Traveller, Photographer, Mountaineer, Human

Viva Vigan!

June 16, 2012

This was one of the trips planned for quite sometime – a visit to Ilocos.  Due to limited time, we only had a day and we visited Vigan City.  Vigan City is located in the province of Ilocos Sur, which is 8 hours by late bus from Manila.  It was my first time to ride a deluxe bus and I very much appreciated the comfortable seating (three seats per row with enough leg room).

Bantay Belfry and St. Augustine’s Church

Our first stop was the Bantay Belfry and St. Augustine’s Church located near the highway.

The belfry is constructed of bricks and located on a small hill near the church.  On researching in the internet, I found out that this was where some scenes of Fernando Poe Jr.’s Panday movie was filmed.  It was also said that you can climb the belfry but we were too early to do that (the belfry was still closed).

The church was also constructed of bricks but I guess this may only be the facade as the interior (particularly the roof) looks a little modern.  It was renovated or reconstructed sometime in the 1950s after the war.

Inside the church is a small chapel dedicated to Jesus on the left (facing the altar) near the door.  As a non-Catholic, I wonder why there is more devotion to Mary than to Jesus Christ.  Enter most Catholic churches and you’ll find that a statue of Mary (in her various persona) is the central icon in the main altar.

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I took several zoomed pictures of the main altar and, later when I was reviewing the pictures on my computer, I realized that on one picture, the icon’s back is turned and on another (shot less than 20 seconds later), the icon is facing correctly.  It took me sometime before I realized that someone at the back of the altar was probably cleaning it (hence, the small crack in the curtain).

We arrived early (before 7am) in Vigan so we were able to catch the morning dew on the grass near the belfry.

Vigan Cathedral (St. Paul’s Metropolitan Cathedral)

After visiting the belfry, we rode a tricycle and told the driver to take us to Jollibee or McDonald’s for breakfast.  Fortunately for us, both fastfoods were located near the Vigan Cathedral and Plaza Burgos.

Since it was still early in the morning, the fastfoods were still closed so we still had some time to take pictures of the cathedral (and of course, of ourselves).

The Arzobispado (official residence of the bishop of Nueva Segovia) is just beside the church but we did not visit it (nor did we know that it is open for public).  The church is also beside Plaza Burgos but there doesn’t seem much to be seen on this plaza.

Finally, Jollibee opened (I think around 730am) and we did #2, #1 then had breakfast.

After breakfast, we walked to Calle Crisologo (just on right side of the cathedral) to visit the street that Vigan is famous for.

Calle Crisologo

Calle Crisologo is the one most visited by tourists and covered in an earlier blog entry.

While walking through the street, we hired a kalesa (horse-drawn carriage) to take us to the tourist spots in Vigan.

I’ve ridden a kalesa before but that was when I was still a child and it was not a kalesa for people but for hauling river stones, gravel and sand (for construction), firewood (for bakeries) and horse food.  This is my first time to ride a kalesa meant for people (2 people) and it costs Php150 per hour.

Our cuchera is very talkative and said that it was her kalesa that Kris Aquino rode for her feature on Vigan for her morning show.

Pottery Barn

Our first stop with the kalesa is Vigan’s pottery barn where burnay (a traditional pottery of clay trampled on by a carabao and baked in wood-fired kiln) is made.

Our visit to the pottery barn is covered in another previous blog entry.

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Crisologo Museum

Crisologo Museum is the former house of Floro Crisologo (former congressman) and Carmeling Crisologo (former governor), important figures in Vigan’s history, for whom Calle Crisologo was named after.

It’s an old house but since the Crisologos lived there until 1970s/1980s, the lower part of the house was already used (as a library), unlike old houses where the lower floor is simply used as a garage and storeroom.

The house/museum is ok but I think the caretakers/curator may have been too eager labelling everything.  Also, I didn’t appreciate the museum much as its collections are mainly the personal items of the Crisologos, of whom I don’t put much importance on (probably the residents of Vigan and the rest of the province will be in a position to better appreciate the museum).

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There were various things on display but my favorites are the ones in the kitchen.  I’m not sure if I just like these things, or I like things related to food (which explains why I’ve gained so much weight lately) or perhaps it is just the quality of the light in the kitchen.

There are also icons, as any Catholic buena familia of yesteryears will have.  There are also stuff like fishing and farming implements but I’m not sure if these were actually used by the Crisologos or were just there to showcase the culture of Vigan.

Sy Quia House

Our next stop is the Sy Quia house.  Our cuchera told us that this is the house of Elpidio Quirino but the caretaker emphasized (perhaps too much) that this is the house of the family of the wife of Elpidio Quirino.

The Sy Quias (now written as Syquia) are of Chinese descent, as can be gathered from the surname itself and the photographs of the family members.

If I thought that the Crisologo house is big, this one’s huge!  There are several rooms in the house, including a separate altar room.  There’s a huge space for entertaintaining guests, a big dining room, an outdoor dining space and a courtyard!  And that’s just the second floor!  The first floor, in the fashion of old houses, is just used as a garage and storage space. Though I don’t quite understand the logic of the arrangement of the rooms.  One of the bedrooms open directly to the entertaintaining area while another door opens to the dining room.

The previous owners of the house must have been avid collectors of art as there were several sculptural pieces (probably imported from Europe) and reproduction of Juan Luna’s Spoliarium and another famous painting.  I’m not sure if this is indeed the case or if this was just a show of wealth.

This would be the house I’d like to have if I were living in the past.  Even in the present, this will still be a really great place to live.  Unfortunately, all that is wishful thinking and we had to leave to continue with our tour.

Baluarte of Chavit Singson

The next place we visited is a little far from the city.  Baluarte is a combined park and zoo and is owned by the most influential person in Vigan (and probably the whole of the northern Philippines), Chavit Singson.

The visit to Baluarte is covered in this blog post.

Hidden Garden and Restaurant

Our last stop was Hidden Garden and Restaurant where we rested and had our lunch.

I think the garden is just an excuse to attract customers to the restaurant and the kalesa-drivers probably get something for bringing tourists to this place.  But, it is a nice place.

The visit to Hidden Garden is covered in this blog post.

Leaving Vigan

After going through all these places, we went back to Calle Crisologo to buy bagnet (dried and fried pork) and longganisa Vigan (garlicky pork sausages).  We paid our kalesa driver Php750 (Php150 per hour and it took us almost exactly 5 hours).  We then went to McDonalds and had coffee before finally leaving Vigan.  It was an exhausting trip but thankfully, we caught a deluxe bus again so the bus travel was not very tiring.

Will I go back to Vigan.  YES!  There are still places to visit and things to do – visit the Arzobispado, climb the Bantay belfry, try my hand at making pottery, etc.  But there are still other places to visit, places to be explored so for now, I’ll just be contented with the memories of Vigan.

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