After spending two days in Baguio City, on January 23 2014, we (I and my travel buddy/partner-in-crime Ian) jump-started our Ilocos tour in Vigan. We left Baguio at dawn and spent an hour or two traveling down the steep mountain through every difficult curves and turns. The ride down the mountains from the heart of Baguio City scared the crap out of me. We were traveling for what I could tell over the speed limit. It was like a roller coaster ride. Scary. Exhilarating. Invigorating. I lacked sleep and was too exhausted to even be awake but then again after reaching the grounds, I found myself asking for more and wishing for another nerve-wrecking ride.
Warning: Narrative too long. Click the link to skip to TRAVEL GUIDE: VIGAN
I thought traveling seeing only an endless expanse of rice and corn fields was boring although the sun was beautifully shining through the morning sky. I waited to find something interesting along the way but none caught my attention. Fatigue finally caught up with me and I fell asleep.
I might have slept a good two hours or so and woke up to a scenery that prevented my eyes from shutting off again. To the western part of the road was the South China Sea, magnificent and enticing. Suddenly, I resented succumbing to my fatigue thinking what else did I miss. Later I found out that the beautiful site I beheld in the town of Narvacan was called Paraiso ni Juan (Paradise of John). It holds true to its name and I found me scolding myself for not knowing such a place exist. Scared to miss a thing again, I stayed awake until we reached Vigan City.
It was past 10 AM when we jumped off the bus. The sun was almost at optimum position. Unlike in Baguio where the temperature stays cool throughout the day, I felt it burning in Vigan. We walked out of the terminal passing through the supermarket looking for hotels, inexpensive hotels that is. We came across Vigan Regency Hotel. At first glance, one wouldn’t mistakenly think this hotel is inexpensive but we pushed our lucks anyways. After a brief inquiry, we walked out thinking we shouldn’t have even tried. We turned our eyes from left to right and not far from the Regency Hotel was Green R Hotel. Well, this one’s on my list and the most inexpensive among the hotels I have researched through the web so we ended up checking in.
After grabbing a quick lunch, we hailed a tricycle going to Vigan City Plaza. From the spot where the infrastructures changed from modern to ancient begun our journey back to an era we now only read in history books.
Upon arriving at the city’s plaza, we thought the atmosphere was so lively and colorful. We were surprised to know that the city was celebrating its fiesta and we felt so lucky to be able to take part of the festivity. We realized we arrived a day late and missed the Longanisa (spicy pork sausage) cookfest and parade where the city vied to be part of The Guinness Book of Records for the longest longanisa but tons of activities are still in store as the celebration will drag on for the next three days which felt all the more worse as we were only staying in the city for a day.
Instead of brooding over the sad thought of missing the wondrous celebration of Vigan City, we started our tour through the best way the people of Vigan know how, through riding the kalesa (horse-driven carriage). We head first to the Burgos Museum which was the birthplace of the late Father Burgos one of the Three Martyr Priests. There stored are the artifacts from the natives of Cordillera mountains, old photos from people of note from the Ilocos province which includes the late President Marcos, the del Pilars and many others, the equipment which was used to hung the three martyr priests and other things which belongs to the Burgos family.
From Burgos Museum, our route headed next to Paburnawan where we have witnessed the traditional earthen-jar making which is believed to have been introduced to us by the Chinese traders. I even got the chance to mold my own earthen jar which brought out my inner artistic and playful child as it took me back to those times when I used to play with clay molding it to whatever I could think of.
After Paburnayan, it took us more than 15 minutes to reach our next destination, The Hidden Garden. While on the way there, I asked our tour guide why was it called The Hidden Garden and his answer was plain and simple, “because it is hidden” and I was like “Oh, that made sense”, but I realized what he meant as we were nearing the place as it was hidden from the main road and one has to pass through an unpaved and isolated road to get to it. Within the Hidden Garden are ornamental plants of various colors and sizes. If you happen to be hungry and would want a quick fill, inside is Lilong and Lilang’s Restaurant which is said to be listed by tripadvisor.com as the best in the area. Also, what I loved about it are the spacious, clean, fragrant and beautifully landscaped comfort rooms which got me thinking “Imma build my house one of these!” 😀
Our next stop was the Baluarte owned by former Governor Chavit Singson hence the name Baluarte ni Chavit. Baluarte according to our guide was the Spanish for “territory”. These vast lands are filled with animals of different species of ponies, deer, ostrich, tiger, birds and many more. It also has a mini butterfly garden, a picnic area and a shooting range which can be used by visitors for free.
