Archive for ilocos region


Posted in history, locales, nature, people with tags , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2009 by mijodo

lonely road at la paz sand dune

Cousin Mayette and I just had to go to our last destination after covering much of Ilocandia. It seems that every year, during summer there has been a place that we try to discover within the Philippines. Last year, it was the carved boondocks of Banaue, and then this year, it was the heritage places of Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte.

It was imperative to go this area as our last stop, not necessarily antiquated by the colonial past, but spectacular just the same. It was the La Paz Sand Dunes of Ilocos Norte. These hilly sands are just outside of Laoag City, thus after our quick tour of the Provincial Museum of Ilocos Norte, we had to look for a tricycle that should take us there.

“Mama, puwede bang dalhin mo kami sa La Paz sand dunes (Sir, can you drive us to La Paz Sand Dunes)?”I asked the trike driver who happened to passby.

The driver just responded with a quizzical look, not exactly knowing the place that I was referring to. Mayette had to intervene, and asked almost the same question but in a different manner, “Manong, saan po ba nagshooting si FPJ ng Ang Panday (Sir, where did FPJ shoot Ang Panday)?”

The trike driver recognized her question right away and was able to readily answer, “Malayo po yon, P300 daan po. (That’s far, P300 pesos for the fare)”

 We had no choice but to consent with the seemingly huge expense, despite the very uncomfortable ride inside his cab. We agreed with one trike driver in Vigan, Ilocos Sur as he had boasted that tricycle cabs in Vigan are much roomier, and can comfortably seat two adults. The ones in Ilocos Norte aresquat-like and small in proportion thus we had to squeeze ourselves inside the cab going to the dunes.

Panday and the Dunes. It was about a 15 minute ride from the busy streets of Laoag until we reached the place that was bucolic in character – dry, dusty, and sparse in residential homes. There was just one rough road, covered with seeming dust all over, and somehow was occasionally used. The place was desolate, but turned out to be the just the entry point to a more expansive locale, with mounds of fine sand all over, light khaki in shade, with thin layers of wild vegetation growing randomly. At this juncture, we had to get off the tricycle, and had the wide vista for ourselves.

Suddenly my mind had this vision of the iconic movie of “Da King” himself, the late and almost president, Fernando Poe, Jr or FPJ (for short) as had mentioned in Mayette’s query to the driver. In the epic series of all the movie installments (3) of “Ang Panday (The Blacksmith),” I would watch FPJ as the highly principled, Flavio, brooding and making a trek in this hilly area of La Paz, trying to find his arch nemesis, Lizardo, played by the unforgettable contrabida (movie goon), the late Max Alvarado.

The scale of the whole dunes brought about also the hugeness of the main characters to the moviegoers – both the good and the bad. La Paz Sand Dunes provided a striking backdrop to the fight sequences, usually sword battles, between the protagonist and antagonist together with his cohorts. It had been an impressive choice by FPJ who doubled as the director to employ the whole La Paz dunes as an important feature to the movie.  Its dryness and barrenness created a dramatic emphasis on the richness of Flavio and Lizardo’s personas. Since these outstanding and highly popular movies were made, the landscape of La Paz has become truly iconic – as if the whole breadth of the place was the third most important personality in such films.

Other notable movies which had the dunes as part of the backdrop were Nora Aunor’s Himala and Tom Cruise’s Born on the 4th of July.

Wind Power. My visualization of such films was cut short by a key question. “How did this happen?” Mayette asked, still dumbfounded by the powerful and poetic undulations of the dunes.

No one could answer it, not even the trike driver who was patiently waiting for us to crawl back to our little trike hole. Of course we would rather be enjoying the virtual limitless space of the desert where occasional boulders and strange looking trees were almost thoughtfully placed.

But if one is to research the internet, we can find out that dunes are basically formed by the incoming wind within perhaps eons of years. The geographic location of the La Paz area is just right beside the deep blue waters of the South China Sea and the winds coming from the coast push up the sand very slowly to create the dunes that can be used as protective barriers to wave surges coming in also from the sea.

And truly we saw the coastal line of the South China Sea running parallel to the extensive sand dunes of La Paz. It was a little too far from where we are, but we saw a couple of all terrain vehicles or ATVs that saunter at the beach front area. Apparently, the provincial tourism officials, together with the Department of Tourism promote the dunes to those wanting to explore a unique Philippine geophysical formation, supposedly only found in the province of Ilocos Norte, and have fun, driving through its atypical topography with such rides. It is said that one can rent out such ATVs also inside the premises of the exclusive Hotel Ilocandia nearby where a smaller portion of the sand dunes are found too.

Footprints in the Sand. During the heat of the midday sun, we decided to climb a high portion of the area, but our feet would sink into the loose ground, thus the ascent was a little bit tricky. Not really able to get to the peak, we chose to go back as we feared that the unusual afternoon showers even during the height of summer would stall our early evening bus departure for Metro Manila.

As I was just about to get out of the sands, I just had to make a last look back at the foot imprints Mayette and I had made. And I pointed out these tracks to Mayette. It was our trail from the high point where we came from. We knew that in due time such prints would be obliterated eventually by the winds coming from the China Sea, but I was deeply aware that such footprints symbolized also the tracks of all the interesting points of the Ilocos Region that we had been able to visit. We might have been gone to many remarkable and historical places within Ilocos, and the physical traces of our visit would have been wiped away thereafter, yet our memories of these places, including the La Paz Sand Dunes would never be erased for many years to come.

in good hands

Posted in artifacts, culture, history, lifestyle, locales, people, tradition, travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2009 by mijodo

man toiling at burnay factory

It has been said, time and time again, that probably among all Filipinos, the Ilocanos could be the most hardworking people. Pretty much, the environment and the climate, may have pushed the folks from Ilocos region to work harder and toil longer.  The soaring heat during summers makes cultivation and farming more arduous. Searing photos have been taken of cracking soil, as water resource gets depleted and becomes more precious.

Since production delivery becomes scant,  Ilocanos have learned to stretch whatever stock and possessions they have until the next crop yield. In due time, Ilocanos earned the monicker of being the “most frugal Filipinos.”  Apparently, they somehow have been proud of such description as it captures their resilience and the know-how in handling their finances.

As Ilocanos try to come up with greater agricultural production efficiency through the centuries despite the conditions, they have also gone to other homebased entrepreneurial activities, which have been esteemed and marvelled for several centuries as well.  Such traditional crafts have also made use of the great handskills of the people from the north. Ladies have gone to abel-weaving while the men have gone to burnay-pottery.

Abel weaving is a centuries old craft that produces abel- iloco or inabel, using wooden loom equipment. The cotton threads, used in abel weaving, during the old times were usually dyed before the weaving which should produce interesting folkloric color combinations that only the Ilocanos could produce.  It is said that abel weaving started out in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, but there has been production coming from parts of Ilocos Norte as well.  As the weaves are thick and coarse, the cloth is usually utilized as rags, blankets and other home products. However somehow today, designers have treated the same inabel material for high fashion.

Introduced by Chinesed merchants, burnay is an earthenware produced in different sections of Ilocos region, but is said to be popularly made in Ilocos Sur. Burnay has been used as a vessel to store grains and rice, and to ferment kitchen needs such as bagoong, wine or vinegar. Burnay-makers would use special clay such that water would not seep out from the jars, and maintain cool temperature. Such vats are sturdy enough because of the way they have been baked. Consequently, jars, done centuries back, are much sought after by antique collectors.

It is a testament to the Ilocanos that such old traditional backyard activities have survived until now. They have honed these specific handskills through history, just like any other Ilocano way of life activities – with effort, adept, and passion.