Old Spanish-Era Watchtower (Luna, La Union)

Spanish-Era Watchtower (Baluarte) (2)

After our short stopover at the Luna town proper (where we had a merienda of bibingka and visited the Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria), we proceeded, southwest of the town, to the town’s coastline where we visited the town’s century-old Spanish-era watchtower, locally called Baluarte. During World War II, the tower served as the communication tower post for a temporary airfield for the USAFIPNL forces. In the past, this defense post was in fair condition, circular in shape and made of brick but the sea had already undermined its base causing half of it to break off and lean at a dangerous 20-degree angle toward the sea.

Spanish-Era Watchtower (Baluarte) (4)

Located about 700 m. northwest of the Municipal Hall, the tower used to stand at a robust 5.6 m. high with an external diameter of 11 m. and an internal diameter of 5.5 m., with 2.5 m. thick walls made up of adobe, coral blocks and layered, stretched bricks fused together with mortar of lime and egg whites.  This massive circular tower sat about 34 m. from the shoreline during low tide.

Spanish-Era Watchtower (Baluarte) (5)

The structure would have collapsed more than 10 years ago but, in 2007, the provincial engineering office propped it up with piles (concrete columns used in building bridges) and covered its perimeter with gabion mattress. The provincial agriculture office also prohibited the picking of stones 50 meters around the Baluarte to check erosion. However, all that were done were “band-aid solutions.”

Spanish-Era Watchtower (Baluarte) (6)

To really strengthen the foundation of the Baluarte, it should be first declared a National Historical Landmark before funds can be allocated for its construction and preservation. Two years ago, the Luna Municipal Council passed Resolution 68-2013, requesting the National Historical Commission to declare the watchtower as a National Historical Landmark to enable government agencies to fund the preservation project.  They also passed Resolution 69-2013, asking the National Museum to also declare it a National Cultural Treasure.

Spanish-Era Watchtower (Baluarte) (7)

On November 2014, this tower, together with the other watchtowers of the province (Bacnotan, Balaoan and San Juan towns and Carlatan in San Fernando City) were declared as National Cultural Treasures by the National Museum (NM).

Spanish-Era Watchtower (Baluarte) (8)

However, this tower was further damaged when Typhoon “Lando” (international name “Koppu”) struck northern Luzon on October 20, 2015. The half that was already breaking off toward the sea finally collapsed as the old shoring failed when the entire beach underneath was swept away by big waves and strong winds. Right after the typhoon, the National Museum sent a team for a preliminary ocular inspection and to coordinate with the local government to secure the fallen pieces of the brick structure.

Spanish-Era Watchtower (Baluarte) (9)

Now that the tower is a declared National Cultural Treasure, it is my hope that funds will finally be made available for its repair and preservation.  If nothing is done, another big storm could finally destroy the Baluarte for good as storm surges can reach up to 10 m., towering over the structure that was already weakened, in the past, by the elements.

Sunset over Darigayos Point

Sunset over Darigayos Point

Old Spanish-era watchtower: Darigayos Point, Brgy. Victoria, Luna, La Union.

How to Get There: Luna is located 267.48 kms.  from Manila and 34.8 kms. north of the City of San Fernando.  Air conditioned buses from Dominion Bus Lines, Philippine Rabbit, Partas, Fariñas, Maria de Leon, and Viron depart from terminals in Manila that is bound for Ilocos. Destinations can either be La Union, Narvacan, Vigan, Laoag or Abra. Just tell the bus attendant that you are going to Luna.

Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria (Luna, La Union)

Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria

Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria

After a merienda of bibingka at Orang’s in the town proper, we walked to the nearby Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria.  Built by Fr. Mateo Bustillos (parish priest from 1695 to 1697) at its original site in Darigayos (a barrio of Namacpacan), it was transferred to its present site in 1741. In 1829, it was reinforced with masonry and covered with a galvanized iron roof.

The Baroque facade

The Baroque facade

The church was severely damaged during the 1854 earthquake, repaired in 1863 and restored by Fr.  Marcelino Ceballos.  The convent, also damaged during the 1854 earthquake, was also enlarged by Fr.  Ceballos in 1876.  The church is now listed as a National Cultural Treasure.

