I first learned about the town of Luna while doing research on the fortifications in the Philippines during the Spanish era. Beginning in 1565, Spanish colonists built fortifications to protect themselves and their emerging settlements. They built fuerzas and baluartes all over the archipelago to ward off the attacks of pirates and invaders.
Among the most attractive baluartes that the Spaniards built is the 400-year-old cylindrical watchtower in Luna. Old photos show the deep groove around the inner rim and the quadrilateral notches.
Luna was originally called Namacpacan, or “one who feeds” in Ilocano. It started as a visita of Purao (now Baloan) in 1587. The parish under the advocacy of Saint Catherine of Alexandria was founded in 1690. The present church was completed in 1876.
The town is also the home of Our Lady of Namacpacan. In 1871, the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was en route to Vigan via Namacpacan when it was forced to seek cover from stormy weather inside the convent of the church under construction. When the storm was over, the statue could not be moved from where it stood. The parishioners saw it as a sign that the image had chosen its home. Over the years, miracles have been attributed to Our Lady of Namacpacan.
Another thing that adds to the town’s mystic is the fact that millions of pebbles are washed up daily on the beach of Luna. The locals sort these pebbles according to size and color, and sell them to landscapists and gardeners.
The town’s name was changed in 1906 in honor of the mother of Antonio and Juan Luna—Doña Laurena Novicio Luna. She was a native of Namacpacan.
How to get there
Luna is 300km from Manila. Those using public transport can take any bus going to Ilocos Region. Travel time is around six hours. Alight at Baloan town (right in front of Baloan church). From there, take a tricycle to Luna.
Those taking their private vehicle can drive north via NLEX-SCTEX-TPLEX. Exit is now located at Binalonan. From Binalonan, continue to drive along MacArthur Highway, entering La Union via Rosario, and then proceed via Agoo, then San Fernando, then San Juan and finally Bacnotan. In Bacnotan, turn left at the crossing and continue to drive through the old coastal road. This road leads to the many attractions of Luna.
What to see, what to do
The attractive Namacpacan Church is a fine example of a baroque church in the Philippines. A ceremonial archway or capilla possa can be found at the church’s entrance. Inside the church’s compound is the Shrine of Our Lady of Namacpacan. Devotees and pilgrims come to the Shrine to pay homage and ask for help.
Outside the church plaza are monuments of Luna’s historic past. The statue of General Luna on a horse dominates the center of the road intersection. Fronting the church is the old municipio that was built in 1915.
A short walk from the church is Luna’s famed pebble beach. Here, hundreds of local residents sweat out all day picking pebbles. Standing silently on the pebble beach are the ruins of the old baluarte. Historians believe the uncontrolled picking of pebbles around its base (and not Typhoon Lando) caused its collapse.
But a new structure has replaced the baluarte as the town’s main attraction—the Bahay na Bato. This structure will surely weather any storm. Located in Barangay Nalvo Norte, the house and all the structures inside the compound are made of stones and pebbles found on the beach of Luna. The place started as a rest house of professional doctors Dr. Edison and Dr. Purita Chan-Noble in 2000. The couple built a house by the beach using the stones and pebbles that are abundant in the area. A Korean artist built stone sculptures for the couple, which continued to grow as the years passed. The couple also has huge collections of antiques that they built through the years. They started building galleries for their collections. Soon, the word got out about this house made of pebbles and stones. And so in 2015, the Bahay Na Bato was finally opened to the public. Entrance fee to the place remains at P20 so the couple can share their piece of paradise to many.
There are many other attractions in Luna such as the Ukkalong Falls in Barangay Cabalitocan, the pottery shops in Barangay Barrientos, and the Uncle Tom Sukang Iloko factory in Barangay Santo Domingo.
Where to stay, where to go
Those who wish to enjoy the pebble beach of Luna can stay on several resorts located in the town itself. Along the Bacnotan-Luna Road, one can check in at Pebble Beach Resort, Morning Seven Resort and Marquez Beach Resort.
However, for those who wish to do some surfing on the side, there are plenty of lodgings at the nearby San Juan (about 20km south). Further south is the city of San Fernando where family rooms are available at Oasis Country Resort and Thunderbird Resort.
For dining, there are several food stalls in front of the church that serve Ilocano favorites like pinakbet, igado and dinengdeng. In Barangay Santo Domingo Sur, the favorite Naconales Bibingka are sold fresh daily.
The town has long been a favorite stopover place even during the Spanish time. It offers some good places to stay, many interesting attractions to see, and some delicious local food to taste. They are all part of the mystical town called Luna.