Road Trip to Ilocos Norte 2: Why Paoay

Have you heard of Plato’s Atlantis? The legendary city ahead of its time? Swallowed by ocean? Well, Ilocos Norte also had a local version of its own with the famous lake in Paoay as the folklore’s geographical location. According to the legend, a prominent town once stood on the exact location of Paoay Lake but it sank when the locals were blinded by material possessions that angered God. Today, the lazy lake of Paoay has become one of the town’s main attraction and a wondrous backdrop of an iconic structure. But before we get there, let’s discover why Paoay has been a favorite destination in Ilocos Norte. This is the second part of our journey, the Road Trip to Ilocos Norte: Why Paoay.

Paoay Church of Ilocos NortePaoay Church’s facade and front yard.

Perhaps one of the most iconic churches of Ilocos Norte, and, probably, a notable religious structure in the Philippines is San Agustin Church. Similar to Ilocos Sur’s Santa Maria Church, San Agustin Church, commonly known as Paoay Church, is also among the 4 inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site List for its beauty supported by a “earthquake-proof” architecture, thus, called a perfect example of an “Earthquake Baroque architecture”.

fortifications of Paoay Church Ilocos NortePaoay Church’s fortifications.

Strengthening Paoay Church are reinforcements like the massive buttresses that saves the 300-year-old structure from collapsing on devastating earthquakes. Another feature placing Paoay’s pride in UNESCO’s list are the locally-available construction materials used in building such as baked bricks, tree sap, lumber, and coral stones which made up the bell tower. The detached bell tower of Paoay was purposely built few meters from the church in case of a collapse.  San Agustin Museum director Father Pedro Galende wrote in his book, “Philippine Church Facade’s”, a perfect description of this engineering platform – “the massiveness of the structure is balanced by its grace and fluidity.”

Jay Pagulayan in Paoay Church Ilocos NorteAs Catholic travelers, visiting churches to give thanks on our safe journey has been our custom.

Ruins of San Agustin Convent sit silently just a few meters beside the Paoay Church. There it lay bare with a roof  opening wide to a vibrant blue sky and the red brick foundations that undeniably surpassed the test of time. Debris of the old structure are scattered every where like pieces of Lego that would once again built the forgotten structure. Some might think that rebuilding the ruins would once again glorify the past but I think, with a little trash-picking, it’s simply beautiful as it is.

Walls of the Old Convent Ruins in Paoay Church Ilocos NorteWalls and windows of the Old Convent Ruins.

windows of the old convent ruins in paoay ilocos norteI could picture these windows adorned with decorative stained glass attached to it.

exploring the old convent ruins of Paoay Ilocos NorteExploring the Old Convent Ruins of Paoay.

Today, the Old Convent Ruins has been a Halloween spectacle for locals and tourist alike. During Tumba, Paoay’s traditional town festival , residents convert the centuries-old structure to horror which have attracted numerous visitors. On the day of our visit, preparations were conducted by organizers who were also very hospitable to invite us to their local event.

Jay Pagulayan in Old Convent Ruins of Paoay Ilocos NorteJay Pagulayan taking photos of the Old Convent Ruins.

facade of the old convent paoay ilocos norteFacade of the Old Convent Ruins in Paoay, Ilocos Norte.

Across the vast garden of Paoay Church is a plaza is located. There you’ll find food carts selling Ilocos’ gastronomic delight, Empanada, perfect for a midday merienda or an afternoon snack for a whole day of touring. I didn’t know if its the Vigan, Laoag, or Batac variety but the orange semi-circle delight surely tastes so good. Don’t miss it.

Empanada sold in food carts in Ilocos NorteEmpanada in Ilocos Norte.

A few minutes drive from Paoay Church is the Malacañang of the North, the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos and the First Family”s two-storey residence in their beloved province. The elegant house overlooking Paoay Lake was a gift from the First Lady Imelda Marcos for President Macoy‘s 60th birthday. This remarkable landmark was among the houses seized by the government but was later on given back to Ilocos Norte, restored, and converted to a very lovely museum.