Side entrance

Side entrance

Just like other Philippine churches built in earthquake-prone areas, this Earthquake Baroque church has thick muros (walls) of brick and stone and buttresses connected to a brick exterior stairway of different designs and shapes.  At the church’s entrance is a capilla possa (ceremonial archway). Its 3-level Baroque-style façade, built in 1872, is painted in an eye-catching white, light blue and pale gray, the official colors of the Image of Our Lady of Namacpacan, the church and the town. Even tricycles are painted in light blue.

One of the church buttresses

One of the church buttresses

A unique step buttress that leads up to the roof

A unique step buttress that leads up to the roof

The first level has 3 sets of two pairs of engaged columns and 2 sets of single columns while the second level has two sets of Tuscan columns, all with double capitals, plus 6 sets of paired columns at the center.   The curved pediment, complemented by semicircular arched openings and blind niches, is reinforced by the heavy architrave.

Plaque

Plaque

The twin 3-storey, hexagonal bell towers, flanking the facade, have blind and real fenestrations and is crowned by a pointed Baroque-style, balustered dome. Part of the brick convent ruins is now used as a school (Sta. Catalina Academy).  Inside the church is a wooden altar, a Spanish-era stone pulpit and a wood relief of the Baptism of Christ, probably polychromed.

Convent ruins

Convent ruins

Sta. Catalina Academy

Sta. Catalina Academy

The church interior also enshrines the supposedly miraculous 6-foot 4-inch high (the tallest known image of the Virgin in the country) wooden image of Our Lady of Namacpacan (the original name of the town, it is an Ilocano term meaning “one who feeds), enshrined in the church in 1871.  The patroness of travelers and of the town, it is said by experts to be the image of Our Lady of the Cord.

Church interior

Church interior

Main altar

Main altar

Also called Apo Baket, the image has been credited with many miracles and devotees flock here every year to honor her.  On November 24, 1959, by a special decree of Pope John XXIII, Our Lady of Namacpacan was canonically crowned by the high-ranking officials led by Papal Nuncio Salvatore Siino.

Statue of Our Lady of Namacpacan

Statue of Our Lady of Namacpacan

In 1871, an Augustinian priest ordered an image of the Virgin Mary from Spain to be brought to the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Vigan, Ilocos Sur in a galleon. However, a typhoon forced the ship and its crew to seek refuge at Darigayos (a barrio then named Namacpacan). When the storm subsided, they tried to resume their voyage, but the high winds forced them to return to the port.

The captain of the ship then decided to bring the statue to the port and then have it carried overland to its original destination. While making preparations, the statue was brought to the convent.  The church at that time was undergoing repairs on the damaged portions brought about by a strong earthquake. The following morning, they commenced their trip to Vigan but the natives had some difficulties in carrying the box containing the figure of the Blessed Virgin. So, after several failed attempts, they presumed that the Blessed Virgin has chosen the town of Namacpacan as her haven.

Rev. Fr. Marcelino Ceballos, the parish priest of Namacpacan, negotiated with the Augustinian friar Camilo Naves to let the image stay in Namacpacan.  It was agreed upon that the Catholics from Namacpacan would reimburse all expenses incurred.  The parishioners contributed joyously and generously to the extent of selling portions of their fields to raise the amount. An altar at the northern portico side of the church was constructed to house the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, now Our Lady of Namacpacan.

Later on, many miracles happened. The lame, 13 year old Rosa Roldan, claimed that, one day, an old woman knocked on the door of their home and asked for drink and food. She let her in and gave her some leftover food.

The old woman drank some water and some of it fell on Rosa’s feet. Before she left, she told Rosa to meet her at the shrine and from there, Rosa began to walk. When she came to the shrine, she was surprised to see the figure of the Our Lady of Namacpacan and recognized her as her visitor. Since then, Rosa has become a devotee of the Our Blessed Lady and started healing the sick and offering charity service to those in need.

