This city up north exudes a vibrant and nourishing beauty that embodies culture, history and devotion – all in one place. This was where General Douglas MacArthur launched his drive to liberate Luzon from the Japanese, following his return landing in Leyte.
One of the more modern establishments ever built in Lingayen is the seat of government – the provincial capitol, where the governor and other public officials gather to pass and amend bills. This imposing structure in the middle of a peaceful and serene neighborhood was once voted one of the top eight architectural works in the world. The façade is strikingly similar to that of the Manila Post Office. Both buildings were designed by architect Juan Arellano.
The emblem (or official seal) of Pangasinan, made of hardwood, sits in the lobby and represents the famous products of the province, the three Bs: bagoong (fermented shrimp paste), bangus(milkfish) and bricks. The so-called governor’s wall is filled with pictures of past and present governors. A spiral staircase leads upstairs to the important offices, and a roof deck offers a panoramic view of the Lingayen Gulf.
Just across the provincial capitol is the Veterans Memorial Park, which seems just like an ordinary park with flowers, trees and a little bit of shade. But if you look close enough, it has all the remnants of action-packed events of generations before. Established in 2008 under former President Fidel V. Ramos, who hails from this province, the park is a wide and open complex that features photographs of the mission of Douglas MacArthur when he came to this city. On the front lawn are two Cessna planes and an air fighter that was used during World War II. These iconic figures and objects of history sit among foliage and greenery.
Pangasinan is also known for legends, like this one story that has survived for generations. The Urduja Palace, the official home of the governor, just a couple of minutes away from the Veterans Memorial Park and the provincial capitol, is named after Princess Urduja, who some historians believe is a warrior from the land of Tawalisi, located in Lingayen. She had elephant tusks as ornaments; these gigantic creatures are believed to have existed during her day.
Legend has it that Princess Urduja was trained in the art of war. One day, she made a deal that she would marry any man who could defeat her in battle. Unfortunately, no one did and she died a spinster. A rough sketch of Urduja can be seen hanging on the wall near the entrance to the palace. The place has conference areas and halls for small meetings and press conferences. The chandeliers are made of Swarovski crystals.
You shouldn’t miss going to the factories of bagoong (fish or shrimp paste). Despite the horrid smell, it’s a worth a visit since you can buy one of the famous bagoong products there. In fact, this condiment is so prevalent in Lingayen that a whole street is devoted to the selling and making of the rancid paste.
I decided to drop by one of the factories, which smelled of rotten eggs. It was so bad that I could only stay inside for just a few seconds. There were huge clay jars where the bagoong was stored. There was also a small shop where you can buy the stuff, ideal for a pasalubong (travel gift).
Getting to Lingayen
Just ride any of these buses going to Lingayen: Dagupan Bus Line, Victory Liner, Five Star Bus or Philippine Rabbit. If you have a car, take the NLEX. The drive is around five hours.