Seasoned travelers understand that off-beat destinations are goldmines to explore. These local spots are often overshadowed by their popular neighboring attractions and are often sidelined as a meal or a bathroom break place. But once you put these destinations under the microscope, they offer something new and interesting that will make a brief stop memorable
This is the case of my dad’s hometown in Ilocos Sur.
Tagudin is the first town that you would roll into if you are coming in from the south that it is often referred to as the gateway to Ilocos. People traveling to Vigan or Laoag often just pass through this historical town, not knowing that Tagudin is one of the oldest towns in the region and has played a crucial role in the country’s liberation from the Japanese. The town was a key trading town because of its strategic location that it once served as the capital of the sub-province of Amburayan that covered areas of Ilocos, Quirino, Benguet, and La Union.
The Amburayan River serves as a natural boundary between the provinces of La Union and Ilocos Sur. Its headwaters are from the mountains of the Cordillera, it flows through Benguet, La Union, and Ilocos Sur, and empties to the West Philippine Sea. The Amburayan Bridge, the main link between La Union and Ilocos Sur, spans over this river.
The town of Tagudin lies along the mouth of the river and I fondly remember, when we were still young, that we were told not to go near the river. But of course, kids will always be kids and I remember walking along its dry riverbed during summer vacations. One can enjoy having a picnic on lazy afternoon or taking a quick dip in its cool waters during summer. I guess, locals have learned to live with the different personalities of the river during the country’s wet and dry season.
St. Augustine Church (Tagudin Church) and Belfry
The St. Augustine Church is a commanding edifice at the center of town. Its baroque architecture was preserved by its faith community despite the numerous restoration that the structure had. It is the center of the Catholic faith in Tagudin.
The Tagudin Church was completed in 1832 under the church leadership of Father Juan Sorolla. It's facade reflects baroque architecture with its elliptical arched doors, circular pillars, and blind windows. Its interior is fascinating as it exudes an aura of peace and security. Its main centerpiece is a simple retablo with the image of St. Augustine as its highlight.
Flanking the church on west is the old convent that is now under the care of the St. Augustine School. One of the two sundials of Tagudin is located within the church compound. On the west side of the church is its stand alone belfry. The belfry was completed in 1881 under Father Rubio.
Just like other town stories, we always feared going to the church during at night when we were kids. We were told ghost stories of a headless priest that roam around the church compound. These stories stuck with me that exploring the church grounds gave me the uneasy chills.
Tagudin Town Plaza and Municipal Hall
Located in front of the church is the open-park Tagudin Town Plaza. The park is a central point of many town activities. I remember the water manual pump in the plaza was where we got potable water before the advent of water refilling stations. We sneaked off to its grounds to “play” at the fair during fiestas. This was where we usually played tag during summer vacations with Lola Gring.
The plaza has changed a lot over the years. It was re-designed to give it a more historical feel. This is where you will find the historical marker of Tagudin that outlines the role the town played during World War 2. The town was the home of the largest Base Hospital of the USAFFE - Northern Luzon. It also bears the marker honoring its local guerrilla heroes during the war, my lola included.
The Municipal Hall of Tagudin sits on the eastern side of the town plaza. It serves as the seat of governance of the town. The hall also served as my lola’s office as she had the privilege of serving the people of Tagudin for the most past of her life.
History’s been very kind to the small town of Tagudin. Since its township declaration in 1586, it has been a mute witness to the colorful history of Ilocos and the country.
Unknown to many, the town of Tagudin is home the two oldest sundials in the country constructed suring. The first sundial is located in front of the municipal hall while the second one is on the west side courtyard of the St. Agustine Church. Both sundials were commissioned by Father Juan Soralla and was completed in 1841 and 1845.
Both century-old sundials are still standing and has stood the test of time.
Farola Lighthouse and Beach
A few minutes drive or by trike from the town center is the Tagudin Farola. The lighthouse is a standing testament of the close relations between Ilocos and Belgium. It was constructed as a historical reminder of the arrival CICM nuns in 1910.
