Revisiting the land of Urduja
Eva Visperas (The Philippine Star) - January 23, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - As a true-blue Pangasinense, having been born and raised here, I am proud of my province and would love, promote and defend it like what the legendary Princess Urduja did against its attackers.

A visit to Lingayen, considered the face, heart and soul of Pangasinan, is like traveling back in time as it is replete with history and victory.

The fun in Lingayen starts in January as families, friends and sweethearts bask in its pristine beach.

People enjoy the Lingayen Gulf breeze in the morning either by simply beach walking or swimming, or doing the zumba craze with fitness buffs on Saturday morning. 

Lingayen beach is what a public beach should be – clean, simple with rows of picnic huts free of charge.

Lingayen is where, 70 years ago, the historic Lingayen Gulf Landings happened, when American and Allied forces came to liberate the country from Japanese occupation. Every Jan. 9, unsung war veterans, many of them in their twilight years, are fittingly honored.

An American combat veteran, Russell Leon Sandlin, donated his collection of 70 miniature warships for the 70th anniversary of the historic Lingayen Gulf Landings at the Veterans’ Memorial Park of Lingayen, saying, “We all are looking forward to the future with our allies or friends and I am hoping that this will be a new and a continued beginning and a remembrance of this event and the elimination of war forever.”

Young generations remember the veterans’ sacrifices every time they walk around the Veterans’ Memorial Park, just a few steps away from the beach, where samples of real aircraft, tankers and armament used during the war are displayed. It is a showcase of Filipinos’ and the Allied Forces’ heroism during World War II, rightfully remembered yearly.

Also just few steps away from the Veterans’ Memorial Park is the elegant Urduja House, renovated to fit the beauty of the legendary female warrior it is named after. It is now a sight to behold, a picture that exudes the elegance of a palace where a beautiful princess lives.

The Urduja House is the official residence of the governor of the province. Urduja, the legendary warrior princess, is said to have ruled the kingdom of Tawalisi in the province of Pangasinan in the ancient times. Her cultural influence led former Pangasinan Governor Juan de Guzman Rodriguez to name the official residence of the provincial governor as Princess Urduja Palace in early 1953. It is here where various meetings of the governor take place and important personalities are received.

It has become a favorite place for pre-nuptial pictorials because of its architectural design, inside and out, with a backdrop of a beautiful fountain.

Visitors are all awed by the magnificence of the Capitol building which stands majestically in front of the Lingayen Gulf. It was built in 1918 during the American colonial period. It is considered an outstanding piece of neoclassic architecture that has survived the ravages of World War II.

Although it had undergone renovations by past governors, it was during the administration of Gov. Amado Espino Jr. that the Capitol building rediscovered its real splendor through its transformation. Like a lady, the Pangasinan Capitol building has blossomed into her greatest beauty with the proper attention focused on her to uncover and polish her hidden assets.

The magnificent Sison Auditorium was also carefully rehabilitated, where Pangasinan arts and culture are showcased through musical concerts, shows, pageants, presentations and gatherings. It is also located within the Capitol complex.





Nearby is the provincial government-owned Lingayen Resort Hotel where one can relax and enjoy the stillness of the night in its comfy ambience.

The provincial government has a fleet of tourist buses and a number of trained tour guides ready to assist during visits here.

More than a kilometer away from the Capitol area, right on Primicias street at the corner of a tree-lined stretch along Maramba Blvd., is the ancestral home of Pangasinan’s favorite son, Fidel Valdez-Ramos, 12th president of the Philippines, born and raised in Lingayen.

Our group was greeted by Atchie Iluminada Vilda, the house caretaker, who shared some insights about the structure.

On some occasions, FVR would drop by and entertain guests here, the most recent was when he launched his latest book, Words of Wonder, late last year at the Sison Auditorium.

At the front of the house is a marker that reads: “For many years on this site was located the rented family house of Narciso Ramos (lawyer, journalist, statesman and diplomat) and Angela Valdez (former English supervisor of Pangasinan Vocational High School).”

It also states that their eldest child Fidel and his sister Leticia, former senator, spent their formative years here.

It was destroyed during World War II and the present structure, which now houses family mementos, was constructed in January 1995 through the donations of the Ramos Foundation and the Agpoon family.

We stayed overnight at The El Puerto Marina Resort Hotel overlooking the Lingayen Gulf, to rest our soles and souls, tired from our rediscovery tour.

It’s a secret treasured place in Lingayen, I was told, and many had been talking about their wonderful stay there.

While there, one can simply enjoy fishing – either in the sea by renting a motorized banca with the aid of a fisherman, or right at the fishpond next to the pavilion.

One can go on a river cruise along the Limahong Channel which is part of the Agno River. For Pangasinenses, a tour in Limahong Channel is an annual treat for river and sea lovers who join the fluvial parade as part of the summertime Pista’y Dayat (sea festival) every May 1.

For people who love to watch the sunset, it is best captured at the Limahong Channel, named after a notorious Chinese pirate and warlord who invaded the northern Philippine islands in 1574.

On ordinary days, one can have a glimpse of the simple lifestyle of fishermen trying to get a big catch. 

Lingering in Lingayen wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the bagoong (fish paste/sauce) factories which are almost synonymous with this capital town.

For Pangasinenses and Ilocanos, what’s pinakbet without bagoong? The favorite vegetable dish cannot be served without bagoong and grilled fish tastes best with a bagoong dip.

Townsfolk are all agog for the Bagoong Festival in Lingayen, which started last Sunday and ends tomorrow. Two giant jars that represent bagoong as it undergoes the process of fermentation will be unveiled and will serve as the town’s landmark as it claims to be the Bagoong Capital of the country.

Indeed, Lingayen’s three Bs – beaches, bagoong and beautiful people – remain the best attractions that serve as magnets to tourists and visitors to come back again and again – echoing the oft-repeated line of American General Douglas MacArthur’s promise to his men and the Filipinos: “I shall return.”Photos by Cesar Ramirez

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