Our quick Laoag City tour
Laoag was our touch base in Project Windmills as we stopped over this city 3 times. A ‘travel post mortem’ is in order but may I present to you our cramped itinerary that cost us only two vacation leaves:
Day 1: Cebu – Manila – Laoag – Vigan
Day 2: Vigan – Batac – Paoay – Laoag
Day 3: Laoag – Burgos – Bangui – Pagudpud
Day 4: Pagudpud – Laoag – Manila
Day 5: Manila – Cebu
We started and ended our Ilocos tour with Laoag because we got promo airline tickets to and from this city. This also allowed us to cut short our travel time from Manila. Those who are riding a bus or traveling in a car would usually start with Vigan then go all the way up to Maira-ira and back, or it could also be the other way around.
But we only got to roam around the city during our final day in Ilocos. When we arrived from Pagudpud in Day 4, we had extra 2 hours before our afternoon flight leaves for Manila. So what happened next was a spontaneous walking tour. We just asked directions from complete strangers, which is an art that I grew to learn and like over the years. The good thing is that the tourist spots were just a few blocks away from each other. We started with Museo Ilocos Norte since this was just a few meters away from where our bus dropped us off.
The museum was once the Tabacalera Building, the Administrative Center of the Tobacco Monopoly in Ilocos Norte in 1878. The century old tobacco warehouse, which is largely made up of bricks, was restored and reused as a repository of gameng (Ilocano for treasure) in 1999. It now houses various exhibits that showcase the rich culture and proud heritage of the Ilocos region. The glass displays contains various kitchenware, traditional clothing, farming and fishing tools, musical instruments, baskets and many more.
A 2-storey ancestral home can be found at the back portion of the museum. It has a living room, bedroom, dining room and a kitchen. A souvenir shop is underneath it. Entrance fee to the museum is only Php20.00.
The Tobacco Monopoly Monument is located infront of the Ilocos Norte Capitol. This serves as a reminder of the tobacco monopoly that was established by Spanish Governor Jose Basco Y Vargas in 1872. It increased government revenues but at the same time, it also became an opportunity for abuses and cruelty by local authorities. The monopoly was subsequently lifted in 1882 by Governor Fernando Primo de Rivera. The brick tower was then erected by the people as an expression of joy over the abolition of a monopoly they endured for more than 100 years.
The famous Sinking Bell Tower is just a few meters away from the Tobacco Monopoly Monument. The 45 meter high tower is considered to be among the tallest and the most massive in the country. Because of its sheer weight and the type of soil (sandy) where it was erected, the centuries old (built by Augustinian Friars in 1612) structure sinks an estimated inch every year. A person in horseback can still enter the tower door before. Now, those who want to go up the four-tiered tower have to stoop to get through the entrance.
The tower serves as the belfry of St. William’s Cathedral which is located 85 meters away from it. It is said that this church bears an Italian Renaissance style. A recessed niched at the topmost portion of its façade showcases the image of the patron saint . It was built in 1612 and was restored in 1880 after it suffered a lot of damages over the years.
After our brief tour, we took our lunch at La Preciosa which is approximately 10 blocks from the provincial capitol. We walked our way to this restaurant under the midday sun because we did not know where we were headed at that time. But I enjoyed the sights along the way. We then went back to the museum to get our bags, hailed a trike for the Laoag International Airport, and finally bade goodbye to this charming city and the entire Ilocos region as well.