November 13, 2016

Vigan Travelogue

Our Ilocos trip wasn’t exactly done on a whim.

We’ve been wanting to explore more of the region and when we had to go to the capital for a family’s wedding, we extended our flights to squeeze Ilocos in. But then work ensued that even at the day of my flight I still wasn’t sure if we could do it, let alone attend the wedding.

The universe though conspired that at the last minute I found myself haphazardly putting on make up on my economy plane seat. Changed my jeans and sneakers campaign uniform into a modern Filipiniana wedding guest outfit in a cramped plane bathroom and hit the ground running from NAIA to Manila Hotel.

Our crazy schedule left us with no time to properly plan the trip so we just winged it. It did work out in the end and although I’d like to believe that we’ve somehow become seasoned lacuacheras over the yeas, this confirmed that we are far from the spontaneous kind of travelers! Although it made for some travel highs getting surprised from time to time, we were also mildly stressed out not having pre-booked accommodations and excel planned itineraries knowing we were probably missing a few stops. We’ve gotten boring, I know! But whatever, different strokes for different folks.


We left Sampaloc bus station for Vigan at exactly 1030 PM via a Florida non-stop super deluxe overnight sleeper bus. Fare is around P750 per person per bed. The bus was clean and air conditioned with a cramped but clean toilet on board. Pillows and blanket were not provided so dress in layers as the bus can get cold. Travel time was around 5.5 – 6 hours and in a crisp summer morning we were deposited on the highway of Bantay at 4 AM.

From there we hailed a tricycle that brought us to the 100 year old Ciudad Fernandina Hotel. A stone’s throw away from the famed Calle Crisologo but still removed from the heavily trafficked area so it wasn’t noisy. Our room and breakfast wont be ready before 7 AM so we deposited our bags at the reception and walked around wrapped in cardigans.

The cobble stone streets of Calle Crisologo is lined with Spanish style heritage homes and shop houses from a bygone era. Vigan is a UNESCO World Heritage City and it is magical at dawn still empty of tourists except for us and a few sleepy tricycle and calesa drivers and the occasional joggers.

Sunrises and being up this early for these sleepy heads is a huge deal so we get a top up reward – pre-breakfast of a still warm cup of taho. Taho is a Philippine snack of silken tofu sweetened with a dark sugar syrup called arnibal and tapioca, peddled on streets.

When it was light enough and more people have flocked the streets, we walked back to our hotel to a proper breakfast of garlicky vigan longanisa dunked in pungent sukang Iloco. And then we crashed on our hotel bed and was out like a light until lunch.

I get to chat up a tricycle driver on his morning jog and we arranged a half day tour with him at lunch time. After showering and grabbing some freshly baked Spanish bread at the corner Panaderia, we met up with Manong Noli (09263118474).

First stop was a pinakbet and  sizzling bagnet lunch at the Hidden Garden.

Vigan is rich in culture and history and sights, so after a filling lunch we pressed on.

From there it was a short drive to Pagburnayan Pottery where I get to try forming, or more like, deforming a vase at RG Jar Pottery.

My parents would bring home suitcases of Abel Iloco after every Ilocos trip so that was our next stop. I am so turning into my mother and we brought home a beautiful red and white striped table runner and a white blanket from Cristy’s weavers after touring the backyard facility.

The sun was fierce at that point so we headed indoors to the Syquia Mansion turned museum to house Pres. Elpidio Qurino’s memorabilia. Pres. Quirino is a Vigan native and the 6th President of the Philippines. The mansion is the ancestral home of his wife, Doña Alicia Syquia Quirino and the 4th generation Quirino's (prolly along with some ghosts) still reside at the mansion. Open to the public for an admission fee of Php30.00.

The museum tour continued at Crisologo Mansion and Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail  also turned art center under the National Museum of the Philippines. The latter was under renovation during our visit so we only got to see the Basi Revolt exhibit.

The tour was briefly interrupted with delicious snacks of Okoy (fried shrimp fritters) and Empanadas (pastry stufed with meat, veggies and eggs over easy) at the edge of plaza Burgos across Vigan’s cathedral.

Stuffed, impressed, and eager to see more, Manong Noli brought us to Bantay Church and Bell Tower. Church was also under construction, so after taking photos at the bell tower and cooling off with popsicles, we headed back to Calle Crisologo where we then promptly boarded a calesa to  quickly circle the centro and for the experience.

Capped the full day with dinner at Café Leona, at one end of Calle Crisologo right off the plaza.

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