Saturday, June 9, 2012

Revisiting Ilocos Sur

I’ll let you in on a secret: I have an impossible dream. I’ve had that since I started studying Philippine history in gradeschool. 

The impossible dream? To go back in time and have a chance to live during the time of the Spanish era in our country.

Quite bizarre, I know, but I’ve always been curious on how our ancestors lived their lives during that time. Plus, I love the look and feel of old Filipino houses, the cobblestone streets, calesas as the usual means of transportation, barong Tagalog and Maria Clara dresses, and other old stuff about our country.

So apparently, there’s no way that dream could turn into reality and there’s absolutely no way I would wish for that Spanish regimen to overpower and conquer our beloved Philippines again. Or scratch that. I think what I want is the old Philippines feel and not exactly the Spanish Era-Philippines. And the closest I could get to experience that ‘old Philippines’ feel was to go to places which preserved that antiquated look and feel of our country.

And yes, Vigan City in Ilocos Sur is one of them.

Falling In Love with Vigan Again

Thie and I initially thought of the Ilocandia Tour December of last year (2011). We then invited our MOD friends to join us. It was a series of group messaging in Facebook. After chaotic planning and trying to find the perfect schedule for this trip, we finally agreed on the February 10-13 date. 

We were originally 9 in the group but 4 of them backed out for various reasons prior to the final planning and the other one had to cancel her seat reservation in Florida Bus few hours before the agreed departure due to some domestic issues she had to attend to. So only four of us pushed through with the trip–Me, Thie, Mother L and Lhei. We left Manila around 4pm (Feb 10), riding the kikay Florida Bus, and arrived in Ilocos Sur around 1am (Feb.11). Just a bit dismayed, though, that I wasn’t able to  see the beauty of Quirino bridge in Ilocos Sur since it’s already dark when we passed by there.

Mother L offered her family’s house in San Vicente, Ilocos Sur, for us to stay overnight before we head on to the other parts of the Ilocos Region. It was a generous offer since we didn’t have to pay an extra P250-300 each for the room, plus her cousin even cooked breakfast for us the next day.

We decided to drop by one of Vigan’s famous landmarks first–St.Paul Metropolitan Cathderal. It was built in 1790-1800 by the Augustinians. This carefully designed structure has most of its interior walls well preserved to this day.

To enjoy the trip even more, we decided to hire a calesa service to take us to the scenic and historic spots in Ilocos Sur. It so happened that it was Manong Kutsero’s birthday that day so we treated him to burger Mcdo with regular coke (yes, that’s how shala we could get!) plus we gave him a little more than the agreed price of our tour because he was nice to us. The calesa tour was for P150/hour. We didn’t actually finish the whole Vigan tour since we were already too hungry and the stop at Baluarte ate up most of our time so we decided to just have Manong Kustero to bring us to Hidden Garden where we had our sumptuous lunch. I think to finish the whole tour, you need to allot at least 4 hours (total of P600 for all 4 pax).

The first stop of the tour was the Bell Tower.  This picturesque tower sits on a scenery hill and should not be missed not only for its historical and cultural significance, but also for the magnificent view it offers. There’s actually no entrance fee but you will be asked to register at the entrance and give some donations.

We would love to visit the Crisologo Museum and the Padre Jose Burgos Museum but they were closed that time so we decided to just head straight to Chavit Singson’t mini-Safari of the North–Baluarte. 

Here, we had the chance to ride a tiburin–a small horse-drawn carriage, have some pictures taken with the birds, the butterflies, the ostrich, ducks, white deers, camel, and even the tiger. ALL FOR FREE. I think Chavit just put up this place just so his pets could have a wide place to stay at and enjoy living freely. Plus, perhaps to also help promote the tourism of the region since this place should not also be missed when you visit Ilocos Sur.

We also bought some souvenir shirts and pasalubongs outside Baluarte since we thought it’s a little cheaper there as compared to the ones in Calle Crisologo.

Since it was already way past lunchtime and we were already super hungry, we asked Manong Kutsero to just bring us to Hidden Garden to conclude the tour.

I thought that it was my first time to visit the place but the moment I walked inside the receiving area, I remembered instantly that it was the very place where I had my first taste of the famous Vigan Empanada sometime in 2008. I just didn’t know the exact name of the place then.

The place, I believe, still looked the same as before, except that this time, I was already able to tour the whole place and taste and experience their really yummy dishes.I’m not really a fan of bagnet but I enjoyed Hidden Garden’s version of crispy bagnet. Even the bagnet sisig tasted soooo good:-) I had a taste of their dinengdeng but it didn’t quite leave a remarkable mark in my tongue.

Since we still had ample time, we decided to tour the whole place and take some photos.

Their comfort room is really comforting enough:-)

After the shots were taken, we decided to head on to the very reason why we wanted to go to Vigan–the cobblestone street of Calle Crisologo. We decided to just ride a tricycle going to Vigan to save up on transpo expenses since it’s just P8/head.

And just like the first time I stepped on the street of Calle Crisologo, I was again mesmerized by its beauty and the distinct nostalgic feel of the place.

We were even blessed to witness the shoot of the opening ID of a local TV network in Vigan and had our pictures taken with the production team in costumes:-)

Mother Lulu also met up with her ‘old friend’ — Father Gil, who were so generous to treat us to yummy a Vigan empanada and Okoy dinner:-) He even gave us a box of a really yummy bread with filling inside which I forgot the name:-(

Just a trivia: Mother Lulu and Father Gil used to be ex-lovers:-) ANd that made us kilig the entire time we were with him. Not that we were rooting for the re-launch of their love story. It’s more of being kilig with the thought that Mother Lulu has a really pang-telenobela kind of love story:-) What’s nice was that they’re still friends and Mother L’s daughters are also close to him:-)

Father Gil also toured us a little bit and even spent a little more time exchanging stories and silly laughs with us over coffee when he brought us home. And oh, he also reminded me of my late Papa that’s why maybe I was so fond of him:-)

"old friend" :-)

It was indeed a wonderful, feel-good, whole day love affair with Vigan. In all honesty, I appreciated the place more during this tour than the first time I’ve been here, primarily because I was able to really enjoy the place without having to think of bus schedules or itineraries:-)

I hope that Vigan will be able to preserve its old Philippines feel so the future Pinoy wanderlusts could still enjoy the beauty of this place.

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