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A road trip in the Sunshine City
[Picture Prelude: The signature opening look, viewing the Sinking Bell Tower, Holy Spirit Academy, Mc Donald signpost, etc, of Laoag City once you arrived from south.]
In all honesty, there is no real commotion going on in Laoag City. People go there (or should I say stop there) because it is the entry point to Ilocos’ treasures, to the northernmost part, to the bucolic beaches and impressive edifices. Although they have the Sand Dunes, the Sinking Bell Tower, etc., meticulous sightseers are still looking forward to high-octane opportunities which Laoag City obviously cannot ensure. Laoag City is the Capital of Ilocos Norte, right?! Laoag City is the Sunshine City, isn’t it?! Yet I am bored of its features, its topography! But why? What seems to be the problem?
The city, the province, had been run by same people since I came to know the world of POLITICS (not only the Marcoses). Absolutely, political dynasty is present until now but this isn’t the problem here. It is the viewpoints of these officials that affect the management of the locality which could be autocratic, conflicting or just unreasonable. Yes, it is always the perspectives of the administrators that is responsible for statecraft – the inclusion of beauty to each endeavor, of ingenuity to every chance, of art to the whole lot of governance. That is, we can always see a huge difference between the works and contributions of male and female (or gay), manager and leader, businessman and architect, and lawyer and engineer. The gender, partner (wife), likes, attitude and profession of the officials play an important role in giving justice for their positions to the people and to the country. An alleged gay mayor in the region, for instance, had made his municipal to city in his leadership; likewise, he had brought much change to it especially the image of the city.
Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, which is in the brink of aridity, really needs a leader of aesthetic substance, for it to earn full-spread pages in magazines, international reviews in websites and marked titles in the tourism industry. Who knows, when you say “Laoag City” in the next five years, it could mean "Asia's Rainbow", "Philippines' Style Epicenter", "Home of Sand Adventures"! Sounds exciting?! I think Manang Imee Marcos, female, known for its glitzy taste level, now the governor of Ilocos Norte, is a great start for this ambitious, vantage point.
From Left: The Sinking Bell Tower, the historical calesa and brick-walled city hall of Laoag.
Preserving the country’s treasures such as endangered species, national parks, diverse cultures and rich history indubitably upholds the true meaning of our existence as Filipinos. Ilocos Norte per se covers a great undertaking in maintaining its natural resources and laudable RELICS. For example, Laoag City, in which its old structures are located within the inner city, in the business center, where shopping arcades and restaurants are also found. Basically, the city looks very congested now; small stores and other establishments are overfilling the area. With that, “true” malls such as SM and Robinsons are withheld in the city many years ago. There’s no enough space, there’s no one willing to give up. They are in doubt to wipe out the old buildings, the remnants of yesteryears. Well, there’s this plan now to build SM in the city but because of space unavailability, hear-says are telling us that there will be two separate erections for the mall; one will be put up adjacent to the other, divided by a road. As of now, I really don’t know the design of the precinct being constructed, if they are going to renovate the old structure (that has been deliberated a long time ago to surrender in lieu of a shopping mall) and just make it wider or they will obliterate the place totally.
I think the officials are very weak. They should have done this before. What’s their motto? Better late than never? Bummer! What’s happening right now only manifests slow pace development. They didn’t think that keeping one or two is not enough, that they can’t fabricate Calle-Crisologo-like street in Laoag City by just saving few, retaining scattered pieces of the past. They should put these together in one stretch or compound; they should move, if unable to, then copy them, make another one. I know, this will work best.
From Top Downwards: The busy front road of Ilocos Norte Capitol and the water fountain opened during sunrise and sunset only.
If you’re from the province, you have this fondness of going to shopping MALLS because of boredom, or let’s just say, limited access to urbanism. We want to wind up, at least experience aircon-centralized facilities, watch movies, window-shop, buy sale items and check new arrivals and fashion-forward articles. These, we are all loving to do, when we go to the city, to Manila, and we are expecting to see as well, when we go back, to our own Laoag City. But with the aforementioned clash of interests, it took time for Laoag City to choose modernity over history. The construction of this first in Laoag City, following the first in Ilocos Norte (which is the Robinsons Place Ilocos in San Nicolas), however, is yet to set off. Today, I’m craving for a National Bookstore, Top Shop, Starbucks, Book Sale and Mint in Laoag City. I just hope it will favor the convenience of different consumers to suffice what is lacking in Laoag City when it comes to sceneries.
