Small tricycles roam the streets that are marked with charming houses and colonial structures. But up on the higher part of town is its crowning glory. The Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion, known to everyone as Sta. Maria Church, is an 18th century brick church that sits on top of a hill, much like a fortress. The façade, like many Philippine Churches of that era, is imposing and grand. Its bell tower looks like a pagoda, and is curiously detached from the main church itself. From the highway, you simply have to climb 86 steps and you’re there! Walk around the church and you’ll find an even older chapel and cemetery.
In the center of the Ilocos Sur province, Sta. Maria faces the West Philippine Sea and is bounded by Abra on the east. Thus you get the best of both worlds: coastal beaches and mountainous terrain. This mountainous terrain is the backdrop of the legendary giant Angalo, whose massive footsteps span from Abra to Sta. Maria. The tale of Angalo and his wife Aran is one of the few tales in Ilocos mythology, which also includes the Epic of Lam-ang. Angalo’s footsteps are said to have created a gigantic pool that leads to Pinsal Falls—a cascading blanket of water that flows into pools that feed the rivers of Sta. Maria.