Situated on the northwestern coast of Luzon, La Union is the gateway to the Ilocos Region. With its strategic location, the province has become the business, education, and government center of the Ilocos. Not only is La Union the region’s center for trade but also of religious devotees who flock to one of the country’s popular pilgrimage destinations, especially during Lent.
Agoo, the oldest town of La Union, was once the site of the much-publicized divine visitations of the Virgin Mary. The Agoo Apparition Site in San Antonio has established the town as a destination of choice for Marian devotees. Agoo comes alive most on Semana Santa, or Holy Week, which is the week before Easter. Yearly, the townspeople bear witness to ardent devotees relentlessly pulling life-size statues depicting the 14 Stations of the Cross along the processional roads in Agoo during the Good Friday procession on Semana Santa.
But the province is not wanting of natural attractions, thanks to seascapes that make it a watersports paradise. The surf fronting Monaliza in Urbiztondo, San Juan is the best site for board surfing from November to February; other good sites are in Carlatan and Wallace in San Fernando. Scuba diving is ideal in Fagg Reef, which is adorned by sharks, barracuda, sea snakes, Moray eels, and other friendly sea creatures, and Research Reef, which is endowed with several tunnels, caverns, and crevices.
La Union is located in the southwestern part of Region I and stretches over a length of 102 kilometers from North to South between 120o16′ and 120o35′ longitude and 160o15′ latitude. It is bounded on the north by Ilocos Sur, on the south by Pangasinan, on the east by Benguet, and on the west by the China Sea.
It has a land area of 149,309 hectares with a predominantly hilly terrain that gradually rises eastward from the shore. Its irregular coastal plain is narrowest in Damortis, Sto. Tomas and widest in Balaoan. Its highest peak is in Bagulin with an elevation of 1,200 feet above sea level. The province has several rivers which are short and rapid.
La Union has 19 municipalities and one component city, which are subdivided into 576 barangays. The northern towns of Sudipen, Bangar, Luna, Balaoan, Santol, San Gabriel, Bacnotan, San Juan, and San Fernando City comprise the First District. Belonging to the Second District are Bagulin, Naguilian, Burgos, Bauang, Caba, Aringay, Agoo, Tubao, Sto. Tomas, Rosario, and Pugo.
The climate condition prevailing in La Union is dry from November to April and wet from May to October. The southwest monsoon brings about the abundant rainfall experienced during the wet season. The relatively dry season is caused by the northeast monsoon passing over the Cordillera Mountains. The average temperature is 27.21°C.
The population of the province in 2000 was 657,945. The population is concentrated in the coastal municipalities. The capital San Fernando, now a component city, registered the most with 102,082. The population count showed a 2.09% increase from the previous census in 1995.
Language / Dialect
Ilocano is the common dialect. The residents of the coastal barangay of Sto. Tomas and Rosario also speak Pangasinense while the cultural communities in the towns bordering the Cordillera speak Ibaloi or Kankanaey. English and Filipino remain as basic tools of instruction in schools.
Agriculture remains to be the primary industry. Cottage industries are blanket weaving, basketry, bamboo craft, pottery, and broom making. The commercial activity consists mostly of wholesale and retail business.
La Union History…
La Union was created by virtue of a “Superior Decreto” issued on March 2, 1850, by Governor-General Narciso Zaldua Claveria out of nine towns of Pangasinan, three of Ilocos Sur and settlements of the Eastern Pais del Igorots in the Cordilleras. Its creation as a province was formally approved by a Royal Decree issued by Queen Isabela of Spain on April 18, 1854.
From its inception as a province up to the Second World War, La Union experienced transformations in the socio-cultural and politico-economic aspects. After the War, rehabilitation and reconstruction were done, eventually propelling the province as the center of commerce and trade and the administrative center of Region I.
La Union Is Famous For…
La Union’s favored beaches include Bauang Beach, the San Fernando beach area of San Francisco-Canaoay-Pagudpud, and San Juan Beach.
Surfing at San Juan
Urbiztondo, San Juan is known worldwide for its year-round surfing waves.
(Bauang; April 26 – 29).
It enshrines the miraculous image of Our Lady of Charity. This imposing structure of Mexican-Baroque architecture is the venue of religious rites, foremost of which is the Semana Santa.
Museo de Iloko, the old “Presidencia” of Agoo, houses artifacts and other pieces of cultural importance to the Ilocanos.
The Macho Temple at San Fernando is believed to be the only one built with five gates. It enshrines the image of the Virgin of Caysasay, the patroness of the Filipino-Chinese residents.
La Union Botanical and Zoological Garden
The 10-hectare botanical garden in Cadaclan features various themed gardens, picnic areas, a natural museum, and an aviary.
Things to Do and see in La Union…
Located 9 kilometers northeast of San Fernando town proper through the San Fernando-Bagulin Road, Bacsil Ridge was the last bastion of the retreating Japanese Imperial Army in the province. Later, the Ridge constituted the East Flank of the 121st Infantry of the United States Armed Forces in the Philippines, Northern Luzon (USAFIP, NL) during the Liberation in 1945.
Wallace Air Station
These 101 hectares of base land located at the end of Poro Point in San Fernando were acquired in 1903 for the United States Cavalry. It was the home of the 848th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron which provided logistics and administrative support to other radar detachments under its chain of command. Formally turned-over by the United States to the Republic of the Philippines on September 16, 1991, the Bases Conversion Development Authority is overseeing the plans for the conversion of the area into prime tourism and industrial estate.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Built as a tribute to the heroism of the soldiers who fought during the last World War, the marker stands at the junction leading to the Poro Point.
