Laoag City

Laoag, Ilocos Norte
488 Kilometer North of the Philippines

Ilocos Norte, which is about 488 kilometers north of the Philippine capital of Manila, means two things to ordinary Filipinos – the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos who was born in the town of Sarrat and the sprawling 77-hectare Fort Ilocandia (one of the largest resorts in the entire Asia), which according to stories, were hastily built by the late President in time for his daughter, Imee’s wedding and primarily caters now to Chinese Mainlanders, Macanese, and Taiwanese high-rollers who fly in to gamble in its casino. So much so that the name Ilocos alone, is almost synonymous with the Marcoses, one of the most controversial Philippine political dynasties in recent memory. Undeserving or not, this hardy and sometimes misunderstood northern province is definitely more than the sum of its contributions to the political history of the country – and in recent years, a wave of change finally came to wake up one of the usually overlooked destinations in the Philippines from hiatus since the fall from grace of its beloved son as more and more Filipinos and the occasional foreigner discover one of the most interesting and beautiful northern frontiers of the Philippines.

Fort Ilocandia

Fort Ilocandia is the only 5-star deluxe resort hotel in northern Philippines sprawling over 77 hectares of land amidst gentle sand dunes and pine forests with a 2 kilo-meter sandy beach facing the South China Sea. It is located in the heart of the city of Laoag and the province of Ilocos Norte. The resort is a complete service complex resort hotel. It’s a 10 minutes drive from Fort Ilocandia Golf & Country Club at Paoay and from the Laoag International Airport.

Marcos Mansion

Batac whose main attraction is the Marcos Mansion and Mausoleum where the glass-encased, embalmed body of Ferdinand E. Marcos lies in state on a mattress in an air-conditioned, dark and somber room while visitors file and have a glance at the body. Entrance is free but photography is not allowed inside the mausoleum (one guy’s camera was confiscated as he tried to sneak shots of the body, the camera was returned after making sure the offending photos were deleted.) Apparently the body was covered in wax, to preserve it well and make the late President look a lot like he was in his younger years; although Filipino conspiracy theorists suspect that the body is fake and just another con to perpetuate the Marcoses dubious political legacy. Well, I am not an expert on cadavers; I’d just rather leave it to the experts this time. Other Marcos memorabilia is on hand is also on view as well as the dictator’s writings, one of which was inscribed on marble outside the mausoleum: which more or less were ramblings which attempt to impress the visitors of the strongman’s intellectual and literary prowess.

Light house

The town of Burgos is also known for the oldest lighthouse, as well as the most visited lighthouse in the Philippines – the impressive Cape Bojeador Lighthouse (Tagalog – Ang Parola ng Cape Bojeador) was completed on 30 March 1892 and sits majestically on top of the lush Vigia de Nagparitan hill which also makes it as the tallest lighthouse in the Philippines with its tower 20 meters high (total height is about 160-170 meters high) .The brick-made lighthouse tower stands like a graceful sentinel of the treacherous seas around and is still functioning to date. Entrance is free, but the aged tower can only comfortably accommodate up to 4-5 people and affords the visitor a spectacular view of the rugged mountains and the beautiful waters of South China Sea. The design and construction was initially supervised by Engineer Magin Pers Y Pers and finished by Engineer Guillermo Brockman. The lighthouse has a little museum housed in one of the two weather-beaten brick buildings which can make anyone wax romantic (as long as one is not trampled by crowds of tourists trying to queue up to get into this really nice building during weekends), and a small and lovely courtyard. On a clear day, the lighthouse can be seen as far away as the towns of Pasuquin and Bangui.


After the town of Burgos is Bangui, which gained tourism fame when in 2005, the first Wind Farm in Southeast Asia started operations with 15 wind turbines of about 70 meters tall rose along the 9-kilometer stretch of the beach on Bangui Bay. The turbines supply the Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative with about 25 Megawatts of power. Discussions are rife of putting up additional 40 wind turbines in the mountains of the area. Tourists started flocking to the turbines which look like giant white fans, which makes it as a lovely spot for great photography. According to one of the locals however, the windmills have caused an adverse effect on the fishing industry in the area as the sound of the windmills scare away the fish which are the primary livelihood of the area. On the other hand, Northwind Power, the company that operates the windmills remits one centavo (PhP 0.01) to the Department of Energy for every kilowatt sold, half of which goes to an electrification fund, watershed management, environmental enhancement and health fund – whether any of these funds go to the affected locals in the area is anybody’s guess – we found two stalls selling Bangui honey and Ilocos garlic in the area and the old man manning his rickety shop seemed to be quite happy about the tourists flocking in the area.

