Church of St. Isidore the Farmer (Labrador, Pangasinan)

Church of St. Isidore the Farmer

The town’s first church and convent, built with wood, was started in 1771 by Fr. Domingo de San Joaquin and finished in 1776. By 1865, after renovations, it measured 57.4 m. in length and 16.5 m. in width. In 1952, the church underwent repairs of World War II damage.

The church’s interior


The church’s single level, Baroque facade, topped by a plain triangular pediment, has a semicircular arched main entrance flanked by massive square pilasters topped by urn-like finials, and semicircular arched windows.

Above the entrance is a small niche with the statue of St. Isidore the Farmer flanked by semicircular arched windows.  The square bell tower, on the church’s left, is probably a modern addition.

The main altar and retablo

Church of St. Isidore the Farmer: Lingayen-Labrador Road, Poblacion, Labrador 2402. Tel: (075) 549-5055. Feast of St. Isidore the Farmer: May 15.

How to Get There: Labrador is located 359 kms. from Manila.  Within the province, it is located 12.6 kms. from Lingayen, 10.5 kms. from Bugallon and 7.3 kms. from Sual.

Kampana Museum (Lingayen, Pangasinan)

Kampana Museum, probably the only one of its kind in the country

The Kampana (“Bell”) Museum, probably the only museum of its kind in the country, is housed within the compound of the Cathedral of the Epiphany of Our Lord.  It displays an array of six old bells (some dating back to the 1800s) of different sizes (four of them still with their wooden yokes) of the parish on a raised concrete platform within a fenced in, shed-type enclosure.

Check out “Cathedral of the Epiphany of Our Lord

The array of six bells, a number of which are coated with verdigris

During the term of the first Team Ministry (when the “Three Kings” Parish was renamed “Epiphany of Our Lord Parish” in 1965) of the parish (composed of Fr. John R. Palinar, Fr. Jose S. Estrada, Fr. Manuel S. Bravo and Fr. Victor Z. Embuido), these church bells were replaced by new ones (sourced through donations from civic-spirited citizens here and abroad).


Bell inscribed with “Isaias Edralin,” probably a parish priest

These old church bells were, in turn, housed in a museum built during the term of the second Team Ministry (composed of Fr. Alberto T. Arenos, Fr. Camilo Natividad and Fr. Jovino Batecan).  The museum was inaugurated on March 31, 2002.

Bell inscribed with “Francisco Treserra,” probably a parish priest


Inscriptions on the bells oftentimes indicates the bell’s date of casting, its weight, the name of the saint (San Juan Bautista, Sta. Teresita, Jesus, Maria y Jose, etc.) to which it was dedicated; the name of the town (Lingayen) for which it was commissioned; the name of the parish priest (Francisco Treserra, Isaias Edralin, Felix Sanches, etc.), bishop (Cesar Ma. Guerrero, on February 22, 1929), pope (Pope Pius XI ); when it was cast; and even the name of the bell caster.

A bell inscribed with the names of Lingayen Bishop Cesar Ma. Guerrero and Pope Pius XI

I noticed one bell was cast in 1874, a second in 1883 and another in 1928. One bell is inscribed with “Fundicion de H. Sunico” possibly referring to metalsmith Hilario S. Sunico who cast 176 bells, dated 1872-98. His last known bell was dated 1937.

A bell inscribed with the year “1883”

Many of the bells are wrapped in a blue-green patina due to chemical reaction with air and sea water, over time, that causes copper, brass and bronze to form verdigris.The verdigris layer, which gives the bell its fragile beauty, actually protects the underlying metal from corrosion and degradation, which is why these bells are so durable.

A bell inscribed with “Jesus, Mary and Joseph”

Cathedral of the Epiphany of Our Lord: Poblacion, Lingayen, 2401 Pangasinan.  Tel: (075) 542-6235.

How to Get There: Lingayen is located 227 kms. (a 4.5-hour drive) from Manila and 94.9 kms. (a 3-hour drive) from Baguio City (Benguet).

Church of Our Lady of the Purification (Binmaley, Pangasinan)

Church of Our Lady of Purification

This church, once the largest church in the province during the latter part of the 19th century, was first constructed in the 16th century but burned down in 1745. The succeeding brick church, built towards the west of the former, was begun by Fr. Jose Salvador in 1747 finished by Fr. Francisco Barroso, OP, in 1754.

