These amazing sand dunes in Ilocos Norte  have been there for ages, but recently, these geological treasures are fast becoming a top tourism destination north of the main island of Luzon.

Ivan Domingo, a local journalist, wrote that the scattered sand dunes of La Paz in Laoag City gained attention after being featured in the “Panday” series along with other films like “Temptation Island” and “Born in the Fourth of July.”

A monument of the late action legend Fernando Poe Jr. is erected on the sand dunes of Paoay. (photo credit: tripadvisor/ Fair Use)
A monument of the late action legend Fernando Poe Jr. is erected on the sand dunes of Paoay. (photo credit: tripadvisor/ Fair Use)

As he put, the sand dunes were one of the “most picture perfect locations for movies that demand a setting similar to wide coastal desserts in the Middle Eastern countries.”

According to the National Committee on Geological Sciences (NCGS), these low lying elongated hills actually stretches for about 40 kilometers along the coast from Currimao in the south to Pasuquin in the north and four kilometer inland.

The dunes reach 10 to 30 meters above sea level, with the smaller ones  scattered along the beaches facing the West Philippine Sea.



On November 26, 1993, the sand dunes were declared as a National  Geological Monument, with a marker unveiled near Barangay Calayab in Laoag City “in recognition of its  scientific value s as a unique coastal land form developed by erosional and depositional process due to ocean, river and wind interaction.”

The NCGS, created under Executive Order 625 by then President Ferdinand Marcos in 1983, became the coordinating — and advisory body handling systematic planning and deliberation of national programs in geological sciences.

Sand Dunes of Ilocos


‘Natural laboratory’

The Ilocos Sand Dunes were also considered an “excellent natural laboratory” for studies on coastal erosion and sedimentation process.

Government geologists also reportedly discovered sand dunes in Cagayan province, but so far, only the sand dunes in Ilocos have had extensive documentation.

NGCS documents showed that the sand constituting the dunes had their beginning as sediment deposited at the mouths of the Quiaoit, Laoag, Bacarra, and the Pasuqin rivers.

These sediments were later remobilized and transported seaward by the various longshore currents from the sea.

Most of  accumulated sediments in the  shallow nearshore areas  due to sand and strong wave action piled up to  form sandbars, which later  pushed shoreward until they become part of the beach deposit.

During the low tide the sand particles were lifted, rolled and tossed about by the wind blowing from the sea. The landward migrating sand dunes caused the choking of the mouth of pre-existing embayment and formed what is now called the Paoay Lake.

As the winds grew large, some of the particles were blown farther inland. Most remained in the beach zone to form elongated dunes were mounds.

Initially low-lying, these heaps increased in height as more and more sand added. These formed the first line of sand dune formed in the Ilocos Norte coastal zone.


Sand dunes adventure

Usually foreign tourists flock to the sand dunes in La Paz and nearby Panay town before sunrise or near sunset, to enjoy the so-called “Sand Dunes Adventure.”

Sunrise at the Sand Dunes

In the area, they can hire 4×4 rough-riding vehicles stationed near the main road with professional drivers who also act as guides. The most thrilling part in the six-kilometer ride is the “roller-coaster” where a series of sand hells makes you hold on to the steel bar.

4x4 Adventure at the Sand Dunes

Recently, sandboarding had gained popularity, prompting tourism officials to organize international and local competitions.

Beginners, normally do it by sliding down in sitting positions. For the more adventurous ones, they can try lying down and slide headfirst. Those who want to slide down by standing up, they are advised to go down the path diagonally.

Conrad Miranda, a geologist at the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the area is rich with mineral deposits, but it would be best to preserve them.

He said the sand dunes are considered strong natural protection from the sea.

A local resident, who identified himself as Manong Rudy, the sand dunes were already a “gold mine” to them, given the much-needed livelihood it provided in a dry and supposedly unproductive sandy coastal area.

Joel C. Paredes

Joel briefly served government as director-general of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), although he has been a practicing journalist and writer for nearly 37 years. He led a team organized by the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB)  and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that worked on the book entitled “Protecting our Natural Wealth, Enhancing our Natural Pride.”