Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur: Visiting the Spanish-induced Filipino heritage

It was mid-February when I made friends within the team in the new workplace I moved to. Discovering our enthusiasm about travelling, one office friend invited another office friend and me to join his planned Ilocos-Cagayan trip for his birthday. “G!,” wanderlust said immediately.

On the 29th of April, we went on a road trip to the Ilocos region. Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur, two provinces located way up the northern part of Luzon, are famous for sheltering locations that are reflective of the Spanish colonization hundreds of years ago. It was an eight-hour ride via private car from Manila to Ilocos Sur. We arrived just in time for breakfast, but although we were barely rested, we were already very eager to start our tour.



Calle Crisologo, Vigan, Ilocos Sur


Our first stop is the ever famous local street in Vigan, Calle Crisologo. The street is almost similar to any other street in the vicinity with its old hispanic houses, but unlike the neighboring streets, Calle Crisologo is filled with antique and souvenir shops, thus, flocked with tourists walking upon the cobblestone streats or riding the kalesa, a carriage pulled by a horse. Calle Crisologo is known as The Heritage Village and is considered a UNESCO Heritage Site.


Before leaving the place, we went to search for the local Vigan empanada, a deep fried delicacy stuffed with meat and vegetables which one could dip into vinegar or ketchup, available for just 35php.


St. Augustine Church and Bell Tower, Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Also located in Vigan, we continued our trip to St. Augustine Church and Bell Tower. This church is known as the oldest surviving church in Ilocos Sur.


It was a Saturday morning but churchgoers and other tourists have already occupied the place. The sun was scorching hot be we continued our walk to the tower itself.


At first, we thought it’d be too hot inside the bell tower, but boy, we were wrong! The air that passed through the tower was absolutely cool and refreshing, we just had to wait for our turn to arrive at the higher steps. I even went to the place where all the bells were located, and it felt like I could see the whole of Ilocos (but of course I didn’t!).



Paoay Church, Paoay, Ilocos Norte

We took a two-hour ride to Paoay, Ilocos Norte, the home of yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Paoay Church. The structure of the place was stunning; the sides look like the temples in Cambodia.


However, such beauty hold heartbreaks, too. Portions of the walls were made out of corals when the Spanish rulers began building this place. It was disheartening to know that the natural beauty deep down was destroyed to create another site to behold.


Anyway, the front of the church looked a lot like a park where one could stroll for fresh air, but since it is a very open area, the sun’s heat can barely be fought.


Bangui Windmills, Bangui, Ilocos Norte

Before the sun crawled under the horizon, we made a stop at the windmills located in Bangui, Ilocos Norte. Upon descending the van that took us there, we could already feel the strong wind that threw specs of sand on us (it was quite a bit painful, we first retreated back to our van).


The sea made huge rolls of waves and flooded the sandy area every now and then. The windmills were dancing upon the low light of the descending sun — it was a mesmerizing sight to behold.


We wanted to have a dip at the Pagudpud Beach so our stay at the windmills was put to a stop.



Patapat Viaduct

It was already becoming dark that we realized we could no longer swim by the waters of Ilocos. We, instead, paved our way to Cagayan which was our actual destination. We stopped at the Patapat Viaduct, the long roads connecting Ilocos and Cagayan, to marvel at the beautiful blue waters just as the sun was setting.


The viaduct connects Ilocos Norte’s Maharlika Highway to the Cagayan Valley, and is the fourth longest bridge in the Philippines.

Although it was a bit cloudy, the beauty of the scene would pacify the restless heart. We were ready to continue our trip to Cagayan.

View more photos on My Travels and Thoughts.




Note that five people chipped in 1000php each for the van rental from Manila to Ilocos.

You may also view the itinerary here.

Good to note:

1. We didn’t pay anything for any of the places we’ve visited other than the “donation” they ask for at the Bantay Church and Bell Tower.

2. Ilocos Trip is not meant for a day tour visit because the ride takes about 8-10 hours one way. That’s extremely tiring! Instead, organize a group of 8-10 people and rent a van that usually costs 5000php per way excluding toll and gas, then look for a cheap place that would be able to accommodate your group.


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