Friday, April 6, 2012

Brighter than Sunshine: Laoag City


As I've mentioned in previous entries, right after arriving we went straight to the Rio Grande de Laoag Resort Hotel to drop off our luggage and have a quick rest. And then we proceeded to half of our Laoag City and Heritage Tour.

In our original itinerary, on our first day, upon arriving we weren't supposed to go on a tour yet, it was supposed to be a free day at the resort, with the tour on our last day, before leaving Laoag. Our flight was at around 12:30 pm, and it took about an hour, so we made it to the Laoag airport around 1:30, with resort staff waiting to fetch us and take us to the resort. When we got to the resort a little bit past 2 in the afternoon, the manager suggested that we might want to go ahead with the tour instead of saving it for last because the weather was very nice. It had been raining constantly the past week in Manila, and Mama inquired after the weather in Laoag and learned that while it was mostly sunny, there were occasional drizzles in the afternoon, so we didn't hesitate to go on a tour ahead of schedule, because we couldn't be sure if the fair weather, albeit slightly cloudy, would remain. And just for trivia's sake, the manager told us that in Ilocano, Laoag means "bright." It certainly was during our stay.

Going back, we had a quick look at the resort grounds before settling into our room. We had a few munchies for merienda or an afternoon snack first before leaving because we only had a small lunch at Jollibee at the airport food court before boarding our flight and we received water for a welcome drink at the resort. We didn't have jet lag or anything since it's only a domestic trip, but still air travel can be stressful and tiring, especially for Papa, who hates flying, even though it's one of his occupational hazards as an OFW. So to finally walk on solid ground beneath your feet is really refreshing even after a short one hour flight.

Incidentally, cell phone signal reception was unexpectedly good in Laoag and the whole of Ilocos during our visit! Our whole family subscribes to Sun Cellular and our biggest problem, even in Manila, is poor network coverage, and when travelling it normally gets worse, but there all bars were full, in fairness, so we didn't have any trouble being contacted.

Anyway, we freshened up and left our big bags in our room. I only took my valuables in my Longchamp. It's really my go to bag for school, travel, anywhere really, because it's strikes a balance of casual grace and sophistication for most occasions or places. Papa even took a picture of the four of us as we were leaving the resort. I'm always camera ready. Joke. But for a little outfit of the day, or OOTD, I was wearing a breezy light blue denim dress and green T-strap sandals. 


So first things first, the resort is around 10-15 minutes away from the city center by car. But there are plenty of tricycles passing by that you can just hail and they'll take you where you want to go.

Our first stop was just near the Ilocos Norte Capitol, the Museo Ilocos Norte, it's basically a local museum, showcasing the local history and all the native crafts and industries and antiques. I really enjoyed seeing all the displays, everything was arranged in a way that made sense, and it was very informative. There was a small entrance fee, but it was well worth it because we all got a glimpse into Ilocos Norte's uniqueness. Our tour guide Manang Roda took this picture of our whole family outside the museum for us.


This is just at the entrance. It's a really cool painting.


Here are just some of the displays.














































Museum15Meanwhile on the second floor, there is a replica of a traditional house, complete with antique furniture and paintings. Please forgive the pictures, it was a bit dimly lit, and I don't like using flash when I take pictures because I want to capture the colors as true to life as possible. I used flash for the bed and the writing desk and the colors totally cooked, even if the pictures are somewhat clearer.








The next place we went to, the Sinking Bell Tower. was just a block away, so we crossed a few streets, and they have really orderly traffic, unlike in Manila, so you don't have to fear for your life as a pedestrian.


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It's literally a Sinking Bell Tower. It's not open to the public, so you can just look from the outside and take pictures, but our tour guide gave us a little historical background. Unfortunately, even in my History classes back in grade school, high school, and even up to college, I have poor retention of facts and figures, so I can't recall when it was built. But apparently, it sinks to the ground at a steady rate over the past centuries, I think, because it's built on soft ground. And though I don't have picture, the floor level or door level has sunken into the ground by more than a foot, so if it were open to tourists, you would have to stoop and bend to enter because it's pretty low already.

The next place we visited was the Laoag Cathedral, which is a five minute walk from the bell tower. I'm not particularly religious, so when I visit Churches I just like to admire the beautiful architecture and the design. There was a baptism in progress when we looked around, and we didn't want to be disruptive tourists, we didn't stay long.


















Papa took this really nice candid shot of me, as I was walking around taking pictures on my own camera. Please excuse the tousled bangs, it was a really windy day. I must get my snap-happy gene from him, because Mama's too lazy to take pictures. (Note: Unless it's family pictures by Papa or our tour guides, all pictures of the places we visited, scenery and landscapes, are all mine).


