Saturday, April 28, 2012

Philippines: La Union, A treasure waiting to be discovered, La Union is the perfect place to immerse in tradition and invest in innovation.


     Richly forested highlands, dense rolling hills, wide valleys, and picturesque seaside villages, this is La Union Province. Lesser known than it’s provincial neighbors, La Union is a diamond waiting in the rough. Its honest beauty has been largely overlooked...until now. Located in the Ilocos Region of Luzon, the people here a vibrant mix of individuals from all over Northern Philippines. 

     La Union literally means “ The Union”. In 1850, towns from three neighboring provinces were carved out to form a new province. The Southern towns of Ilocos Sur were adjoined with towns from Pangasinan and Benguet to give rise to one of the Philippines ‘ most diverse areas. With  a decree by Queen Isabela of Spain, the province was sealed under the colonial government of Governor-General Antonio Maria Blanco.

     Fertila lands and thriving communities dominate LA Union landscape. The original dozen towns have developed into 19 municipalities and a city, each with their own specialty. Agoo, the major crossroad of Ilocandia and the Cordilleras and an up-and-coming trading center is home to a brick laden downtown, a showcase of 400 years of the people’s hard work in the tobacco processing industry.

     In Aringay, the Milkfish or “Bangus” has no comparison. Flavorful, plentiful and the leading source of income for the municipality, this humble fish has grown to be the town’s bounty.

     As sweet as its famous product, honey and as rich as the silk it produces, Bacnotan is the leader in alternartive livelihood projects. When rice farmers are in their “off-season”, thet keep bees in the National Apiculture Research, Training and development Institute. And if you are craving the essence of the sea, visit Balaoan. Dotted with coconut groves and stunning coast, Balaoan is known for the delicate sea urchin or “maratangtang”. Requiring little or no cooking, it is the local favorite.

     Baguilin, named after the daughter of a daring highland chieftain who roamed through its valleys and limestone caves, this town is famous for the tiger, tiger grass that is. Hand-picked and sun dried, the tall grass is used to make the Filipino’s favorite household item the soft broom. Bangar ...Its unusual name comes from the Bangar tree, which fruit provides a deep red dye used in the famous hand-woven cloth---abel.
Using the loom to weave the intricate patterns, women of young and old learn the craft when they are just little girls. Today, the woven products decorate homes in the Philippines and abroad.

     Famous for its stretch of striking beaches and resorts , Bauang is the beach capital of the North. It is also known for it’s grape fields and the tropical geapple, a type of guava that is crisp and tangy. Burgos, named after the martyred priest, Father Jose Burgos , the eastern most part of the province is mountainous territory. Here, the falcatta and narra trees still rein as kings’ of the forest. The cold air is makes it an idyllic retreat. And don’t forget to buy the town’s very innovative product, the peacock-colored soft broom;

     The birthplace of the greatest Ilocano hero Diego Silang, Caba is a stop that cannot be missed.  Driving through mango orchards and bamboo woodland, one cannot help but stop and try the luscious fruit or purchase the fine bamboo crafts sold on the side streets. 

     Luna---named after the Luna brothers during the Philippines Revolution, the town seems to spring from miracle after miracle, Legend has it that the lady of Namacpacan has bestowed the town with manna, gifts from heaven, in the form of pebbles. Pebble beach has a never ending supply of colored stones that have decorated homes, businesses and many a hotel. Naguilian, home to the original Basi, sugar cane wine flavored with the indigenous duhat and guava leaves, it’s rich, fruity flavor has first time drinkers clamoring for more. One can choose to purchase the home-made version or the factory made.

     Also a big hit, one of the hardest minerals on earth , Silver. The fine metal is meticulously crafted by experts for the jewelry trade.

     Supplying the livestock and other agricultural products to neighboring towns, the municipality of Pugo is a commodity in itself. In the past few years, it has opened up its raging Tampuakan river to tourist willing to try something new. Whitewater rafting and kayaking are on the itinerary.

