What makes ILOCOS travel-worthy?

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The main reason why I love to travel is to learn. I love that I can go to a place and discover its people, history, culture, food and way of life. Last May, Go Visit Philippines / Bridges Travel & Tours paved a way for me to explore two of the four provinces of Ilocos Region. For four days, my eyes and palate were exposed to the rich heritage, beautiful sights and delectable food as I wander around Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.

Sunset view at the Bangui Wind Farm, Ilocos Norte

What is so special about Ilocos?

The first time I have been to Ilocos was in 2015. A friend invited me and my sister to go visit her hometown in Ilocos Sur over the Holy Week. She was able to show us around and it was then that I initially learned about their rich heritage, interesting history, great leaders and culture. I really enjoyed that trip and vowed to come back to enrich my knowledge even more. And so, I did.

Here’s a list of reasons why Ilocanos are proud of Ilocos:

ILOCOS was awarded three UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Paoay Church, Santa Maria Church, Vigan)

Paoay Church. It is also known as Saint Augustine Church. It has a unique Earthquake Baroque Architecture and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

This is the picture-perfect façade of Paoay Church with walls made of corals and bricks.

Santa Maria Church. It is also known as The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption. It was built on top of a hill not only as a religious center during spanish colonization but also as a lookout and citadel. Together with Paoay Church, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.

The famous Calle Crisologo of the historical City of Vigan. UNESCO awarded it as a World Heritage Site in 1999 and named it as the best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia. 

ILOCOS is the home of three Philippine presidents and other great Filipino leaders (Elpidio Quirino, Ferdinand Marcos, Fidel Ramos, Diego Silang, Juan and Antonio Luna, Jose Burgos, Gregorio Aglipay)

The town of Batac is called the Home of Great Leaders. For one, former President Ferdinand Marcos is from this town. Gregorio Aglipay, founder of the Aglipayan Church, is from here. General Artemio Ricarte, the Father of the Philippine Army, is also from this town.
Luna Shrine is dedicated to preserve the memories of brothers Juan Luna and Antonio Luna.

ILOCOS is famous for having beautiful beaches, magnificent windmills, historical churches and structures that stood the test of time


Beautiful beachfront of Kingfisher Resort in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte.

Bangui Windmills lined up in Ilocos Norte. Did you know that these were the very first windmills built in SouthEast Asia? There are currently 26 Bangui windmills scattered in this area. Amazing, right?

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse (Burgos Lighthouse). This lighthouse was first lit over 100 years ago and is still functioning to serve ships entering the Philippine Archipelago from the north.

Santa Monica Parish Church (Sarrat Church) is the largest church in the whole Ilocos Norte province.

Did you know that Sarrat Church was declared an Important Cultural Property by the National Museum of the Philippines? It was also the setting for the grand wedding of Gregorio Araneta and Irene Marcos, daughter of former President Ferdinand Marcos. This church is so huge and  also so instagrammable as you can see (haha!).

Saint Augustine Parish Church (Bantay Church) in Ilocos Sur is one of the oldest in the Ilocos Region.

Bantay Tower is the old historic belfry of Bantay Church and served as a watchtower for pirates back in the Spanish colonial era. “Bantay” means to “watch out”.

Patapat Viaduct.  This is an elevated road (over 30 meters above sea level) located in the municipality of Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte. It is known to be the fifth longest bridge in the Philippines. 

Oh yes, the Paoay Sand Dunes.  A vast 88-hectare spread of sand filled with awesome adventure. It is classified as a non-disposable public land and is a protected area. The sand dunes found in Ilocos are the only ones in the Philippines and SouthEast Asia. Go for wild 4×4 ATV rides and experience sand boarding here and don’t forget to just have fun! 

ILOCOS is known for their well-curated museums and shrines where Filipino culture and history are preserved and displayed

Behind me are magnificent fiber glass masterpieces displayed inside Taoid Museum, Ilocos Norte. Visit this museum and learn more about the rich history and culture of the Ilocanos.

