Over the years, the family hasn’t gone to any trips whether it’s for a get together or just a spontaneous adventure. This year it was different because we headed to the Northern part of the Philippines at Vigan, Ilocos Sur last Christmas Day. The original plan was to go there at an earlier date but due to some reasons, we pushed through on a later date, the night of December 25. On three cars following each other, the whole trip almost took us 12 exhausting hours including a number of stop overs.
To cut the long “trip” short (because I just slept the majority of the trip), we were already at the La Union-Ilocos Sur boundary when I woke up. We passed by a long strip of sea shore which I guess is part of Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur already. We did a little (and final) stop here and reached Vigan City proper in about 1 hour. We met Tito Boy, a family friend who lives at a neabry place called Caoayan, at the Vigan Cathedral and headed to his place right away. The plan was to settle there and wander around the city before booking a hotel to stay in. Genius plan, right? Kidding aside, we overlooked the number of tourists that time, that no single place was available come night time. Ugh, stressful.
Tito Boy’s house at Caoayan, Ilocos Sur is beside a very wide river with fish pens. We parked by the bridge and the moment I stepped out, I saw an eagle above me. Guys, this is one for the keeps because it was my first time to see an eagle flying in the wild.
The first stop was Baluarte, a fortress owned by the well loved Mr. Chavit Singson. There is no entrance fee hence a flock of people in an instant. It is actually a mini zoo where you can have close encounters with animals such as Bengal tigers, parrots, and even butterflies in a separated aviary. We didn’t do much here and forwarded to the Hidden Garden (which btw, its beauty is also hidden lol) after. The place has a wide selection of ornamental plants and a cafe-resto inside which we didn’t bother to try.
Pagburnayan Pottery relives the earthenware industry of the Ilocanos way back during the pre colonial era. Up to this date, the “burnays” are still sought after by the tourists and even the locals. I got to try the pottery making itself that turned out to be a messy but fun experience. I created a weird looking jar because, duh, no control. I must say potters must have had excellent control and creativity to create perfect pieces of jars.
About 10 minutes from the city proper is the Bantay Belfry that proudly sits on a hill. According to history, this was the watch tower of the people in order to look out for possible enemies. As you walk through the structure, an old but huge bell will greet you. Beside this Bell Tower is the St. Augustine Parish Church where I found and fed those flock of doves.
And here comes the major problem of this trip. We were about 15-17 people, children included and Tito Boy’s house simply cannot accomodate all of us. We checked on every hotel we could possibly stayed in but no success. Thanks to these generous people (Tito Boy and his family) and they found a way to squeeze us all in. Likewise, feast would be an understatement because that night, they let us devoured on the most delicious Ilocano cuisine. My personal favorite would be the stir fried saluyot tops with ground pork (not in the picture) which I ate like a bowl of pasta. By the way, that pinakbet is also to die for. Goodness gracious I would comeback to Vigan just for that pinakbet. To my dismay, I wasn’t able to eat the empanada as stalls near the church has long order queues roughly 30-50 pieces before my order.
The original plan for this trip was to head to Bangui to see the windmills, and then to Baguio to catch some fresh cold air, then head home. We tried to call hostels and guest houses the night before but we were unsuccessful. We decided to just visit Calle Crisologo the morning after since we only had a glimpse of it later that night. Immediately, we also wanted to go home early so as not to catch up with the weekend traffic back in Manila and the people heading down from Baguio.
That’s it for Day 1. The first day was a little stressful because plans didn’t turn out what they suppose to be. Also, people are a bit grumpy maybe because no one had a decent sleep along the way. Nevertheless, I was really awed by the subtleness of Vigan that came from within its architecture, food, and people.
I wanted to squeeze in the whole trip into a single post but this might get very lengthy. Though we didn’t do much the second day, I have a lot of photos to show you and maybe share some tips based on my experiences, if I could.
Click here for Christmas 2014 at Vigan (Day 2).