Idyll Hands: Paoay Church, Bantay Bell Tower, Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, Bangui Windmills

Ilocos is rich in history, evident in the historic buildings. In 1572, the province was colonized, resulting in Spanish churches and bell towers that live on today.

The Paoay Church is one of the landmarks in the Ilocos province. The church was built in 1710 and is made of coral stones, bricks, egg whites, and lime. It is one of the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the province as one of the best Baroque churches in the country. It also holds the distinction of being Earthquake Baroque, because of its resistance to seismic conditions.

The church is historically relevant. In the Philippine Revolution, the bell tower served as an observation post for the Katipuneros against the Spaniards and later on against the Japanese in World War II. Socially, the bell would ring louder depending on the prominence of the clan getting married.

The church is beautifully maintained, and fortunately, isn’t renovated to make it look new. It still has its antiquated charm. Surprisingly, it is still open and offers mass. You have to enter by the side because the main doors are closed. It was a good thing that Nikko and I decided to check the bell tower because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t have been able to enter. The retablo wasn’t as grand as I expected, but I did like the flooring.

The Bantay Bell Tower is just as historic. It’s even older than Paoay Church, having been established in 1593. The Bantay Church is witness to many attacks, having been pillaged, burned down at least three times and bombed three times. Mysteriously, the church still stands today.

Though the church is beautiful, the bell tower is the attraction of the parish. It reminds me of the abandoned statues in Ayutthaya, Thailand, except you can climb up this one. It looks ancient inside and can be quite scary climbing up the rickety stairs. The atmosphere makes it easy for you to imagine what it would be like living in the Spanish period. Unfortunately, we shared the climb with other tourists so it was crowded and noisy.

The tip of the tower offers panoramic views of the area. My favorite is the cemetery that looks like Santorini from afar.

The Cape Bojeador Lighthouse is another stopover on my itinerary. Honestly, the lighthouse didn’t interest me that much. Historically, it was built during the Spanish period in 1892 and is the most-visited lighthouse in the country. This is apparent, one look at the walls and you’d see the vandals.

What I enjoyed about the lighthouse is the view. The tower faces Cape Bojeador and the South China Sea, and this cliff with a little house. Or perhaps it was a large house and we were far away? Either way, I’d love to own a cottage by the sea, far from civilization. According to the people I toured with, the house on the cliff and the lighthouse were used in Walang Hanggan.

One of my favorite parts of the trip is the visit to the Bangui Windmills. The 20 windmills are located by the shore, and the thing that surprised me the most was its size. I never expected them to be so huge. Each tower stands over 70 meters or roughly the height of a 23-storey building. The 20 towers cover a stretch of nine kilometers and one windmill can power over 1,600 households. The towers can be climbed, and first-timers usually take about 40 minutes to get to the top. That is really high. Each blade is 41 meters long.

It was scary to look at, especially up close, but the 20 windmills look great together. The way they are arranged follows the coastline so it looks elegant. It’s easy to get mesmerized by the lazy spinning of the blades, and it would have been better if all the windmills worked. Nikko and I weren’t quite sure if some of them are broken or didn’t have enough wind power, but it would have been nice if all of them were spinning.


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