The leaning tower of Pisa is an absolutely one of the dumbfounding tourist spots in the world. It is said ‘to lean’ every year and to ensure the safety of the tourist the government of Italy requested help and lead weights were placed to counter the further tilting. Of course, to keep the tourists’ interest, they retained the tower to its leaning position. How about a ‘sinking tower’? Yes, there is indeed a Filipino version of the leaning tower of Pisa. It is situated at the northern part of the Philippines-and it is the ‘sinking tower of Laoag’ or ‘The Sinking Bell Tower of Laoag’. Nonetheless, I had not seen or been there before we graduated in high school.
Ilocano Ako! (I am an Ilocano!)
My mother was born and raised at the Ilocos province. As my mom always told me, it was not an easy life after all when they were young. My mom was sixth (6th) among nine siblings and their main source of financial supply was through tilling the land or farming. My Lolo (grandfather) was stable in Hawaii long before he had a family, but when the second (2nd) World War broke, he was forced to go back to the Philippines to oversee their properties. Unfortunately, almost all the title deeds of their lands were not honored and they were left with almost nothing. They started from scratch until all their nine (9) children finished college and went their own lives and things got better. When my siblings and I were still in our younger years, my parents always made sure that during summer time or long vacation, we were at Ilocos.
Trip to the Ilocos Norte
My mom’s place is at Ilocos Sur. We had not traveled that much outside our mom’s vicinity. However, I had a chance being at Ilocos Norte during our inter-school sports meet. As far as I could remember, when we were around the vicinity of Laoag City, we were guided by convoys of policemen in motorcycles; treated like VIP’s and it was a wonderful feeling, as if we were professional athletes!
After our inter-school games, the gracious school host for the meet was not yet over presenting the beauty of Laoag City. They allocated a bus for our class for us to visit historical Spanish-built churches in their wonderful Philippine-baroque style. During that time, some churches were under restoration for tourism purposes (as posted on the signboard just outside the churches informing us of historical value and a sense of heritage). The ‘church hopping’ went until the Paoay Church and for me it was the most memorable off all churches I had visited. As per reflection, it was indeed paradoxical to see these churches having torture chambers to punish malefactors during those years. Well, I admit it gave me some goose bumps as I saw them. We were also able to visit some Marcos-period mansions along the way and of course, we never failed to miss the sinking belfry of Laoag City. As a final note in our tour, we have had a chance to chill out at we stayed a five (5) star hotel of the city. I all I could definitely say was that, the city of Laoag was a big park of history and heritage!
A visit to the late President
As we went home, the school rector considered dropping by the late former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. President Marcos had been dead for years and the idea gave us a bit of a creep during that time. Actually, the mausoleum was at Batac City, Ilocos Norte. There was a lot of war memorabilia in the place displaying how great Marcos was. I remember our rector leading us into a prayer before we took a glance of the late president’s corpse. After that instance, our prefect of discipline led us in to a prayer of reconciliation for the not-so-good happening in the Philippine history. That made us relaxed until we got back in Manila as we faced again reality.
Ilocos Region, particularly in the Ilocos Norte had been improving since the time of the former President Marcos. As the head of the state, he made sure that the land where he was born would be recognized by tourists and visitors a like by restoring and preserving the place’s natural and man-made heritage. Actually, Laoag City was not done yet showing us its full beauty because of time, we had not enjoyed the white-sand beaches of the place: another cool reason why Laoag City is the place to be!