Left side altar

Left side altar

Right side altar

Right side altar

The stone pulpit

The stone pulpit

Today the church is flocked by devotees who are expected to fetch water from a well that is believed to cure diseases. The well was created because of a dream of a “balikbayan” woman, who said that Apo Baket appeared in her dream and told her to dig a well near the church. The woman then asked volunteers to dig a well and some people, after attending the mass, drank water from the well and many professed that they felt stronger.  A physically ill man also claimed that the water from the well cured him. Afterwards, the Department of Health (DOH) sent a delegate to investigate the water’s chemical substance and discovered that it is alkaline which is safe for drinking.

Well

Well

Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria: Namacpacan Rd., Luna 2518, La Union.

How to Get There: Luna is located 267.48 kms.  from Manila and 34.8 kms. north of the City of San Fernando.  Air conditioned buses from Dominion Bus Lines, Philippine Rabbit, Partas, Fariñas, Maria de Leon, and Viron depart from terminals in Manila that is bound for Ilocos. Destinations can either be La Union, Narvacan, Vigan, Laoag or Abra. Just tell the bus attendant that you are going to Luna.

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Bahay na Bato Open Art Gallery (Luna La Union)

Bahay na Bato Open Art Gallery

Bahay na Bato Open Art Gallery

Upon checking in and lunch at Sebay Surf Central  Resort, we began our half day tour with Mr. Lawrence Fontanilla “Amar” Carbonell as our guide.  We proceeded to the nearby town of Luna where we first visited the Bahay na Bato Open Art Gallery, the newest tourist destination in Luna. Built way back in 2000, the attraction was originally just meant to be a family rest house for its owners, Dr. Edison and Dra. Purita Noble.

Bahay na Bato welcome sign

Bahay na Bato welcome sign

Gravel and flagstone pathway

Gravel and flagstone pathway

Vong Kim (third from right) with media group

South Korean artist Kim (third from right) with media group

However, in 2014, Luna Mayor Marvin Marron saw the potential of this property as a tourist attraction, thinking that the house could attract visitors.  Marron persuaded the owners to open the property to public and the municipal government extended help in the development of the new tourist spot, putting up promotional materials along the town’s major roads and helping in processing the registration of the site as a full-fledged tourist attraction.

Entrance door

Wooden entrance door

Lower level

Lower level

Art-lined hallway

Art-lined, gravel and flagstone hallway

The Bahay na Bato premises offers numerous stone carvings, masterpieces created by South Korean national Mr.  Vong Kim, the in-house sculptor for the tourist site. Imelda Montison and Gloria Dizon, the rest house caretakers, and their families serve as the staff for the Bahay na Bato. Other residents were hired to serve as security and maintenance aides. Montison’s daughter, Beverly, who serves as the manager is married to Kim.

Stairway leading to second level

Stairway leading to second level

Author at the second level balcony

Author at the second level balcony

World War II canteens and lamps

World War II canteens, mess kits and lamps

Second level

Second level

Luna’s shorelines are covered, not with fine sand, but with an unending supply of stones of various colors, shapes and sizes that seem to be replenished year by year, a mystery that has long baffled the community, some of whom believe that these stones are gifts from heaven.  These stones are  sold to become construction materials or garden ornaments.

Pebble beach

Multi-colored pebble beach

Bahay na Bato Open Art Gallery (32)

Sun dial

Sun dial

Using handpicked stones, Kim, with a great deal of imagination, carved figures out of the stones and boulders and these creations are now displayed in the Bahay na Bato Open Art Gallery. Kim also trained the local artisans on stone carving, a new way of making money out of these jewels for the locals who live near the beach area.

Figure 8 swimming pool

Shallow figure 8 swimming pool

Function hall

Function hall

Cooking pavilion

Cooking pavilion

Today, droves of tourists come here to visit this new attraction and its magnificent works of art. The local tourism office has recorded a staggering number of visitors. In December 2014, it registered more than 10,000 visitors, and another 7,800 for January 2015. On one corner, stone faces greet us with cryptic smiles while on the other, stones are piled according to size and color. Further on, we saw boulders shaped as turtles, fish, flowers, hearts and even phalluses.

Dragon head made with driftwood

Dragon head made with driftwood

Native-style gazebo

Native-style gazebo

Dirty finger sculpture

Dirty finger sculpture

The 2-storey main house by itself is not entirely built with stones as wood also encompasses the area surrounded by green trees that dance with the sound of the waves coming from the beach.. As we passed through the entrance, huge carved art stones welcomed us. The ground floor, with speckled, palm-size pebbles for flooring,has two private rooms, one facing the beach area and the other one facing the swimming pool area.  The reception area has fabulous dining wood furniture.

