Paoay Church: Having Lunch With This View?

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July 30th 2011
Published: August 2nd 2011
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Paoay ChurchPaoay ChurchPaoay Church

Although known as the “Earthquake Baroque” church in the Philippines, Paoay Church actually combines baroque, gothic and oriental designs.
I had a wonderful time when I last visited this place. Dinner with a view then. Lovely, with the entire Church illuminated in all its beauty and antiquity. This time around, I brought my family for lunch here. And the view , on this rainy day, is just as awesome. Plus the novelty of Ilocano dishes for lunch did not fail.

Paoay Church

It is actually Saint Augustine Church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this 17th century church combines Gothic, Baroque and even Oriental designs and stands proud , alone and majestic, supported by 24 massive buttresses which render its side view just as interesting as its front view. The belfry is separated from the Church, and looks rooted to the ground like a faithful sentry to its master.

As it was raining, we decided to take our lunch in the equally lovely Cafe Herencia fronting the church compound. Inside, you can choose a table with a window that affords an unobstructed view of the Paoay Church. On a rainy day, you will be quite content sipping a good espresso while nibbling on a local biscuit or cookie, while admiring this
Buttresses, all of 24!Buttresses, all of 24!Buttresses, all of 24!

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is supported by 24 massive buttresses which render its side view just as interesting as its frontal view.
icon of Spanish rule in this northern part of the Philippines.

But we came here directly from Manila, after a one hour flight that was mercifully not delayed despite the inclement weather. Passing by the Sinking Bell Tower near the 17th century Italian Renaissance-inspired St. William The Hermit Church in Laoag City, we timed our visit of this Paoay heritage site so we can enjoy a late lunch in this Cafe.

And Lunch Is ALWAYS Serious Business 😊

With kids in tow, Cafe Herencia allows us to choose the traditional and must-try local dishes while offering standard food options for the children.

As it turned out, we simply had to order the Pinakbet Pizza as Cafe Herencia is touted to be the "home" of this fusion dish. Pizza is Pizza. Pinakbet is a very Ilocano dish in this region. Basically a vegetable dish consisting of stringbeans, bitter melon, tomatoes and the local fermented fish paste. Honestly, it was difficult for me to even imagine this dish as a pizza. But trust me, it was good. I'd recommend it to vegetarians and carnivores alike.

The Bagnet is a carnivore's dream come true.
Pinakbet PizzaPinakbet PizzaPinakbet Pizza

Filipinos love their pizza. So with their Pinakbet-- a vegetable dish from Ilocos cooked almost everywhere around the country in countless versions.
Choice pork cubes boiled, then fried to a crisp. Served with diced tomatoes and onions sprinkled with the local "bagoong" or fermented fish paste, this dish is as Ilocano as Ilocano can be. And another one for the vegetarians, there's the Poqui-Poqui. Now, I have to remind you to enunciate every syllable here as the name of the dish sounds obscene to non-Ilocanos. The rest of the Philippines would give you a wink when you say the name of this dish as it bears the same name as that very intimate part of the female anatomy. Aha? Yes, that's how it is called. Locals have shortened the name to 'pokpok" which by now, is local slang for a "lady of the night" (you know, the kind who sells her 'wares'😉. But by whatever name it is called, this eggplant-onion dish is a good accompaniment to nearly everything else you'd order. We had it with almost every meal we ordered! For something soupy, there is "Dinengdeng" which combines various vegetables flavored subtly with the local fermented fish paste. Not salty at all, but this soupy vegetable dish can replace any vegetable salad you may be thinking of having to complete your

Choice pork cubes are first boiled, then fried to a crisp till its skin "bubbles". Served with cubed tomatoes and onions sprinkled with the local "bagoong" or shrimp paste.
meal. Lastly, the "Dinuguan" or "Dinardaraan" is not for everyone. I would even venture to add it is an acquired taste. Many would balk at this pork blood stew especially as it's all black except for the green pepper which adorns the dish. If you are adventurous and visiting the country for the first time, I suggest you try it. You will find dinuguan almost everywhere around the country, but here in Ilocos, they have the crispy version. Yummy.

How To Burn All That Lunch?

There are various tourist sites to visit around this area. Rather than suffer the long 10hour drive from Manila, the 1 hour flight (especially with the many promo rates offered by PAL and Cebu Pacific) from Manila to Laoag City is the better option. If you are in a group, it makes sense to hire a van (3,500 pesos or US $ 80 for a group of 12) you can use for the next 8 hours or so rather than break up in four's to take the local pedicabs or tricycles. No time wasted with a hired van.

There is Malacanang of the North. Malacanang is the name of
Poqui PoquiPoqui PoquiPoqui Poqui

The vegetarians score with this eggplant and onion dish which goes well with almost anything. Also called "Pok Pok" but I must warn you that both poqui poqui and pokpok have sensual undertones. :))
the Presidential Palace by the banks of the Pasig River in Manila, but during the time of ex-President Ferdinand Marcos, another Palace was built fronting the lovely Paoay Lake. And then there's the Marcos Mausoleum in Batac, Ilocos Norte and farther down, the Juan Luna Shrine in Badoc. Up North , there is Bangui Windmills, Cape Bojeador, Kapurpurawan Rock Formation and Pagudpud Beach. Right within the city, there is Ilocos Museum and you can also idle the time away in a casino in Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel . Lots of choices for the tourists.

