Located in the northern part of the Philippines, Ilocos is one of the places you should definitely visit if you are looking for an adventure and if you want to experience the vast culture of the Filipinos. There are lots of must-see places here that you won’t probably see anywhere else in this world. 🙂
How to get there:
By plane: You can book a direct flight from Manila to Laoag on Cebu Pacific Airlines or Philippine Airlines. Travel time is usually 1 hour or less and is usually at night, so make sure you adjust your itinerary if you choose to travel by plane.
By land: You can opt to travel by bus for there are lots of buses who offer transport from Manila to Laoag. Bus companies like Philippine Rabbit, GV Florida, Dominion Bus Lines, Fariñas Transit and Partas have daily schedules for this trip. You can check their websites for more information. Travel time is approximately 10-12 hours so I suggest taking a night trip so you can make the most out of your trip.
Get a package tour: I strongly recommend this if you choose to travel by land for this will make your trip more comfortable. Most of the places you’ll visit are far away from each other and having your own vehicle at your own pace will make you enjoy Ilocos better.
Places to visit:
Ilocos Sur (Ilocos South)
1 – Vigan
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the few Hispanic towns left in the Philippines. Vigan showcases the old structures during the Spanish colonial era that remained intact until this very day. It was recognized as one of the New 7 Wonders Cities together with Beirut, Doha, Durban, Havana, Kuala Lumpur and La Paz last 2015.
You can explore this city alone for it gives a very romantic vibe and there are lots and lots of stuff to discover. Don’t forget to ride a kalesa (horse-drawn calash) to add more flavor to your Vigan experience! I honestly wanted to explore and see more of Vigan when I went there.
Seriously. My photos won’t give justice on how beautiful this city is. If you want anything antique or vintage, Vigan’s Calle Crisologo is the place to be!
2 – Bantay Church and Bell Tower
One of the most famous landmarks in town is the Bantay Church and Bell Tower.
Also known as St. Augustine Parish Church, Bantay Church was built by the Augustinian Friars in 1591 – 1592. It is considered as one of the oldest surviving churches in the Ilocos Region.
Bantay means to guard and Bantay Tower is located at the side of the church which sits at the top of the hill. It is known to be used as a watchtower for pirates during the Spanish Colonial era; and until now, it serves as people’s watchtower as the city’s defense which helps in alerting against possible enemies.
Bantay Church and Bell Tower are monumental witnesses of uprisings and different historical events during World War I and II. This place is a very picturesque view. We went there a little early that’s why we were not able to take a picture of the bell tower’s interior.
3 – Pagburnayan (Ruby’s Pottery)
Aside from Calle Crisologo, this iconic pottery place is probably the most “instagrammable” spot in Vigan.
The earthenware is called burnay, that’s why you can find two famous Pagburnayan in Vigan City. This is where hand-crafted big earthenware jars are made from scratch. Yes, you read it right – from scratch.
They combine clay with a fine sand called “Anay” and are mixed on a circular pit trampled by a Carabao. After this has been properly mixed, they proceed to kneading and removing small stones and other things that are not needed along the way. Then they will break the clay depending on how big or small jar they will make.
It will be put on the pottery wheel / spinner and that’s when the fun begins! It may look so easy, but it really takes skill and experience to create a well-formed pottery. Again, we were too early to see the potters create jars but you can freely observe if you arrive at the time the potters are creating burnay and you can even try it yourself!