|Ma-Cho Temple is the biggest Taoist temple outside China|
For as long as I can remember, La Union seems to me one of those places where one passes through enroute to a more distant destination, in this case Baguio and Ilocos. With Thunderbird Resort as our kind host, we were treated to a sampling of sights around La Union beyond the usual surfing.
|Incredible detail of Ma-Cho Temple dome can't be found even in Taipei temples|
Beguiling Ma-Cho Temple. Probably the most prominent evidence of Chinese influence on La Union, this is reputedly the biggest, most modern Taoist temple outside China. It is one of only 10 Taoist temples in the Philippines. Located in the Barangay 1 poblacion, its main pagoda lies at the center of a one hectare compound, framed by high arches at the front and flanked by a smaller temple on higher ground at the right side. The details of the main pagoda, mainly the ceiling with its spider-type dome made up of interlinking carvings of saints, are riveting at the very least. The literature said the dome is a rarity so much so that one can't find a similar one even in Taipei.
The temple also carries an interesting story: it shares the image of the Virgin of Caysasay (fished out of the lake of Taal town in Batangas). Legend has it the image of the Virgin of Caysasay and the one gifted by a grateful Taiwanese fisherman to the San Fernando folk in 1972 are one and the same. Every year, during the 5th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar, the image of Ma-cho goes to Taal town for a pilgrimage and returns the next day to mark the start of festivities.
|Luna Baluarte Ruins|
Beautiful ruins - Pindangan and Luna Watch Tower -- and a beautiful church. The Pindangan ruins in Barangay Parian are the remains of the oldest church in the province which was damaged by an earthquake in 1892.
While the Pindangan ruins were just minutes away from Poro Point, getting to Luna took over an hour's drive from San Fernando. The pebble-strewn shore is the site for men who earn a living quarrying for the loose stones and children bottling the colorful ones for sale to tourists. The Luna baluarte/watch tower ruins stand dramatically against the grey shore, split in half but sturdily weathering the wind and the salty air. It was not easy to find as some of the locals we asked do not know there was even one.
|Our Lady of Namacpacan Facade|
Since we heard that a beautiful church can also be found in Luna we dropped by the church of our Lady of Namacpacan. It was the site of the 50th year of a canonical celebration last year and where 100 priests aand archbishops from Ilocos concelebrated Mass with the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines. The original, 7-foot image of the virgin is said to be miraculous, providing miracle cures and sparing the town from natural calamities.
|Botanical Garden Jungle Face|
Seeing green. Visitors who would want to picnic amidst lush greens are advised to wander eight kilometers away from the city proper where the La Union Botanical Garden can be found.
The hilly 20-hectare spread has eagles, macaques, geckos and butterflies living in the middle of dense vegetation. It's a bit of a travel in these parts but for those who'd want to see green, perhaps pack a picnic basket and while the day away in green surroundings, this place would be ideal.
Note: Thunderbird Resorts visitors can request for city tours and trips that include the itinerary outlined above. Visit www.thunderbird-asia.com. Many thanks to Nica of Thunderbird Resorts Poro Point for the invite.