The busy and congested streets of the Ilocos Norte provincial capital, LAOAG, can’t compete with Vigan’s historical core when it comes to aesthetic appeal, but there are a handful of things to do and see in Laoag including one of the country’s best museums. The city also makes an excellent base for exploring the beautiful coast at nearby La Paz and Suba or touring sights associated with former dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The most interesting attraction in the city is the Museo Ilocos Norte, which provides an overview of the province’s history and culture. Close to the main plaza, it’s housed in a restored Spanish-era tobacco warehouse. Exhibits include vintage costumes, farming equipment and tribal artefacts. There’s even a replica of an ilustrado (educated middle class) ancestral home complete with antiques, and the souvenir shop has some interesting books and gifts.

Close by are the Sinking Bell Tower and St William’s Cathedral. The bell tower was built by Augustinian friars with a door big enough for a man on horseback to pass through. The tower has sunk so much that today you can only get through the door by stooping. The cathedral, one of the biggest in the Philippines, was built in 1880 on older foundations. The Marcos Hall of Justice, the square white building on the west side of Aurora Park, was where a young Ferdinand Marcos was detained in 1939 after being accused of the murder of one of his father’s political opponents. Marcos wanted to graduate in law and used his time in detention wisely, swotting for the bar examination and successfully preparing his own defence.

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