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Travel: Ilocos Norte, Philippines

First, I want to let you know that I traveled there way back August 2015 but did not have the chance of posting it on my blog due to some reasons.
On that travel, I went to Ilocos all by myself. I stayed in Ilocos Norte for a week. Accommodation, transportation, breakfast, and dinner were all prepared by my aunt who is a nun and was assigned to work there at that time. Transportation mainly going around Ilocos Norte (North) or Sur (South). While my airfare was all paid by me and transportation from Ilocos back to Cebu, and other things that I want to spend or buy.

The moment I arrived in the Laoag International Airport, I was informed that there had been a blackout in the whole city a few hours ago and I was lucky that it came back just in time. There was a typhoon a few days ago resulting to flooding in some areas of Ilocos.
Let's have some facts I got in the Internet:
Ilocos Norte covers a total area of 3,467.89 square kilometres (1,338.96 sq mi) occupying the northern tip of the Ilocos Region in Luzon. The province is bordered by Cagayan to the extreme northeast, Apayao to the east, and Abra to the southeast, Ilocos Sur to the southwest, the South China Sea to the west, and the Luzon Strait to the north.
The province itself is big, hot, and it takes a couple of hours to visit the tourist destinations. So it is best to list down where you want to go, group the nearby places, and schedule them on when you want to go.

On the first day, I went to:
Iglesia de Sta. Monica de Sarrat
La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc
Ferdinand Marcos' Mausoleum
Batac for Empanada and Lomi
St. Augustine Parish or Church of Paoay
St. John the Baptist Church
Juan Luna Shrine
Fort Ilocandia Resort

During the whole trip, I was together with a novice (a woman who is still under probation and before taking vows of being a nun) and a seminarian, who is considering the vocation of being a priest after finishing the seminary, I call "Frater" as an instruction.

1st stop: Iglesia de Santa Monica de Sarrat
We went to the known largest church in the whole Ilocos Norte province with a really long middle aisle or nave. I also found out that Irene Marcos, the daughter of then President Marcos had a grand wedding in the said church. But I went there to meet my aunt's friend who is a priest.
360 view of the Santa Monica church
He showed us around and explained the construction details and restoration progress of the 1779-year-old church. Also discussed at how big the river had gone during the typhoon in the past few days. The river is located just right across the church.
One of the pillars in one of the areas of the convent or a house used to cater visitors and guests.

An old well, I believe has been unused for years now.

If I remember correctly, this number states how many pieces of this balcony pillars.
There is a small museum inside the building beside the church where it showcased the history of the church, the items and figures that used to be shown in the altar of the church.
Looking at this in person really scared me since it was so dewy, shiny and almost realistic.
There are hundreds or even thousands of logs used to provide support for the roof for this church.
The front yard

2nd Stop: La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc
Right after that, we set off and went to the farthest destination first, which was the La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc. It was quite far from Sarrat, but it was a nice ride since the province is mainly into agriculture, the air was so fresh and clean and everything else was green.
This is really not the right road to go there, but we decided to take the long route.
On our way there, we stopped by someone selling some sweet sticky snacks called "Tupig". It was sweet, a bit crunchy on the sides, and filling.

Wrapped with banana leaf and cooked on top of a charcoal
Crispy outer part of the tupig snack
Chewy and sweet part
Then we parked right in front of the chapel/church. It looks really nice, amazing, and safe. It was so beautiful and my pictures do not do justice with how beautiful it actually was.

The stations of the cross are at the pathway outside of the church and carved into a huge stone.

There are also beautiful benches by the shore to enjoy the view of the South China Sea. Due to the fact that there was a typhoon, a lot of logs, branches and other dirt were washed to the shore making the shore looked really dirty and unwelcoming.

After relaxing and eating the remaining food that we had, we resumed our journey and head to Batac to the Ferdinand E. Marcos Presidential Center, where his cenotaph and memorabilia are shown for the people to see.

