Faith tourism makes way in Ilocos Norte


LAOAG CITY — A cove with crystal clear waters in Sitio Pagetpet, La Milagrosa village in Badoc, Ilocos Norte has become more popular to local and foreign tourists these days as people search for alternative sites to relax and spend quality time with family and friends.

But more than that, some flock to La Virgen Milagrosa for devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In an interview on Monday, Provincial Tourism Officer Ianree Raquel said there is a growing interest in faith tourism here as several travel agents offer tour packages regarding this purpose.

On Saturday afternoon, an estimated crowd of 7,000 gathered at the La Virgen Milagrosa cove as they witnessed a fluvial procession in honor of Virgin Mary. The first staging of the fluvial parade in 2017 has recorded about 5,000 visitors, mostly from Ilocos Norte and nearby provinces.

“We had 50 bancas (fishing boats) from 30 last year. We could have had more bancas but we want to gradually increase number of bancas for safety,” Raquel said.

Led by the Diocese of Laoag in partnership with the provincial government of Ilocos Norte, the annual event features the arrival of the galleon trade in the 16th century which paved the way for the arrival of the image of the Blessed Virgin Mother in the town of Badoc.

Some Badoc elders share a miraculous story that inspired great devotion to this place up to now.

According to Father Ericson Josue, historian and archivist of the Diocese of Laoag, the image of La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc was retrieved from the sea by fishers of Badoc, Ilocos Norte and Sinait, Ilocos Sur in 1620.

Accounts say it was found in a box together with the revered image of “Santo Cristo Milagroso de Sinait or the Crucified Christ. It was learned later on that the people of Badoc wanted the Crucified Christ brought to their chapel, while the ones from Sinait wanted the Lady for the Sinait church.

But when the people of Sinait tried to carry the Lady image, they could not. The same is true when the people of Badoc wanted to take home the Crucified Christ. They eventually exchanged images and surprisingly, they were able to lift the images easily.

For them, this indicated that the Crucified Christ is meant for Sinait and the Lady is for Badoc.

Inspired by the La Virgen Milagrosa folk tale, the provincial government initiated the annual conduct of the La Virgen Milagrosa Festival since 2012 as a tribute to La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc and later on adopted as a provincial patron of the province.

The event is backed by the Diocese of Laoag led by Bishop Renato Mayugba.

The fluvial procession is in preparation for a bigger activity on May 31 in the province of Ilocos Norte which highlights the pontifical coronation of La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc in the name and authority of the Holy Father, Pope Francis to be represented by Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila.

Josue said the pontifical coronation marks the second visit of an Archbishop of Manila to Ilocos Norte since 1963 which is expected to draw thousands of faithful in this northern gateway of the north.