Saturday, July 23, 2005

Ilocos Norte: More notes on empanada central

Sorry it took quite a while for the second part of my empanada binge. School work just piled up. Lucky for me, I'm on a six day weekend! I don't have classes on Tuesdays and Fridays. Classes were suspended by the administration last Thursday for President Roman's investiture and were suspended again on Monday due to the closure of Commonwealth Avenue. But it's a declared non-working holiday as well making it a double whammy on my professors' class schedules... hehe!

I could not believe my craving for Ilocos' sumptuous fritters is still alive since I really made it a point to buy an empanada at Ilocos Empanada in Katipunan last night.

Anyway, back to the Ilocos trip...

DAY 2. After breakfast, our first stop for the day was the third UNESCO World Heritage site in the Ilocos provinces, the Church of San Agustin in Paoay. On Paoay, Toti Villalon writes, "Built in 1710 under the direction of the Agustinian order, the ensemble of the church and detached bell towers are truly majestic in scale when viewed from the edge of the plaza that faces the ensemble. Detached from the church façade the bell tower tapers as it rises from the ground in a fashion reminiscent of a pagoda. The stone façade is plain at the bottom. Light, elegant decorative carving is applied close to the top of the pediment. A row of feathery stone finials that seem to gently brush the sky with delicate Oriental strokes accentuate the triangular top of the pediment. The earthquake protection system in this structure is probably its most dramatic feature. Exaggeratedly thick buttresses protrude quite a distance from the ground to be countered by a smaller volute near roof level topped by a stone finial. Swirling upwards to the sky, the massive stone buttresses take on a magical lightness."

Ivan_in_paoayI not only went around the church but took a quick walk around the vicinity. I did not want to take photos of the Spanish-period municipio since they were currently constructing an annex on one of its two azoteas/balconajes or whatever those are called. Sigh!

Beside it was the Gabaldon school building of Paoay. One thing I noticed about Ilocos towns is that they have small houses but massive churches and belltowers detached from the main church. Whereas in Pampanga, there are magnificent and elaborate mansions but smaller churches. Jojo Mata later explained that in Ilocos, most churches also doubled as forts, serving as protection against Chinese or Moro pirates. The massive belltowers were built at a distance to protect the church from damage in case the tower collapsed during an earthquake.

Since we didn't have that much time, I wasn't able to visit the other side of the church where one could find the ruins of the church convento. Maybe next time.

Next on the itinerary was the "imperial birthblace" of the Marcos clan back in Batac. Reinventing family heritage is what has been done in Batac, a result of the dillusions of royalty of my fraternity brod, President Ferdinand E. Marcos and First Lady Imelda R. Marcos. Since the Marcos Mausoleum is in Batac, people often mistake the town for his birthplace when he was actually born in Sarrat. The museum of another fraternity brod, Marcos' chief rival Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, finds itself in a similar situation being located on the Cojuanco property of Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac City rather than the Aquino hometown of Concepcion, Tarlac.

Batac underwent a sort of metamorphosis during the Marcos administration to make it appeal to the fantasies and edifice complex of the former first family. And the Marcos Mausoleum is the pinnacle of that folly with the mortal remains of the late dictator preserved and enshrined there. The advanced wax preservation technique used to keep his body intact was employed in the hope of pushing the Marcos legend beyond Philippine shores, putting him side by side with other powerful leaders such as Vlademir I. Lenin, Mao Zedong, and Ho Chi Minh whose embalmed bodies have been preserved for future generations.

After paying homage to the Apo, it was off to the provincial capital, Laoag City to visit the Museo Iloko, the obra mata, I mean maestra of Archt. Jojo Mata. The award winning project, the adaptive reuse of an old Tabacalera building, gives visitors a glimpse of the culture of Ilocos Norte. After that brief tour, we were given time to loiter around Laoag. So it was off to the plaza for photos.

Img_4457One sad thing about Laoag is the new symbol that welcomes you. Before, it was only the massive sinking belltower which one saw while traversing the bridge that brought you to the town proper. Now you have golden arches as well. The local government should be hanged to dry from the big yellow "M" for allowing such an incident to happen. They should follow the lead of UPLB officials who raised hell and ordered the removal of the large golden arches which were installed near the entrance of the UPLB campus.

After taking photos, it was back to the dap-ayan where the bus was waiting. And another two servings of empanada! With my stomach filled, I had to skip the picnic lunch we were going to have in Sarrat, the birthplace of Marcos, which was put on the social map as a result of the elaborate and costly wedding of Irene Marcos to Greggy Araneta.

Img_4459Img_4474The facade of the Sarrat Church actually collapsed together with the belltower during an earthquake in the early 1980s. It was repaired just in time for the Marcos-Araneta nuptial. Beside it is a huge convento and a complex of brick ruins that used to house government offices such as a courthouse and jail. Labels to rooms read "Torture Chamber" and "Garrote Room" reminding visitors of the grim happenings that used to occur in the place. After lunch, it was off to Pagudpud with a brief but important stopover in Burgos.

Ivan_lighthouseIvan_overlookingA UNESCO World Heritage hopeful under the listing "Lighthouses of the Philippines" and if those proposing their inclusion get their act right, the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos is simply stunning, a solitary masterpiece majestically perched on the foothills at the northern tip of Luzon. As people well-versed in UNESCO selections would say, it's a matter of packaging if you want to get listed. Believe it or not, the city of Rome was rejected when it applied the first time mainly because they submitted the whole city which had a lot of alterations already. But the current listing shows that they selected important sites in the city now listed as the Historic Centre of Rome.

Dsc_7485Some people are proposing to have all the lighthouses declared. But part of application is proof that a site can and will be preserved. Some lighthouses are already in bad shape. And these rotten eggs may become the reason for the rejection of the whole lot. It would thus be better to pick say three or five of the best examples of Philippine lighthouses for submission to the UNESCO list. That way, the pitch would be more managable with lesser opportunities for scrutiny from the UNESCO experts.

Batanes had to learn the hard way with their rejection last year. In fact, the islands were a shoe in for listing. But the provincial government played know it all, or in the vernacular, nagmarunong! They felt they could do it on their own and purposely did not contact the Philippine experts who had been hard at work preparing the application for Batanes. To make the long story short and to put it bluntly, they fucked up the application requirements.

Dsc_7496Dsc_7548Nothing was to stop us from a dip in Pagudpud after Burgos. Nothing except the windmills of Bangui which led to a five minute stop. And a storm brewing which brought waves lashing along the shoreline! But despite the intermitent downpour and gray skies, a swim in the beach was a fun finish to the Ilocos tour.

It was now time to begin the trip down. But not without a stop in Laoag's dap-ayan for more empanadas! Hehe! The stopover was actually for those who wanted to buy bagnet but I had something else on my food list, two empanadas for dinner. After a brief stop in our dorm in Batac, it was back to Manila and straight to class. We arrived 9 a.m. Monday, just in time for me to cram a paper and attend my 10 a.m. class.

More Ilocos Norte photos at my Yahoo! Photos. Thanks to Karlo de Leon for photos of myself and the empanadas... hehehe! You can check out his photos at

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