Saturday, March 5, 2016

Travel Diary: PAOAY, ILOCOS NORTE [Paoay Church, Culili Point Sand Dunes, Malacanang of the North]

I'm the type of person that cannot keep my desk clean and tidy. It's chaos but I know where everything is. I memorized it all in my head. That's why when my husband once said I impressed him with my talent in planning trips & organized packing; a smile plastered on my face. I would probably tell a story on my upcoming posts about it. I always see to it that the intended times follow for each particular activity. When we got back to our hotel from exploring Vigan, it's already 11:30 a.m. I had everything packed before we head out earlier, so it just took us few minutes and all things got stuffed in the back compartment of our car. We bought a take-out lunch from Jollibee and headed to Ilocos Norte.

Guess what? It's so hot in Ilocos! It didn't look like it just recently hit by a strong typhoon. As far as my eyes can see, I never saw any signs of road devastation or landslides but the color of the water on the rivers said so. We noticed also that travelers are very few based on the cars simultaneity on the road. I could lie down in the middle of the road and take a decent photo without hurrying before you see a single car approaching from 300 meters away. I guess some tourists pulled back from their Ilocos trip plans because the typhoon devastates power majority of the Region. 

I knew that left turn will finally lead us to Paoay Church. We only had a glimpse of the backside and yet I had goose bumps already. I was in awe and so is my husband. When we climbed out of the car, I can't take my eyes off from the church. We get hypnotized. We kept on saying it's the most beautiful church we've ever seen. These photos didn't prove its beauty in person. 

The Saint Augustine Church, commonly known as the Paoay Church, is the Roman Catholic church of the municipality of Paoay, Ilocos Norte in the Philippines. Completed in 1710, the church is famous for its distinct architecture highlighted by the enormous buttresses on the sides and back of the building. It is declared as a National Cultural Treasure by the Philippine government in 1973 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the collective group of Baroque Churches of the Philippines in 1993. (wiki)

The most striking feature of Paoay Church is the 24 huge buttresses of about 1.67 meters (5.5 ft) thick at the sides and back of the church building. Extending from the exterior walls, it was conceived to a solution the possible destruction of the building due to earthquakes. Its stair-like buttresses (known as step buttresses) at the sides of the church is possibly for easy access to the roof. (wiki)

After we offered prayers, I let my husband roam around to photograph. I just sat there quietly and watched the few people inside the church. It's so solemn; the silence and occasional soft thudding from somewhere are deafening. I'm not religious but in that moment, I felt something weird happen. The solemnity and the atmosphere inside have something to do with it. Okay, fine. I actually felt guilty for my sins.

Culili Point, Paoay Sand Dunes

I've only found two sand dunes on the Internet - La Paz and Paoay Sand Dunes. But I had no idea which one have those statues of FPJ, Nora Aunor (Walang Himala) and some more interesting statues which inaugurated by Gov. Imee Marcos. I've seen those when I was making our itinerary and researching for the attractions to see in Ilocos. While we're heading back to our car from Paoay Church, the locals offered us sand dunes package which includes an hour of 4X4 adventure ride + 30 minutes sand boarding. I wondered why they don't know about those statues. They said there are many sand dunes point in Paoay. So, we declined their offers and decided to find that particular sand dune we had in mind. But still they gave us directions to the nearest one, which was Culili Point.

Obviously, Culili Point wasn't the one we're looking for but, at least, we've tried. It was so hot in the sand dunes at 3:00 p.m.; sun + sand is a torture. We forgot our sunglasses in the car and I'm so lazy to get back for it. The sun shone so brightly it made us squint. We photographed and took videos of the vast sand, and then we got back to the main road. After a few minutes drive, we pulled over to the left side of the road leading to Suba point. There are many people and cars when we arrived and there's only one staff in sight. There's a queue and I overheard that all their professional drivers are all out of the vast sand. I approached a local lady pitching water and she confirmed to me that Suba have those statues but we cannot see it unless we ride the 4X4. The ride will bring us to the farthest sand dunes. My husband climbed up the sand hill and said he can't see anything but only endless sand. It was already quarter to 4:00 and I thought of the last attraction to see before we end the day. We had to get there before it closes or else we have to return the next day and I can't bear the thought of going out-of-the-way. Aside from wasting gas, we have to consider the time and readjusting the itinerary is like brainstorming. So, we decided to skip the sand dunes experience.

Malacanang of the North

We arrived in time before it closes. A long, deep sigh escaped from our lungs. They don't accept tourists when past 4:30 because comes 5:00 p.m., they will close and just wait for tourists to clear out. I remember fishing out 3 Php20 bills from my bag and handed it to the guards and then, we hurried down. 

Malacanang of the North is a grand mansion, stood in beautiful grounds with magnificent view of well-tended gardens and Paoay Lake. I was in awe when we entered the house; the design is majestic. I felt small for a while, looking left to right. I don't know where to start roaming but the green wide lawn overlooking Paoay Lake caught my eye. I made my way outside, passed the porch going down the well-manicured lawn. The view was a breather. Suddenly, I thought of how it feels like to live there? I was lost in reverie until I heard my husband called out my name. 

Bongbong Marcos bedroom

Guest bedroom

In the ground floor of the mansion is where you find lounge areas, a big dining area with more than a dozen people, Bongbong Marcos' room and a guest room. I know there's more to explore on the ground floor but we got pressured by the time as the fellow tourists began to clear out and the staff in the mansion silently counting and looking at the tourists. So, I really don't know how the mansion's kitchen looks like. Do they still have it? I know they did some renovations before the mansion opened to the public eye.

As we hurried to the second floor, I stepped into a grand staircase. The intricate design promised another sight to behold upstairs. I guessed I have to get myself ready to get awed again. When I reached the landing area, I gasped; the wooden floor was immaculate.

State Room

Imee & Irene Marcos' bedroom

Master's bedroom

The second floor is where you can find Irene & Gov. Imee Marcos' bedroom and the master's bedroom of the late president and his first lady Imelda Marcos. We didn't have a photo of their master's bathroom but believe me, it was very spacious. Its size alone was like 25.00 square meters. So, can you imagine how big their bedroom is? There's also a museum that showcases their personal things such as luggage, attached cases, mestizo outfits, and more. You got to see the office of the late President Marcos, too.

The mansion is full of history. It's just one of the Marcos properties took by the Philippine government when President Marcos stepped down. After 20 years, it was given back to them and in 2011; it opened to the public. Thus, it has been a part of everyone's itinerary to Ilocos. Everything you see there speaks grandeur. Take the opportunity to stop over and see it for yourself. 

We drove straight to Laoag City, Ilocos Norte and arrived at our hotel feeling very exhausted. Nothing will wear you out but a hot weather. We reward ourselves with a dinner at La Preciosa Restaurant and a Sans Rival dessert to top off the night.


  1. These photos are beautiful! That church is amazing. Thanks for sharing :)

    xo Azu

  2. very nice photos:) interesting post:)

  3. Great photos!


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