Quake-hit tourist sites in North Luzon remain closed

MANILA, Philippines – Several tourist sites in northern Luzon have remained closed since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit northern Luzon on Wednesday.

In Abra, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said all tourist activities were suspended “until further notice.”

Calle Crisologo, Syquia Mansion, National Museum of the Philippines Ilocos Regional Complex, Heritage Village and Vigan Cathedral in Ilocos Sur are off-limits to visitors.

Bantay’s bell tower, damaged by the earthquake, as well as the parish church of St. Augustine of Hippo, the sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de Caridad de Bantay and Sta. Maria Church is also closed.

The brick houses and centuries-old churches of Ilocos Sur suffered cracks while several nearly collapsed.

Antong Falls in Sison, Pangasinan as well as Tangadan Falls and Santol Great Wall in La Union were closed due to landslides.

The DOT said Baguio City, Kabayan and Mount Pulag in Benguet remain open to tourists.

The department advised visitors to be careful when traveling to Kabayan due to the aftershocks, adding that Mount Pulag’s Akiki trail is still being checked for safety.

Sagada reopened to visitors a day after it was closed due to the earthquake.

Ilocos Norte remains open to travelers even though several ancient churches, such as Sta. Monica in Sarrat, Convent of Bacarra and Virgen Milagrosa in Badoc and Batac Immaculate Conception were damaged by the quake.

National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA) staff are due to visit Vigan and other quake-affected areas next week to assess the extent of damage to churches, ancestral homes and other sites in the inheritance.

“We have to carry out numerous analyzes to ensure that these buildings have not undergone sinkholes or liquefaction. It will be a waste of money to restore a building if it is no longer on stable ground,” said NCCA President Rene Escalante.

He said the government was willing to fund restoration projects, but could not allocate funds to rehabilitate structures considered private property, such as those along Calle Crisologo.

The NCCA has called on the public not to touch or remove items from the affected structures as these could be used in restoration projects. –Robertzon Ramirez

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