It was five in the morning as I got off the Partas bus from Cubao heading to Laoag. It was cold, drizzling and all I could think of was to get some decent rest after the 7-hour bus ride. And then I sighed, I am finally at Vigan City, for the first time.
A tuktuk-type of vehicle collected me from the bus terminal. My friends were all in dreamland as I reached our room in Hotel Felicidad. They’ve been here for four days now and I’m catching up. I didn’t know what to do at that time, whether to roam around the famed Calle Crisologo to check it out while everyone’s still dead to the world or snooze a bit until my friends would finally come to life; I chose the latter (tamad).
Waking up after a three-hour sleep, I was in my best mood to check out Vigan. Everybody seemed listless and as I peep into the huge wooden windows of our room, I noticed that the sun was still too shy to show itself up.
Finally, after having breakfast, the sun showed up and off we went to explore the famed cobblestoned streets and the antique shops and the horses with carriages and more.
First stop was Calle Crisologo. The whole town is a certified UNESCO World Heritage Site but the Calle Crisologo can be considered as the core of the town. There’s this old and rustic feeling when you pass by some of the old Bahay na Bato houses.
Inns, lodging houses and posh hotels are sprawling on the outskirts of the main street. Souvenir shops, antique shops and food establishments were everywhere. But the fact that everything is in tune with that old feel is interesting.
Our walking tour ended at Plaza Burgos where the famed empanadahan is situated. Different stalls that sell legit Vigan empanada lined the street at the side of the plaza.
A few tumblings away from Plaza Burgos is the Vigan Cathedral (St. Paul Cathedral). It was in 1574 when the construction of this simple church made of wood started. Destroyed by an earthquake and fire, it was restored in 1790 and was completed in 1800 (made of adobe materials).
Horse-drawn carriages or kalesas can be found around the church’s premises. They offer a tour around Vigan for around 300 pesos per hour. We were four in the group and decided to try it out. You may opt to choose the spots you want to cover or if you have the vaguest idea (like me) about what to check out, talk it over with the kalesa driver.
I have Ilocano roots from my father and as soon as I heard the name of this particular church, I knew that it would not be as grand as the Vigan Cathedral (bassit = small). Built in 1852, the church is dedicated to Apo Lakay or Santo Cristo (Black Nazarene). There’s a small cemetery beside it and unfortunately, we weren’t able to explore it for it was closed during that time. One noticeable thing though, the electrical wires around Vigan are so crazy. Getting a decent photo of the church is impossible. It really looked like the wires are strangling it (a problem for the whole city).
I teach Philippine Arts to my High School students and our next stop is included on the curriculum, I was too excited to check it out.
Burnay jars are specifically types of jars that are uniquely Vigan-made. They use bantog clays that can be found in the city itself. They use it to ferment sugarcane wine (basi), sugarcane vinegar, fish sauce (bagoong isda), and other stuff. They say that using a burnay jar for these products can actually improve its taste.
You can roam around the workshop and can even try the manually-pedaled rotating disk for molding (very Demi Moore-ish). Of course, I did try it and was so enamoured by it. It was hard at first but when you start to get the proper technique it would be effortless.
Our last stop isn’t actually located in Vigan City but its near proximity to the town makes it a part of some kalesa tours. The Bantay Church (in Bantay town) is sixteen years younger than the Vigan Cathedral and the brick church is dedicated to Nuestra Señora de la Caridad (Our Lady of Charity).
On the side of the church is an open-air shrine and garden. The lush greeneries are well-maintained and I could just imagine a garden wedding happening here. It’s such a romantic spot.
And then the Bell Tower. We were saving the best for last so after exploring the church and the garden, the group went ahead to the bell tower but were stopped on the sentry for it will be closing time. They say that the bell tower is open up to six in the afternoon and we’re like a few minutes past that. Sayang. It would’ve been a nice vantage to check out Vigan at sundown.
We asked to be dropped off at Plaza Salcedo in front of the Provincial Capitol and my friends were so excited. I dunno why, they wouldn’t tell me.
And so we waited. Locals and tourists were starting to flock the plaza and all I did was wait. And then happiness!
A dancing fountain and light show commenced and I scrambled to the best spot I could find. So I was standing there, aiming my camera when the music started. And as orchestrated, fountains from different directions started to flurry as it gyrates. The different shades of blue, red, yellow, green and all the colors from the rainbow flashed from the lights and lasers all around the plaza. I’ve seen this kind of show in Zamboanga City (The gyrating fountain show) but not as grand as this one. It was a very fun experience that at the end of the show I wanted to hug somebody (but my buddies were busy shooting somewhere).
It was so nice that we waited for the next show and were thrilled once more, just like kids. And it’s fun. You shouldn’t really miss it when you visit Vigan. The show schedules are 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. daily.
At around 8:30ish in the evening, we went back to Calle Crisologo to find a dinner place and to have some booze. It was my first day (first time) in Vigan and I am so loving it.