Laoag City is a 1st class city in the province of Ilocos Norte, Philippines.
Laoag means "the place of light or clarity" in Ilokano. Laoag City had been a known progressive settlement to Japanese and Chinese traders, until the time when Juan de Salcedo, as Spanish conquistador, set foot at the northern banks of Padsan River in 1572.
In 1580, according to the national archieves date, Laoag was organized. The Augustinian missionaries established the Roman Catholic church and designated St. William the Hermit as its patron saint, the same saint whose feast is celebrated on the 10th of February each year.
The Malay immigrants to the Philippines came in about 300 to 200 B.C. These immigrants were less civilized. The Malays, who were the ancestors of the Igorots, Ifugaos, Bontocs, and Tinguian of Northern Luzon. The second group of Malay immigrants came after the Christian Era at about first century A.D. and continued through the next centuries until the 13th century.
When the Spaniards found the Philippine Islands, they found out that the natives were already divided into community groups with their own independent government. The "barangay" or "puroc" was the center of the population, that reaches up to 6,000. Their native houses are made up of cogon and bamboo and built compactly and are arranged around the hill known as "Ermita Hill" located at the southeastern section of what is now known as Laoag, near the banks of Padsan River.
Before the end of the 16th century, missionaries improved the living condition of the natives. Missionaries resettled the inhabitants of Ermita Hill to the center of the community of Laoag. They laid out a rectangle, where they constructed a plaza, a church, a convent, a tower, a tribunal and other important buildings accessible to the natives. They built houses in an arranged manner within the reach of the church bell. The poblacion was divided into different barrios and named after the patron saint assigned to them.
Laoag City obtained its cityhood in June 19, 1965, throuhg a plebiscite, leaving its municipal status. It was also proclaimed as the capital of Ilocos Norte.
Laoag City is a second class city situated at coordinates 18deg11'N and 120deg35'E in the west central area of the province of Ilocos Norte, near the South China Sea. It is approximately 488 kilometers, or 10 to 14 hours away, from Manila. It has a total land area of 12,747.35 square meters, politically subdivided into 80 barangays. Aside from being the province's capital city, it is also the political, commercial, and industrial center. It is bounded by the municipalities of San Nicolas, Paoay, Sarrat, Vintar and Bacarra, as well as the foothills of the Cordillera Central mountain range and the South China Sea.
In the year 2000, the city has a total population of 94,400, with Barangay San Lorenzo having the largest number of residents. It is remarkable to note that, unlike most Christian parts of the country, the Roman Catholic church does not dominate here. Instead, the Aglipayan Church, Iglesia ni Cristo and other Protestant groups have more number of disciples.
As to Laoag's economy, rice, corn, sugar, and tobacco are the principal products for export to other countries. It is also the heart of the fast developing North Luzon Economic Triangle. The city is a strategic area to the economic center of East Asia. It is reachable in 45 minutes by plane from Hongkong, and 30 minutes away from the port of Kaohsiung City of Taiwan. The Laoag International Airport and Currimao Port make Laoag the port entry of goods and services with extensive roads and highways that connect it to other cities. The city has an extensive banking system with 25 local, domestic and foreign banks ready to serve any financial needs.
Laoag is the heart of social and economic activity, where major commercial and institutional establishments flock the city. The local government and private sectors give more importance to education and invested much in the development of the academic infrastructures. The government-owned lower level schools are divided into three districts, with a total of 33 primary and elementary schools and 7 private elementary schools, most of which are sectarian and managed by religious organizations. There are 8 private and 3 public high schools. To provide a continuing education, there are several colleges and universities in operation that offers degrees in special areas.
Presently, two public institutions are operational, with five private colleges and universities that offers programs from 2 year associate degrees to doctoral degrees. Laoag also has four private special vocational schools.
Tourism has become an economic source of Laoag City, thus making way for new commercial investments and infrastructure developments. Recently, there has been a new abridged procedure for immigration for easier entrance of Chinese tourists into the country. This is expected to yield more visitors in the country. The government of Ilocos Norte anticipates the progression of tourism industry in the area, hence the construction of a multi-million dollar convention center and hotel to meet the needs of the industry.
The city certainly has good reasons why the tourism industry should be well supported. Aside from good investment opportunities, Laoag City has plenty of aids to educate one about the colorful history of the country. The Sinking Bell Tower, St. William Cathedral, Ilocos Norte Capitol, the Tobacco Monopoly Monument, the Ilocos Lighthouse, the Bangui Windmills, the Ilocos Norte Museum, the Marcos Mansion and the Fort Ilocandia Resort and Hotel (the only five star hotel in northern Philippines) are all worthwhile mementos of the country's past. Added to these tourist attractions are modern venues of typical vacation spots, like the La Paz Sand Dunes, Pagudpud White Sand Beaches, the Casino Filipino, and the 18-hole Golf Course designed by Gary Player.
There are also numerous mountains, rivers, and waterfalls which have been proven by visitors in the past decades to be wonderful venues for trekking, eco-tourism adventures and sports.
Of course, no place in the Philippines would be complete without its own festivals. For this category, Laoag City offers the famous Pamulinawen Festival, held on the feast of St. William every 10th of February and showcases floral and dance parades, and the December Festival, which involves lantern parades and competitions, Christmas dressing up and Palarong Pamasko, or Christmas sportsfest. All these truly make Laoag City a place worth visiting.
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