The next place we went to was former President Ferdinand Marcos' birthplace in Sarrat, which was a bit of a drive away from Laoag. On our way there, our guide was telling us all about Marcos related trivia. Actually in the resort, there was even a souvenir shop with little figurines and knickknacks with the phrase "Ilocos Norte: Home of Great Leaders." I'm neither pro, nor anti-Marcos, to some people not taking a stand is a copout, but it was before my time, so I can't say what my life might have been like. We're a pretty apolitical family. And when my parents recall their Martial Law experience, and Mama was from UP Diliman and UP PGH and Papa from Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, mind you, they both say it wasn't as bad as history made it out to be. Of course there will always be people who beg to differ. All historical figures have their merits and demerits. But I can see why until now, all the people we met in Ilocos are staunch supporters of the Marcos family to this day. It's not fanatical hero-worship at all, because you really see the concrete proofs of the Marcos legacy on the province. You really have to see the place for yourself before you pass judgement on the man and his family. I'm not saying at all that he was perfect, but that the good came with the bad. And throughout our stay, all the roads we passed were excellent, we didn't see any slums, hardly any litter. There was law and order. Motorists were disciplined, and everyone we encountered spoke highly of the Marcos family, and it wasn't just lip service, they were all very genuine. Papa was actually dismayed that such discipline couldn't be achieved in Manila. Evidently the Marcos family is effective in their province.

So anyway, we learned that this Marcos ancestral home where Marcos was born, is actually on his mother's side, if I'm not mistaken, the one on his father's side we visited on another day. But basically what remains are pictures, portraits and other family memorabilia.Sarrat1 Sarrat2

























































There was another group of tourists who were very boisterous, what a turn off. In any case, what I liked about our tour guide Manang Roda, along with all the rest of our guides who accompanied us on different days was how they weren't intrusive at all. They would tell us about the place on the way there, but let us do our own exploring once there, and they would offer to take pictures without us having to ask. Here's a nice family photo, sans the person in the corner.Sarrat20

Here's one for the road.


The next place we went to see was still in Sarrat, the Santa Monica Church and Convent. I love all the bricks and intricate masonry. I always feel in awe, or like I'm insignificant next to these edifices that have lasted centuries.

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Inside it's even more impressive. The roof is supported by wood! Can you just imagine, standing underneath, feeling like an ant. And inside there's also some lovely stained glass windows.

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Thank goodness for my camera's Low Light Function, because even the flash didn't help much indoors.

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Before we left for our next destination, Mama wanted a family picture near the river just across the Church. You can't see it though, it was pretty dried up. Wacky faces rule!

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Next stop: Fort Ilocandia! Can I just say it's the most beautiful place I've been to in all of Ilocos Norte. It's a lot like Shangri-La Mactan. It's a hotel resort, take note, hotel before a resort, unlike the Rio Grande de Laoag, but it's a tourist spot and landmark on its own. I just love how regal it is! It's such a huge place, and it has really large gardens.

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The front lobby really exudes a grandeur and class like no other. All of the fancy wood work and the crystal chandelier just casting a beautiful light on everything. I'm such a sucker for luxury and opulence. But what would you expect from a five star institution. My sister told me she'd heard about Fort Ilocandia before from some of her friends and classmates who've stayed here, and apparently it's lost some of its glamour from before, or declined in a way. So if the present is anything to go by, how much more grandiose it must have been in the past, if that's really the case. I don't know, I love old world, classic interior design. I can't see how it could have gotten worse.



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The gardens were by far my favorite.

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I even took a nice picture of Mama and Papa together.

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It was such a nice day for a stroll. It even had a meadow-y feel because of the lawn animal statues.

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What a pretty fountain. I also tried out taking pictures with my camera's macro mode. I like it.

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Because the rest of the resort was exclusive for guests, we took a walk outside to see the nearby public beach that was no longer part of the resort grounds. It wasn't white sand, but I'm always delighted by the salty smell of the ocean. I love getting warm sand in my toes and just basking in the sunshine.

















After that we headed back to the resort at around 5 in the afternoon and by then we were really wiped out and ready to call it a day. We ate dinner at the resort (See previous) watched a little bit of the the free channels on TV and turned in for the night.

For some unknown reason, I had trouble falling asleep. And I woke up at 2 in the morning and couldn't go back to sleep, so I exercised (I will go into detail about my fitness routines another day) outside on the porch so as not to wake my family. In the middle of the night. I don't know what came over me, I was feeling restless and I thought exercising might make me sleepy. On the contrary it made me even more alert, and I really couldn't go back to sleep after that. So I just browsed the pictures I had taken that day, and that's when the idea for this blog started. I guess sleeplessness can breed inspiration sometimes.

Stay tuned for APRIL 1, SUNDAY - DAY 2: PAGUDPUD

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