Laoag City: The Sparkling Gem of Ilocandia

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.

laoag_cover

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

Un-matching support pillars for the welcome arch. Next make-over in 2085.

Un-matching support pillars for the welcome arch. Next make-over in 2085? What’s the story here?

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

This LAOAG sign was put up 2 years ago in Ermita Hill.

Yes, I stopped on the bridge to snap a photo. I’m on a motorcycle, give me a break! :p

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

laoag_aurorafountain

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.

Definitely a nice place to hang out at night or late afternoon.

Definitely a nice place to hang out at night or late afternoon.

The Tobacco Monopoly Monument commemorates the end of suffering for the Ilocanos who were forced to plant tobacco in 1782-1881.

The Aurora Park is in the middle of the street just after Gilbert Bridge

The Aurora Park is in the middle of the street just after Gilbert Bridge

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).

Oble?? is tat tue?

Oble?? is tat tue?

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.

In front of the capitol is a confusing and busy intersection.

In front of the capitol is a confusing and busy intersection.

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.

Dhona at the foot of the gigantic Sinking Bell Tower

Dhona at the foot of the gigantic Sinking Bell Tower

The Laoag City skyline and map

The Laoag City skyline and map

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..

I risked my life crouching in the middle of the busy street and this car just has to ruin the shot.

I risked my life crouching in the middle of the busy street and this car just has to ruin the shot.

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.

The entrance to the bell tower as of today.

The entrance to the bell tower as of today.

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.

museo_ilocosnorte

museo_hallway

museo_displays

museo_2ndfloor

museo_scarecrow

MONROE ISLAND

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!

different views of Monroe Island at different zoom levels

different views of Monroe Island at different zoom levels

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.

Steel doesn't really make a good "road surface"

Steel doesn’t really make a good “road surface”

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 reached the end of the road.

..I reached the end of the road.

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.

A view of Laoag River with the skyline of Laoag City in the background 7 kms away.

A view of Laoag River with the skyline of Laoag City in the background 7 kms away.

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!

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About Dom de la Torre

The rider is a 20-something Filipino that rides a Honda Wave 125cc underbone. He knows little about motorcycles yet loves the experience going places on two wheels. Rider Ako is a motorcycle-slash-travel blog. The rider not only shares to you travel destinations and what to see there but also the experience of getting there. You will read about the thrills and adventure when he rides solo, the romance of riding in tandem, the camaraderie riding with a group, the excitement participating in events, and anything that he thinks you might find interesting.When he's broke and the fuel's empty, he will share stories about motorcycling how he sees it through his helmet visor.
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One Response to Laoag City: The Sparkling Gem of Ilocandia

  1. azizyhoree says:

    hello mr riderako ! 😀 . nice to meet your blog , thanks to visit my blog

    nice riding report from you , sometimes I will and interest to riding motorbike in other countries, for example to philipines or malaysia: D, I do not know, when I have the chance to make it happen 🙄

    cheers from Indonesia ——– http://www.warungdohc.com

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