The lighthouse stands along the shores of Barangay Farola, formerly called San Roque - the site where the Belgian nuns made their landing aboard a boat. Their arrival marked the start of their ministry in the region that would later establish the St. Augustine School in Tagudin. The lighthouse was initially constructed as a memory of the event but local fishermen learned to use it as a beacon to guide them when they set out to sea.
The Farola Beach is also a favorite spot of locals for a quick beach break. The beach is a mix of black sand, pebbles, and smooth round rocks. It may not be the ideal beach spot but it offers a great view of the sunset.
The Bimmanga Bangka is a new attraction that is still being developed for those looking for a quick day escape. The “park” is located along a small creek and offers a serene place where one can enjoy having a picnic and some activities with families and friends. The place sits in a quiet part of the town and is surrounded by greens and rice fields that you get to enjoy a tranquil place close to nature.
Its main attraction is its boating activity where you can paddle around the placid creek. Your eyes get to relax on the green views of the trees that naturally form a canopy that shields you from sun’s rays. You get to enjoy the sound of the water slushing as you slowly paddle through its waters. The place is a great place to just sit still and relax as you commune with nature in the company of family and friends.
I hope that the place gets to be developed sustainably by the LGU and the community. Its would be nice to see if they refurbish the facilities and offer other activities like fishing or the opportunity to plant or harvest rice. That would definitely complete the bucolic Ilocano experience.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
It’s funny that as young kids roaming around my dad’s hometown like rascals, it never caught my fancy to look into its rich history. I was always impressed by the architecture of its old houses but I never got curious enough to research about Tagudin. Like everyone else, I was focused on getting amazed by Vigan’s history and La Union’s beach life, not knowing that I was roaming around a town that has the same touch of history and its own kind of past time.
This is the case for a lot of our towns here in the Philippines. As Filipinos, we focus too much on the popular destinations that we leave the discovery of off-beat spots to other nationalities. They end up seeing the raw beauty of the place while we get to see it in its initial phases of development. We often overlook that our own hometowns may have its own tourism brand and all it needs is a curious eye from its locals.
This blog has been a long overdue. I have been planning to write this one for years but I have always pushed it because I felt that I needed to see more. I guess I was wrong and I am glad that I finally did it. Who knows... if this gets in the right hands, I might end up seeing more of Tagudin - the small town that Lola Gring loved so much and where my dad and his siblings grew up.
Getting There: From Manila, take a bus going to Vigan and/or Laoag and ask the driver to drop you off at Tagudin. Travel time is 6-7 hours from Manila.
By the end of this week, we have been officially on quarantine for two months. We are feeling the summer heat, minus the sand and the sea, but within the safety of our homes. This health crisis has reduced our summer plans to official house arrests that had most of us working on redecorating our rooms, rediscovering our hobbies, or working on our culinary skills. Some of us might have even tried to adapt our “plans” to our current situation. In my case, I have set up my hammock at our garage and I have grilled my fave “inihaw”, the beach kind of way. Beach na nga lang ang kulang sa set-up.
The enhanced community quarantine had me exploring, virtually, destinations as I go back to the drawing board to adjust my travel plans for this year. The extended time browsing on the net also had me checking out on food spots in the city. That’s when the idea hit me. I need to write about my top food spot discoveries while on quarantine. I went on a virtual food trip in Quezon City through Grab, Lalamove, and Facebook and discovered a number of amazing food destinations on this side of the metro.
The Snack Shack (Sikatuna)
My QC virtual foodspotting started out when I had a sudden craving for a burger. I did not want the usual fastfood burger so I decided to try out Grab’s Food Delivery and came across the Snack Shack in Sikatuna. I placed my order and in 30 minutes, I was already enjoying my afternoon burger.
.I loved the burger because it was really tasty and juicy. It was not the usual run-of-the-mill burgers that you get in fastfood joints. It was packed with meat and bacon so you really get to enjoy it bite after bite. Alam mo na hindi tinipid kaya sobrang sulit.