     Rosario equals furniture. No ordinary run of the mill pieces, the town provides exceptional chairs, tables and wooden objects. From antique to modern, Rosario artisans can create any look imaginable. San Gabriel, formerly known as Baka-Burnotan, after a tug-of-war game that the ancestors used to play, it was changed to San Gabriel after a priest introduced the Saint’s image and Christianized the highland town. We know it today as the highland town. We know it today as the Highland Vegetable Capital of La Union. From cucumber to lettuce to assorted tubers, the high altitudes produce the tastiest vegetables in the province.

     Today, San Juan is known as the surf capital of the North. But long before the surfers arrived, the locals had their traditional pottery. The famous “dalikan” or cooking stove, created from red clay and soil, are still being handcrafted today, and one can buy them at a very reasonable price. Tradition still holds in San Juan today, age-old planks and capiz windows embellish the new capitol. With a shoreline that covers almost half the town, fishing  inevitably is Santo Tomas main attraction. Famous for its dried and smoked fish, Barangay Damortiz caters to0 the most discerning “daing” and “tuyo” connoisseurs. Located along the highway, buyers don’t even need to get out of their car to haggle for the days goods.

     Amidst pinewood forests is the highland municipality of Santol. Known as Little Baguio”, it has the essence of the Cordilleras with the spirit of La Union. The young sticj to their cultural heritage---not only with song but also with the weave. 

     Sudipen---this town is a cultural extravaganza. A mix of Ilocano, Kankan-ey and Bago cultural communities, their language here is a bit different. Their baskets are also of another kind---made of bamboo and other forest materials, any local would be glad to create one for heir guest. Primarily agricultural land is home of the famous native tobacco. Preffered by aficionados, the distinct flavors of the dried tobacco leaves are simply superb. Green corn is also another fascinating agricultural feat---the town’s new cash crop, it is unusual due to its quick maturity, and its the main ingradient to cornik.

     And last but not the least, the only city of La Union...San Fernando...

     The Regional Center of Ilocandia, it is the helm of Region 1, with government offices and Universities within and around the area. Originally merged from two towns, Dalangdalang and Balancac, it was renamed Pindangan and later into San Fernando. A pioner in innovation and excellence, provincial projects are tried and tested in the city’s barangays as models for the entire region. One such is the Solid Waste Ecological Enhancement Program or SWEEP.

     Committed to environmental initiatives, the local government initiated a program for total waste management and composting. SWEEP, and the LGU’S Landfill project has won numerous awards including, “Most outstanding Local Government initiated project”.  Taking the local community into consideration, the waste management program has provided livelihood for the residents  and a cleaner, greener quality of life for the people of San Fernando and the rest of the La Union. 

     Where traditional cultures meid with modernization, La Union is for those who want everything in a one-stop-shop. From swanky beach resorts to adventurous mountain terrsin, each nook and cranny can be explored. 

     For the water loving guest La Union’s beaches offer the chill and thrill of island life.

Hang out with the most “radical” surfers in Urbiztondo beach or perhaps a quiet “banca” ride. A cliffside retreat beside azure waters...And pollside conversations...

     To the religious devotees...

     East meets west in the Taoist Macho Temple. It was built to venerate the image of Ma-Zeun, the Goddess of compassion. Interestingly she has a Christian counterpart in the province of Batangas, the Virgin of Caysasa. As one of the strongholds of Augustinian territory during the height of Spanish colonialism, grandiose churches abound. The Basilica of Our Lady of Charity...with it’s Austrian pipe organ. 

     San Nicolas de Tolentino Church... St. Christopher Parish...Our Lady of Namacpacan...The Church of St. John the Baptist and the St.Church of St. Isadore.

     The Cathedral of St. William the Hermit. Built in 1817 by Fr.Simon Torrado, the church is done in the colonial Baroque Style.Tuscan columns and floral motifs cascade the facade of the church. 

