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Inquirer Northern Luzon
The rich treasures of Ilocandia

By Gretel Guivelondo
Northern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 01:34:00 09/24/2008

Filed Under: Regional authorities, Books

?The Ilocos Heritage?
Visitacion de la Torre
Tower Book House, 2006
330 pages

MANILA, Philippines ? To the seasoned traveler, the Ilocos provinces are tops if one is to satiate his longing for a feast of the senses.

?The Ilocos Heritage,? the 27th book written by Visitacion de la Torre, gives the traveler and the reader alike a sense of being Ilocano. Packed in 330 pages are anything and everything about this northern paradise sandwiched by the South China Sea and the Cordillera mountains.

The book tells of the Ilocano legacy and celebrates the life of the Ilocano ? the browbeaten, industrious, cheerful, simple soul who has shown a remarkable strain of bravery and a bit of wanderlust.

It chronicles the Ilocano?s struggles and victories ? from his blood spilling in battles for colonial independence to his hand at the helm of Philippine leadership.

The Ilocos Heritage seems especially proud in how far the restless Ilocano feet have treaded. The trails they left behind in search of new lands led to Palawan, Mindanao, and even Hawaii, the United States mainland and Greece.

A large part of the book dwells on the material culture and spirituality of the Ilocano. Images of santo (saints), intricate wooden furniture and local fiber are remembrances of Spanish influence in local art.

Indigenous talent

Tales of weaving, pottery and woodcarving present yarns of indigenous talent and wealth on the verge of extinction.

The Ilocano cuisine ? from the exotic abu-os (ant eggs) to the signature vegetable broth dinengdeng, from the sticky tinubong to the scandalously named puki-puki (eggplant salad) ? exhibits a taste for simple dishes laced with a bit of humor.

Their songs, dances and festivals are modest yet endearing, their culture infused in their rhythm and harmony.

De la Torre?s accounts on colonial churches are detailed and rich with history. These monuments of Roman Catholicism and Castilian influence erected in mortar and stone provide history beneath the moss-ridden arches, aging brick walls and towering belfries.

The chapter on tourist destinations leads readers to the mystique of the landlocked Abra and to the nooks of bustling La Union. It allows them to travel back to the colonial era in Ilocos Sur and enjoy the sun, sand and sea of Ilocos Norte.

While it is undeniable that Ilocandia boasts of natural wonders and architectural attractions, ?The Ilocos Heritage? is written with so much pride that it naively borders on a sales pitch for tourists.

Some parts are reminiscent of a travel brochure and the book could be mistaken for a Pinoy-flavored edition, albeit bigger, of the ?Lonely Planet? series.

The dedication for the book?s sponsors in every chapter is an unwelcome distraction.

The book, though, is laced with images, which make for an interesting leaf-through.

It is almost impossible for the reader to miss out De la Torre?s pride in being Ilocano (she was born in Baguio City to Ilocano parents from Isabela). But too much details and references to Ilocano personalities, even in captions, have turned The Ilocos Heritage into a barrage of information that may put off even an enthusiastic reader.

The book offers rich images and anecdotes but De la Torre precariously overdoes the celebratory tone at times, letting colored phrases damage an otherwise informative read.

Other than that, ?The Ilocos Heritage? is well researched, lengthy, yet in depth. It may not be apt for a leisurely Sunday afternoon reading, but the book gives justice to the rich treasures of the Ilocandia.



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