Tuesday, June 26, 2012

PAOAY: 01 - Haunted by Marcos


I really had no inkling as to what to see in Paoay, which I kept on pronouncing as PA-O-WAY until I got a weird stare from a local retorting with an interrogative, PA-WAY? Fine, have it your way. I only heard about this town lately when news came out that Erich Gonzales and Mauro Maurer shot their Star Cinema film to be released in October here. Damn, why do I have to be so showbiz? Since I am in the region, I thought maybe I would give it a shot, and I am glad I did, because this area seems to be the most well-rounded in the province as a tourist destination thanks to its good mix of history, nature, and adventure.


First stop was the church, which was the prohibitive welcoming committee due to its location next to the jeepney stop. Well, what can I say? If all the Philippine churches, baroque or not, had a pageant, then this one would probably give Miag-Ao’s some tough competition, except that the latter would clearly win because of its more exquisite design. If I am one of the judges, that is. Paoay’s is a looker itself and makes you really want to think that you were transported back in time. The bell tower next to it further reinforces this idea. All that is missing is a fat friar. Perhaps the one thing disappointing about it is the interior, which is not that grandiose, but then again this church has sustained major damages from earthquakes past and renovation is probably costly. Besides, it serves its purpose and that is probably the most important thing.


Just across the street is a restaurant famous for its bagnet pizza and some other viands turned pastry toppings as alternatives. I just had a traditional meal because I was not really into something adventurous for my stomach that day, and so I settled for a rather boring but delicious fried chicken with rice. It was also refreshing to relax inside with air-conditioning at full blast. At least I was able to seek refuge from the sun frying me to death.


A tricycle ride to what is dubbed as the Malacañang of the North followed. It was not that far away from the church and not as big as I imagined. I thought it was going to be a mini version of the real presidential palace, white facade and all. It turns out to be a provincial house, not too big to be a mansion but not so small to be an ordinary home, overlooking the infamous Paoay Lake. And so, what can you see inside? Ferdinand Marcos.


Okay, what is the story behind this? Well, I was busy exploring the house and taking photos, admiring the upholstery, observing how darker Imee Marcos seemed to be as a kid based on the photos on the wall, when I suddenly entered a room and from the corner of one eye, caught someone staring at me. It was Ferdinand Marcos. Oh my fvcking--!


Okay fine, it was not him, but rather one of those life-sized figurine thingies of him, about six or seven in total, dressed in different costumes. It is one of those moments when you feel as though you suddenly swallowed your heart, and then realize that such a scenario does not make sense at all but you do not care anyway because you are busy trying to figure out what to do next. Remember how Chucky seems to be just that cute little doll with an angelic face in those Child’s Play movies before he flashes you a sinister smile and starts chasing you with a knife? I was prepared to pull off an Usain Bolt towards the exit door just in case. Well, gladly, it did not happen. So much to my relief!

However, that is not the winner of the freakiest-thing award for that house. That prize would go to the last room on the second floor where you see two dolls on a divan accompanied by the smell of something creepy, which I just could not place. Pretty much that of an old house that makes you imagine something terrifying. Match that with creaky wooden floors and a hyperactive imagination and you are sure in for one hell of a paranoid experience scaring yourself. Hooray me. So hooray me!


Next in line was Paoay Lake, which according to legend was a wealthy town back then but punished by God because the townspeople were arrogant or something. Two of the simpler folks were warned that there would be a great flood, and that they should leave and not look back but they did so they were turned into two giant rocks or trees or whatever whoever invented this story fancied during that time. Must have been a fan of the bible? The good thing is that the scientific explanation matches the narration, except that nature is the culprit here: typical floods engulfing villages, which is nothing to write home about, but rather just a natural phenomenon. I no longer investigated whether there were remnants underneath as I was not in the mood for a swim. Making tambay by the lake though gives you a rather awesome feeling of tranquility while bird-watching and trying to assess how big that body of water truly is. It IS huge.


I was about to go back to the church area to catch a jeep back to Laoag but we saw a sign for the sand dunes on the way and so I asked the tricycle to stop by so I could explore some more. I had the time anyway so why not! The said attraction is said to be the only desert in the country. Some people would tell you that they shot that musical called Emir here, making it appear as though they were in the Middle East. Unverified trivia. Since the 4x4 ATV was a bit costly, I decided to just walk as far as I could. It appears that the area is next to the beach, which makes it appear like some sort of extended arid seashore where one could see the tracks left by the 4x4 on the sand. I was alone in that place except for two carpenters, three attention-deficient dogs, and chickens having an excursion with their chicks. They were not in the mood for sand-surfing though, so I also declined. Ooh, those dogs! Did I mention that I brought my seven-kilo backpack with me while walking around the area? I was prepared to use it to uppercut one of those askals prepping to attack me, but the bitch backed off. Chicken!


The trip back to Laoag was longer but not that hectic to beat the longer bus ride back to Manila waiting for me that evening. I would have also visited Ilocos Sur because I badly wanted to see Vigan but hey, there is always next time. I really loved Ilocos Norte. Seriously. Imaginary ghosts and all.

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