Malacanang of the North Paoay Ilocos NorteMalacanang of the North facing Paoay Lake.

Malacanang of the North Paoay Lake Ilocos NorteLanai opening to a beautiful Paoay Lake.

Guided tour in Malacanang of the NorthGuided tour in Malacañang of the North

Malacañang of the North follows the “Bahay na Bato” (stone house) concept of a typical illustrious Filipino’s home with elevated apartments standing on strong brick and stone foundations. Huge windows, and large doors permit open ventilation which keeps the interiors cool at all times. Classic wooden furniture of silla‘s and la mesa‘s under grand chandeliers evokes a perfect combination of elegance and simplicity at the same time.

wooden furniture chandelier in Malacanang of the North Paoay Ilocos NorteWooden furniture and a chandelier on the 2nd floor of Malacañang of the North

Inside malacanang of the north paoay Ilocos NorteRound table inside the Marcos’s house.

living room inside Malacanang of the NorthThe Living Room with photographic memorabilia of the Marcos Family hanging on the wall.

This former seat of power, now a museum, houses personal memorabilia of the Marcos family varying from books, jewelry, personal collections, paintings, and a lot more. Aside from the beautiful portraits of the family members, I was fascinated with photographs of Pres. Marcos with other famous world leaders. A section inside Malacañang of the North was also allotted for miniature models of the accomplished infrastructures and promising projects during the Marcos regime. Taking the tour gets viewers know more about Ilocos’ beloved son and his family, than just the tip of the ice berg.

Books and other memorabilia in Malacanang of the NorthMemorabilia exhibited in Malacañang of the North

miniature project Malacanang of the North bridgeMiniatures of Marcos’ projects displayed at Malacañang of the North

Jay Pagulayan in Malacanang of the North Paoay Ilocos NorteJay Pagulayan taking pictures of miniature models.

So, “Why Paoay”? First, second, and third: Paoay boasts of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, ruins of an old convent beside it, and a local Halloween fiesta. Fourth: good tasting Empanada’s are conveniently available with proximity to the first 3 reasons. Fifth and sixth: There’s a big Ilocano house/museum/icon beside a beautiful lake. There’s also a seventh, an eighth, a ninth, and so on, and so forth which I’d be saving for my next Paoay visit. So “Why Paoay”? Visit the town.

Forward to our next stop, the Ilocos Norte’s provincial capital, Laoag City.


Here are some fast facts that may help you on your trip:

1. I’m sure you wouldn’t miss Paoay Church, but don’t forget to visit and explore the Ruins of the Old Convent just beside the church. It’s worth your time.

2. Food carts selling Empanadas are located at the back of Cafe Herencia (which is in opposite of Paoay Church).

3. Empanada costs from P35.00 – P50.00.

4. Entrance fee in Malacañang of the North cost P20.00 ONLY.

5. Ask for a guided tour to know the museum and displays very well.

6. Read on to Road Trip to Ilocos Norte 3: Laoag City

7. Read more about the province in Biyaheng Ilocos Norte.

8. Like Biyaherong Barat on Facebook.

9. Follow @BiyaherongBarat on Twitter

10. Drive safe and happy travels to everyone.

Paoay Vacation Malacanang of the North


8 thoughts on “Road Trip to Ilocos Norte 2: Why Paoay

  1. Pingback: Road Trip to Ilocos Norte 1: Vigan, Bantay, & Santa Maria Stopovers « Biyaherong Barat

  2. Pingback: Road Trip to Ilocos Norte 3: “Sunshine City” of Laoag « Biyaherong Barat

  3. Pingback: Road Trip to Ilocos Norte 4: Bacarra Bell Tower & Museo de Bacarra « Biyaherong Barat

  4. Pingback: 11 Reasons To Take The Road Trip To Ilocos Norte « Biyaherong Barat

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  6. Pingback: Memoirs of the Past: The Heritage Region of Ilocos | 『lakbaykuno』

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