Planning a trip but not sure where to visit? Try heading north particularly in Ilocos Region.
Four provinces comprise the region namely Pangasinan, the nearest to Manila, then La Union, Ilocos Sur, and Ilocos Norte.
With the expected completion of the the third and last section of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union expressway in September, travelers will have more convenience in traveling up north.
So, what can the Ilocos provinces offer both to domestic and foreign visitors?
Let us take a look at statistics based from the report of Regional Development Council (RDC-1) and Vigan City Mayor Juan Carlo S. Medina during his last State of the Region Address.
“I am proud to tell you that we are doing not just good, but even better, in one of our priority industries – the tourism industry,” he shares citing that the region’s visitor arrivals increased to 2.4 million last year.
The whopping upsurge of tourist arrival in 2018 is attributed to the top tourist destinations in the province of Pangasinan.
The Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag remained to be the most visited tourist site with about six million visitors.
It can be recalled that on February 17, 2015, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Shrine popularly known as the Manaoag church was formally proclaimed as a “Minor Basilica.” The historic event was led by Papal Nuncio Guiseppe Pinto, a representative of Pope Francis.
Since then, the church, which has been long known as the pilgrimage center of the north, undeniably continues to draw visitors.
Likewise, the Provincial Capitol of Pangasinan, which was identified as one of the Architectural Treasures of the Philippines, had increased its visitors to more than half a million in 2018, making it the second most visited tourist site in the region.
Further, the famous Hundred Islands National Park in Alaminos City, still in Pangasinan, has been consistently in the list of most visited tourist sites.
Coined by the city government of Alaminos as one of Asia’s premier natural wonders and tourist destinations, the Hundred Islands National Park is considered the country’s first national park blessed with a unique and diverse ecosystem, a thriving marine community of corals, giant clams, fishes and other sea creatures that create a magical underwater vista.
The fourth tourist magnet in Region 1 for 2018 is found in the province of Ilocos Norte – the Paoay Church, which according to the RDC-1 chairperson recorded half a million visitors. The historic church, built in the 1960s, was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.
In Ilocos Sur, another tourist spot is the Baluarte Zoo, a free-admission zoological park located in Salindeg village in the Heritage City of Vigan. It is owned by former governor now Narvacan Mayor Luis “Chavit” Singson.
Completing the list of top tourist attractions in 2018 is Urbiztondo Surfing Area in San Juan, La Union. Surely there are many surfing sites in the Philippines but surfing in San Juan would give any surfing enthusiast an incredibly different experience as it is, first and foremost, considered as the surfing capital of the north.
“These tourist destinations were just some of what our region can offer to both domestic and foreign visitors and we will continue our efforts in promoting Region 1 as a tourist destination choice for everyone,” Medina said.
The continued advocacy for the accreditation of tourism establishments paid off as the number of tourism establishments accredited by the Department of tourism (DOT) in the region reached 836 in 2018, more than twice since 2016.
“The accreditation program of DOT ensures that our tourism establishments are committed to the safety, comfort, and convenience of tourists through their compliance to standards,” Medina added.
With the notable achievements of Region 1 in the tourism sector last year, the RDC-1 and all its stakeholders are committed to set their eyes of achieving the region’s vision to be the tourism hub in Northern Philippines.
Medina has confidence that “Our efforts to improve our transport and other infrastructure facilities will for sure contribute to achieving our tourism targets.” (PIA La Union)