Cultural Tourism

The awakening of interests in the development and preservation of culture and tradition is a primordial concern.  Most of our younger generations are now aware of the richness of their culture and in return, the surge of pride and appreciation of knowing their roots is visible through their involvement in the promotion of tourism.  Cultural promotion through artistic presentation has greater potentials of providing information on culture and arts to students, the general public and the international community.


The panagpasyar as a major component of the annual Damili Festival was the archetypal type of tour, until the idea came for one that would focus more on the rediscovery of the town’s  heritage sites and structures. It is a fact that the town of San Nicolas is blessed with heritage structures that witnessed the town’s evolution into what it is today.
Walking the talk, the present administration submitted a proposal to the National Historical Institute ,the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, copy furnished the Department of Tourism, for their  program inputs. And the rest was history.
So that on December 27, 2010, renowned San Nicolense and Philantropist, Dr. Marina Badua, led other balikbayan guests in the first ever heritage walking tour in San Nicolas. Mayor Alfredo P. Valdez Jr. commissioned local historian Atty. Manuel Aurelio, assisted by Dr. Visitacion Mamuad a retired Professor and Rev. Ramon Danilo Laeda, San Nicolas Parish Priest, to provide the much needed historical information and  literaries that best illustrate these heritage structures.


The church is named after Saint Nicholas de Tolentino who was believed to have protected the people against floods, earthquakes, fires, typhoons and other calamities. San Nicolas Catholic Church is one of the oldest buildings in this province. Its original structure and architectural design is a must see place in town.  The church speaks of the numerous people who kept the Catholic faith alive despite the turmoil of the past 400 years brought about by calamities that previously destroyed the original church structure.


Before 1875, the parish priests were using a convent or priest’s house made of wood, bamboo, and nipa. However, in the year 1875 a convent of masonry was constructed on the southwest of the church. The two storey building later became Santa Rosa Academy when Fr. Fidel Albano, the parish priest gave it to the Holy Spirit Sisters whom he invited to found a school in 1936.
This heritage structure is also a favorite shooting location for film makers with its original aesthetic Spanish architecture.


A unique feature of the house is the use of stained glass all over, which is best appreciated from the interior. At the height of World War II, this house was used as headquarters of the Japanese, and then later by the Americans during Liberation in 1945. This ancestral home, affectionately called “White House” by local people, is lovingly preserved and kept intact both inside and out, with an elegant  ambiance over the years.

This most imposing of residences in San Nicolas is the Valdes – Lardizabal House, built in the 1800s by Antonio Valdes, former gobernadorcillo who served in the first half of the 19th century. Fronting the town plaza, it is a grand structure built in the traditional Spanish colonial style, with a base of brick and stone and its second storey of made out of wood jutting out in a cantilevered fashion, as if floating. In its heyday, it was the most prominent residence in San Nicolas and in the whole province of Ilocos Norte.

            When Dominador Madamba became mayor in 1948 he organized a popularity contest for the purpose of raising fund for the construction of an auditorium and stage. With the initial earnings of a little over one thousand pesos, the construction began. Architect Elias L. Ruiz donated his services and made the plan and the people extended free labor. The late Philantropist Dr. Jesus C. Valdes then organized another beauty contest to raise more funds. San Nicoleños of Manila also organized the Sadiri Ti San Nicolas Organization and through its president, Mr. Tomas Barba participated in raising funds for the auditorium and also the Victory fountain. The projects were finally inaugurated with the coronation of Queen Rosita Ruiz, the daughter of Architect Elias Ruiz The present administration refurbished the structure including the Town Plaza  maintaining its grandeur and  aesthetic cultural design.

MUNICIPAL HALL BUILDING (formerly the Casa Tribunal and School House)  
From the time it was finished in 1863, the Casa Tribunal (people’s court) now the municipal hall had undergone many transformations in order to suit government services. A two-storey structure now stands at the former Municipal Quadrangle The new Sangguniang Bayan session hall is at the second floor and the ground base is now the Pedro Almazan Hall which was named after a local war hero. Rehabilitation and improvement of the different offices are relentlessly done without deviating from its original aesthetic historical features. This is in conformity to the principle espoused by the present leadership of preserving the town’s rich cultural heritage.     Tour participants were told that on December 30, 2009 during the commemoration of the 100th year of Reconstitution of the municipality, the National Historical Institute installed a landmark infront of the municipal hall signifying the immense support and initiatives of the present leadership.

The Madamba Ancestral House is an Italian-design inspired house and can be considered as a distinct nugget in the North. Famous throughout the municipality, it is also called “Nido Lindo” or beautiful nest, built in 1927 to 1933 by Judge Carmelo Bonoan Madamba whose father was Cayetano Claustro Madamba a former Mayor of San Nicolas.
The Nido Lindo is an attraction not only of its superb architectural design but also its historical significance. During World War II, it was used as quarters by the officers of the Japanese Army.
Tour participants were informed of interesting things about the house by Mr. Edgar Madamba, renowned couturier based in Manila.

