It was one of those times when I wanted to just relax, spend some time in a far away province and find something new, and of course to have a taste of what they have. That was when I went far north, 500 kilometers away from Manila, to Laoag City.
Laoag is the capital of the province of Ilocos Norte. With a population of roughly 100,000 and being the northernmost city in the nation, it is the province’s political, commercial, and industrial hub and the location of the Ilocos region’s only commercial airport.
During the time I went here, I only brought a 135cc bike so I wasn’t able to go as fast as I wanted to and also because of all the stops, heavy traffic, and photo ops, it took me almost the entire day traveling and since it is one of my policies not to travel at night, I had no choice but to spend the first night somewhere in Bauang, La Union. I checked in at a small motel called Go Inn and for 700 pesos only, I was able to rest well for just a few hundred pesos. The next day I was recharged and was raring to reach my final destination – Laoag. With majority of the distance already covered, I went on an easy pace going to Ilocos Norte. Since I am going north anyway, I planned to also visit the Paoay Church – one of my dream rides. I have been a fan of old churches ever since I started riding and I wanted to complete all the Baroque churches here in the Philippines that are recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. I have already visited the massive Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva in Miag-Ao, Iloilo, the beautiful Santa Maria Church in Ilocos Sur and the San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila so this far-away church is one of my riding goals, so I would not let this opportunity pass. The Paoay church looks old and huge but is also mesmerizing, most especially during the night when the lights are lit. It accentuates the beauty of this massive work of art.
I wanted to walk while going around the area of the provincial capitol, so I could appreciate Laoag more. The various lights surrounding the fountains in the capitol area make the place much more amazing. It was almost past dinner time when I arrived but I wanted to explore the city capitol by foot first so by 10 pm I was already hungry. There were easy choices like the ever-present fastfood joints but I wanted something more Ilocano, something authentic. It was when I found this place called Dap-Ayan, it’s like a foodcourt selling different Ilocano meals. I tried the authentic bagnet and empanada and it tastes so much better than the one they sell in malls. Everything I ordered was cooked on the spot and it was heaven. Even though it was almost midnight, the place was still thriving with customers, some were locals while there were also tourists like me who wanted to experience authentic Ilocano food. As you all know, I love eating so I was able to appreciate the food much more.
I stayed at a discreet motel in J.P. Rizal street for 350 pesos per night. No aircon, no tv, no nothing, just the room. Even the toilet I used was for common use. Honestly I forgot its name but it looks very old from the outside and appeared to be a hundred years old from the inside. It Is one of those dorm-type houses that you usually only see in tagalong horror flicks. Anyway, in this trip, I tried to keep my budget to anywhere less than 1000 pesos per day and that allotment already includes gas and food money, with no allowance for emergency. It was a challenge for myself only so I would not advise this type of budgeting for non-experienced solo riders.
The next day, I was too excited to go around that I boarded a kalesa as there are aplenty in the streets of Laoag. First destination of the day was the Museo Ilocos. Now, just riding around the Ilocos Region, you actually do not need to enter a museum to be able to discover and see what beauty the rich Ilokano culture holds. You just need to look around. But should you be interested to take a quick glimpse of Ilocos Norte under one roof, then Museo Ilocos is the place to be. Only a couple of blocks from the city center, it holds several treasures from the Ilocos Norte yesteryears. It contains old jars, houses, hunting materials, and books from the rich Ilocos history. In the city, I was also able to visit the Sinking Bell Tower of Laoag, an amazing architectural structure that will surely capture one’s attention. Having earned its sinking reputation as it was built on sandy foundations. What’s even more interesting for me is the fact that this bell tower is almost a hundred meters away from its church. I was also fortunate enough to visit the Roque Ablan shrine, a monument dedicated to a local war hero in Laoag. He was a former governor of the province and also gallantly fought against the Japanese invaders during the Second World War.
And then there was this nice, steady spot nearby called Johnny Moon Café. I was intrigued by the name because not only that it sounded so odd to me, but it also doesn’t ring a bell. I figured that in a city so full of history, there is no way that there would be an unpopular name on a café, or is it? There was a poster by the restaurant that said that they were looking for Johnny Moon and that got me thinking who is this Johnny Moon? I figured out the answer a few hours after leaving that place. If you know who Johnny Moon is then hit me up on Facebook.
After the northernmost city in the Philippines, where to next?