It’s no surprise that the first thing that comes to people’s minds when they hear the words Ilocos Sur is Vigan. What many are unaware of is that this northwestern Luzon province has much more to offer tourists, both local and foreigners alike.
The city of Candon, while probably unheard of by many, has a rich history and heritage that can still be seen to this day. Named after a large tree that the natives called Kandong, Candon was once a republic after Federico Isabelo Abaya led what is known in history as Ikkis ti Candon (Cry of Candon), an effort to overthrow the Spanish forces in the city during the colonial era. Unfortunately, the Spanish colonizers were able to regain control over Candon only a few days later.
Now, Candon is most famously dubbed the “Tobacco Capital of the Philippines” as it is the largest producer of Virginia tobacco, otherwise known as Brightleaf tobacco, in the country.
One of the popular tourist sites in the city is the Saint John de Sahagun Church, locally known as the Candon Church. It was built in the 17th century and rehabilitated over time. Today, visitors head to Candon Church not only for the daily mass but also to view the painted ceiling depicting the Last Supper.
A monument built in honor of Isabelo Abaya can be found not far from the church. Another monument found nearby is dedicated to the Ilocano sakadas (“unskilled workers”) who were brought to Hawaii in batches beginning in 1906 to work in sugar plantations.
Those who enjoy swimming and other water-related activities can head to the Darapidap Beach.
Those who wish to experience the city’s local festivities should head over during March for the Tobacco Festival and witness the street dance and marching competitions, and motocross and boxing events, among the many other activities organized for the festival. Those who visit on the first week of December can witness the annual Feria de Candon, which includes a trade fair and numerous kinds of parades.
Candon is also famous for its calamay, a sticky delicacy made of glutinous rice, coconut milk, and brown sugar. The city takes pride having produced “the world’s biggest rice cake” in 2006 by churning out 2,547 kilos of the sweet treat, besting out the efforts of Niigata, Japan, which previously held the title.