One of the notable travel destinations in northern Philippines is Laoag. This third-class city, which is the capital of Ilocos Norte, is home to a wide array of scenic spots and premier attractions that keep tourists from coming back. It has also a wide array of resorts and vacation homes offering the best accommodations while you are away from home. Covering an area of 101.88 square kilometers, Laoag is also called as the "Sparkling Gem of Ilocandia."
Laoag is located 488 kilometers north of Manila and can be reached by bus or plane. It is an hour drive to Vigan, which is famous for its Hispanic houses standing on cobblestone streets. Up north, Laoag is six hours away from Baguio, the "Summer Capital of the Philippines."
There are plenty of reasons to love Laoag. Here is a travel guide to this beautiful city.
La Paz Sand Dunes
Leading the list of attractions in Laoag is the so-called "Desert of the North." La Paz Sand Dunes covers an area of 85 square kilometers of sand and beach. This protected area is located just on the outskirts of the city, making it accessible to tourists. The internationally acclaimed movie "Himala" starring Nora Aunor was shot here. Even Hollywood directors fell in love with La Paz Sand Dunes. Tom Cruise's "Born on the Fourth of July" and Mel Gibson's "Mad Max" were filmed in part in this area.
Sinking Bell Tower
One of the first things you might notice upon entering Laoag is the Sinking Bell Tower. This 45-meter-high landmark is one of the tallest bell towers in the Philippines. It was built by Augustinian priests in 1612. Because it is so heavy and was built on sandy foundations, the tower is continuously sinking at an alleged rate of an inch a year. It is believed that people can pass through the belfry's door years ago. But due to its present condition, one must stoop to enter the tower.
St. William's Cathedral
Another popular travel stop in Laoag is St. William's Cathedral. It is one of the oldest and largest churches in Asia. The cathedral, which is located across the street from the Sinking Bell Tower, was built by Augustinian friars in 1612. It has an Italian Renaissance architecture.
Tobacco Monopoly Monument
Standing beside St William's Cathedral is the Tobacco Monopoly Monument. This was constructed in 1882 for then Spanish King Alfonso XIII, who ordered the end of the tobacco monopoly in Ilocos Norte. From 1782 to 1881, people in the province were forced to cultivate no other crops except tobacco.
Museo Ilokos Norte
Sightseeing in Laoag will never be complete without a visit to the Museo Ilokos Norte. Housed in the old Tabacalera Warehouse, the museum showcases the rich cultural heritage of the Ilocanos. Old tools used by local farmers, rattan-woven handicrafts, traditional Ilocano clothing, and artifacts across the province are some of the best finds at the museum. A souvenir shop for everything Ilocano is located inside the compound.
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