     St. Peter and Paul church... And St. Michael the Archangel

     To those who crave adventure...Hike the rainforests...Pitch a tent in Sobradillo... Walk the 100-meter hanging bridge in Baguilin. Pick your own highland vegetables. 

     Go spelunking in one of the hundred caves such as the Allabok Cave, declared in 1977 as a National Cultural Treasures. And for those who would just like to see the majestic ecological wonders. Wide rivers such as the Aringay and Tapuakan. Experience a waterfall such as the Anito Falls and the Tudingan Falls. 

     If man made wonders are your interest. Check out monuments to Ilocano heroes the Diego Silang Monument Stairway. 

     The Pindangan Ruins beside the Sisters of Carmelite Monastery, a vestige of a 300-year Old church lies among crawling vines and giant trees. 

     Visit a tiered botanical garden and plant your own tree, Enter an actual “Baluarte” the beach.

     Interested in seeing all of La Union in one building? Visit the Museum de Iloko, a lifestyle museum displaying ilocano life. 

     Or you can just simply immerse yourself with the locals and get to know what it’s like to live a simple  yet enriching life in the province. A true immersion involves sampling the local delicacies. 

     The traditional faire is predominantly Iloko Cuisine. And the most favored meal is “Dinengdeng”. It is simple, accessible and the preferred meal of the local folk. Comnsisting of any type of vegetable with a generous mix of fish paste and water, more than 100 types of this viand is recorded. Some towns even hod  Dinengdeng cooking contest. 

     If you are traveling to Bacnotan, Pass by the River Farm. Tey the Pla-pla, the Aaringay river’s a bounty, with a refreshing pomelo salad.

     Divinely sweet desserts are inherent in the Philippines palate. Binagkal—a sticky rice and coconut cream concoction, is the dessert of choice in La Union. For something truly Filipino, one should try the Halo-halo de Iloko in San Fernando. 

     A delightful mélange of sweet jellies and jams, tropical fruit, cooked bean covered in shavd ice and milk, the national Philippine dessert has a twist in this side of the town. The secret---Yema. And tons of it  A decadent mixture of condensed carabao’s milk and egg yolk, this sinful addition makes any guest ask for more Halo-Halo please.

     With history unmatched, placed undiscovered, and warm friendly smiles, La  Union is a possibility waiting to happen. Accessible through land, air and sea. Boundless possibilities await investors and guest alike. With a land area of 1,493 square kilometers and a road network of 1. 785 kilometers, this region is quickly emerging as an investment hub due to its close proximity to thriving economies around the country and the world. 

     The Poro Point Freeport Zone, Nestled at the tip of San Fernando City is a primarily location for development and tourism. Formerly the Wallace Airbase Station, it comes complete with an airport and seaport facilities. The newly upgraded San fernando Airport welcomes charted flights. Classifies as a commercial domestic airport, it will soon open its doors to larger planes such as the Boeing 737 and Airbus 320. 

     With a total land area of thirty hectares, and one hundred hetares set to be reclaimed, the San Fernando International Seaport is set to be the one of the major seaports in the country and can accomodate any type vehicle including: roll-on-roll-off vessels, barges, cargo vessels, passenger vessels and fishing boats. Warehouses are available for cargo storage including mineral,cement, agricultural products and other items. Tourism projects are well on their way in Poro Point Freeport Zone. With the leading hotel chain, Thunderbird resort as the pioneer. The resort offers a world-class nine-hole golf course settled on a cliff affronting Lingayen Gulf. It’s five star, Mediterranean style accommodation is the first in La Union. Fiesta Casino adds  additional entertainment for travelers looking for a little fun. 

     This is La Union---tremendously beautiful, exceptionally modern  and committed to excellence. A union of vibrant peoples and striking terrain...visit La Union and simply be amazed!



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