You can get it delivered via the Grab Food Delivery App. Just look for The Snack Shack.
Mylene’s is, by far, my biggest discovery this ECQ season. I love chocolates, pastries and bread. For those who know me, I am weakling when it comes to ensaymada especially the cheesy and creamy ones. I like them as is or grilled. I was craving for ensaymada so much that I started to check out food deliveries when I came across Mylene’s.
Mylene’s ensaymada and cheese rolls are one of the best that I have ever tasted. The bread is really soft that it melts in the mouth. It is not too sweet or too cheesy that I can eat 4 servings on one seating. It is good to eat as is BUT it is better to have it grilled. It is definitely value for your money.
You can check out their FB page here or you can have the bread delivered right at your doorstep through Grab Food Delivery.
Baked Fresh Daily by Gretchen’s (Quirino Highway)
Everybody is raving about Ube Cheese Pandesal for a time now. I got curious about it, while on quarantine, that I decided to try it out. I tried to check out food deliveries app but to no avail so I explored FB’s Marketplace. That is when I cam across Baked Fresh Daily by Gretchen’s.
BFDG’s Ube Cheese Pandesal did not disappoint. I got my bread cravings satisfied with their soft ube pandesal buns and its cheese filling. I also discovered that it goes very well with my favorite Nutella Spread. I got my chocolate and bread fill all rolled into one.
Baked Fresh Daily by Gretchen also offers Lechon Belly which I still need to try. You can check out their FB page here for order details.
Farinas Ilocos Empanada (Malingap Street)
Craving for that empanada from Ilocos? Check out Farinas Ilocos Empanada to give you that authentic taste of Ilocos. I know that they have a number of branches in the metro but I was pleasantly surprised to find them on the Grab Food Service app. But I am not complaining as they provide an easy fix for a quick afternoon snack.
Their special empanada and miki make a great afternoon snack combination. Its authentic taste brought me back to my memories of visiting Vigan, Laoag, and Tagudin - my dad’s hometown. It is a great way to travel back to Ilocos while making your tummy happy.
You can order from Farinas Ilocos Empanada through the Grab Food Delivery App.
Siyam Yum (Maginhawa Street)
One of the biggest challenge that I encountered while on quarantine is figuring out what to cook next. Although the internet was very helpful with helping me whip out a different dish, I sometimes take a break by ordering lunch or dinner from a local restaurant. This was how I stumbled on Siyam Yum - a Thai place along Maginhawa Street.
I enjoyed my lunch of Thai Basil Chicken with a little spice that was just right for me. Of course, I didn’t miss out on their mango sticky rice which brought me to dessert heaven. But what really surprised me was their milk tea. I am not a milk tea person but Siyam Yum made me appreciate their milk tea. The flavor and the sweetness was just right for me and it is something that I won’t hesitate ordering again from them.
You can check out Siyam Yum’s menu on the Grab Food Delivery App.
POST ECQ VIRTUAL TRAVEL NOTE
By this time, we all know that we will be shifting to the modified enhanced community quarantine where we are still not allowed to leave our homes. That means it is going to be another two weeks of trying to keep ourselves sane by finding different ways of keeping ourselves pre-occupied. You can try doing a virtual foodtrip via FB or Grab and discover new dining spots that would be worth physically checking out once ECQ is lifted. Savor the moment where you can enjoy good food with your family inside the comfort of your home.
This is also a great way of helping local businesses to stay afloat at this time. I am writing about this virtual experience with the hope and prayer that, as we slowly shift to the new normal, let us help local businesses to survive and thrive. Try the local restaurant in your neighborhood, purchase from a local brand, support a local business that was born out of this crisis, or visit a local destination that you have been planning to explore for a long time once we are allowed mobility. Let us help in reviving local economies. This would be a great time to get that Filipino spirit thriving and rallying behind local businesses, products, and destinations.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.