Stone bridge

Stone bridge

The horny author

The “horny”” author

Bahay na Bato Open Art Gallery (62)

Carved stones, of various shapes and sizes, are cleverly placed along the hallway. The second level, with its panoramic view of the pebble beach and the lawn is surrounded by various carved stone artifacts, showcases World War II items such as kerosene lamps, charcoal iron, water canteens (kantina), carbide lamps, wooden trunks and stainless steel kitchen utensils .

Local artisan at work on a piece of driftwood

Local artisan at work on a piece of driftwood

Bahay na Bato Open Art Gallery (63)

Bahay na Bato Open Art Gallery: Brgy. Nalvo Norte, Luna, La Union. Open daily, 6 AM to 8 PM. Admission: PhP20.00 (kids below four years old are admitted in for free).

How to Get There: Luna is located 267.48 kms.  from Manila and 34.8 kms. north of the City of San Fernando.  Air conditioned buses from Dominion Bus Lines, Philippine Rabbit, Partas, Fariñas, Maria de Leon, and Viron depart from terminals in Manila that is bound for Ilocos. Destinations can either be La Union, Narvacan, Vigan, Laoag or Abra. Just tell the bus attendant that you are going to Luna.

 

The Pugad (Pugo Adventure) Tour (Pugo, La Union)

Four-wheeled, all-terrain vehicles (ATV)

We were now in Lakbay Tour’s second day and, after an art-filled first day in Baguio City, we were now in for some adrenalin pumping adventure featuring zip lines (3 to be exact) with some all-terrain vehicle (ATV) excitement thrown in at Pugad Pugo Adventure Park in Pugo, La Union.   Pugad, “bird’s nest” in the vernacular, is actually a hybrid of the two words Pugo, the name of the town, and “adventure.” We alighted from our special Victory Liner tour bus (its body sticker-wrapped with the tour’s sponsors), at the Flying V (incidentally also a Lakbay Norte 2 tour sponsor) station along Marcos Highway in Brgy. Cares in Pugo and transferred to a smaller Pugad shuttle bus.  DOT Region 1 representatives Evangeline M. Dadat (senior tourism operations officer) and Reynaldo Gesmundo (tourism operations officer II) joined us.  After a 300 m. drive over a narrow road (unfit for our big bus), we finally arrived at the resort. Though this inland swimming resort has 2 crystal-clear outdoor swimming pools (adult and kiddie), picnic cottages, clean toilets, shower rooms, conference halls and a hanging bridge over a clean river, Pugad Resort  is more known for the extreme adventure it offers. Pugad’s famous 380-m. long and 240-ft. high Super Man Zip Line 1, one of the resort’s  three zip lines, stands out as the longest zip line in Luzon and is reportedly the second longest in the country.  Rates for the 3 zip lines is PhP900 per person or PhP1,000 if it includes wall climbing and breathtaking rappelling.This was too good to miss out.

Pugad Pugo Adventure Park

But first we had to wait in line as only five people can be accommodated at a time.  While waiting, we opted to try out out the  4-wheel, all-terrain vehicles and dune buggies at the nearby dirt track.  Unlike the zip line, this was a first for me and I drove cautiously over the winding and hilly but well-designed, 2.5-km. long course with its numerous bumps and turns, at one time falling into a ditch in spite of my caution.   My other companions confidently drove like seasoned racers. However, I soon speeded up midway round the course, only slowing down as I tackled the final 4-ft. high and steep hill back to our starting point.
 
Hannah Barrios finally enjoys Zip Line 3


This initial adrenalin rush now over, it was now time for some state-of-the-art zip lining. There were no more waiting lines as only three of us were left, the other two being Studio 23’s  Hannah Barrios and Joshua “Red” Nietes, both reluctant and scared first-timers. After filling up the necessary waiver forms, we were suited up with the necessary Petzl C29 Pandion harness and Petzl helmets for our safety then bundled into the back of a pickup truck, then driven up the cliff,  We then made a short hike, up a concrete stairs, to our first zip line—the Super Man Zip Line 1 (so named because we had to do it in a flying Superman pose), the highest and the longest in duration (30 seconds) of the three.

