Laoag City in Ilocos Norte has well preserved colorful traditions expressed in festivals and town celebrations that are definitely worth seeing. Here are some annual festivals in Laoag tourists should watch out for.
“Pamulinawen’ has been a popular Ilocano term even folks in the Visayas and Mindanao regions readily recognize and ascribe to Ilocanos. In Ilocos Norte, however, it’s not just a vernacular term but one of the popular festivals in Laoag known for its rich religious and cultural significance. The term “Pamulinawen” is a kind of legendary bird popular in Ilocos in the early years. This festival is held every February 4 to 10 each year. On the 10th day of the month a special tribute is given to Saint William, Laoag’s patron saint. This patron is believed responsible for the times Laoag has been spared from disasters and calamities. Prior to the Feast Day of St. William, Laoag would be seen busy with different fiesta activities, drama presentations, dances, food festivals, and other street activities. The feisty occasion actually serves as an extension of the Yuletide Season.
Dulang Food Festival
Laoag, to many people, is almost synonymous with good tasting native cuisines uniquely cooked according to old traditional Ilocano culinary procedures. Tourists and guests can have good samplings of these during the Dulang (dinner) Food Festival. These special food are prepared and cooked with strange looking utensils with names as strangely sounding—banag, silyasi, and dalikan, among others. In earlier times, all households in town would cook their unique specialties and guests could just go from house to house and eat all they wanted. With the cheer that goes with all festivals in Laoag Dulang makes every home celebrate mini-fiestas.
Special Laoag dishes featured in Dulang are Bagnet (Ilocano deep-fried super crunchy pork), Longganisa Ilocos (preserved with all-natural spices and sugarcane vinegar), Dinakdakan (pig’s brain delicacy), Ilocano Dinuguan (pork stewed in pork-blood), Diningding (native veggies in fish preserve and grilled fish), and of course, Pinakbet—a ubiquitous native dish in festivals in Laoag.
Pinakbet is a popular Ilocano dish specialty. It is a spicy concoction of all fresh vegetables abundant in the region, plus a kilo or so of liempo pork, ginger, and about a spoon or two of the famous “bagoong” or fish preserve originally made in Ilocos Norte. Laoag native cooks are so careful not to overcook the vegetables. During Pinakbet Festivals in Laoag guests may also visit from house to house, like in Dulang, and taste different styles of Pinakbet cooking—stewed, dry, in oil, using fish or shrimp preserves. Nowadays, Pinakbet Festival is sometimes incorporated into the Dulang.
Street Pageantry is among the highlights of Pamulinawen Festival held on the 10th of February. There’s a competition where the queen and princess of the town, along with their escorts, are selected, sometimes through a people’s election or through judges. The winners and participants are paraded in the streets. Aside from this, the street is also all agog about street shows and drama presentations performed in many street corners in town. A special portion are jerky ethnic dances accompanied by loud and rapid ethnic drum beats. There are also other cultural presentations, exhibits, and some commercial advertisements. The town plaza is also abuzz with similar activities. At times, there’s even a free movie treat in the evening at the plaza amphitheater.
Aside from the various local fiestas each Laoag town celebrates yearly, there are big festivals in Laoag celebrated by the whole city, like the popular Pamulinawen Festival. It is the Mother of all Festivals in Laoag from which other fiestas are derived and into which some smaller festivals are sometimes incorporated.