Last Updated on July 15, 2022 by Tina
Looking for other places to explore while in La Union? Why not do a side trip to Ilocos Sur? Hike to a waterfall, visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site, catch the sunset on an iconic bridge and visit the heritage city of Vigan. Here’s an Ilocos Sur side trip from La Union guide so you can do all of these in a day and even visit a few spots in La Union along the way.
Our Ilocos Sur Side Trip From La Union Itinerary
Last weekend, I joined my brother and his ex-officemates on a road trip to Vigan, Ilocos Sur. We left our house in San Juan, La Union at 1:00 PM. We turned left and took the Bacnotan – Luna – Balaoan Road instead of the National Highway when we were in Bacnotan so that we could drop by the Paraoir Man Made Forest and the Baluarte watch tower.
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Paraoir Man-Made Forest
On the way to Luna, there is a part of the road covered with trees. It is called Paraoir Man Made Forest. You can stop here to take a photo but you need to be careful of vehicles passing by. We stopped here for a few minutes before proceeding to our next stop.
Baluarte Watch Tower
Our next stop was the Baluarte Watch Tower. It is the most popular among the six watch towers in La Union. It sits on the Luna Pebble Beach and was built during the Spanish era as a lookout point for an impending attack of pirates or danger from the sea.
The last time we visited this place in August last year, there were still no restaurants near the watch tower. Now there is a steak house and a coffee shop a few meters away.
St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish – The Shrine of Our Lady of Namacpacan
Next, we visited St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish, a Catholic Church in Luna, La Union. It is also known as the Shrine of our Lady of Namacpacan. I have always wanted to visit this church because it is quite popular in La Union.
From what I have read in the church, in 1871, an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary was brought along the shores of the town by a stroke of faith. The image was ordered in Spain by an Augustinian priest assigned to one of the towns of Ilocos Sur. It was brought to the Philippines by a ship and was heading to Ilocos Sur when a storm forced the crew to seek shelter in Darigayos, a barrio of the town that was then known as Namacpacan.
When the storm subsided, they tried to resume their journey but strong winds forced them back to the port. They made several attempts but every time they did, they were prevented by winds. The captain finally decided to have it carried overland to its destination. However, the natives had difficulties as the box containing the image could not be moved. After several attempts, they concluded that the Blessed Lady must have chosen the town as her sanctuary.
There were stories of miracles that were attributed to Our Lady of Namacpacan, one of them is that of a certain Rosa Roldan. She was born lame and she claimed that Our Lady went to her home and restored her the power to walk.
From Luna, we dropped by Noguera’s Weaving in Bangar before making our way to Ilocos Sur. Bangar is well known for its hand-woven products called “inabel”, and Noguera’s Weaving is a weaving mill. If you’re looking for something to bring home as a souvenir from La Union, drop by Noguera’s Weaving and buy some of their hand-woven products such as blankets, shawls, table runner, and towels. What’s good with their blanket is that when it is cold, it will keep you warm and when it is hot it will keep you cool.
Sta. Maria Church
Our first stop in Ilocos Sur is the Sta. Maria Church. It is one of the 4 baroque churches in the Philippines designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When we visited the church during the holy week, it was full of people. Last Saturday, there were people inside the church because there was an ongoing mass but outside, as you can see in the picture, there was no one around.
Pinsal Falls was not on our itinerary but when we were near Sta. Maria Church, my brother told me that we could visit it too as we can see the waterfalls from the road without going on a long walk. It is also located in Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur. It is a 25-minute drive from the junction at the National Highway. It is the largest waterfall in Ilocos Sur and to get there you need to pay Php 20 entry fee per person.
Swimming is not allowed at the lagoon below the waterfalls, but there are mini pools on top where swimming is allowed. You need to do some hiking though to get there. But it is just a short hike, around 9 minutes to the top. Midway through your hike, there is a shed/viewing deck where you can rest and take a closer picture of the waterfalls.
The hike is just short but you will still be sweating a lot so I advise you to bring a hand towel and a change of clothes with you. There are toilets and shower rooms that look new. There are no stores in the area so bring drinking water with you.