I tried it first, as Hannah and Red  were reluctant.  Soon I was harnessed parallel to the ground and on my way. It was everything it was hyped up to be, with picturesque views of a smooth flowing, boulder-strewn river, small rice terraces and lush, forested mountains. It was sometime before Red then Hannah took the plunge but, after having done so, liked it so much that they were both first at the succeeding 2 zip lines. The 280-m. long, 160-ft. high and less picturesque Zip Line 2, the fastest among the three (10 seconds with its 100-m. descent), and the 250-m. long, 60-ft. high and relaxing, 20 second long Zip Line 3, the basic and beginner’s zip line, were both done in the sitting position.  The last passes over the swimming pool and the river before ending at the campsite. It was starting to rain when I finished the last of the zip lines, making rappelling and wall climbing out of the question as the wall had become quite slippery. Besides, it was now time for lunch at the resort’s restaurant prepared by resort owners Eugene Martin, a retired police director, and his wife Pricilla, a Pugo councilor.  Heck out my Business Mirror article “Pugo’s 3 in 1 Adventure Tour.” 
 
Pugad Pugo Adventure Park: Sitio Kagaling, Brgy. Palina.  Mobile number (0927) 667-2619.  Tel: (072) 603-1592.  E-mail: pugoadventure@yahoo.com.

Kape Alamid: My First Taste of Coffee Heaven (Rosario, La Union)

Kape Alamid

I first heard of kopi luwak from the 2008 movie Bucket List (literally, “things to do” before one “kicks the bucket” or dies) starring Academy Award winners Jack Nicholson (as hospital magnate and billionaire Edward Cole) and Morgan Freeman (as blue-collar mechanic Carter Chambers). Cole drinks a specific brand of coffee called kopi luwak, one of the most expensive coffees in the world, and Carter and Cole both “laugh till they cry” (an item from Carter’s bucket list) when Cole finds out that his favorite coffee comes from the undigested beans defecated from the Asian palm civet.  Well, so much for the movies.  However, the movie did bring out the curious in me as I added “trying out kopi luwak” in my own bucket list. Only lately did I find out that we had a local version called kape alamid (in the Tagalog area, but called motit coffee in the Cordilleras).

S.O.U.L. Cafe

Kafe alamid comes from civets (you guessed it, locally called alamid or musang)  who eat the coffee beans for their fleshy fruit pulp. Proteolytic enzymes in the civet’s stomach seep into the beans, making shorter peptides and more free amino acids and, when defecated, the beans keep their shape. After gathering, they are thoroughly washed, sun dried and lightly roasted. S.O.U.L (Soul for Spice of Urban Life) Café in Rosario, La Union was our first stopover (6:30 AM) on the road to Baguio City during the 5-day, North Philippines Visitors Bureau (NPVB) and Manila North Tollways Corporation (MNTC)-sponsored Lakbay Norte 2 Tour (officially launched on January 23 from the Victory Liner Terminal near Kamias St. in Quezon City).

Breakfast of Alaminos longanisa, garlic fried rice
 and tortang talong

Our hearty Filipino breakfast combo here consisted of Alaminos logganisa, boneless daing na bangus, garlic fried rice, hot chocolate, tortang talong made with creamy egg pesto and olive oil and, to kick start our day, an expresso shot of kape alamid with caramel. According to the menu, this expresso shot costs PhP350 and, according to the cafe manager, was sourced all the way from Cavite. This brewed concoction truly lived up to its name as one of the most expensive coffee in the world as it proved to be more aromatic and less bitter than the other coffee treats I’ve tried. Banish the thought of where it came from and you get a truly great coffee experience, with its great flavor without the bitter after taste of other brewed coffee.  Scratch this one from my bucket list.

The cafe’s chic interior

S.O.U.L. Cafe: Camp One, Rosario, La Union.  Tel: (072) 712-0852.  Fax: (072) 712-1190.

