Manresa School Explores Ilocandia

MAY 26

Manresa School Explores Ilocandia

Buzzing with excitement and having hearts filled with gratefulness, the first batch composed of 26 faculty members, 15 maintenance and staff, and accompanied by 4 F.I sisters, kicks off the annual Categorized Educational Tour of Manresa School as they departed for the historic province of Ilocos Region on the night of May 26, 2024.

In the words of our dearest RCA, Sr. Jeck Z. Silorio, F.I, the Categorized Educational tour “is an opportunity for personal recharge, community bonding, and cultural exposure.  It is a responsibility because we are called to conduct ourselves as a responsible member of the educative community and our maxim, Tatak Manresa:Kapatid sa Kapwa must continue to govern our thoughts and actions as we enjoy the gift of each other, of community and the moment.”

The first day of the tour was filled with unforgettable and thrilling experiences. From the 10-hour road trip up to the last destination of the day, it was nothing but a feast to the eyes and the heart. First in the itinerary was the Dubai version of Ilocos Norte, the Paoay Sand Dunes. Surrounded by the immaculate 88 square kilometers of white sand, Paoay Sand Dunes was best enjoyed with the view of the trail while riding the 4x4 truck reaching the sandy hills where the teachers and staff shrieked with giggles at every quick drop and sharp turns. “It was definitely the highlight of the trip as it was my first time riding a 4x4 truck.” said Teacher Jay Vidad from the Junior High School department. Exploring the terrains of Paoay Sand Dunes was challenging but it somehow became a stress relief due to the adrenaline rush it brought. “I was expecting it to be a sweet ride but it really surprised me!” exclaimed Sir Russel. What was a better way to begin the Ilocos trip than laughing your hearts out while also conquering your fears?

The province of Ilocos is not only popular with extreme sports, its rich culture, and delicious food, it is also a home of cultural heritage churches. Ms. Porsha, a second year teacher in Manresa School, mentioned that the most memorable part of the trip was the visit to different churches in Ilocos. “I was able to gain new knowledge about the catholic faith as our tourist guide explained the history of the churches we visited.” The Church of St. Augustine is a Baroque church in the municipality of Paoay. It was declared a National Cultural Treasure in 1973, and was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. Having it built for over three centuries now, it still remains strong against natural disasters such as earthquakes and storms. The church perfectly mirrors the strong faith of the Ilocanos and also a reminder to us to persevere and believe that God is with us through the ups and downs of life. The regal stance of the church, its green landscape, and the blue skies made Paoay church a scenic view that is one of a kind.

The teachers and staff also visited another National Cultural Treasure, the St. Andrew Apostle Parish, which is famous for its centuries-old, domeless or "beheaded" belfry known as Torre ti Bacarra. The church was made entirely through manual labor using materials such as bricks and lime. The locals call it Bowing Bell Tower of Bacarra, while most tourists call it the Leaning Tower of the North. Ilocos is undeniably now becoming famous for its “faith tourism” as it attracts tourists for pilgrim visits. The Categorized Educational Tour has not only become a time to enjoy but also a moment to strengthen the catholic faith.

The last church visited was the Minor Basilica of St. John the Baptist where Ilocos Norte’s patroness is enshrined - the La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc. Locals from Ilocos have developed a devotion to the miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin Mary carrying the Infant Jesus in her arms. According to the tour guide, the people of Badoc believed that Virgin Mary chose to be enshrined at the St. John the Baptist Parish when local fishermen found the image in a wooden box that was said to have drifted ashore from Japan. Since then, numerous acclamations of miraculous healing were told by the people of Ilocos. The visit to the church had been a calling to follow the example of La Virgen Milagrosa, an example of humility, and of unconditional love for Jesus.

As one of the objectives of the CE Tour was to have a cultural exposure, the province of Ilocos surely has a lot of history, beauty, and culture to offer. The touring group had the opportunity to explore a hidden gem in Badoc, the recreation of our national artist and patriot, Juan Luna’s home that has been turned into a museum of his masterpieces and memorabilia. The museum itself is a historical artifact of his paintings. His love for the country was evident in every color and every stroke of his brush in the life-sized canvases inside the two-storey building. Leaving the museum had the teachers and staff feel an overwhelming love for the country. “The tour was memorable as I learned a lot about parishan life and also about the artistic life of Juan Luna” exclaimed by Ms. Claire Latoja, a Science teacher from the Junior High School department.

Speaking of history and heritage, a trip to Ilocos province would not be complete without visiting the  “Malacañang ti Amianan” or The Malacañang of the North, where the official residence of the late President Ferdinand Marcos and his family used to reside when visiting their home province. Located on the shores of Paoay Lake, the Mansion of the Marcoses was nothing but of grandeur and sophistication. What was once a home for the family became a museum open to the public. Its architecture had an intricate mix of Spanish, Filipino, and Ilocano-inspired designs.

Traveling through the roads of Ilocos Norte made the sightseeing more fun with the view of Bangui Windmills. According to the provincial government, the windmill farm is a testament of the province’s determination to not just become a tourist attraction but also to lead in putting an importance to reusable energy. What these windmills do is also similar to Manresa School’s response to Pope Francis’s call for us to live out our faith by caring for our common home - the Laudato Si’ movement. As the windmills form an arc along the Bangui shoreline, it was a picturesque background for a perfect photo opportunity!

In the Northern part of Ilocos situated the pristine blue waters of Luzon where the teachers and staff have enjoyed the majestic view of Pagudpud Ivory beach. It was unfortunate that swimming was discouraged due to strong winds and raging waves of the beach, but it was nevertheless calming and relaxing. It was a moment to breathe and appreciate God’s gift. On their way back to Pagudpud, the touring group passed by the long snaking bridge called the Patapat viaduct. It is known for its remarkable structure that rises 31 meters above the shore. It is the most photographed destination in the North so the group did not think twice to capture the moment together.

The charm of Ilocos Province would not be complete without visiting the stunning landscape and cultural heritage of Ilocos Sur. Another amazing attraction awaits the touring group as they geared up to explore the wildlife sanctuary in Baluarte Zoo. For some it would look like an ordinary zoo wherein you would see different species of animals; there were horses, monkeys, snakes, lions, and more. What made the zoo different from the others was the Safari Gallery inside. In the heart of the animal park lies a museum and collection of preserved wild animals displayed inside. Seeing these animals in person could be dangerous so it was reassuring to admire them this way. The trip was educational as it taught the teachers and staff about wildlife conservation.

The CET was wrapped up in the townscape of Vigan City. The anticipation was palpable on the way to the destination as it is known as a “frozen city” as it preserved the authentic historic urbanity of a Spanish colonial town in Asia. Established in the 16th century, the Historic city of Vigan is one of UNESCO’s world heritage. Calle Crisologo is one of the oldest and most popular streets in the Philippines. The centuries-old stone houses, tungsten lamps, and antique cobblestone street were a sight to behold. There were also shops where the teachers and staff took a leisurely stroll to look for pasalubongs to give their loved ones back home. What is a tour in Ilocos without bringing back home longganisa, empanada, and chichacorn?

As the tour ended, the teachers and staff expressed their immense gratitude to the administration and the F.I sisters for their generosity. This experience yet again made the teachers and staff feel how it is to be a kapatid sa kapwa. As members of the educational community, the experiences and new knowledge gained from the trip will be treasured and cherished by passing it forward to the students and stakeholders of Manresa School.