The town of Manaoag has no beaches nor mountains to boot but what it lacks in nature tourism it makes up for in pilgrimage tourism. People dash to this town of 65,000 residents not to bask in the sun and frolic in the sands, but to offer devotion to its miraculous 17th-century ivory Marian statue the "Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag".
According to local folklore, a man had a vision of the Virgin Mary who communicated to him the message to build a shrine which is now the location of the church of Manaoag. Then on, locals and foreign pilgrims who’ve heard about the miraculous image poured into the town.
Apart from the church and paying reverence and offering prayers to the Manaoag patroness, there’s another thing that attracts people in the town, although it might only be consequential to any visit, people pass by and don’t just leave the town empty handed.
Right around the church are perhaps hundreds of shops selling all stuff souvenirs, knick knacks, and delectable delicacies that the town is famous for. You don’t leave Manaoag without tasting and bringing home a dozen or so of those chewy glutinous rice with shredded young coconut wrapped in banana leaves, almost similar to “suman” (rice cake) except that it is grilled.
And who doesn’t get drawn into trying one of those attractive sweet sticky rice wrapped in palm leaves that resembles a lady’s purse? They’re called “patupat”. The intricacy and sophistication of confectionery packaging is all embodied in this native delicacy. It is made by weaving the palm leaves to create a hamper and filled with glutinous rice, tight closed and cooked.
Everytime I buy one, I always grumble, it’s one delicious delicacy that made me labor a lot (opening it, removing each strands of leaves caught up in its stickiness) before I could even devour on it, it takes time and the mess! Don’t whine, it’s delicious and worth all the effort.
One should also look for fruits-in-season as they’re cheap when it’s the harvest season. I bought 3 kilos of mangoes yesterday for only 100 pesos, the plump red-yellow-green indian mangoes are fragrantly sweet and so are the yellow ones. Don’t forget to pick up a jar of “bagoong” if you’re buying some green mangoes, they go together like hand in gloves. It’s also the season of those sweet red-green small round fruits called “siniguelas” (hog plum) selling at 100 pesos per 3 kilos.
Colorful trinkets are sold cheaper than many places in Ilocandia, if you haggle, they’ll give you those lovely wooden beads bracelets at 5 to 10 pesos each depending on designs and the number of items you’ll purchase. How about an evil-eye necklace? One that ward off bad luck and looks.
But don’t haggle much because they’re already cheap in regional standard, I found those items sold double-priced in some towns in Ilocos when I was there couple of months ago.
If you’re in town, stay until tonight (at time of writing), the town is still in fiesta mood, and they’ll be holding the coronation night of the “Hiyas ng Manaoag” (local beauty pageant) at the town’s auditorium at around 8:00pm with Venus Raj gracing the occasion. I heard the town’s charismatic Mayor Kim Amador mentioned that, when he went onstage the other night during the well-attended concert of “Parokya Ni Edgar”.
Getting to Manaoag from Manila, there are direct buses from Manila to Manaoag. Dagupan Bus (phone (02) 727-2330) from their terminal in New York Street, Cubao has several trips a day (24/7). Victory Liner (phone (02) 727-4688) is running direct to Manaoag. Fare is P360. Travel time is about 4 hours.
Address: Manaoag, Pangasinan, Philippines
Google Map Direction: Manaoag, Pangasinan