The right side of the church with some of the original brick facing now exposed

During World War II, the church was heavily damaged (only the walls and the partly damaged bell tower were left after shelling by American warships from January 7-9, 1945) and later rebuilt.

The 5-storey bell tower on the church’s right


This church’s 3-level, relatively simple Baroque brick (now plastered over) façade has  semicircular arched main entrance, flanked by semicircular arched windows, at the first level; and a semicircular arched statued niche, flanked by semicircular arched windows, at the second level.

On display in front of the church is a huge 1880 bell that bears the logo Fundicion de Metales de Santos Supangco.

The segmental pediment, separated from the second level by 3 rows of cornices, has a recessed octagonal window (above which is a cornice and a centrally located seal in the tympanumflanked by smaller, recessed octagonal windows. The huge scrolls flowing down from the base of the pediment are typical of the Italian Baroque style.

The 1880 church bell on display outside the church

The 5-storey, square bell tower, on the church’s right, has blind semicircular arched recesses (canopied with triangular segments), at the the first 3 storeys, and semicircular arched open windows at the receding upper levels.  It has 3 bells. One bell, weighing 4,130 pounds and cast in 1804, was once of the three biggest bells in the Philippines.

The main altar and retablo

The church measures 94 m. long and 16.8 m. wide. Juan Fuentes y Yepes, the Bishop of Nueva Segovia, is buried here.  The 35 m. long  transept has a high dome with 4 windows and is supported by 8 elegant columns with Composite capitals. The interior also houses 5 exquisite altars.

The church’s dome

Church of Our Lady of the Purification: Urdaneta Junction, Dagupan–Binmaley Road, Poblacion, Binmaley 2417. Tel: (075) 540-0047.  Feast of Our Lady of Purification: February 2.

How to Get There: Binmaley is located 223 kms. from Manila.

The Famous Salt Beds of Dasol (Pangasinan)

The famous salt beds of Dasol

After our lunch and ocular visit of Dasoland, we again boarded our van to finally make our way back to Manila.  Its been a very busy and educational three days in Pangasinan. However, we haven’t traveled far when we espied the famous salt beds of Dasol.  We therefore stopped along the highway to take pictures of these fascinating man-made creations.  The  province’s name was derived from the word panag-asinan (“place where salt is made”) and Dasol is one of only four Pangasinan towns (the others are Anda, Bani and Bolinao) that produce salt.

Baskets of raw salt

These salt beds, glistening whitely in the late afternoon sun, have sluices that are opened to allow about 3 inches of sea water from  the incoming ocean tides of Dasol Bay to pour into and be trapped in a checkerboard of shallow ponds lined with grayish-brown clay and paved with shards of clay pots, similar to inland rice paddies.  The impounded water is allowed to naturally evaporate in the sun for a few hours, after which thin crusts of salt crystals would form on the surface and sink to the bottom of the pond.  The resulting encrusted salt is then raked, gathered into small neat piles, scooped into baskets and then transferred to a bigger pile in a hut.  The raw salt is then brought to the cooking sheds to be washed, boiled and condensed into pure rock salt. During the rainy season, the salt beds are converted into fish ponds.

Church of the Holy Child (Mabini, Pangasinan)

Church of the Holy Child

The Church of the Holy Child, already in existence in the 19th century, has withstood several natural and man-made calamities over the past decades.  In 1832, a great flood submerged the convent and, in 1852, the church was struck by a lightning. It was repaired by Fr. Mariano Torrente (1858 to 1872) and, after a flood in 1881, by Fr. Epifanio Vergara (1893 to 1898).

The church’s Early Renaissance facade

A strong earthquake on December 12, 1999, destroyed the 1830 church, collapsing the stone walls, facade, and the altar but leaving a few structural components and the foundation intact. In 2005, the church was restored and blessed and, in 2006, the old convent and the parish office were transferred to the other side of the church which used to be a chapel before the restoration of the church.

The altar retablo

The church’s Early Renaissance facade has tall, paired Doric columns on pedestals reaching up to the pediment and flanking the semicircular arch main entrance.  Above it are semicircular arched windows while the pediment has a statued niche flanked by circular windows.  The bell tower is a later addition.

Plaque commemorating the quadricentennial of the parish

Church of the Holy Child: Sto. Niño St., Brgy. Poblacion, Mabini, Pangasinan. Feast of the Holy Child: Third Sunday of January.

How to Get There: Mabini is located 322 kms. from Manila an 54.5 kms. (a 1-hour drive) from Lingayen via the Olongapo-Bugallon Rd..