From Baluarte, we then headed to the Crisologo Museum which was the ancestral house of the influential politician Floro Crisologo and his family. There displayed are belongings from the family which defines the lifestyle typical to the upper class of the society during the old times.
We then past through the bridge which separates the cities of Vigan and Bantay to get to our next stop, the Bell Tower and the Nuestra Senora dela Caridad Church. From afar I could tell that the church is old and must have been built during 18th or 19th century with a rich architectural design common to churches built by the Spaniards during those times. Few meters away from the church is its belfry more commonly known as the Vigan Bell Tower which was used as the watch tower for approaching enemies. We climbed up the tower and we were so fascinated by the view. To the eastern part was the mountain range of the Cordilleras and to the west was the South China Sea. We stayed at the top of the tower for a moment among the five or so different bells which uses are unique to each. There was the wedding bell, the one for the funeral, and the one for emergency or warning just to name those I could remember.
I thought the tour was already over when we headed back to the city proper from Bantay Church but our guide has something more up his sleeves. He went on telling us when is the best time to amble within the city, places where we should go and other ways we can explore Vigan. We headed to Calle Crisologo and said that at the moment what we would appreciate are the series of 200 or so ancient houses built during the Spanish colonization but at night, Calle Crisologo is totally transformed and its up for us to find out. We circled through the plaza once more and then headed towards our hotel. Our guide made us more instructions in case we plan to stroll later that night.
We rested a bit and filled ourselves with dinner. At five before seven, we walked from our hotel to Calle Crisologo just exactly how our guide told us so. It wasn’t so hard to find. Simply, Calle Crisologo elevated itself from the rest of the city. The streets made of cobblestones are lit by lamps of ancient design. In either side of the street are the famous colonial houses. The light illuminated by the lamps, the houses being old fashioned and the sound of the horse driven carriages passing by combine exude that feeling of being in a totally different era or dimension. But unlike the old times, these houses are now places of business. If they are not souvenir shops then they’re either restaurants or hotels. We sauntered until the very end of Calle Crisologo, fascinated how this place could look both old and new at the same time. After taking ourselves some photos, we decided it’s time to witness the city’s newest attraction, the world class Dancing Fountain at Plaza Salcedo.
We hurriedly walked from Calle Crisologo passing through St. Paul Cathedral to Salcedo Plaza. To make sure we are tracking the right path, we asked one of the locals and immediately, he confirmed our inquiry. As we were nearing Salcedo Plaza, we again asked one of the locals if the Dancing Fountain show has started and to our dismay found out that we just missed it 15 minutes ago. A pang of pain coursed through my heart and I almost wanna cry. Then to lighten things a bit, I decided to discard my disappointment and go on with exploring the city. Probably the city has more to offer and it has. St Paul Cathedral is such a beauty to behold at night. I stared at its golden edifice with its crystal like cross conquering the evening sky. Heaven must have read my thoughts as suddenly while we were walking towards the crowd of people at Plaza Salcedo, we heard that the show will be played once more. Oh God.. How can you be so good to us.. 🙂
The Dancing Fountain took my breath away. It might not be on par with the ones found in Las Vegas yet it still is beautiful and it’s something the people of Vigan and us Filipinos can be proud of. It is truly one of its kind here in the Philippines. As I was watching the show, I couldn’t help but marvel at the brilliance of the mind of whoever has come up with this idea. I would probably regret missing the Dancing Fountain knowing how awe inspiring it is from the intro to the very end.
Our night ended on a high note. Everything was worth it. I fell asleep dreaming about them until morning. I didn’t wanna bid Vigan goodbye just yet but we had to leave for Laoag. To see what the city looks like in the early morning, we decided to amble through the city once more. It was as breathtaking in the morning sunshine as it was during the star lit night. I might be leaving but a promise of coming back have been made to myself and it’s something I would never break.