by Julia Escaño
Ilocos Norte, the northwestern-most province in the island of Luzon, has become synonymous with windmills and white beaches. Rightly so, we think, with these popular sights truly a breathtaking experience. But while tourists crowd all the usual spots, there are lots more to see in this rich and laid-back province. Check out these underrated spots in Ilocos Norte for a one-of-a-kind trip (and unique selfies!).
Cabo Bojeador Lighthouse, Burgos
Also known as the Burgos Lighthouse, the Cabo Bojeador Lighthouse was first lit in March 1892 and is still operational up to this day. It marks the northwestern-most tip of the country and serves as a beacon for ships entering our waters from the north. The lighthouse offers commanding views of Cape Bojeador from its hilltop location. It’s perfect for sunset selfies against the structure’s beautifully preserved Spanish colonial architecture. The lighthouse’s volunteer staff also offer short guided tours where guests can learn all about its construction, history, and current operations.
Sta. Monica Parish Church, Sarrat
The Sta. Monica Parish Church in the town of Sarrat was first constructed in 1724. The whole complex, including the main church, belfry, and convent, were completed in 1779. It features Baroque and Neoclassical architecture with its red bricks and white details. The Sta. Monica Parish Church is considered the biggest in Ilocos Norte, and possibly even in the whole of Ilocos, with its deep nave as a focal point in the interiors. The parish has been declared an “Important Cultural Property” by the National Museum for its architectural value. It most recently appeared in the hit biopic, Heneral Luna.
Pinakbet Pizza at Herencia Café, Paoay
No trip to Ilocos Norte is complete without eating pinakbet. But why not give it a twist and try pinakbet pizza instead? Herencia Café in Paoay (just across Paoay Church) created the original pinakbet pizza, which many other restaurants have since copied. They even serve it with bagoong that can be added on each slice, instead of hot sauce or chili flakes. While the idea of vegetables and fish paste on top of pizza doesn’t sound very appetizing, its unique and creamy goodness – thanks to the cheese – is something its throng of fans swears by.
Salt Refineries, Bacarra
Salt refineries are not your usual tourist spot. As a matter of fact, if you didn’t know where they are, you wouldn’t even give them a second look. The salt refineries in Bacarra and surrounding towns are nothing more than small, nondescript huts sitting on the roadside. There’s nothing eye-catching about them at first glance. However, if you take the time to look inside, workers would be glad to show you around the small space and tell how salt is made. Seeing mounds of salt piled over boiling saltwater and seeing how long and tedious the process takes lends a deeper appreciation for the condiment we use with every meal.
Kingfisher Beach, Pagudpud
Kingfisher is a remote beach past widely-popular Saud Beach in Pagudpud. It takes a few hours to reach from the main area of Pagudpud, which makes it ideal for longer stays. Its remoteness makes it the perfect place for quiet and relaxing vacations away from the crowds. At the same time, however, it’s a great spot for kitesurfing and windsurfing, thanks to its location. Many international and professional kite and wind surfers even come here for competitions, exhibitions, and practice.
Sofia’s Empanada at Dap-ayan Food Court, Laoag
Of all the empanada in the Ilocos Region, how could this small stall in the middle of a Laoag eatery be any different? First off, they add sprouts – not a traditional ingredient – which gives every bite a unique crunch. They make their eggs perfectly fluffy and the papaya finely grated. But it’s the longganisa that steals the show. It is so garlicky it adds so many levels of flavor to the already tasty snack. Top it off with their mix of sukang Iloko, and you can find yourself munching on 2, 3, (4!) of these treats in one seating.