Balingasay River (Bolinao, Pangasinan)

The clean, multi-awarded Balingasay River

On the way back to the Tourist Center from Enchanted Cave in Bolinao, we made a short stopover at a bridge to photograph the 7-km. long, pristine and now fishpen-free Balingasay River (Brgy. Balingasay),  twice winner of the Gawad Pangulo sa Kapaligiran Award for inland bodies of water in the Ilocos Region and a recipient of the highly prestigious Wetlands Conservation Award in 1994. Set aside as a protected seascape, this river, noted for its scenic beauty and biodiversity, has 15 hectares of century-old and new growth mangroves areas, 30 hectares of of attap palms (used for nipa hut roofing), wild ferns and balete trees hanging into the water.  These protect the river from erosion and pollution.  Different species of wild birds (locally called kiaw and pagaw) also make their home atop the trees and wild ducks, lizards, monkeys and wild boar also make their home in the forest.

Some boats parked at the river mouth

The Balingasay River is fed by Quibuar Spring, Bolinao Falls and several other springs and creeks. Fresh water meets the sea water of the South China Sea toward the middle of the river,  a perfect environment for unique fish (malaga, lapu-lapu, etc.) and shellfish (crabs, shrimps and oysters) species to flourish.  Boats from the bridge can be rented (PhP500) to explore the river which connects 5 villages to the town proper, located 5.5 kms. from the mouth of the river. Aside from regular outrigger boats, some boats that ferry villagers are made, through Filipino ingenuity, from discarded wings of World War II airplanes secured from the former U.S. Naval Base in Subic.  The wings are fitted with bamboo and wood as “balancers” and then wooden seats are installed for 12 people.

Enchanted Cave (Bolinao, Pangasinan)

Enchanted Cave

After our Solomon’s Paradise sojourn, we next proceeded along the road to Enchanted Cave, one of three caves (the others are Cindy’s Cave and Wonderful Cave) in Brgy. Patar in Bolinao.  Located in a private property it is, however, open to the public (in early 2000) but, you’ll have to pay an entrance fee of PhP30 if you’ll just look at the place and take pictures, and PhP40 if you’ll swim.  This was to be my second visit to the cave (the first was in March 2005).  The owner allowed us entry into the premises and, as we were in a rush, skipped the usual orientation by its staff. Along its paved walkway amidst a lush garden and huts, we noticed, mixed with the garden landscape, fossilized remains of giant clams discovered in the hilltop, 2 kms. from the cave, and estimated to be about 2-3 million years old.   The fact that it was a cave made of coral limestone is evidence that the place was under water for millions of years and that the beach head of Bolinao extended almost a kilometer from the current beach line.

Fossilized clams

We then carefully went down, through a small opening with paved steps and railing, to the cave’s 30-m. freshwater (which some say is unusual for a coral cave) pool with cool and crystal clear water. Adequately lit, it was very humid and musty inside.  According to the caretaker, the pool, connected to an underground river, has depths of 3-6 ft., during low tide, and 3-10 ft. during high tide.  Swimmers are restricted by management from entering certain areas clearly marked by ropes.  Some scenes in the 1996 movie Ang Pinakamagandang Babae sa Balat ng Lupa (starring Ruffa Gutierrez) and the popular 2008 GMA 7 telenovela Dyesebel (starring Marian Rivera and Dingdong Dantes) were shot here.  Actor Piolo Pascual was also said to have visited the cave.

Enchanted Cave: Brgy. Patar, Bolinao, Pangasinan.

Abrac Beach and Solomon’s Paradise (Bolinao, Pangasinan)

Abrac Beach

After our Cape Bolinao Lighthouse tour, we proceeded to nearby Abrac Beach for an ocular visit.  This white sand beach, open to the public, has no entrance fee but has native-style picnic huts for rent (PhP150-300) and a number of souvenir shops selling snacks, T-shirts (promoting Bolinao of course), shell handicrafts and other souvenirs.  The Treasures of Bolinao Resort can be seen to the right of the beach.  Going down to the beach from our picnic hut was via a steep berm.

Solomon’s Paradise main building

We next moved on to the 3-km. long Patar Beach where we visited Solomon’s Paradise Bar Grill Resort.  Operated by the nice and friendly Australian Brett Solomon and opened last March 2008, the place truly lived up to its name, being located in a short but very private white sand cove between towering, wave undercut rock formations. Both rock formations have two sea-sculpted caves and each had small huts on top where one could do quiet contemplation while enjoying the invigorating sea breeze and admiring the huge South China Sea waves crashing against the rocky shore, a scene truly reminiscent of the movie “Wuthering Heights.”    

