Laoag and Paoay
Type: Rural, Cultural
Best Date to Visit: March – June
Things to Do: 4×4, Sand surfing, ATV, Sand Dunes, Visit Churches
Points of Interest: Malacanang of the North, Paoay Church, Paoay Lake, Paoay Sand Dunes, Ferdinand E. Marcos Presidential Centre, ect
The Good: Very cheap with loads to explore and visit
The Bad: Not too much transport services
Laoag is the capital of the province Ilocos Notre (North Ilocos) a medium sized provincial city famous for its Spanish upbringings just like many cities and towns in the Ilocos region of the Philippines.
Paoay which is in my opinion more interesting than its neighbouring city of Laoag. Having much more fascinating attractions such as the ‘Marcos Presidential Centre (Malacanang of the North), Paoay church and the Sand Dunes, Paoay is an increasing popular destination in the ‘Ilocos Norte’ Region.
Laoag is Ilocos Norte’s capital city but in my opinion not the best for tourism. It is very small and compact unlike its neighbouring cities and towns in the province.
Firstly my first impressions of the city were brilliant, it is very spacious, quiet in the day and somewhat busy in the evenings due to the night market. The city has a large Robinson’s Mall, centre of both ‘Laoag city’ and ‘San Nicolas’ which is unusual for a provincial city, furthermore its mall is very modern and has high class shops and restaurants such as Guess, Lacoste, TGI Fridays, Starbucks and many more. Centring the city is the ‘Bell tower’ unofficially known as the ‘Sinking Bell Tower’ which is a beautiful building left by the Spaniards. Other than that there are not many to see and do in the city but many do go to ‘Paoay’ for many different sites and activities.
I visited Paoay as a half day excursion from where I was staying in Laoag. I simply just asked a tricycle driver to take us to all the points of interests in the region for a standard agreed fee. Here is where we got to:
‘Paoay Church and its Bell Tower’ also known as the ‘St Agustin Church’ is another of Philippine’s UNESCO heritage site. Built in 1710 the church is particularly special due to is 24 buttresses in its side. Still hosting masses, this church is popular for tourism due to its beauty and historic significance.
‘Paoay Lake’ which is the largest lake in the province of ‘Ilocos Norte’. Shaped like a horseshoe. Legend has it that there was an ill-fated village which was submerged underwater by god as punishment and after the floods disappeared it left the lake, which we know today as ‘Paoay Lake’.
‘Malacanang of the North’ which has a entrance fee of 20php was the official residence of Ferdinand Marcos’s family during his reign as president of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. Today the building is used as a presidential museum of culture and history, with many of the late presidents furniture, artwork and projects that were both successful not. Built for Marcos’s 60th birthday by the Philippine tourism authority at the time, the building has been refurbished and now visited by masses who want for tourism and educational purposes. Special events such as weddings are also hosted here.
‘Paoay Sand Dunes’ which is the centre point for adrenaline in the province with its 4×4 trail, ATV and sandboarding activities. It costs 2500php (£35 equivalent) for the 4×4 trail which rides up to 5 people and includes unlimited sandboarding. The 4×4 buggy is brilliant and very fun, there are plenty of uphill, steep downhill and plenty of bumps within the trail, I can only describe it as an enjoyable rollercoaster and you can feel the G-force whilst standing and no seatbelts. Throughout the trail there are stops (3 in my count) to take photos and take a little breather whilst enjoying the panoramic views. After the whole trail which lasts about 12-30 minutes you are dropped off the sandboarding area which is a steep downhill slope. You are able to stand or sit if you wish whilst sandboarding, but it is advised that standing are for those who already know how to skate or snowboard as it can be very dangerous.
Overall ‘Laoag’ and ‘Paoay’ is culture, religion and adrenaline altogether in a small region of Ilocos Norte. It is not too expensive to roam here with a tricycle and tickets to attractions are not too expensive, however activities are a little different and can be a little pricey. Paoay I believe is underrated and should be a more popular destination in the Philippines. I highly recommend this place.
In conclusion Laoag is a good centre point to stay in the province of Ilocos Norte but you may want to travel around neighbouring cities for more to see and do. Laoag is normally just the hub of where tourists arrive or depart from the province as many bus stations, hotels and resorts reside here. A nice place to dine and roam but for me a day or two is enough for this city and anymore may result into boredom.