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A Brief Sojourn in Ilocos Norte

Ilocos Norte has a ton of exciting places to explore!

A couple of months ago, Metro.Style was invited by the Tourism Promotions Board to visit Ilocos Norte. After arriving at the airport, we drove by the giant sign spelling out the word 'LAOAG' and went to Eagle's Nest restaurant for lunch. On the menu were Ilocano and Tagalog specialties, then, full after our meal, we went to Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel. 


After freshening up at Fort Ilocandia, where our rooms had a spectacular view of the sea, grounds and other large bodies of water, we were off to weaving communities in the area. 


The first community we visited was the Nagbacalan Loomweavers Multi-Purpose Cooperative, where we were shown how to weave Ilocano fabrics on handlooms. The artisanal quality of the finished fabrics was evident. The weavers explained how each loom was used, and told us they emphasized the kundiman design or technique, which uses five pedals on the loom. According to the website guidetothephilippines.com, "Previously, children as young as six years old were taught to weave, but enthusiasm has waned and must be reignited. Keeping this tradition alive is one of the organization's top concerns. With a visionary leader and dedicated members, the Cooperative confronts a bright future that connects their people to their rich weaving heritage."

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Our next stop was the Mumulaan Weavers Cooperative in Barangay Mumulaan, where an abundance of inabel is handloomed. The beautiful fabrics woven here have no comparison; each is handmade and can be used to decorate the home or even made into clothing. At the Nalasin Weavers Cooperative, which specializes in the sinukitan weave, another style of Abel Iloco fabric, we were again given a demonstration of the weaving process. They also explained more about the special loom they use to create the weave.


We visited the Paoay Church, which was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. The government also considers it a National Cultural Treasure and is otherwise known as the Saint Augustine Church. The Paoay Church has 24 buttresses at its sides and back. It also has a three-story coral bell tower standing beside its facade. 

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It was then time for some empanada-tasting in Batac. We savored many kinds of empanadas, from all-vegetable versions with cheese to pork-filled versions. The deep-fried delicacies were delicious and filling and were an apt snack to end the day.


After a brief respite at Fort Ilocandia, we headed over to Museo San Nicoleño, a quaint museum that showed the clay tradition of San Nicolas and the buabobuado, a mechanical pumping by hand to draw water from a well. The second floor of the museum displayed the archeological artifacts of the town. 

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Ladrillo's Restaurant was a brief stroll away. A rustic facade with brick walls and old-world charm greeted us. It also had a beautiful garden and a second floor. We were served a mix of Ilocano specialties and Tagalog dishes in one of the rooms beside the second floor. 

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The next day took us to the Gamaba Weaving Center in Pinili, where we met Magdalena Gamayo, Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan 2012. A National Living Treasure, Gamayo can weave, among other techniques and designs, binakol, inuritan, kusikos and sinan-sabong. 


We then proceeded to the Santa Monica Parish Church in Sarrat, also known as the Sarrat Church. The church's gorgeous façade includes a separate bell tower, and it is the largest church in Ilocos Norte. It is made of red bricks, with Baroque and Neoclassical architecture. It was declared an Important Cultural Property by the National Museum of the Philippines in 2009.


In the evening, we attended a welcome dinner of the Regional Travel Fair of the Tourism Promotions Board at the Plaza Del Norte, attended by TPB COO Marga Nograles and stakeholders in the area. The next day at the Regional Travel Fair in Robinson's Ilocos, Nograles again spoke, as did Michael Marcos Keon, Mayor of Laoag, and Cecilia Araneta Marcos, Vice Governor of Ilocos Norte.

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But the most exciting part of our trip was still to come. We headed to the sand dunes after a palate-pleasing feast at La Preciosa restaurant. It was a thrilling ride of a lifetime, where we stood at the back of a buggy and rode swiftly over the dunes. Some of us were less accustomed to the speed, while others wanted more of the roller-coaster-like feeling. At the end of high with endorphins, we returned to the hotel and ate like kings. 


It was the end of our Ilocos Norte experience and, no doubt, we'd be back for the food, the sights, and the beautiful weaves.


Article by Ria de Borja