By Veronica Leynes
Sight-seeing in Vigan for a day? It seems impossible but my friends and I managed to do it. We were in a rush to go around Northern Philippines because my friend from Canada only has 2 weeks to stay in Metro Manila and travel to provinces in our must-see list.
We took a non-airconditioned bus from Pagudpod to Vigan, which took approximately an hour and a half. After seating on a bumpy ride for that long-our behinds feeling like it has hardened into steel-we finally checked in at Cordillera Inn, which was an old mansion turned into an inn, at around 8PM. Cordillera Inn is conveniently situated at Calle Crisologo. The entire place felt homey because its wooden furniture reminded me of how houses used to look like in the past. Plus, the native sculptures and trinkets, intricate and mismatched ornaments as well as oil and stained glass paintings that cover every possible nook and cranny gave it a distinct look.
After seeing our room and dumping our luggage on the floor, we explored Calle Crisologo to find out if there was still any open restaurants. Walking on the cobbled streets of Calle Crisologo-declared as a UNESCO heritage site- and passing by abandoned and some still lived in Spanish houses that are centuries old; potted plants and kalesa-like chairs lining the sides of the street; antic lamp posts that casted a shadow on the walls and eerily lit the street, I found myself wondering about how life might have been like during those times when life moved at a much slower pace and tradition defined and was embedded within each person’s being.
Once our hunger was satisfied, we decided to call it a night and wake up early the next day to explore more of the town.
After breakfast, one of the staff suggested that we go around town riding in a kalesa. Feeling like a tourist, none of us objected to the idea. And so we negotiated to pay P70.00 for renting the kalesa for four hours.
While hoisting myself up the kalesa, I noticed that almost every horse had built-in blinders and some of the horses along the street had tails that were braided. Pushing the thought aside, the next thing I heard was the steady rhythm of the horses’ hooves moving forward to take us to our destination.
The first stop was the Vigan Bell Tower, just a few steps away from the very old Vigan Church. The Vigan Bell Tower was a sight to behold with its imposing size and ancient looking red-brick structure, which somewhat indicates that it has survived the test of time. The Vigan Bell Tower was surrounded by grass and a few trees; numerous cobbled steps led up to the front entrance that could only be opened by the gatekeeper.
Inside the Vigan Bell Tower, narrow, cemented, winding steps took you all the way up to the tower. Upon reaching the top, I realized that wooden slates were haphazardly placed to support visitors’ every move. At the top of the bell tower, a blast of cool air rushed all over my body.
The view from the top consisted of many white tombstones, amidst lush greenery, that faced two, large mountains. While the cameras flashed to capture goofy or meditative poses, I wished that more effort was exerted in preserving the interior of the Bell Tower.
The next attraction was Pagburnayan to see hand-made potteries. We were fortunate enough that one of the potters showed us how to make one. We were in awe at how fast his hands moved and transformed the mud clay. He informed us that he has been doing this for ten years. This information made us realize that our inexperienced hands would instantly destroy the mud clay if ever we attempted this on our own.
We also visited the Crisologo Museum to see what artifacts they have in store. The museum was a mansion of former Congressman Floro Crisologo. They have many family heirlooms and materials on display. After quickly going from one room to the next, our stomachs started to growl desperately urging us to eat immediately.
We wandered aimlessly trying to figure out the location of Irene’s Empanada, which we were told is the best empanada in town. After three people pointed the direction with their index fingers, we finally found the place. Irene’s Empanada is like any karenderia lined with white plastic chairs and tables covered with red and white checkered table cloths. At the entrance, there is a young lady in front of a stove ready to fry the empanadas stored inside a glass encasement. The empanadas are quite large so two pieces is enough to fill up a person.
We ended up taking the empanadas back to our homey inn. After devouring the empanadas and giddily chatting about our day, we realized that we had to start packing soon so that we could catch a bus that would take us to Laoag, where we would embark for our flight back to Manila. Grudgingly, we stood up and scrambled to get our last minute shopping done.
Aside from bagnet, Vigan is also famous for its basi wine made from sugarcane. Luckily for us, Calle Crisologo contains many souvenir shops that sell such item. Each of us rushed from one shop to the next, our eyes quickly scoping laid out articles, grabbing what suited our needs and haggling at the same time.
While heading back to the Cordillera Inn after our shopping frenzy, it dawned on me that the reason I find Vigan appealing is that it is a town that is proud of its heritage and aims to preserve it despite being in an era where modernization and technology takes precedence over everything else. This thought is comforting knowing that years from now, when I have my own family, there will still be a place where the past is still very much a part of the present everyday reality of its inhabitants.
Local Philippines would like to thank Ms. Veronica Leynes for sharing her travel story. Veronica used to work for Eversun Software as a writer.
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