3rd stop: Ferdinand Marcos' Mausoleum
For those who do not know Ferdinand Marcos, he was the president of the Philippines with the longest term from 1917-1989 and ruled the country as a dictator from 1972 to 1981. During his period, the government was infamous for being corrupt, extravagant, and brutal.
The next government, Aquino administration, after his regime denied to bring his body back when he died in Hawaii to the Philippines so the family had put his body inside a refrigerated crypt until they were allowed to bring his body back to the Philippines.
And until before November 18, 2016 his body remained intact inside the refrigerated crypt until the president, Rodrigo Duterte to have his body buried for the "healing" and for the Filipinos to move on from the past.

The building where his crypt is in.

Visitors weren't allowed to take photos of the body and had a meter or 2 away from it.
I was honestly amazed at how I was able to see one of the greatest people in the history of the Philippines. Despite the fact that he was a dictator in the last few years of his regime, I believed that he was a great ruler at that time. My parents praised all the good deeds he had done before the Martial Law. And so I was in awe. Right in front of me was a person I did not have the chance to see because I was not in the world yet.
And I was lucky that at that time, I was able to visit him before he was able to finally rest 6 feet below the ground. Additionally, the room was super cold and dark and the only light are the few lights they have to show the way and his body.

As for now, they have replaced the real body with a wax figure in the mausoleum.

I also enjoyed reading and knowing about his past. Being there and knowing a person's biography is so much better than reading it from a book. I've seen his awards and read about his love life and how smitten he was with her beauty.
What I will always admire at him was his brilliant mind and many more things which you can read it on Wikipedia.
The 11-day romance love story.
 More photos in the Mausoleum where history of his life and events and things related to him are shown.

Sticky rice snack available after and some other souvenirs right after you are about to leave.

4th stop: Batac for Empanada and Lomi
Anyway, it was almost lunch time and Frater suggested to eat some Lomi and Ilocano Empanada. The lomi was okay and hot for a hot day in the province.

But the empanada was amazing! It was big and orange. I had to hold it with my two hands and it was good as one meal.

I was astounded at the woman who put raw egg in it and wrapped it in front of me, then fried it. The empanada I've known was totally different with everything I saw at that moment. Yet, I love the taste, the crunchiness of the shell and the delicious filling it had. And talking about it, seeing the picture again makes me crave for it, makes me want to go to Ilocos just to eat it again or try to make it myself which I don't think I can.

5th stop: St. Augustine Parish or Church of Paoay
 Then we head to Paoay for the church.
Despite the hot and arid weather of the region, it was very windy. The front part of the edifice was under construction or restoration, we did not know.
But we had the chance to go inside and check out how it looks like. As how big it looks from the outside, it is very spacious and cool inside.

Photo taken from the balcony inside the church where choirs usually sit.
This is the balcony, the flooring isn't very sturdy, there were many cracks and holes on the floor. I don't suggest anyone to try to go up since it is dangerous. Unless if they had changed it.

This is the second pulpit where the priest will be able to give a sermon and everyone can see and hear clearly.
The altar with St. Augustine's figure.
At the side of the church, there is a well maintained garden with a pond a lot of flowers. There are also benches with arches to make people relax properly without worrying from getting burned from the hot sun.

Beside the church, there is a souvenir shop where you can buy many things that will remind you of the province.

6th stop: St. John the Baptist Church

Then, we went to St. John the Baptist Church where the Lady of Miracle or Virgen Milagrosa is situated. The church wasn't as big as the St. Augustine and the St. Monica Churches but it was worth noting that it was as sacred as the others. It was said that you should write a letter or a wish or something of that sort and put it on the foot of the figure. I did that but I don't remember what I wrote back then.

7th stop: Juan Luna Shrine
And we had a bit of stopover at Juan Luna Shrine, where tarpaulins of his art are shown outside the house he used to live. Juan Luna was one of the first recognized Filipino artists when he got a gold medal in the Madrid Exposition of Fine Arts on 1884 together with another Filipino artist.

This post first appeared on 7 TIPS EVERY BUDGET TRAVELER WOULD SURELY APPRECIATE, please read the originial post: here

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Travel: Ilocos Norte, Philippines


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