Laoag, one of the princess cities in the North, is a microcosm of the country’s rich historical heritage and natural resources—a proud city of Ilocos.
Laoag is about 9 hours from Manila via a land route. The North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) accesses the northern cities, Laoag among them. Bus stations to the North have trips plying a Laoag destination.
Here are the top 10 things to see in this fine area of the Philippines:
1. Bojeador Lighthouse. This is no ordinary lighthouse—it’s Asia’s oldest and tallest lighthouse built in 1892. Climb the 73-step spiral staircase to get to the top and enjoy the grandeur of the China Sea coast and the adjacent quiet town of Burgos.
There’s a cute but very interesting and revealing museum at the base of the lighthouse.
2. Then there’s one of Ilocos’ best beach, Pagudpud, two hours away further north from Laoag. Its super fine white sand plus a better grasp of the South China Sea will be quite an experience.
3. The Sand Dunes of Barangay La Paz. This is considered one of nature’s geological monuments and feats. The place also offers a superb view of the South China Sea.
4. Then the centuries-old St. William’s Cathedral—one of the country’s big Catholic churches. It houses the seat of the Laoag Diocese. It was built by Augustinan monks in 1612 following an Italian Renaissance architectural influence. The entire building is supported by unique pairs of grouped columns.
5. Now, St. William’s has an amazing sinking bell tower tourists shouldn’t miss. It stands 45 meters high but probably stood higher before it began sinking. Augustinians built it on sand, blocks away from the church—missing what Christ said about wisely building on rock—and the sinking episodes had begun ever since. Its main door now is buried halfway—it used to accommodate a man sitting erect on horseback. So visit there while the door is passable.
6. A museum built in 1878 as a tabacalera or tobacco warehouse. The Museo Ilocos Norte shows the history and lifestyles of the Ilocanos even before the Spaniards came to the country. See hints of indigenous technology and architecture, like farm and fishing implements, local products, and typical ancestral homes.
7. Laoag’s St. Augustine Church or Paoay Church. Built from 1694 to 1710. It’s earthquake-proof, following the Baroque Architecture. Its bell tower had been a look-out station of both Katipuneros in Spanish times and Filipino Scouts against the Japanese. Former President Marcos declared it a national treasure and is listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
8. Fort Ilocandia Resort. This one’s a 5-star hotel with five buildings rendered in a romantic Spanish colonial architecture. The whole thing sits in a 77-hectare land adjacent to the sea. Its beach stretches across almost a mile.
9. The Juan Luna Shrine. Located in Badoc, Ilocos Norte, it is a reconstruction of the two-story original house where the national painter and patriot was born. It has reproductions of his historical works, “Spoliarium” and El Pacto de Sangre.”
10. The Marcos Museum and Mausoleum in Batac, Ilocos Norte. The late President Ferdinand Marcos lies in state there preserved in a sealed glass-paneled vacuum crypt. His many memorabilia are also on display there.
A visit to Laoag without seeing these ten sceneries is like finding ten priceless pearls on the sand but ignoring them in favor of a handful of sand because it reminds of some picnic at the beach.