Pagudpud beach

Being an inveterate beach bum myself, I could not resist a trip to the town of Pagudpud famous for its white sand beaches which consists of the beaches of Pansian (which is close to the border of the province of Cagayan and usually deserted), Maira-ira (also known as the Blue Lagoon but more like a cove than a lagoon), and Saud (its two kilometer arc was named by the Sunday Herald Sun as the number 1 of the best, but lesser known beaches in Asia). Maira-ira, we reckon has the best and the bluest waters and on an Independence Day weekend, we were surprised that there were not throngs of people there (although one of the locals told us that during Easter, the beach is clogged with a lot of tourists and the traffic of cars going to the lagoon can be pretty bad). The beach is considerably clean (though we saw a little bit of trash – it was fairly manageable), and the waters are nice and warm. The sand is not too shifty either and the idyllic scenery is occasionally punctured by the sound of whizzing of banana boat rides (which we think should be banned from the area soon).

Kabigan falls

The Kabigan Falls are a very popular place to visit when in Pagudpud and lie in Barangay Balaoi (close to Bantay Abot). The cool waters cascade some 87 feet into a natural concave basin and its somewhat spectacular when there is plenty of water flowing. The name is derived from the word “kaibigan” or “magkaibigan”

Don’t miss the chance for a swim in the cold and crystal clear waters in the basin surrounded by tall green trees that form part of this lush virgin rainforest when you visit

The Falls are easily accessible about 1.5 kilometers from the national highway. It’s an easy 30 minute walk and you can rent an off road vehicle at the entrance.

It’s a very nice vista of green farmland, vegetation and streams, water buffalo (caribou), rice paddies and more. Don’t wear jeans, wear shorts as you will have to hike across several small streams

There is an entrance fee of 20 pesos which helps support the preservation area. You can hire a local guide for 100 pesos


If you are used to Philippine's coastal scenery of fine white sand beaches with swaying palm trees, then the Kapurpurawan rock formation found in Burgos, Ilocos Norte is surely a unique treat. This astonishing geological formation could easily pass for an English coastal vista (the chalk cliffs comes to mind in this one).

From the town of Burgos, its a short but rough tricycle ride to Kapurpurawan. Inside the cramped side car (which can only fit two people if you squeeze them in really hard), we literally bounced our way down to the coast. I hit my head several times on the roof of the car.

From the drop off area we had to hike down a cemented trail that leads to a wide open field. The first glimpse of these wind blasted white rocks simply blows one away.

The porous rock is totally different from the usual cheese like, sharp coral rocks found nearby. The formation has smooth flowing curves. Some portions of the rock formation are soft like chalk. After a few minutes of wandering about I noticed cream colored dust covering my gears and clothing.


Why Go

Travelling Ilocos Norte gives a lot bang for your buck as the province is literally crammed with a lot of historical places, nooks for adventures, fine beaches and excellent cuisine that is indigenous to the region. It is perfect for the sportsman whether for surfing in Badoc, golfing in Fort Ilocandia, Rock-climbing in Adams, Trekking in Solsona and Nueva Era; excellent for families and people on the lookout for white sandy beaches; must-go for fans of architecture and history and a requirement for a traveling gourmand.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to go and check Ilocos Norte is during the drier months and during the summer months as the waves at the beaches of Pagudpud can get pretty rough during the wet season. For surfers, it is a different story, typhoons and tropical depressions can help fuel the waves off the Badoc Coast – requisite conditions for surfing. Otherwise, check the local weather with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical & Astronomical Services Administration ( ) for weather forecasts – when the weather in Ilocos is great, then it is time to pack your bags and head to Ilocos Norte!

Where to Stay

There are a lot of places to stay in Ilocos Norte (mostly in Laoag) from the super-swanky Fort Ilocandia Resort & Casino ( to Saud Beach Resort ( and Villa del Mar (+63.919.899.5673/+63.920.553.4161) in Saud Beach, Pagudpud.

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