“Laoag” (Ilocano for “the place of light or clarity”), is an old, flourishing settlement known to Chinese and Japanese traders when the Spanish conquistador Juan de Salcedo arrived at the northern banks of Padsan River in 1572. Augustinian missionaries established the Roman Catholic Church in the area in 1580 and designated Saint William, the Hermit as its patron saint. Pedro Almazan crowned himself king of Laoag in 1661 in a bid of insurrection and protest against Spanish tax mandates. Other rebellions flared throughout colonial times, including against Spanish tobacco monopoly in 1782.
Laoag City, today is the major crossroads for international trade and commerce in the Ilocos region. Though bustling with business, the city has retained pretty much an unhurried, laid-back lifestyle.
Tourist Spots and Historical Attractions:
Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel
The only paradise and superior first class property in the north, sprawling on 77 hectares of land amidst gentle sand dunes and 9 kilometers of fine sandy beach, Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel is situated in Barrio Calayab, Laoag City, Ilocos Norte. It is 10 minutes from Laoag International Airport and 9 kilometers from Laoag City, Ilocos Norte.
The Resort Hotel complex is composed of five buildings all inspired by Spanish colonial architecture and finished in cool red bricks. It has 267 rooms with private balconies offering a view of the sea and possessing the features and qualities of Ilocano century-old living quarters and constructed to accentuate the antiquity of a colonial house.
St. William’s Cathedral
St. William’s Cathedral, built by the Augustinians in 1612 along the Italian Renaissance design. Its unique 2-story facade is held by four pairs of coupled columns. A deeply recessed niche carries the image of St. William. A hundred meters away from the church is the Sinking Bell Tower which leans slightly to the north. It sinks an inch a year to the ground.
Sinking Bell Tower
St. William’s Cathedral’s bell tower is massive and solid, and at 45 meters high it is known as the tallest bell tower in the Philippines.
It is called the “Sinking Bell Tower” as it sinks about an inch each year, because of its weight and and its foundation (it was built on sand).
In fact, it has sunk so deep and its entrance is half-buried that you now would have to stoop to enter when previously a man on horseback could ride through its entrance with absolute ease.
The bell tower is situated 85 meters away from the church – a rare position among the Spanish church structures.
St. Augustine Church (most popularly known as “Paoay Church”) was built in 1694 commissioned by the Augustinian friars led by Fr. Antonio Estavillo. The Church was completed in 1710 and rededicated in 1896. Considered as the most outstanding variant of the “earthquake Baroque”, Paoay Church was built of baked bricks, coral rocks, salbot (tree sap) and lumber, and has 24 carved buttresses. The lower part of the facade was made of stuccoed brick while the upper facaed is made of coral blocks. Local materials were said to be made of mixing sand , lime, sugarcane juice and then boiling the mixture with mangeao (salbot) leaves, leather and rice straw for two nights. Its belltower, which is detached from its main building, is made of coral stone and was used by the Katipuneros as an observation post in 1896 and again by Filipino soldiers during World War II. Earthquakes damaged portions of the church in 1865 and 1885. In an excavation conducted inside the church in 2000, a prehistoric human skeleton and fragmented ceramics were discovered and are now on display at the National Museum. The Paoay Church was declared a national treasure by then President Ferdinand Marcos. Now included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List, Paoay Church had revealed several structural decays after centuries of exposure to the elements and will soon undergo restoration under the auspices of UNESCO.
Tobacco Monopoly Monument
In Laoag plaza complex beside St. William’s Cathedral, stands the Tobacco Monopoly Monument, the only one of its kind in the Philippines. The people of Ilocos Norte built this monument in 1882 as a symbol of their gratitude to the Spanish King Alfonso XIII for having ended the Tobacco Monopoly.
For an entire century (1782 to 1881), the monopoly caused much miseries to the Ilocanos who were obliged to plant no other crops except tobacco to be delivered solely to the government. Interestingly, tobacco remains a major cash crop of Ilocos Norte to this day.
Malacanang of the North
“Malacanang of the North“, or otherwise known as the White House of the North.
This palace in northern Ilocos overlooks Paoay Lake, and is the residence of deposed president Ferdinand Marcos and his family when they are in the north. This was one of 29 summer residences that Marcos built during his rule. When it was built in 1977, Malacanang of the North became the venue of the trendiest high society settings. The Marcoses entertained their guests to parties, water skies and golf.
Today, besides being a Marcos museum, the Malacanang of the North serves as a beautiful and romantic setting for weddings. During these special occasions, Balay Ti Amianan once again comes alive and glows with splendor.
Museo Ilocos Norte
Located in the downtown area of Laoag City and just close to the provincial capitol and about a block away from the town plaza is the Museo Ilocos Norte. One of the best ways to get to know Ilocano culture is by visiting the museum. The museum is housed in the restored historic Tabacalera warehouse, which was a factory of sorts for tabacco back in the Spanish Era. The museum was primarily designed to bring a sense of pride to the citizens of the province. It showcases the varied ethnicity and multi-faceted cultural heritage of the Ilocano people. It is one of the few attractions in Laoag City which is most visited by school children, visitors, and tourists.
The museum is nicknamed, “Gameng,” from the Iloco word meaning treasure. It symbolizes the wealth of Ilocos Norte.
La Paz Sand Dunes
Known during the ancient times as a Pandayucan, Barangay La Paz in Laoag City boasts of one of the unique spots in the city. Locally named as Bantay Bimmaboy, the sand dunes shaped like a pig attract not only natives but foreigners as well. The area has a location for shooting local movies. It is considered a geological monument, this vast Sand Dune formation offers a fine vista of the South China Sea. As a shifting body of sand. It is prove to erosion. This is an abated, however, by the pine trees planted on it. The area is being guarded/protected by the five- (5) barangay councils of Metro La Paz.
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