Thoughts, Laoag

Clear or light, according to locals is where the city got its name. They must be referring to the skies. The sky in these parts, on a clear day, is blue as blue can be. The weather (I don’t know if its just me) feels a lot hotter around here. Must be the reason why Ilocanos are darker than the rest of us.

I once met an old man from Pangasinan who told me that the Ilocanos were originally confined in what is now Ilocos but because their ancestors were industrious farmers always looking for land to earn from, they found their way to La Union, Pangasinan, Isabela and Cagayan. This must be true because I’ve heard of Negrense relatives that married Ilocano farmers. These men my mother told me was known to them as sacadas, seasonal farmers that worked the sugar fields of Negros back in the day.

Going to Laoag (this time from Vigan) I passed by hometowns of some of our most recognizable heroes. Towns like Badoc, Batac and Sn. Nicolas. I skipped the Marcos museum and the Fort Ilocandia. I was told that these are “must visit” when you’re in the province. I thought about it but in the end decided not to go. I felt that I wouldn’t enjoy it anyway.

What I did try is this popular delicacy called tinubo. A combo of cheese and melted sugar steamed inside a bamboo. And since I’m a veggie fan I also tested their dinengdeng, just to sample one that was cooked by an Ilocano and not an Ilonga! My mother loves to cook this dish back home.

If there’s one thing that I regret not seeing that’s the town of Sta. Maria and its church. I completely forgot about it. I usually don’t do extensive travel planning. It finally caught up with me.

Along the way I saw banners of birthday greetings for Apo Lakay. Ferdinand Marcos is still king around here. The Marcoses still dominate the politics of the province. To Ilocanos he’s a hero. For an outsider, this is all too strange, especially those who were taught to believe that Macoy reigned with nothing but terror and destruction. Now that we’re learning more and more about what really happened during those tumultuous decades – well maybe, yes, some part of it was really that bad but not all of it. On a personal note, our family benefited from his policies in land tenancy. In the end we have to acknowledge that there are groups that supports and still believes in them.

It took me more than 2 hours to reach Laoag (from Vigan). There are roads that were being repaired somewhere in San Nicolas, so my bus encountered some traffic along the way.

Laoag have a typical Spanish era town design where the church and all the other administrative buildings are located not far from each other. Just imagine how it looked during the heyday of tobacco production in the 1800’s. They for sure must’ve rivaled the most progressive towns back then.

The rotonda goes around what they call Ilocano Heroes Hall where there is also a monument built to commemorate the end of the tobacco monopoly. The park is well kept and have fountains that are working. Near the capitol building is a wonderful old red brick building that once housed the Spanish era tabacco factory (this now houses their provincial museum). It’s a good idea to walk around this area as there are plenty to see if you take pleasure seeing heritage structures.

I was surprised to see so many calesas still doing the routes around Vigan. The streets are uncluttered. I also noticed that tributaries and rivers around the city are relatively clean. So there’s some good points on how the city is being managed.

This bell tower is enormous that I thought it was an old building. So solid they say that it has slowly been sinking under its own weight. Its a fascinating engineering feat considering the time when it was constructed. Some believes that the reason for this “shrinking” phenomena is that the tower was built on sandy soft land. Well, the river is not that far from the area so its a plausible explanation. Historians regards it as the “most solid and tallest bell tower” in the country.

I believe that there’s much that we don’t know about this shrinking tower. Its time that church officials look into getting some expert advice on the bell tower’s structural integrity and maybe some of its history. We don’t build them like we used to – these towers are gems of our religious and cultural heritage. A comprehensive study would certainly reveal things we don’t know about its construction.

September 2012

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