Thursday, June 22, 2006


Laoag City is the capital of Ilocos Norte, the country's north-western most province aside from Batanes. The city is more than 600 kms. from Manila. Pagudpud is the province's northernmost municipality, and is bordering with Cagayan province.

I've been to Laoag and Pagudpud 3x: the first in 1993 (Manila-Laoag-Pagudpud-back); the second in 1999 (Manila-Ilocos-Cagayan-Nueva Vizcaya/Ecija-Manila); and the third in 2002 during the First North Philippines Expedition (see my first postings in this blog; Clark-Nueva V/Ecija-Cagayan-Ilocos-Clark).

In 1993, me and my former officemates in Congress were able to explore many parts of Laoag and neighboring towns of Ilocos Norte. My recollections of those areas are now hazy but these are among the nice places that I can remember:
(The 1999 and 2002 trips, I and my companions did not really explore the city, just saw the city proper and moved to the next destination)

1) Fort Ilocandia Resort -- a famous and 5-star hotel in the North, Spanish-era architecture buildings, sprawling open spaces. It has up to 2-kms long fine sandy beach facing South China Sea, from its 77 hectares area.

2) Sand dunes -- in Brgy. Lapaz, a geological wonder in this part of the country.

3) Paoay Church (St. Augustine church) -- in the municipality of Paoay, really old, has some big "aratiles" fruit trees perched alive on its thick walls.

4) Laoag church (St. William's Cathedral) -- one of the biggest churches in the country; Italian Renaissance designs.

5) Museo Ilocos Norte -- exhibits of history, culture and lifestyle of the province.

6) Marcos museum -- in the municipality of Batac, I think.

7) Bojeador Lighthouse -- in the municipality of Burgos, between Laoag and Pagudpud. Reputed as the oldest and tallest lighthouse in Asia, 73 steps to climb in a spiral staircase.

8) Pagudpud -- considered the "Boracay of the north" because of its long white-sand coastlines. Lots of resorts, lodging houses and restaurants. The waves though, can be normally big as it is fronting an open sea with no huge islands from a distance that can partly deflect the winds.

9) Patapat Cliff -- one of the longest bridges and viaduct in the country. The original road is high up there the current viaduct, on steep slopes of a mountain. It was closed many years ago because it was prone to frequent landslides. The current viaduct is long (maybe about 2 kms. long) and has a breath-taking view of the wide South China Sea. Some old and previously sunken ships can be seen from a distance.

When you go up a few kilometers of Patapat Cliff, you will reach the boundary with Cagayan province, near the municipalities of Candelaria.

The road condition in Ilocos provinces is generally good. Municipalities north of Laoag (to Pagudpud-Cagayan) are generally sparsely populated.

Monday, June 19, 2006

South and western Tarlac

From Manila to the north, you will pass by Bulacan, Pampanga, then Tarlac provinces. Via North Luzon Expressway and Macarthur highway, the last town of Pampanga before crossing a relatively new and beautiful bridge to Tarlac is Mabalacat. This bridge with a high arch and smooth road was constructed only after lahar flows from Mt. Pinatubo in the mid-90s have stabilized.

1) Bamban -- this is the first town of Tarlac after crossing the bridge. Nothing seems spectacular and notable to see in this municipality from the highway. The municipal hall -- and other municipal offices like the police, social welfare, etc. -- is rather far from areas which are densely populated.

2) Capas -- the next town. Prominent to see in this municipality is the Capas public market, and some rows of tricycles around it. Further north is a Y-junction road at a big Caltex gas station. Here, there are a number of fastfood shops. If you turn right at this intersection, you will reach the municipality of Concepcion. You turn left to go to Tarlac city and the rest of northern Luzon. About 300 meters from this intersection is the cool building of Capas municipal hall.

Capas Shrine is about 7.5 kms. from a small intersection before the municipal hall. The shrine is home to more than 30,000 names of dead Filipino and American soldiers who perished in WW2 during the infamous "Death March". The place is beautiful to visit, with a good hanging bridge behind the shrine; thousands of mahogany trees were planted around the shrine, itself surrounded by a fence.