Native-style accommodations

The resort has a main building with roof deck (where you can watch the sunset or dine al fresco) and a well-stocked bar.  Behind it are accommodations for guests consisting of a native-style rowhouse with 3×4 m. fan-cooled rooms (PhP1,600-2,000 for 2 people and PhP2,500-2,900 for 4 people) with common verandah.  In front is a beach volleyball playing area.  Common toillets and baths for guests are located at the main building.  The resort is a 3-min. drive from Cape Bolinao Lighthouse.  Though we arrived at the resort during high surf, during calmer moments guests can swim at private coral-lined “bathtubs” and explore the sea caves.  Maybe next time we could make that happen.

Solomon’s Paradise cove
Solomon’s Paradise Bar Grill Resort: Patar Beach, Abrac, Brgy. Patar, Bolinao, Pangasinan. Mobile numbers: (0905) 398-1470 (Globe) and (0928) 474-8845 (Smart). E-mail:  Website:

Cape Bolinao Lighthouse (Pangasinan)

Cape Bolinao Lighthouse

After our visit to Bolinao Marine Laboratory, we were invited by our host for lunch at Bolinao‘s Tourist Center.  After lunch, we next drove up a 107–m. (351-ft.) high promontory in Brgy. Patar called Punta Piedra Point. On top was the century-old Cape Bolinao Lighthouse, built by American, Filipino and British engineers in 1903 and one of 5 major lighthouses in the country. The original apparatus was made in England and its lantern, with three wicks and chimney, was imported from France.  This 30.79-m. (101-ft.) high lighthouse, the second tallest lighthouse (after Cape Bojeador Lighthouse in Burgos, Ilocos Norte) in the country and 1 of 2 in the town (there is another small lighthouse in Guiguiwanen, Brgy. Luciente 1), guards the entrance to Lingayen Gulf and its light, could be seen 44 kms. (26 miles) out.  It is operated by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

Destruction wrought by typhoon Emong

During the lighthouse’s first 80 years of operation, it was fueled by kerosene . When the Pangasinan I Electric Cooperative extended its power lines to Patar, the lanterns were powered by electricity.  Just like my first visit in 2005, I wasn’t able to climb its 134-step winding stairway as its gate was locked and the caretaker nowhere to be found.  It was also depressing to see the destruction wrought by Typhoon Emong which unroofed its administration building.  Solar panels which recharged its two beacon lights, set up via a 1999 loan package extended by the Japanese government, were also destroyed.  Just the same, the lighthouse still remains an attraction by itself. Spectacular sunsets and the deep blue sea can be watched at its view deck.  

Bolinao Marine Laboratory (Pangasinan)

Bolinao Marine Laboratory

After our brief rest stopover at El Pescador Beach Resort, we proceeded to the Bolinao Marine Laboratory (BML), the official marine station, started in 1983, of the Marine Science Institute (MSI), University of the Philippines.The BML, located 2 kms. from Bolinao town proper, has a main laboratory building (with research lab and classrooms), administration building, staff houses, dormitories and a land-based hatchery.  A venue for research work, BML also aims to be a focal point for extension activities involving the municipality and the various communities inhabiting the coast; serve as an educational exhibit center for research activities on marine science; to offer direct service to the local community in the form of environmental education programs and; to assist in the formulation of coastal management plans for the municipality.

Giant clams

At BML, we observed the laboratory’s propagation of the endangered giant clam (Family Tridacnidae),  sea urchins and certain species of sea cucumbers through grow out culture and sea ranching.  The sea cucumber Holothuria scabra, one of the most expensive if not the most expensive in the market, are, once bred, are then planted in research pens in Santiago Island.  Sea urchins (scientific name: Tripneustes gratilla), locally called uni, have been overharvested by fishermen in the 1980s and 90s for the Japanese market. These too are bred, fed with processed sea weeds (sargassum) in a hatchery and re-seeded.  BML also does habitat restoration (e.g., coral transplantation) and sets up marine protected areas for coral and sea grass conservation. 

Bolinao Marine Laboratory: U.P. Marine Science Institute (MSI), Brgy. Luciente 1, Bolinao, Pangasinan.  Tel: (075) 541-8022 ext. 102. E-mail: