Ilocos region is blessed not only with natural wonders but also with a rich culture, history, and heritage. The provinces of the region are known for their heritage sites that are recognized by UNESCO, making them popular provinces in the country.
Our first visit to a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Ilocos takes us to Paoay, Ilocos Norte. The church of this municipality is built with coral blocks and stucco-plastered bricks, one of the oldest colonial churches built during Spanish era. Its architecture is a unique combination of gothic, baroque, and oriental design. The elements of these architectural inspirations can be found on the intricate design of the church’s dramatic and Instagram-worthy façade. Paoay Church is also known as “Earthquake Baroque” because of the 24 enormous buttresses on its both sides and at the back to protect the church from earthquakes which are common to our country. Paoay Church was named as a National Cultural Treasure by the Philippine government in 1973 by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 260, then a UNESCO World Heritage site after.
Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
The lighthouse was erected as part of Spain’s master plan of illuminating the Philippines. It is made with bricks and crowned with a bronze cupola. On March 30, 1892, it was lit for the first time. Strategically located at the Vigia de Nagparitan Hill, the view from lighthouse is overlooking the scenic Cape Bojeador where early galleons sailed. It also serves as a guide for seafarers from West Philippine Sea going to Babuyan channel to the ports of the Western Luzon seaboard. After a century, the historical lighthouse is still functional not only as a tourist destination but also welcoming beacon to international ships entering the country, guiding them away from the rocky coast of the town to safety.
Vigan Heritage Village
Vigan Heritage Village is a great example of a well-preserved planned Spanish colonial town in Asia. The Hispanic atmosphere of the village, eminent from the cobblestone streets and the fusion Oriental and Filipino architecture makes it even more uniquely mesmerizing. The two-storey structures on the village are built of brick and wood, with a steeply-pitched roof reminiscent of traditional Chinese architecture. The exterior walls of the upper-storey are enclosed by window panels of kapis shells framed in wood. Also known as Calle Crisologo, the village houses souvenir shops, cafes, bars, and hotels which are previously ancestral homes of well-known figures in the past.
Vigan Conservatory Museum
Designed to improve the heritage conservation measures, the Vigan Conservatory Museum was buil under the Vigan Conservation Complex housing three museums, a repository archive, a conservation school, and a dormitory. The three museums revolve around the concepts of the city’s Pammati ken kari (Devotion and Power), Ciudad Lungsod ( Outlining the City), and Casa Bigueno (The evolution of Vigan house). Up to this day, the museum is still not open to the public.
Aside from these cultural heritage sites, there are other significant places in the Ilocos provinces that boasts the Ilocano culture and pride: the picturesque Patapat Viaduct – an elevated road over 30 meters above sea level – this 1.3 KM coastal bridge connects Laoag to Cagayan Valley; the Bangui Windmills, the first of its kind in the country; and the Vigan Dancing Fountain, another first in the country.
Ilocos is indeed home to ancient cultural history that needs to be preserved, protected, and shared. It is a heritage of the past that is a treasure of today.