And Agnes and I were on the way south. The trip from Pagudpud to Batac would take at least a couple of hours. Unlike the vacation in Pagudpud, Bangui and Burgos, this trip to Batac was a mixture of both a desire to discover things about the place and to know my roots. Batac was where my grandfather was from before he left Ilocandia for Mindanao and it was where my father and uncle said, we still had some relatives and even a piece of land.
Upon our arrival in Batac, we chanced upon Glenn, the tricycle driver who would become our guide in this leg of our Northern Exposure. First stop in Batac would be the Marcos museum. Considering that the former president and dictator was born in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, it was weird that his museum would be in Batac, but since it was there, Agnes and I decided to see what was there.
Before we knew it, we were already there. The place was in disarray, twin boards of the dictator’s family tree on both his mother’s and father’s side were outside, with the names of relatives falling off. One building held some mementos of Marcos from his childhood days, his years in Congress, and his years in Malacanang. It also had the license plates of his cars, his portraits, articles of power, and even his disputed military medals. Inside another building, we saw the former president encased in glass wearing a barong bedecked in his military and honorary decorations. Agnes was telling me that Marcos’ body looked so stiff, it seemed like it was not real. Of course, no one knows if what is on display is the real body of the president or not, but the place surely felt eerie.
After the museum, we proceeded to the Baranggay Petra Quilinguing Pimentel. Formerly named Cubol, the baranggay was named after former Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr.’s mother, who was a native of the place. Petra was the older sister of my grandfather Leandro. They both moved to Mindanao at the height of the government’s program to encourage people from Luzon and the Visayas to migrate to the land of Promise.
I did not actually know who I would be seeing there or if I would meet someone from my grandfather’s side since this was a visit out of impulse. What complicated matters was that phone was drained of batteries so I could no longer contact my dad or my uncle for referrals. And so when we arrived at the place, we asked around but it seemed that some of the locals no longer knew my relatives. I took consolation in the thought that maybe my relatives no longer had the same family name as mine since most of my grandfather was the only son in a brood of seven.
Heavy-hearted, I proceeded with Agnes and Glenn to our next destination: Paoay’s St. Augustine Cathedral. Declared by the UNESCO as a world heritage site, the cathedral’s baroque façade as enormous with its red bricks and I think some whitewash made out of ground corals. The side buttresses were huge and commanding that they added attraction to the already beautiful frontal panels. What was sad about the cathedral though was the loss of its ceiling. The original ceiling had been replaced after…
Considering that we were already in Paoay, Agnes wanted to see the sand dunes of Suba. The sand dunes gained the attention of the country after it was featured as the site of the epic battle between Fernando Poe, Jr. and his enemies in Panday. After some distance from the cathedral, we saw what would be described as akin to the landscape often seen in the Middle East. It was sand everywhere and the heat was punishing It was so severe that we had to bring out our caps and keffiyehs despite the fact that we were already wearing long sleeve shirts. After taking a few shots of the otherworldly sight, we resumed our trip. This time, we were going to Laoag.
Laoag was going to be the last stop in this leg of the Northern Exposure. Glenn was kind enough to drive us from Paoay all the way to Laoag. And he dropped us off at St. William’s Cathedral. Agnes and I decided to light some candles at the church to thank God for the safe journey we had from Quezon City to Pagudpud and Pagudpud to Laoag. After saying our prayers, we passed by the cathedral’s bell tower, which was actually known for its slow sinking. A couple of pictures with the bell tower as a background, and we were off again.
Next and final stop… Vigan
(To be continued)