This building became the school house and the older building was reverted to its original purpose as the Casa Tribunal. It was originally intended as the “Casa Tribunal” or Town Hall but later converted into a school building. It was renovated under the American regime.
Representatives from the National Historical Institute visited the old casa tribunal structure in 2009 and lauded the efforts of the present administration in preserving and introducing renovations to strengthen this piece of heritage structure.

When entering the town proper one perceives the elegance of an ancient tower stocked like cooking pots, the church and the convent made out of bricks and lime. And in the heart of the town is the town plaza gardened with beautiful ornamental plants with benches around its corners for the locals and visitors to enjoy while sitting down or cooling off from a dazzling walk.
Walking tour participants were informed about the present design and the three pots representing the three actors in development.

SAN NICOLAS CENTER FOR ARTS AND CULTURE (Also known as Artesiano: “Alias Buabo-Buabo”)
            The water pump was named “Artesiano.” Since it drew water from a deep level, the piston and cylinder of the pump had to be lowered some thirty feet below the surface of the ground to enable it to suck the water.  As a person was pumping his body had to bend and move up and down with his buttocks swaying back and forth. In Ilocano this body motion is called “agbuabo-buabo.” Passersby then from adjoining towns named the place and the pump together as “buabo-buabo.”

In the year 2009, to preserve this historical landmark, the Local Chief Executive envisioned that the Artesiano (Buabo-Buabo) be converted into a center for Arts and culture, pursuant to Municipal Ordinance No. 1, series 2005.  This learning center is aimed at generating historical and cultural awareness in the community. It showcases the San Nicoleños artistry, originality, creativity and craftsmanship as far back as can be recorded, thus, giving visual form to San Nicolas history.
This vision was realized through the relentless efforts of the municipal government and the generous support of Dr. Marina Badua, a renowned San Nicoleño, whose kindness and undying affection to her native town, earned her the coveted San Nicolense – International 2008 award.


In an attempt to awaken the San Nicoleños’ love for dance, music and the arts armored with the aim to restore the beauty of dances, warmth, brio, message and language of the cultural crossroads, the San Nicolas Cultural Troupe (SNCT), was born in 2005 through the initiative of the town’s chief executive Dr. Alfredo P. Valdez, Jr., who himself puts so much regard in the promotion of the Ilocano and San Nicoleño’s artistry and multi-faceted talents.  
The Damili dancers are high school students from San Nicolas National High School and dancers from the different winning barangays during the Damili street dance competitions. The members were trained under the direct supervision of the official choreographer Mr. Benjie Ulep. When Mr. Benjie Ulep left for the United States, the position he left is now filled in by Abner Glenn Duldulao who was then a co-trainer of the former. Other performers are students of the Sta. Rosa Academy.
The SNCT has been invited to perform and most often compelled to compete not only in the province but also in nearby provinces and cities which include Ilocos Sur specifically in Vigan City during their Longganisa and Binatbatan Festivals and in Candon City on their Tobacco Festival and Laoag City’s Pamulinawen Festival. The group has also gone to Dagupan for the Bangus Festival, as well as Abra for their Miki Festival. The members have also shown their majestic dance moves and steps during the Aliwan Street Pageantry in Manila. And they always bring home the bacon. Modesty aside, on several occasions, the group was compelled to join the competitions to enjoin other groups to participate.
Undoubtedly the darling of the crowd, in most competitions and performances, this group has gradually but successfully stimulated the San Nicoleño’s interest and appreciation of his cultural heritage.
Aside from participating in dance competitions and street pageantries, the SNCT has also staged an original zarzuela during the 2009 Damili Festival which coincided with the town’s centennial celebration. The 2-hour play entitled: San Nicolas, Ili Nagtaudak: Orihinal a Zarzuela Ilocana was written and directed by no less than Mayor Valdez.
A re-staging of the excerpts of the theater play was done when the group was invited and performed during the 17th Anniversary of Kannawidan Foundation Inc., on September 3, 2010 at the Manila Polo Club, Forbes Park, Makati City. Kannawidan a registered Iloko Foundation for Arts and Culture’s anniversary focused on “Sarsuela: Pabuya nga mangliwliwa, biagen tay ida”.
The group also performed at “Sining Gising”, an award-winning weekly educational and cultural program produced by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts featured on September 13, 2009 at the National Broadcasting Network Channel 4 in Quezon City. 
Another event which the group graced was the 37th founding anniversary of the Career Executive Service Board (CESB) and 9th Annual CES Conference at the Forth Ilocandia Resort Hotel on November 17-19, 2010. 
Young as it is, the SNCT has already humbly found its niche in the dance, music, arts and theater world as it has already excelled and garnered feats and recognitions which put the group and the municipality in the limelight.
However, as it is said, “Dance, a form of expression is one of the most beautiful forms of art that has grown in leaps and bounds…Each dance is beautiful in its own way and has a different appeal to it.” And the fact that it’s ever changing as it follows genre after genres, the San Nicolas Cultural Troupe still in each of its performances adds new touch that would enhance and boost their crafts – dance, music and arts to eventually bring them to their fullest potential.