It’s my nth trip to Ilokandia. In everybody’s must-see lists are Paoay Church, Vigan’s Calle Crisologo, Pagudpud, Kapurpurawan Rock, Cape Bojeador, Bangui Windmills and Bantay Belfry. Sure there are more. Like Malacañang of the North, Marcos Mausoleum, the sand dunes, a few museums, etc. In my previous trips though, I missed Bacarra, the Dragonfruit Farm, and Bantay Abot. Not because there wasn’t any interest, but because time was limited.
Bacarra is a small town just a few minutes drive from Laoag City. Its Saint Andrew’s Church has a centuries-old detached, domeless and leaning bell tower made of coral bricks. Records differ on exactly when the church belfry was constructed. Some records indicate it was built as early as 1593, others claim it was inaugurated in 1782, and some others put it at 1828. But all claims uniformly date the belfry dome’s collapse in 1983 following a 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Whatever, the red stucco and coral bricks make for a great attraction. Let’s just hope its historical significance is not diminished by inaccurate records.
We likewise visited REFMAD Dragonfruit Farm. I wasn’t a big fan of this tropical fruit, which I first tried in Cambodia. Neither was my niece. Until we tried the deep red-fleshed variety. Very sweet, as compared to its white-fleshed sibling. In REFMAD, they even served us the dragonfruit rolls, a vegan’s delight! Yum. But better still, try the dragonfruit shake. Oh, wow. Very refreshing. And I’m told the fruit has many health benefits too.
Another discovery was Bantay Abot. In Ilocano, “Bantay” means mountain and “Abot” translates to hole. This coastal rock formation is a 45 minute-drive from Bangui windmills. If you’re in the area of Pagudpud, don’t miss this. Certainly NOT to go swimming, but just to view this “mountain hole” facing the West Philippine Sea. A creation of nature or an offshoot of a strong earthquake? Perhaps both. Beyond it is an area locals call “blue lagoon” and a few other beach resorts like Hannah’s. If you ask me though, those strong waves lapping this coastline ain’t good news for any swimming plans. I dare not. But then, that’s just me. If you’re confident about your swimming, go ahead.