Battle of San Fernando Marker
Situated at the northwestern portion of the Town Plaza, inscribed as an account of how the Battle was started and won, enabling the establishment of the United States Army Base at Poro Point, which was eventually used as a build-up area for the projected invasion of Japan. San Fernando is 264 kilometers north of Manila.
This rotund structure built along the shore in Luna during the pre-Spanish time was used as a lookout point for impending attacks by pirates.
Baroro Bridge Marker
The siege of Baroro in Bacnotan started the operation to liberate San Fernando. This marked the first victory of the Luzon Guerillas over a Japanese armed unit before the American Liberation forces landed on Luzon. The marker stands at the southern approach of the bridge approximately 14 kilometers north of San Fernando.
USAFIP, NL Military Shrine, and Park
Camp Spencer, the general headquarters of the USAFIP, NL located along Darigayos Cove in Luna, is reserved as a Military Shrine and Park by virtue of Proclamation 590 signed by President Fidel V. Ramos on June 1, 1995. Darigayos is approximately 34.2 kilometers north of San Fernando accessible through the Bitalag Junction in Bacnotan or through Balaoan.
Museo de La Union
Located at the Provincial Capitol ground in San Fernando, the Museum showcases archaeological finds in La Union during the pre-Spanish period. The Museum is open from Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday visit is by arrangement.
Clay products are on display and produced in Taboc, San Juan utilizing the same age-old procedure in pottery-making. Taboc is about 9 kilometers away from San Fernando City.
This age-old practice of weaving wider Ilocano blankets is a prime home industry in Bangar. Rayon, cotton and polyester combination, and the “tinagudan” are yarns used in the weaving of blankets and other products.
Basi, the Ilocano native wine concocted from sugar cane juice and bark of “duhat” tree for the coloring, is a home industry in Lioac, Naguilian. Utilizing the age-old process, the taste of the basi differs from one producer to another.
Museo de Iloko
The old “Presidencia” of Agoo houses artifacts and other pieces of cultural importance to the Ilocanos. The Museum is open from Monday to Friday at 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Saturday visit is by arrangement.
Lined along the fine grayish sand of Bauang Beach from Baccuit to Pagdalagan are establishments providing accommodation and other amenities. The beach is 6 kilometers south of San Fernando.
San Francisco-Canaoay-Pagudpud Beach
Tourism-related establishments dot the beach area in San Fernando.
San Juan Beach
Approximately 8 kilometers north of San Fernando, the beach stretching from Urbiztondo to Ili Norte is dotted with tourism-related establishments. The surf in the area is ideal for amateur surfing during the months of November to February.
Agoo-Damortis National Seashore Park
Declared as a National Park, the beach stretching from Sta. Rita, Agoo up to Damortis, Rosario is proposed for development as a tourist destination in La Union.
Shrine of Our Lady of Charity
The Agoo Basilica enshrines the miraculous image of Our Lady of Charity. This imposing structure of Mexican-Baroque architecture is the venue of religious rites, foremost of which is the Semana Santa.
Shrine of Our Lady of Namacpacan
The century-old church of St. Catherine in Luna, formerly called Namacpacan, houses the miraculous image of Our Lady of Namacpacan, patroness of Ilocano travelers. The shrine is located at the town proper of Luna, approximately 40 kilometers northwest of San Fernando.
Agoo Apparition Site
The much-publicized divine visitations of the Virgin Mary in San Antonio have established Agoo as a destination of Marian devotees.
This Chinese temple believed to be the only one built with five gates sits on a promontory north of the town proper of San Fernando and overlooks the San Fernando Bay. The temple enshrines the image of the Virgin of Caysasay, the patroness of the Filipino-Chinese residents.
La Union Botanical and Zoological Garden
Located in Sitio Japan, Cadaclan, San Fernando, La Union. Showcased are the following: Shade Garden, Sunken Garden, Medicinal Garden, Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden, Evergreen Garden, Arid Paradise, Fragrance Garden, Fernery and Palmery.
Agoo Semana Santa
In the oldest town of La Union, the life-size statues depicting the Stations of the Cross are pulled by devotees along the processional roads during the Good Friday procession. During the Holy Week, the town people of Agoo come up with religious activities to make the occasion more meaningful and sacred.
Feast of Our Lady of Caysasay
Annual activity in La Union held every December. Sports activities, beauty contests, and painting contests are among the featured event’s visitors enjoy. It is also a time to give importance to Filipino balikbayans through free tours and a balikbayan night.
San Fernando City Fiesta
The city of San Fernando is the center of festivities on February 6 to 12 to honor St. William, the Hermit.
The upland municipality of Bagulin offers trails and sites for trekking. Its terrain is predominantly hilly and mountainous with second-growth forests and traversed by the winding Bagulin-Naguilian River. One passes through geological formations, scenic spots and some areas which are being threatened by environmental degradation. Trekking time starts in October. Other sites recommended for trekking activities are the Bebeco, Condura and Dacanay Reforestation in Sto. Tomas, Rosario, and Pugo, respectively.
The surf fronting Monaliza in Urbiztondo, San Juan is the best site for board surfing from November to February. Surfboards can be hired at the Surf Camp nearby. Other recommended sites are in Carlatan and Wallace in San Fernando.
The large flat reef at 40 feet with sharp drop-offs to the north and west sides characterize the Fagg Reef located at 330 degrees, approximately 2 miles from the tip of Poro Point. The best area is to the north, drop in and drift with the current to the north where the coral heads are big enough for 10 divers to crawl under. Sharks, barracuda, sea snakes, Moray eels, and other friendly sea creatures adorn the area where visibility is excellent most of the time.
Scuba Diving Fagg Reef
Scuba Diving Research Reef
Adjacent to the Bauang Beach, the Research Reef has several tunnels, caverns, and crevices. Beginners must beware of narrow caverns that extend quite far.