I promised myself that before the year ends, I would wrap up my Lakbay Norte 2 series, our 6-day whirlwind media tour in Cagayan and Ilocos Norte. Here are 10 of the most popular historic, religious, and culinary delights in Ilocos Norte which we got to visit and sample around the province.
1) Marcos Birthplace
The province of Ilocos Norte is popularly described as “Marcos Country” since it is the birthplace of former Philippine President Ferdinand E. Marcos. The Marcos family remains very popular in the province, which is evident in the number of museums and tourist sites devoted to the former president and his family. The ancestral house in his hometown Sarrat has been converted into a mini-museum that contains some memorabilia of Marcos’ early life.
The house contains antique wooden furniture, including the bed where Marcos was born, and two embossed family trees of the Marcos and Edralin lines, where all the leaves bear names of different family members. On the lower floor, there’s a wall of Presidential license plates just under the stairs. Though most of the items here seemed well preserved behind glass cases, I noticed that some of the photographs weren’t really arranged or displayed properly.
2) Marcos Museum and Mausoleum
The Marcos Museum in the nearby town of Batac contains collections that chronicles Marcos’ rise to power and his reign. The walls are covered with photo galleries of the Marcos life, campaign work, and portraits of the different members of the Marcos family.
Having met and interviewed Imelda herself for a news story a couple of years ago, it was interesting to see the photos of her early life. I can see that she has really aged gracefully and has retained her charm, even up to now.
Across the museum lies the Marcos Mausoleum, which contains the remains of Ferdinand Marcos himself, laid and preserved in a refrigerated crypt. The area is very dark and gloomy and photography is not allowed inside the crypt, though I’ve heard that people often sneak stolen shots with their camera phones.
3) Malacanang ti Amianan
Malacanang ti Aminanan or Malacanang of the North in Laoag City is one of the guest houses of the Marcos Family, which has also been converted into a museum. It is said to have been the official residence of the former president whenever he traveled to Ilocos Norte.
The grand two-story mansion was designed after a 19th Century Bahay na Bato and contains beautiful furniture and interiors, including several living rooms, dining rooms, a ballroom, and numerous bedrooms. A view of the Paoay lake can be seen from the structure’s foyer.
Malacanang Ti Amianan is open daily from 9:00 am-5:00 pm except on Mondays. Entrance fee: P20.00
4) Paoay Church
The Church of St. Augustine in Paoay is famous for its distinctive architecture highlighted by the enormous buttresses on the sides and back of the building. It’s been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the best examples of Baroque Churches in the country.
The massive stone church is very impressive and it was great to be able to see it up close. Some renovations were being done to the interior’s roof at the time of our visit.
5) Sarrat Church
St. Monica’s Church in Sarrat is said to be the biggest church in the Ilocos Region. With its rich red-brick exterior, the church, belltower, and the nearby Sta. Monica rectory are very picturesque. The church was built in the 17th century during the Spanish colonial period.
Unfortunately, the church was closed on the day of our visit, so we didn’t get to see its interiors. It is said to have one of the longest aisles and a distinctive system of roof trusses. The church complex is located in a windswept area overlooking the Pacsan River.
No visit to Ilocos would be complete without eating bagnet — deep fried pork meat — that is the region’s signature dish. You have to try it at least once (in our case, we had it at more than 3 times in a span of 2 days, but who’s complaining?) You can find this popular dish served in most Ilocano Restaurants.
7) Ilocano Specialties
Other traditional Ilocano must-try dishes include longganisa (garlic sausage), pinakbet (vegetable stew cooked in shrimp paste), dinengdeng (a vegetable soup), igado (pork meat and liver sautéd in vinegar and soy sauce) and poqui-poqui (a smoked eggplant dish).
8) Fusion Pizza
Fusion pizzas that use local specialties as pizza toppings – like Pinakbet Pizza and Dinuguan Pizza – are also served in popular restaurants like Saramsam Restaurant and Herencia Cafe. We were given a taste of Longganisa Pizza at Herencia Cafe during lunch, which I found really delicious. I would love to try the other specialty pizzas the next time I head to Ilocos Norte.
Herencia Café – McArthur Street, Bgy. 14, Sangladan, Paoay (in front of Paoay Church). Saramsam Restaurant – N. Corpuz Building, Rizal cor. Hizon Streets, Barangay 7-A, Laoag City.
9) Batac Empanada & Miki Noodles
If you’re visiting the museums and sites in Batac, you might as well try out the street food like Batac empanada, balut, isaw and miki noodles at the numerous streetside eateries. Batac empanada is a patty of longganisa, bean sprouts and egg wrapped in a thin orange wrapper that is deep-fried. It makes a great snack if you’re hungry but can be really filling if you just came from a buffet lunch of other Ilocano delicacies.
10) Pasalubong shopping
Before you leave Ilocos Norte, don’t forget to buy pasalubong. Food makes popular souvenirs including Ilocos Chichacorn (crunchy corn kernels) from Paoay, Bagnet, Empanada and Miki from Batac, raw garlic (the Ilocos region is a major producer of garlic in the country), and Basi Wine among others.
Take note that the sites and food featured here are highly recommended for first-time visitors looking for a leisurely and traditional tour of Ilocos Norte. For more action-packed adventures or other places to visit, check out my Lakbay Norte 2 Trip Summary.
This trip was made possible by the North Philippines Visitors Bureau (NPVB), Manila North Tollways Corporation (MNTC) and numerous sponsors who provided meals, accommodations, and transportation to all media guests and bloggers. Lakbay Norte 3, which is set to happen in January 2012 will be covering a lot more provinces and has a number of interesting activities lined up including ghost-hunting, white-water rafting and rappelling! Tara na sa Norte!