Ma-cho Temple (City of San Fernando, La Union)

Finally, at the northern edge of the city , I drove my Toyota Revo up a promontory overlooking San Fernando Bay, to the impressive Ma-Cho Temple, said to be the largest Taoist temple outside of China.  Meaning “Heavenly Mother,” this ornate temple is a mélange of both Taoist and Catholic symbolism and decor and has 5 gates.  It was constructed in honor of Ma-cho, a Chinese deity of the Sung Dynasty.  

Ma-cho was born in 960 AD at Meizhou village in the scenic island of Moichow in the province of Fukien in southeastern China.  According to legend, she did not cry during the first month of her infancy.  Thus, she was first named Mo meaning “keeping silent.” Intelligent, she became a monk at the age of 10 and was said to be gifted with healing powers and the ability to predict the weather and sea conditions, even days ahead.  During typhoons, she actively participated in rescue operations for fishermen.  Locals called her the “Dragon Girl,” “Goddess of the Sea” or “Queen of Heaven.”  She died young, at age 27, but even today, local sailors and fishermen believed that her spirit, dressed in red, continues to  watch over and protected them.

Here in the country, Ma-cho is known as the Virgin of Caysasay, patroness of the Filipino-Chinese faithful.  The temple houses a replica of the image, a parting gift of love given by Taiwanese fishermen in 1968.  The distinctive features of the temple were inspirations of Ma-cho through buyong sessions  held every other week.  Here, temple elders read or interpret Ma Cho’s message to the faithful.

Ma-Cho Temple

The temple, designed by Arch. Tomas Diokno, sits on a 9,000-sq. m. lot at an elevation of 70 ft..  Groundbreaking began on September 11, 1975 and actual construction began on December 2, 1976.  The Virgin’s image was enshrined on July 3, 1978 and the temple was finally inaugurated on December 6 that same year.  Devotees believe that Ma Cho and the Virgin of Caysasay are one and the same.  From September 21 to 26, devotees gather for the annual celebration of the image’s enshrinement.  From the Basilica of St. Martin of Tours in Taal, Batangas, the devotees, together with the image of Ma Cho, will travel back to San Fernando City.  Once in the city, it is borne in a procession around the city’s business district, accompanied by the traditional Dragon Dance.  It is then culminated by a cultural presentation.

The temple’s  meditation room

The temple’s entrance wall is adorned with beautifully-carved, imported stone statues of the “Chinese 18 Saints,” in different poses.  Its circular courtyard, made with brick, has a centrally-located pond with water lilies and goldfish.  Beside it is a small structure where one can burn offerings for the gods.  On the other side are statues of animals, believed by the Chinese to be good luck charms.  The temple’s towering arch has a panoramic view of the South China Sea.  The meditation room has a grand staircase and red kneelers.  Ma Cho’s 8″ high wooden image is adorned with a traditional Chinese headdress and richly-colored robe.  Her oriental eyes are closed while her hands are clasped together at her chest. Aside from incense, devotees also offer food and money at the shrine.  Also housed in the sacred temple is Tho Ti Kong (God on Earth) while in another garden stands the statue of Kuan Yi Ma (God of Mercy), another important Chinese deity.

Ma-Cho Temple: Ma-Cho Temple Driveway, Brgy. II, City of San Fernando, La Union.

Pindangan Church Ruins (City of San Fernando, La Union)

Off the National Highway, near Camp Oscar Florendo, I drove for about 500 m. to the Carmelite Monastery of the Holy Family in Brgy. San Vicente, about 1 km. south of the city.  Beside it are the Pindangan Church Ruins,  the picturesque, roofless remains of a small vine-covered brick and coral church, the first in San Fernando. The monastery’s nuns are the caretakers of these church ruins.

The Pindangan Church Ruins

The church was built on May 6, 1786 to celebrate the union of sitios San Vicente de Balanac and San Guillermo de Dalangdang into the new village of Pindangan (derived from the Ilocano word pindang, a traditional method of drying fish).  It was damaged during the 1892 earthquake and left in ruins.  Today, only the solid stone walls and buttresses remain and a new chapel was built at its former altar where a mass is regularly celebrated. A belfry and a deep well are located at its south end. 

