Road Trip to Ilocos Norte 4: Bacarra Bell Tower & Museo de Bacarra
A destination often missed by travelers bound north is the town of Bacarra. Not everyone knew what this underrated town possesses like the monumental platform that once placed Bacarra on the maps and the recently unveiled attraction that gave more color in the town’s history. Let’s take a detour and get to know a little more about Bacarra in our Road Trip to Ilocos Norte 4: Bacarra Bell Tower & Museo de Bacarra.
Old Spanish-Baroque churches and bell towers have been among the most visited tourist destinations in the Philippines where majority are Catholics. Undeniably, every proud Catholics in every town take pride in their stunningly beautiful churches and the stories behind it, just like how the Bacarreños are proud of theirs.
Jay and Mico’s “tourist shot” in Bacarra Tower.
Bacarra treasures the early 19th century Torre Ti Bacarra, or Bacarra Tower that once towered over all the bell towers in the Philippine islands. With the tower’s original design, a 16 x 16 meter base and at 50 meters high, it once reigned as the highest bell tower in the Philippine islands until it was trembled by 2 earthquakes that brought down the top most level.
Debris from the ruins left untouched in Bacarra.
Though not the highest anymore, curious travelers still drop by town to see what’s left of Bacarra Tower that was declared a National Cultural Treasure. Instead of cleaning up the mess left by devastation, debris were left untouched which gave more character to Bacarra’s pride. Rather, walkways, plants, and trees, were added to beautify the the tower and the church across it.
St. Andrew’s Parish Church of Bacarra, Ilocos Norte.
St. Andrew Parish Church were built separated from the bell tower similar to Laoag, Paoay, and Sta. Maria‘s design. Bacarra’s church suffered from 3 earthquake damages before the present church was finally rebuilt dating mid-19th century. St. Andrew’s Church had an abandoned two-storey convent which was now converted to Bacarra’s latest tourist attraction.
Recounting all the places our group went earlier this day, we consider ourselves lucky to have accomplished a lot amidst our exhausted and worn out bodies brought upon by a sleepless day of touring Ilocos. Yet we were just about to get luckier for we had a sneak peek at the Bacarra‘s next and forthcoming attraction.
Museo de Bacarra.
During our visit in town, Museo de Bacarra was yet to open for the public, and in fact, the next day was its inauguration day to be attended by Bacarra Mayor Nicomendes dela Cruz Jr., Honorable Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, and, Former First Lady and the province’s Congresswoman Imelda Romualdez Marcos. Frustrated from the closed museum, we were walking back to our vehicle when a cheerful-looking man approached us. He seemed to be delighted with our enthusiasm so he invited us for a “pre-opening” guided tour, led by no other than the same guy who turned out to be the Vice Chair of the Town’s Tourism and Development Council, the spearhead and designer of this museum project, and a proud Bacarreño, Asencion Bonoan.
Jay Pagulayan standing on a podium in front of Museo de Bacarra.
Though the old convent underwent a makeover for Museo de Bacarra‘s grand opening, many features were also left untouched. Tarnished bricks, bold arches, and, of course, the classic capiz windows – these rustic features of the facade exemplify the old Spanish-baroque feel that welcomes visitors as they enter. That was only a prelude.
Old furniture displayed in Museo de Bacarra.
Agricultural products of Bacarra exhibited in the town’s museum.
Panagabel, weaving in Ilocos.
A year was spent collecting artifacts and remnants to be housed in Museo de Bacarra. These collections belong to locals who willingly contributed some of their priced possessions that tell tales about their hometown. Sections in a cellar-looking portion of the convent were divided accordingly to livelihood and agriculture, history and politics, culture, religion and everyday living. I’ve been to many museums in the country before and, though, artifacts may not be the oldest of the old, the best of the best, the cream of the crop, the rose among the thorns, personally, I think it’s one of the best in terms of presentation and exhibition.
Antique furniture and kitchen wares in Museo de Bacarra.
Behind the old convent was a mysterious garden where an underground staircase leading to three tunnels was found. Previous siphoning projects were conducted but water, even during the dry season, didn’t seem to subside that’s why until today these tunnels remain uncharted. Only old Spanish records attest that the tunnels separately lead to Bacarra River, the tower, and the altar.
Brick walls of the old convent.
I admit that even I, the one who plotted most of our destinations, skipped Bacarra in my planning. Original route was head straight to Pagudpud right after Laoag. Only a sudden heartbeat told me to take the detour in this silent town without knowing what privilege lay ahead of us. Some may find Bacarra just another town to pass by, but for me, it was a gem quietly kept beneath the rocks. With Bacarra’s Belfry, St. Andrew’s Church, the newly opened Museo de Bacarra, and the proud Bacarreño’s undying love for their home, I am certain that Bacarra will take its rightful place in tourism maps.
Finally, we could move on to our last destination of our day, our temporary resting and vacation place, Pagudpud’s Kingfisher Resort.
Here are some fast facts that may help you on your trip:
1. From Laoag, on the main highway to Pagudpud, you will see a sign pointing left to Bacarra’s Bell Tower and Church and Museo de Bacarra. TAKE THE TURN.
2. Museo de Bacarra opens from:
8:00 – 12:00 in the morning
1:00 – 5:00 in the afternoon
3. Museo de Bacarra entrance fee:
FREE – Children from 0-5 years old
P5.00 – Elementary students
P10.00 – High School Students
P15.00 – College Students
P20.00 – Adults
4. Don’t miss the garden of the old convent.
5. An hour, or mayba an hour and a half, visit to Bacarra is worth it.
7. Read more about the province in Biyaheng Ilocos Norte.
8. Like Biyaherong Barat on Facebook.
9. Follow @BiyaherongBarat on Twitter
10. Drive safe and happy travels to everyone.
Touring the secret garden with Asencion Bonoan.