Thursday, July 12, 2007

Day 3 - Ilocos Norte: Old churches and the remnants of the Marcos legacy (July 6, 2007)

We had an early breakfast at Villa Angela. This time we feasted on daing na bangus, fried eggs with garlic rice in relative peace and quiet as the entourage of PP had already left the previous night. Then we packed our belongings, checked out of the mansion and squeezed our way into a tricycle to head to the Partas bus station. By 9 am, we were on the bus headed for Laoag City which is almost 2 hours away from Vigan. I was tired from carrying our heavy bags filled with souvenirs, food items and our clothes and promptly fell asleep listening to my mp3 player. Just before 11 AM, we proceeded to our hotel by the only mode of transport it seems prevalent in Ilocos - the ubiquitous tricycle. Our hotel, Isabel Suites is located right in the city center. We freshened up a bit, hopped over to the adjacent Jollibee for a quick lunch then waited for our driver who will tour us around Ilocos Norte.

Isabel Suites, Laoag City

Our first stop was the St. William's Cathedral which was built in 1612. Its white facade looked like a yummy meringue cake. A few steps away is the Sinking Bell Tower which seemed like an ancient oddity sticking out of the ground amidst all the signs of a progressive little city.

main altar of St William's Cathedral

St William's Cathedral

Laoag City's Sinking Bell Tower

We then headed to a famous landmark in Ilocos Norte, the decadent Fort Ilocandia with its manicured lawn, its mini zoo and gaudy casino. It is quite an imposing yet very informal hotel/resort which mainly caters to people who like to gamble their hard earned money away. Well to each his own vice, I'd say.

Fort Ilocandia

Next stop was the Malacanang of the North in Barrio Suba (Paoay, Ilocos Norte), a remnant of the Marcos era which unfortunately is rotting away. I've always been a great admirer of the former President Ferdinand Marcos who ruled for 20 years. I respect his intelligence and his grand vision for our country. But of course I never condoned his dictatorship and what it stood for yet I continue to believe he was a simple man with a good heart. I lament the fact that history has not treated him fairly for his numerous achievements. But that's just my humble opinion. So to actually see with my own eyes, his modest beginnings, his numerous writings in the few museums honoring him was a humbling experience for me.

Malacanan Ti-Amianan, Paoay Ilocos Norte

The Paoay Church is all its majestic glory was a sight to behold. The church was constructed in 1704 and completed in the late 1880s. Its unique architectural influences consists of Gothic, Baroque and Oriental. It is also included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Unfortunately the belfry was closed so we couldn't climb to the top to admire the view.

Paoay Church and Belfry

altar of Paoay Church

Paoay Church Belfry

Batac was next on our itinerary. In this quiet little town the former President Marcos lies in state in a very cold mausoleum where we were prohibited to take pictures. The mausoleum is a small enclosure located next to the ancestral home of the Marcos family. The house where his father Mariano Marcos was born and lived in for several years.

Marcos Mausoleum

Don Mariano Marcos ancestral house

The La Paz sand dunes was an interesting sight. A desert area with sandy hills, a few kms away from Laoag City. It was the film location of the Panday series as popularized by the late FPJ. I have never seen those films so I had no idea of the place yet it was still fascinating to think that there was a desert right in the middle of Ilocos Norte. How strange!

La Paz sand dunes

Dona Josefa Edralin was the mother of the former President. Her ancestral home is still standing inconspicuously in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte. On the upper floor of the old house lies the bed where she gave birth to the former President. On one of the walls there is an elaborate family tree tracing the ancestors of both sides of the family, the Edralins and the Marcoses.

Dona Josefa Edralin house, Sarrat, Ilocos Norte

family tree mural

Further down the road we reached the Santa Monica Church. An edifice built facing the Sarrat River inspired by Neo classical and Baroque style architecture. It is the church where Irene Marcos married Greggy Araneta. I can see why they chose this particular church. It was already early evening when we arrived yet it exuded this certain afterglow which is hard to describe in words. In my numerous travels here and abroad, I would say that of all the churches I've seen so far, Santa Monica is now my favorite.

Santa Monica Church

Sta Monica Church, Sarrat,Ilocos Norte

It was a long day and we were tired from the bus trip earlier that morning. But despite the tour being over 5 hours long we felt exhilarated from the solemnity of viewing old churches as well as being immersed in historical tidbits of the Marcos legacy. It was a very good enriching and memorable day!

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