Laoag City is the capital of Ilocos Norte. The name was taken from the Ilocano term “lawag” which means light or brightness. It is 487 kms from Manila. The only commercial airport in the Ilocos Region is located here. Vigan City is only 80 kms to the south and Pagudpud in the north is about 80 kms away. The Cordillera mountain ranges borders it to the east and the South China Sea to the west.
So, either you are flying in or driving to Ilocos, you would most likely find yourself in this city. When you do, you might as well visit these tourist destinations. Ever heard of Monroe Island?
WELCOME ARCH and GILBERT BRIDGE
Coming from the south, the only major entry point to Laoag, and to the rest of Northern Ilocos for that matter, is via the Gilbert Bridge or Laoag Bridge. It spans for about 800 meters over the Padsan River (aka Laoag River).
LAOAG “HOLLYWOOD SIGN” on ERMITA HILL
Obviously inspired by the iconic Hollywood Sign, the white, bold, capital letters L-A-O-A-G sits on Ermita Hill overlooking the city and the river. Coming from Paoay, you can see this to your right.
AURORA PARK with TOBACCO MONUMENT and PEACE POLE
Aurora Park greeted me after I crossed the bridge. The three prominent structures on the park are the fountain, the Tobacco Monopoly Monument, and the World Peace Pole.
The Tobacco Monopoly Monument commemorates the end of suffering for the Ilocanos who were forced to plant tobacco in 1782-1881.
The World Peace Pole “acts as a silent prayer and message for peace on Earth”. It has the prayer “May Peace Prevail on Earth” written on different languages on it. It is a project of the World Peace Prayer Society and is the first Pole in Ilocos (October 2006).
The CAPITOL BUILDING
The Capitol made me forget that there is still a Laoag City Hall. It is just beside Aurora Park. There is an over-sized clock at the lawn of the capitol.
LAOAG SINKING BELL TOWER
Portruding from the skyline of Laoag is one of the tallest bell towers in the Philippines at 45 meters. MOA Eye is at 55 meters.
Finding the tower is not difficult because it is gigantic. Oddly, I don’t remember seeing this the first time I was in Ilocos. It’s probably because we got to Laoag when it was already dark. Wait, I thought the tower is well-lit at night. Hmm..
Built in 1612 on sandy foundations, the weight of the structure was too much that it gradually sinks. Figures online shows it sinks at about 1 inch per year but I find that an exaggeration. At that rate in a span of 401 years, it would mean that 10 meters of it has already been buried. If the stories are true that a man on horseback can easily enter the tower when it was built, then the entrance would have to be at least 3 meters back then.
Looking at what’s left of that entrance, I’d say only about 2 meters has sunk. That is only about a quarter of an inch per year at best. There’s another sinking bell tower nearby and it’s dome has even crumbled (Read about it here).
MUSEO ILOCOS NORTE
This museum is a repository of “Gameng” meaning treasure. It houses an extensive collection of artifacts that showcases the ethnicity and heritage of the Ilocanos. This is perfect for school field trips.
For the third time in this North Luzon Loop trip, I found myself searching for another island in an attempt to visit it whilst on a motorcycle. With Pinget Island a WIN and Gabut Island a FAIL, Monroe Island will be the tie breaker!
Monroe Island sits at the mouth of Laoag River splitting it into two channels. On Satellite View, one of those channels seem to be shallow and might actually be dry enough to reveal a sand bar bridging the island to the main land of Laoag City. With all the heat all summer long, I might just make it across.
From the city proper, I made my way some 8kms west towards the South China Sea. I ended up in some narrow barangay roads with a “one-way at a time” 800-meter bridge made of steel beams and wood. At this point, I can already see the island on the other side of the river. The river’s current was not too strong but it was obvious that it is flowing. That means there’s not a chance of having a sand bar connect to the island like what i have hoped. Still, I kept going. Until..
I asked a few locals and explained what I was hoping to do. All of them said it was impossible and there is no way to get to the island except by boat. They’ve never even heard or seen the river dry up or at least was shallow enough to cross it to the island by foot. It was worth a try. Island Crossing: WIN – 1; FAIL – 2.
I originally planned to spend the night in Laoag but since it was only 3PM, I decided to make a run for Pagudpud 80 kms away. I only (or still) have 3-4 hours of daylight tops!