Photo Essay: Images from Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur in the Philippines

From the historic churches of Paoay to the cobblestone streets of Vigan, the Philippine provinces of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur are known for their culture and history. Let’s wrap up our month-long coverage of the Philippines with a look at more of the sights of this northern region of the island nation.


For further Philippines reading, see our recent posts:

Going back in time in Vigan City
President Marcos lives on at the Marcos Museum and the Malacañang of the North
Fish stews, chicken intestines, and halo halo: The food of the Philippines
Inside the historic Paoay Church and ruins
Exploring the historic ‘walled city’ of Intramuros in Manila

Philippines Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur Photo Essay

Laoag is the capital city of Ilocos Norte. Its giant sign in the plaza near the capitol building provides great photo opportunities:


Laoag International Airport serves mostly domestic destinations like Manila, but it also has flights to China that bring tourists to the region. Most folks who want to visit Ilocos Norte should fly into Laoag from Manila.


The Museo Ilocos Norte displays tools, clothing, and household objects used by the people of this region over the years.


Another institution, Taoid, is a museum of the Cordilleras, the people of the northern highlands. It opened in 2015 and features art, sculptures, artifacts, and information about the various peoples who live(d) in the area.


taoid cordilleras map museum

Here’s another shot of the Laoag market, the culinary center of the city during the evening and one of the highlights when it comes to the food of the Philippines:


Jeepneys and buses take passengers all over the country with a fairly well-organized system of routes.


For a budget-conscious joyride, hop in one of the tricycle sidecars. For only 11 pesos (less than 25 U.S. cents!), I was able to share a ride with Micaela of

philippine tricycle taxi

This structure, the 150-foot-tall Sinking Belltower, has been slowly sinking into the sandy soil since it was built in 1612:


The tower is more than 275 feet from its church, St. William Cathedral, one of the most eye-catching buildings in Laoag:


I love how colorful Philippine money is.


Enjoy a welcome drink after checking in to the Java Hotel:


Patrolling the streets:


The empanadas in Laoag, with an entire egg, sprouts, and chorizo, were my favorite Filipino street food.


Moving south to Paoay, the Malacañang of the North is the former vacation home of late President Ferdinand Marcos. It has been restored to show the splendor and comfortable lifestyle the president and his wife enjoyed.


The Marcos Presidential Center houses the preserved body of Marcos. It’s on display inside a mausoleum that sits just outside the main building. This Marcos quote is on display outside the facility:


Paoay’s welcome sign sits just in front of the imposing Paoay Church, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Relaxing in the shade on a summer day:


Famous Filipino painter Juan Luna was born in 1857 in the town of Badoc and later moved to Manila and Paris. In Badoc, visitors can check out the Juan Luna Shrine, a two-floor restored home that tells the story of his life and that of his brother Antonio, a general in the Philippine-American War.



Kids start riding motorcycles young around these parts!


Purchase a lifetime supply of garlic at a roadside stand for a very cheap price:


A glimpse at one of the public cemeteries in the Philippines with its above-ground coffins.


Down in Vigan, the Bantay Church and Belltower were established in 1591 and are still majestic today.



Here’s a rooftop view from Vigan’s Hotel Luna, named after the aforementioned painter. Inside, the hotel has a small gallery with some of Juan Luna’s works on display.

hotel luna rooftop view

Famous words on display:


The Syquia Mansion in Vigan honors President Elpidio Quirino, who led the nation from 1948 to 1953. The house is named after his wife’s family and its rooms have been restored to their opulent condition.


The Ilocos region is known for its traditional abel loom weaving. Some shops sell blankets and products made from the abel cloth, a strong, durable material. You can watch them in action as they manipulate the foot pedals to make the wooden machines move.


I got a chance to try my hand at loom weaving. Turns out I’m a natural!

me loom weaving

A shot from the front seat of a calesa horse carriage ride through the streets of Vigan.


Vigan’s Calle Crisologo is the place to find a cool, old-world Spanish vibe with pedestrians, cobblestone streets, and markets. It’s one of the best spots for people watching in Ilocos Sur and a must-visit for anyone who comes to this area.


Do you have any other recommendations? What should visitors do during a visit to Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur?

Note: I was a guest of TBEX and the Philippine Department of Tourism during my visit.

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