Remains of the church’s buttresses

Cathedral of St. William the Hermit (City of San Fernando, La Union)

The kids were still asleep when I awoke the next day and, after informing Grace of my plans, decided to drive the short 5-km. distance, along the National Highway, from the resort to the City of San Fernando to do some sightseeing before we leave for Manila.  I arrived at the  Cathedral of St. William the Hermit, located across the plaza and along Gomez St., just when the mass was about to end.

Church of St. William the Hermit

The seat of the Diocese of San Fernando and a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia, this church was first built of stone and brick from 1773 to 1786.  The present church was built in 1817 by Fr. Simon Torrado, damaged during the 1860 earthquake and rebuilt in 1873 by Fr. Luis Perez.  Fr. Jose Rodriguez Cabezas made some modifications and laid the foundation for the two bell towers and choir loft.  The church was severely damaged during the 1892 earthquake, occupied by rebels in 1898, destroyed again during the liberation (February 26, 1945) and was rebuilt from 1947 to 1949.   The convent, also built in 1817 by Fr. Torrado, was restored by Fr. Jose Rodriguez Cabezas.

The cathedral’s interior
The colonial Baroque facade, profusely decorated in the Art Nouveau style by ornate scrolls and rosetted and foliaged ornaments in plaster reliefs, is supported on each side by four tiers of Tuscan columns, paired columns on the first and second level and single columns on the triangular pediment and its crown.  Single columns are at the far end of the side walls.  The church’s semicircular arched main entrance, heavily moulded with floral patterns, is topped by a depressed three-centered arched window flanked by pointed arched windows.  The bell tower on the right is a later addition.

Stopover: Basilica of Our Lady of Charity (Agoo, La Union)

This town’s church was first built in 1578 with bamboo and nipa by Fr. Juan Bautista Pizarro, replaced with brick and stone, destroyed during the 1592 earthquake, restored in 1873, heavily damaged during the 1892 earthquake and repaired in 1893 by Fr. Aquilino Garcia.  The present church was designed by Arch. Ignacio Palma Bautista, its cornerstone laid on September 8, 1975 and was consecrated on December 8, 1978, the fourth centennial of the Christianization of Agoo.  The church was declared as a minor basilica in 1982, badly damaged during the 1990 earthquake and was again repaired and renovated.

Basilica of Our Lady of Charity

Basilica of Our Lady of Charity

The basilica, located along the National Highway, houses the image of Our Lady of Charity.  The image was first venerated and enthroned in Bantay (Ilocos Sur) and brought to Agoo by its Augustinian parish priest.  It survived, intact, the 1892 earthquake and was canonically crowned on May 1, 1971 by Carmine Rocco, papal nuncio to the Philippines. The massive Mexican-Baroque basilica contains some stone blocks excavated from the old church and has a charming garden, a wishing well and an interesting mural called The Second Coming of Christ by Rey Gimeno.  It is a popular pilgrimage site during Holy Week.

How to Get There: Agoo is located 235.92 kms. from Manila and 33.27 kms.  south of the City of San Fernando.

Stopover: Church of Sts. Peter & Paul (Bauang, La Union)

The town’s church, already built around 1873 by Fr. Mariano Garcia, was severely damaged during the 1892 earthquake, restored by Fr. Leonardo Collado in 1895, slightly damaged in 1944 and its interior was painted in 1978 by Fr. Esteban Mosuela.  Its facade was damaged during the July 16, 1990 earthquake and was rebuilt.  The rectangular, 4-storey bell tower on the left, restored with cement and hollow blocks in 1973, has two bells.  The stone convent, built in 1873 by Fr. Mariano Garcia, was destroyed in 1955, was restored and is now the Sacred Heart School.

Church of Sts. Peter & Paul

Church of Sts. Peter & Paul

The plain and sober-looking Neo-Classical facade has a segmented arch main entrance topped by foliage and flanked by four massive Tuscan columns with double capitals and two semicircular arched statued niches.  The undulating, low and broken pediment, separated from the lower level by a heavy architrave, has a semicircular arched niche flanked by two less massive and shorter Tuscan columns.

How to Get There: Bauang is located 259.38 kms. (a 5.5-hour drive) from Manila and 9.81 kms. (a 30-min. drive) south of the City of San Fernando.