Patron Saint of Laoag, San Guillermo.  (excerpt from the Ilocos Norte travel brochure)

From the church, we went to McDonald’s and got sundaes.  It was really hot and the cool break was good.  After eating and cooling a bit more, we walked to the Ilocos Norte Museum.

After paying the 30-pesos entrance fee, we walked through Ilocano artifacts: baskets, spears, dresses, woven cloths, cabinets and the like.  The second floor housed a bedroom with a bed and washstand.  The kitchen reminded me of one we used to have outside a house we had in Quezon City- all wooden slats.  Before exiting, we passed through their gift shop and had to drop a portion of our entry stub.  Hmm, don’t know what that was for… a raffle, maybe?

We decided to walk all the way back to the inn.  It was 5pm so the sun wasn’t that high but it was still really warm.  We rested as soon as we got to our room, opening the TV and feeling just at home.  We took our showers (cool…ahhh…) and discussed where to have dinner.  We had a common craving for chicken so we went to the local Max’s.  We passed by Ilocostop, a 24-hr convenience store, and bought water and ice cream.  When we got back, we watched TV while eating our cold treats.  Saw Pixar’s “Up” but didn’t finish it because we changed it to The Amazing Race Asia.  Good episode.  Nessie went to sleep and I watched a movie while reading a book.  I retired by 11pm, preparing for the next leg of our tour tomorrow.

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