Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Ilocos Norte & Ilocos Sur: More great stopovers in Ilocos

It was time for our drive down south to Baguio City. It was a leisurely drive from Pagudpud to Laoag since there were just a few vehicles on the road.

We would have stopped by Bacarra to check out their church, a national cultural treasure, which is known for its gargantuan bell tower. But since we had a long list of churches to visit today, and since I been there already, we decided to skip it and head straight to San Nicolas, just a few kilometers from Laoag.

But before that, we stopped over at the Museo Ilocos Norte so that Jiajin could take a look. At the same time, I needed to take a photo of it for the 2008 HCS Calendar which will feature examples of adaptive reuse. The museum, housed in what was formerly the Tabacalera Building, won the Gawad Alab ng Haraya for Outstanding Cultural Conservation Program (Adaptive Reuse) in 2002.

The San Nicolas town proper has a good collection of colonial buildings including the church and convento, municipal hall and elementary school. We stopped by the church to check it out. Our next stop was Batac to check out the Marcos Mausoleum again. This time it was open and we were able to view the body of President Ferdinand Marcos preserved with wax.

In Batac, we also passed by the General Artemio Ricarte Shrine as well as the Gregorio Aglipay Shrine. The town is very lucky since it got a lot of attention when Marcos was president. So there are several monuments, parks and shrines around town. These open spaces are in the town center and provide breathing spaces for Batac residents. Of course, we ate again at the empanadahan. This time i had a "double double" which is a double serving of egg and longganiza inside the empanada.

Another town I had always wanted to check out was Badoc since the reconstructed house of Juan Luna, another national shrine, could be found there. They also have this quaint church, the San Juan Bautista Church, which houses the image La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc. So we stopped over for a few minutes to check them out.

Next on our list was the town of Sinait which is home to a darkened image of the crucified Christ or Cristo del Perdon that has a sizeable following. I was happy to see that the interior of the church was very much intact. Is it something about the priests in the Ilocos Region (Pangasinan not included) since they seem to understand the historical fabric and cultural value of the churches under their stewardship. I hope it stays that way.

From Sinait, passed by Cabugao, then went straight to San Vicente, another town beside Vigan. Just like San Nicolas, it had a nice collection of heritage buildings in the town center. The church still has its original fence. While the school and municipio are of Spanish colonial vintage. The municipio even has a coat of arms embossed on its facade.

Another impressive (but abandoned) structure is the Asilo de San Vicente. An edifice which was once uses as the vacation home of the governor, it became the home of the Community of St. Paul of Chartes Sisters of Asilo de San Vicente when it was turned-over to the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia. Being a home for old women and orphans as well, it house a school as well which the sisters managed until 1946, the year they left San Vicente. It was managed by lay administrators until it closed in 2001.

We made a brief stopover in Vigan to buy woven blankets at the city market. But before that, we made a quick drive along Quirino Boulevard to check out the old houses such as the Quema House and Syquia Mansion.

Another stop was the Church of Sta. Maria de la Asuncion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But we didn't go down anymore since we were a bit tired and I wanted to rush to one last church in that of Luna, La Union, which is a national cultural treasure. I had wanted to check out the one in Bangar since from photos of the interior, I could say that it's one worth stopping over too. But since it was getting dark, we rushed to Luna.

I was a bit disappointed when I entered the Santa Catalina de Alexandria Church in Luna since although the interior was intact, I noticed the santos were quite new for it to be considered a national cultural treasure. In fact, Bangar has ceiling murals which would make it a better choice. But I would later find out from Archt. Richard Bautista of the NCCA that two ivory santos were stolen from the altar which may explain why the santos are new (they must have kept the old ones). At the same time, the built environment it was located in was another factor with a well-preserved colonial town center around it. But sadly, as Richard puts it, the local government "Agoo-fied" (if you notice Agoo, La Union is full of all these fake colonial buildings, while they renovated the facades of their old buildings such as the basilica with this horrible unpainted cement finish) the place.

Anyway, we took Naguilan Road up to Baguio City. It was my first time to use this route and sadly, it was to dark to see the scenery. There are five roads that lead to Baguio namely Kennon Road, Marcos Highway, Naguilan Road, Halsema Highway and a road which connects Baguio to Nueva Vizcaya via Ambuklao Dam, one which I have yet to use. I think we arrived in Baguio at about 8 p.m. and went straight to Villa Cordillera where we had booked our stay.

For dinner, we met up with Doc Ryan at the 50's Diner which I really enjoyed since it was value for money as well. Imagine a plate of chicken, spaghetti and garlic bread, a slice of pizza, french fries and pork chop all for PHP100. I don't think Shakey's bunch-of-lunch can beat that!
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