The shrine was constructed and financed by taxes. Before, entrance was free. About a year ago, the managing agency, the AFP, started collecting entrance fee of about P30 per adult and another P30 parking fee. You're a taxpayer and you did not bring extra cash for such fees and the government, the soldiers, will not allow you to see a structure that was financed from the tax money you surrendered to the government a few years ago.

3) Tarlac City -- the provincial capital. If you're seated in the front of a car or a bus, you will not miss the big arch that says "Welcome, Tarlac City". Before the city proper, you will pass by Luisita Park, where they have Luisita Mall, and a number of big fast food and coffee shops, wide parking spaces, and huge, several decades old rain trees (aka "akasya" trees). A sugar central, wide sugar plantation, a golf course, and other projects of the Cojuangco and Aquino clans are located to the east of the Luisita park.

Being halfway to Baguio, the city is the main "stop and eat/rest" area for many buses and private motorists. Hence, there are a number of restaurants and bus terminals of big bus lines here. At the Y-intersection in the city at Siesta restaurant, Victory and Five Star buses stop here for 20 minutes rest/stop. You turn left in this intersection, you are headed to the province's 3 municipalities in the western side, as well as western Pangasinan's towns and city (Alaminos and Bolinao especially).

4) Sta. Ignacia -- less road traffic going here and the succeeding municipalities compared to the highway going to the Ilocos region and the mountain provinces of Cordillera. A number of hilly and winding roads here, a respite from the flat, straight (and boring) roads of the previous municipalities and cities. Again, nothing so spectacular to see in this town.

5) Camiling -- a good intersection for many municipalities. Coming from Tarlac City and Sta. Ignacia in the south, to the right is Paniqui; to the north are the municipalities of central Pangasinan (Malasique, Bayambang, Calasiao, etc.); and to the left is Camiling town proper and the municipalities of western Pangasinan.

The city has numerous volume of tricycles! There are just too many tricycles around the big public market, that there seems to be no streets around it where there are no parked 3-wheeled small vehicles.

The road infrastructure going to Camiling is also deteriorating. There are simply plenty of cracked roads, uneven and potholed roads.

6) San Clemente -- After Camiling, the roads are better and less dilapidated; traffic volume is also fewer. The town proper is small, not much to see, except that the municipal government has constructed a new and modern-looking municipal hall along the highway.

At the Camiling intersection before the bridge, if you turn right, you will reach the town of Paniqui. At Tarlac City Y-intersection, if you turn right, drive several kms. more, you will also pass by an intersection leading to Paniqui.

7) Paniqui --

8) Ramos --

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Lingayen, Pangasinan

Lingayen is the capital of Pangasinan province, previously the most populous province in Luzon. Now it's second to Bulacan as the latter takes in more and more migrants from many parts of the country.

Among the interesting spots to see in this municipality are the following:

1) Tree-lined boulevard, from the main road to the provincial capitol, nearly 1 km. long. The cemented center island has been replaced with bricks, so the scenery is now more beautiful.

2) Provincial capitol, newly painted. The structure is huge and tall, built many decades ago. In front of the capitol is open parking, as well as open grass. Beside the capitol is the "Urduja house", which is the official residence of the provincial governor.

3) Lingayen beach, clean, fine dark sand. There's an open space with no huts and cottages fronting the sea, behind the provincial capitol, this is about 400 meters long. On both ends of this open space, there are private cottages and huts for rent.

4) Lingayen Gulf memorial, with a pavilion showing a photo exhibit of "Lingayen landings" during WW2 when Gen. Macarthur and batallions upon batallions of new American forces landed to pursue the retreating Japanese forces. There are also old tanks, old fighter planes, and anti-plane guns on display in an open space in front of the pavilion.

5) Lingayen airport, old and not modern, can take in only small private planes. Interestingly, the runway is between a small public cemetery and the sea. Pretty much like The Police's song, "Wrapped around your finger". A portion of the song goes this way, "devil and the deep blue sea behind me..."