But if you really want to burn that energy from lunch and have little time to spare, why not go to the La Paz Sand Dunes? Just a half hour away, this is like no man's land. Desert-like in charm. If you like to visit, be sure to make arrangements so you can go sand cruising either on a board or on an ATV. Some go off roading in this area. There is even an Offroading Competition in this area but I am not aware of its schedule.

Since it's been raining, we took advantage of the lull and ventured under cloudy

A typical Ilocano dish. Very frugal in terms of ingredients, yet so rich in its subtle flavors. Love this soupy dish of stringbeans, squash flowers, bitter melon, subtly flavored with shrimp paste.
skies. It was dry, but not as hot nor humid. There was even a good breeze when we visited. Not bad. Both adults and kids had fun climbing up and down the dunes, sinking their feet in the sand, and simply just enjoying the view from the summit. Depending on the time of year and of course the weather, go and visit the La Paz Sand Dunes and burn off all that energy!

Here's an earlier blog entry on Northern Philippines:
Northern Philippines: A Spanish Heritage

Additional photos below
Photos: 23, Displayed: 23



Pork blood stew is not for everyone. Many Filipinos like it, and in Ilocos they have the "crunchy" version. The green pepper is a matter of choice and taste.
Cafe HerenciaCafe Herencia
Cafe Herencia

It sits right across Paoay Church. Enjoy your lunch here, capped with a cup of good brew and some local delicacies.
Local Delicacies Local Delicacies
Local Delicacies

Check out the local delicacies in Cafe Herencia. Or elsewhere around Ilocos. Tip: I love their banana chips!
Inside Cafe HerenciaInside Cafe Herencia
Inside Cafe Herencia

It's not so big. Just claim a cozy space with a window that would give you a good , unobstructed view of the Paoay Church while enjoying your lunch.
La Paz Sand DunesLa Paz Sand Dunes
La Paz Sand Dunes

A geological monument. It helped that the sky was overcast; otherwise we doubt we can stand the heat. Be sure to arrange for an ATV cruising or sandboarding in this sandy area half an hour away from Laoag City.
Off With The SandalsOff With The Sandals
Off With The Sandals

Let those feet sink as you scale the sand dunes. No sandboarding though. Now, that could have been fun.
Poor GoatPoor Goat
Poor Goat

A dog bit this goat. For food? Hope not. We saw the dog scamper away and this poor goat, lying there and dying.
And how about this?????And how about this?????
And how about this?????

Soon after we left this place, it rained. As in........ it poured!
Malacanang of the NorthMalacanang of the North
Malacanang of the North

This palace was in disrepair the last time I visited. With ex-President Marcos' eldest daughter Imee as Governor of Ilocos Norte now, the palace is mercifully restored and cared for.
Batac MausoleumBatac Mausoleum
Batac Mausoleum

Here rests ex-President Ferdinand Marcos. Nobody knows for how long.
St. William The Hermit ChurchSt. William The Hermit Church
St. William The Hermit Church

Almost always, the first stop is this 17th Century Church and the nearby Sinking Bell Tower.
Sinking Bell Tower of LaoagSinking Bell Tower of Laoag
Sinking Bell Tower of Laoag

Built on sandy foundations, it is said that a man on horseback can easily pass through the vaulted entrance before. These days, a man of ordinary height would have to stoop low to get in.
One Last Time: Paoay ChurchOne Last Time: Paoay Church
One Last Time: Paoay Church

Hard to get enough of this beautiful Church. This time, from Cafe Herencia just right across. Have a good cup of brew while nibbling on local cookies and biscuits here.
Ilocos MuseumIlocos Museum
Ilocos Museum

If you have time, do visit the Ilocos Museum. It won't take more than an hour. And if you need to buy souvenir items, go check out their baskets, local wines and handicrafts here.
Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel
Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel

Got extra time before boarding your flight back to Manila? This is more than just a casino hotel. You will enjoy the space --- the playground (for the kids), the fountain area, the koi pond, the garden.
Juan Luna ShrineJuan Luna Shrine
Juan Luna Shrine

Best visited as you drive south from Laoag City, Ilocos Norte to Vigan, Ilocos Sur. Badoc is the last town of Ilocos Norte. A must-visit destination. Another heritage site.
Say hello to my family& friends!Say hello to my family& friends!
Say hello to my family& friends!

We filled the van. All 12 of us. We're busy building memories!

2nd August 2011

pass me that pizza, please!
All those food pictures just made me hungry. Pinakbet pizza? Who would have thought, right?
2nd August 2011

am loving all these blogs about places in the Philippines I wanted to go to but didn't have time to! Keep it going! And it says something about your country that in 6 months of constant traveling there was just SO MUCH that I didn't have the time to do :)
3rd August 2011

What's good? This post. What's not good is reading this post during my afternoon break. I badly want that pinakbet pizza. And just like you and Biri, my trip up north has been one that I've been putting off for such a long time. Hehe.
4th August 2011

thanks for another really interesting blog and great photos, I agree with the other comments about the pizza (it looks great) not so sure if I would try the pigs blood dish (best if no-one told me what it is if it was served up for me) ...
11th August 2011

loved Poqui Poqui lots! nom nom =D

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