ILOCOS NORTE & ILOCOS SUR, PHILIPPINES — One reason why I prioritize off-the-beaten locations over famous travel destinations is the tourist overcrowding that accompanies the latter. Imagine walking with and against a sea of strangers shoulder-to-shoulder, awkwardly posing on a crammed spot only to find out that your treasured shot was photobombed, or seeing a mountain of tourists-generated trash get to life? Anyways, if it’s free travel expect me to be there nonetheless.
Last April, our company have rewarded us employees with an outing incentive: a tour around the famous sites in the Ilocos provinces. Who wouldn’t love outings? Especially, if I would get to enjoy the popular places in Ilocos Norte & Ilocos Sur without the need to shed out a penny from my almost-empty pocket. However, there is one thing in this area that you just couldn’t ignore: tourist overcrowding.
Since the inauguration of Vigan City in Ilocos Sur as one of the New 7 Wonder Cities in the World, the rate of tourists influx in the Ilocos region have dramatically increased in the recent months. Expect that to pile up on weekends and in ugh, long weekends.
Overcrowded or not, still Ilocos offers some of the best tourist destinations. And for that we can’t blame everyone who wants to see these places for themselves too. Here are some of the spots that we have grazed our feet into:
Kapurpurawan Rock Formations
Known for its creamy white contours, the Kapurpurawan rock formation seems to be a craft made by the winds and waves against a boulder on the shores of Burgos, Ilocos Norte. Surrounding the area is the Burgos Wind Farm, the second and the largest wind farm in the Philippines.
Completed (three phases) in 2008, the Bangui Wind Farm comprising of 20 wind turbines are arranged in a single row stretching along a nine-kilometer shoreline off Bangui Bay in Ilocos Norte, facing the West Philippine Sea.
Perhaps one of the most popular beaches in the Ilocos Region, Saud Beach offers a white sand beach thus gaining its title as the “Boracay of the North“. It is located in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte.
Malacañang of the North
Also known as Malacañang ti Amianan in the local dialect, this mansion in Paoay, Ilocos Norte became an important landmark as it was the resthouse of the former President Ferdinand Marcos and his family.
Paoay Sand Dunes
La Paz Sand Dunes in Paoay, Ilocos Norte is a great thirst quenchers for the adventure seekers. You can either ride a 4×4 vehicle, or see your skills in sandboarding, or do both.
The Saint Augustine Church, more commonly known as the Paoay Church, is a 300+ year-old Catholic church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte. Its age, historical value and distinct architectural features contributed to its declaration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the collective group of Baroque Churches in the Philippines in 1993.
Calle Crisologo (Vigan City)
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Hispanic city of Vigan in Ilocos Sur was recently recognized as one of the New7Wonders Cities of the World. The unique fusion of Oriental and European architecture are more prominent in the cobblestone streets of Calle Crisologo, where souvenir shops are also concentrated. Ride a calesa for a more Hispanic feel.
The Saint Augustine Parish Church in Bantay, Ilocos Sur (eponymous to that of Paoay) is also called Bantay Church. The old historic belfry, known as the Bantay Tower, sits on a hilltop overlooking green pastures and the province of Abra. Bantay Tower is also infamous for its inclusion in several scenes of the Filipino classic film series: Ang Panday.
On Potential Solutions to Overcrowding
Although there are variety of ways on tackling the problem of tourist overcrowding, one I have thought about is through empowerment of under-appreciated and off-the-beaten travel destinations. Through this, tourists and travelers will get dispersed and will not end up concentrated on certain locations, i.e. decongest the beaten path and promote the remote ones. This is just one of the many benefits, and I know you might just have a better answer. So, any thoughts on how to alleviate overcrowding? Type-in your comments below!
The author went on a “fieltrip” to Ilocos on April 17-19, 2015.