Old Quirino Bridge
We left Pinsal Falls at 5:00 PM and we arrived at the old Quirino Bridge just in time for the sunset. Quirino Bridge is an iconic bridge in Santa, Ilocos Sur named after the late former President Elpidio Quirino. It is also known as Banaoang Bridge because it is located in Brgy. Banaoang, Santa, Ilocos Sur. All my life I have known it as Banaoang Bridge and it was only last Saturday that I found out its official name.
The Old Quirino Bridge is an old Parker-type bridge. When we were younger, we would always pass this bridge whenever we visit our grandparents in Sta. Lucia, Ilocos Sur. (We used to live in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, and my dad is from Sta. Lucia.) The bridge spreads across the Abra River and connects the towns of Santa and Bantay.
In 2001, one of its steel spans was damaged and washed away. It was reconstructed and still passable but is now closed and no longer used. A new bridge parallel to it was built in 2007.
The Sisters Royal Bibingka and Food Products
On our way to Vigan, we dropped by The Sisters Royal Bibingka because my sister told me to buy ensaimada. I also bought a box of bibingka. Their ensaimada is very different from the ensaimada in our local bakeries, or that in Goldilocks (it doesn’t have cheese, butter and sugar toppings) but it was really good I wish I bought 3 boxes. The texture is a bit similar to that of the ensaimada of Mallorca (from where ensaimada originated) but it has a filling like ube, yema etc.
The Sisters Royal Bibingka is where you can buy pasalubong (souvenir) from Ilocos. Their primary product is royal bibingka, a popular rice cake that originated in Vigan.
It was already dark when we reached Vigan. Though it was a weekend, I was surprised that the parking lot near the cathedral was not full. We first went to Cafe Uno to have dinner. It is located inside Grandpa’s Inn. It is an ancestral house owned by the Donato family in the 1920s.
My brother said he always eats at Cafe Uno every time he goes to Vigan. He didn’t want to risk having an unpleasant meal so he brought us there. We were given two types of menu, one from Cafe Uno and the other from Kusina Felicitas, also a restaurant located in Grandpa’s Inn that serves Ilocano food.
I ordered the Bagnet Chicharon Pasta from the Cafe Uno menu because I was curious about how it tastes but I think they gave me a different one because the pasta looks like Pinakbet Pasta. It has Pinakbet ingredients like okra, eggplant, and tomatoes as toppings. My brother and his friends ordered Sinanglaw, Igado, and Felicitas fried rice.
While waiting for our order, my brother said we could check out the inn as long as we don’t make a noise so as not to disturb the guests. Family heirlooms are displayed all over the place. You’ll see different models of the telephone, a very old television, bicycles, and even an old sewing machine.
After dinner, we walked to Calle Crisologo which is just 2 (or 3?) blocks from Grandpa’s Inn. Calle Crisologo is a cobblestoned street in Vigan lined with Spanish-era houses. Most have been turned into souvenir shops and restaurants. It was already past 8 when we checked it out but the street was still very crowded.
After checking out the whole street, we wanted to try their empanada even though I know it isn’t as good as the empanada in Ilocos Norte. (I’ve tried it before already that’s why I know.) Unfortunately, the food stalls were already closed when we got there. My brother and his friends ended up buying ice cream sundaes in Mcdonald’s instead.
It’s 2 hours and 10 minutes drive from Vigan to San Juan, La Union. We left Vigan at 9:35 PM and arrived in San Juan 15 minutes before midnight.
Next time you visit La Union and would like to explore other towns, why not check out Ilocos Sur? And make sure you reach the Old Quirino Bridge in time for the sunset.
Want to know what else you can do in La Union? Check out my other La Union posts.
I’ll be posting more pictures from our trip on my Instagram story so check it out. Subscribe to my blog if you don’t want to miss any of my posts. I publish new content every week. And please follow my Facebook page @iwentanyways and like my Instagram accounts @iwentanyways and @tnadeperalta for updates.
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