Ferdinand Marcos Presidential Center (Marcos Museum) houses a large collection of Marcos memorabilia. One of its most frequently visited section was a mausoleum where the remains of the late former President Marcos were displayed before he was transferred to Libingan ng mga Bayani.

ILOCOS is admired for having a wide variety of food delicacies (bagnet, longganisa, poqui-poqui, dinardaraan or crispy dinuguan, pinakbet, empanada, tinubong, bischocho, chichacorn)

Empanada is a signature snack/merienda in Ilocos. It is mainly composed of bean sprouts, ground pork, sometimes longganisa, shredded carrots, cabbage and egg wrapped in a crispy crust made of rice flour. Ilocos Norte empanada is a bit different from its Ilocos Sur counterpart. I recommend you try both. 

Marsha’s Delicacies is a great place for buying pasalubong. Must-tries: Royal Bibingka, bagnet, longganisa, pudding, brownies, pichi-pichi, chichacorn, camote and banana chips.

ILOCOS is a provider of export-quality products (tobacco, garlic, onions, mangoes, salt, wine) and handicrafts (abel weaving, burnay pottery)

Ilocos is still one of the top tobacco-producing provinces in the country.

ILOCOS currently has the largest Dragonfruit Farm in the Philippines

A vendor selling Dragonfruit ice cream. Aside from the health benefits of the fruit itself, dragonfruit can also be made into jam, wine, vinegar, tea, cookies, pastries and even soap bars.

Ilocos History 101

Allow me to share with you a snippet of information about Ilocos in the Philippine History.

The Ilocos Region (Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union and Pangasinan) is located in the northwestern part of the Philippines. The area was originally inhabited by aboriginal Negritos but were overpowered by Malayo-Polynesian immigrants. When the Spaniards came, one conquistador named Juan de Salcedo landed in Vigan, Ilocos Sur in 1572 and proceeded to some towns in Badoc and Laoag, Ilocos Norte. He and his men noticed a lot of coves and caves or “looc” along the shoreline, thus named the region “Ylocos”. During this time, Ilocos was still one province. It was not until February 2, 1818 that a Spanish decree divided Ilocos Norte from Ilocos Sur. It has been said that reasons for the division was the increase in population, excessive monopolies and forced labor which led to constant rebellion by the North against the Spaniards, challenging their administrative powers thus forcing the separation.

How to get TO Ilocos

By Air:

To Ilocos Norte: Laoag International Airport accepts tourists from Manila and other Asian countries like Taiwan, Hongkong and China
To Ilocos Sur: Mindoro (Vigan) Airport is an airport serving the capital of Ilocos Sur. However, it serves only chartered flights. The nearest airport with regular commercial flights is in Laoag. Manila to Laoag takes about an hour travel time. Land trip to Vigan takes about two hours.

By Land:
To Ilocos Norte: Bus Terminals in Cubao, Pasay and Sampaloc have regular trips going to Laoag (I recommend Partas Bus Liner, Farinas Transit and Rabbit Bus Lines). Partas Bus Liner also have Baguio to Laoag schedule.
To Ilocos Sur: Bus Terminals with direct route from Manila to Vigan are served by Partas Bus Liner, Dominion Bus and Viron Transit.

How to get AROUND Ilocos

Various modes of transportation are available in Ilocos. Tricycle is the common one but I still recommend you to try and experience riding a “Calesa” (a horse-drawn carriage). Price for Calesa rides may vary but the usual rate is P150.00/hour per carriage. For those going to farther places and neighboring towns, jeepneys, vans and buses are advised.

But of course, a vacation would be even more fun if everything (tickets, accommodations, food and tour schedules) are organized. For a hassle-free trip to Ilocos, book viaGo Visit Philippines /  Bridges Travel and Tours and get the best deals and travel itineraries. For tour inquiries, please call (02)-7503372/75 or email at golocal@govisitphilippines.com. You may also log on to their website:  www.govisitphilippines.comwww.bridgestravel.com

Have you guys been to Ilocos? What did you enjoy the most during your stay? For those who haven’t been there, share this post to your friends and plan your trip now!


You mights want to check out the Ilocos Backpackers Promo. Click here to know more.

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