This year, Ilocos Norte was spotted in Time Magazine. I know right! Maybe the world is tired writing about chaotic Manila, impeccable Palawan, exuberant Boracay, boisterous Mindanao, contentious Spratlys, good guy Aquino, self-important Pacquaio, upcoming Charice, etc. I hope Philippines is getting the drift of it – that there’s more about Ilocos Norte than just tagging it to the late Marcos (this isn't anymore the old Facebook that you can tag all you want). Well, we have the UNESCO world heritage St. Augustine Church of Paoay, the first in South Asia Windmills of Bangui, Aussie-favorite beaches of Pagudpud, the Lighthouse in Cape Bojeador of Burgos, the exquisite rainforest of Adams, the many more to discover to rustic towns of Ilocos Norte and then, we have Laoag City… Laoag City… I’m sorry but I don’t have much to say about Laoag City! See? That’s what others might share too.
Bright Sky: Hotel Tiffany, looking vibrant and alive, in a bright afternoon at Laoag City, Ilocos Norte.
It’s very alarming that we don’t have any gluing site in the capital of Ilocos Norte. Officials seem somewhat barren of tactics. Laoag City needs VENTURES – big investments to emerge in the pedestal. They need marketing experts, architects, developers and organizers, bloggers as propagandists, surveys from urban people, lots of ideas from party people, researches on the latest trends, trial-and-error schemes… (Try me!) They should do these or else… blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaag! There will be no sun shining anymore… tomorrow…
So I’m thinking of redesigning the city, of improving local tourism services, of addressing the problem in global warming. I would want to have an open museum (gathering Laoag City’s historical remnants in a certain area – roving calesa, brick-walled ancestral houses with capiz-made windows, display of clay jar collection, and the like). I would coordinate with the local government to make tourism office more accessible to the people (like creating tourism booths, information centers, to travel gateways such as bus stations in Manila, frontage of the provincial capitol as well as shopping malls). I would love to put some green, some vegetation around the city (palm trees, creeping vines look refreshing when ambling the streets). And I would promote a smoke-free zone in Laoag City (plumping for electronic jeepneys, pedicabs and calesa and saving the cigarettes in few square meters in the downtown makes shopping, dining, flaunting, frolicking and sauntering a comfort).
From Left: The red details in a newly-renovated building, electricity wires, posts, and a pet shop for bird lovers.
Every corner in the country loves celebrating the goodness of life. Everyone likes to go to fiestas, carnivals, parades and FESTIVALS. In contrast, Filipinos consider their statuses, that is, taking into account the benefits of being frugal. Everyone enjoys sales, discounts, packages and promos. Everyone loves to join contests, pageants, tournaments and challenges too which show the liking of Filipino to competition, to winning. So why not base our line of attacks here? We can shape our tourism approaches to encourage travelers, vacationers, foreigners, business partners and sponsors to come over our place.
I know, we Ilocanos, have the greatest culture to offer. And perhaps Pamulinawen festival is the biggest one in Ilocos. But I just wonder, its vibrancy isn’t going anywhere unlike Dinagyang, Sinulog, Ati-Atihan, Kadayawan, Mascara Festival, etc. in the south as well as Panagbenga and Pahiyas Festival in Luzon. It’s about time to take in new strategies to pull the attention of visitors. From the start of Pamulinawen festival on February until the rain comes in June, town booths, trade fair and food bazaar showcasing our culture should run in the city. Packages on 4x4 and sandboarding experience in Sand Dunes should be catered to the public, to beginners, with annual exhibitions or competitions among professionals. I think tour packages for town-cruising Ilocos Norte should also begin in Laoag City – this is to guide first-time trippers in the province, to those who are not into solo backpacking.
Kurung-Kurung: Stop-over at Laoag City with this Renegade, with a lady driver. Rock 'n roll to the world!
My vision for Laoag City, for Ilocos Norte, is going farther, getting on Kris Aquino’s nerves (kidding). Hahahaha! Seriously, I would love Laoag City to be in the wish list of every traveler. I want it to have a repute that is worth-booking, that there’s a great place in Norte for fun, life and adventure. I want it to look like Manhattan, or Hollywood; to sport romance and provocation; to be a social interest, a center of extravagance; to be the fashion capital of the Philippines. I want it to be your heaven in hell – your cool place despite hot weather!