Traveller, Photographer, Mountaineer, Human

Posts tagged “Vigan

Some More of Vigan

Last February, my family and I visited Vigan.  My second time there and their first.  Here are some of the pictures taken there.

Clay Jars

Taken in the pottery business in Vigan.  These are jars made in the barn and are just stored outside.  I love the light falling on the jars and the way the jars are arranged (or not arranged).  [Olympus OM-D + 12-50mm]

Portrait of a Tiger

This was taken in Gov. Chavit Singson’s Baluarte.  He is the most famous tiger there (I think named Romy or something).  When it was still a tiger cub, visitors can have their photo taken while nursing the tiger cub (with milk).  When we visited, he is the only tiger not in a cage (but with thick metal chains).  [Canon 7D + Tamron 70-300mm VC].


Taken again in Singson’s Baluarte.  Maya is a common bird here in the Philippines.  The tree is beside an orange wall (part of a structure) and the orange wall provides a nice background (blends well with the color of the birds).  [Canon 7D + Tamron 70-300mm VC].

Singson’s Baluarte has a butterfly enclosure and this is one of those butterflies.  Shot with the Canon 7D and Tamron 70-300mm VC (love this lens as it can do close ups with a long working distance – will never beat the 100mm macro though).

My beautiful niece and my father.

Both of these pictures were taken inside the Sy Quia mansion – a must-visit site in Vigan.  It displays the grandeur of a rich life during our colonial past.  My niece was imitating one of the statues/sculpture in the house.  The shot of my father is taken inside the house’s  dining room.  The large open windows, color of the walls and wood and the reflected light from the red roof beside the house (outside the windows) provides beautiful light for taking portraits.  [Olympus OM-D + 12-50mm].

My brother and his youngest some * Looking at souvenir items.

My youngest nephew seems to have changed from last year.  Last year, he was the one who was always in front of the camera smiling and making cute poses.  Now, he’s the one holding a camera (an Olympus bridge camera) and is not too keen on being photographed.  Calle Crisologo is the main attraction of Vigan – a street full of old houses, most of which are now stores selling souvenirs (the lower part of the houses as old houses use the lower floor for storage or a garage).  [Olympus OM-D + 12-50mm].

Family Picture.

Yes we have a souvenir uniform tshirt which we wore on our second day there.  My two older nephews did not come with us.  I’ve also gained a lot of weight in a span of a year (I’m the fat guy in the left).  [Olympus OM-D + 12-50mm].


Random Photo: Doorway

This was shot in Vigan when my family and I took a trip there.  There are lots of old houses and buildings in that city and some have been partially converted to modern houses or commercial establishments while some (like this) have been integrated with more modern structures.  This was shot with Olympus OM-D EM5 and the 12-50 kit lens.

Random Photo: Calesa in Vigan

Last weekend, my family and I went for a trip in Vigan.  Vigan is a city in Northern Philippines that is famous for its old houses (constructed during the Spanish colonial times).  One part of the city (the Heritage Village) has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site and is protected and preserved both by the government and the owners of these old houses.

The picture below was taken in the morning of our second day there.  The sun was not yet high in the sky and its oblique rays of light illuminates the fog.  A calesa (horse-drawn carriage) was in the middle of the road and its shadows provides contrast to the white-washed walls of the house behind it (now a hotel).

The picture is almost devoid of color and it makes sense to convert it to black and white.  I boosted black clipping and highlights and enhanced the fog through Nik’s Viveza plugin.  I’m pretty satisfied with this picture that I’m thinking of printing it on A3 paper and framing it.

Random Photo: Baskets

Hanging baskets as part of the decoration in Hidden Garden Restaurant in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur.

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.





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.







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).


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.

Baluarte ni Chavit Singson (Vigan, Ilocos Sur)

June 16, 2012

Part of a visit to Vigan would be a visit to Baluarte of Chavit Singson (the governor of the province for a long time).

Baluarte is a sort of farm/park of Chavit and is like his Neverland.  Baluarte is situated in a large tract of land very near the city.  It is open to the public for free.

On entering the place, you’ll be greeted by parrots – one large blue and yellow (right), a pair of yellow ones and one large white.



A little further from the main entrance and you will see a large grassy field.  There are several species of animals roaming this field – deer, ostrich, ducks, turkeys, alpacas, horses or ponies.

There is a place where an hourly show is done.  An emcee (who sounds like a radio DJ) asks for volunteers from the audience and puts various animals on them (albino anaconda, Palawan bearcat, raptors, reptiles, etc.)


Beside this place where the show is held is an enclosure where butterflies are hatched and allowed to roam.

In addition to the animals presented in the show, there are other animals in cages including 9 tigers!

The whole compound is dominated by a large building with a big tree on top.  Our cuchera (driver of our kalesa) said that it is a money tree imported from Korea.

Well, the tree looks dead or dying (unless the leaves are really brown or gold-colored.)

Our cuchera who is very talkative told us that each of the buildings represent a major gambling win for Chavit.  She said that one of the buildings is from the winnings from mahjongg (the one with mahjongg tiles on the design).


The place is nice.  There is also a corner with large stone (or fiberglass) dinosaurs, a corner for Chavit’s yellow submarine and old English cannons.

After visiting the place, I thought how rich Chavit must be.  Just acquiring all the animals, buildings and stuff takes money and not to mention their upkeep must cost a real fortune.  And his not charging anything to the public!

The place reminds me of paintings of throne rooms in the olden days – where a king sits with his court and all around are signs of his riches and powers, including peacocks, tigers and other exotic animals.

If ever you’re in Vigan, don’t forget to visit Baluarte.  It’s free so what have you to lose?  (Unless of course the dying money tree signals a change in Chavit’s fortune, in which case better hurry up before the place falls into disrepair).

Calle Crisologo in Vigan, Ilocos Sur

June 16, 2012

Calle Crisologo is perhaps the most famous landmark of Vigan.  It is a street of old houses and cobblestone road.

When people visit Vigan, this street is the primary reason.

The street and its surrounding area has been declared a UNESCO Heritage Site and is also actively protected by the local and national government.  In fact, one of the houses in the street is subject to expropriation (the houses are privately owned) by the local government since the owner has not maintained the house (a big beautiful house in ruins!).  There is a big sign announcing the court proceedings for this expropriation.

Before, I’m not very keen on visiting this place.  I’ve seen it on many pictures (mostly rendered sepia or in other antique-like effects).  It’s a street – period.  However, on setting foot on this place, I was happy.  It’s like stepping back in time, though of course many things reminded me that this is already a modern time.

Probably, this is the most photographed part of Vigan, and there lies the problem (for me and others).  There are already so many pictures of Calle Crisologo that presenting it in a different way gets harder.  I guess an easy way is to photograph details…













…things they’re selling on the street…






…or the people.








Another way of course is to find a different perspective.

Sadly, the place has become a flea market for souvenir items.  I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing.  A bad thing because it is no longer authentic (the street is supposed to be residential but I don’t know if people will really live on this street), a good thing since through this, the houses are being kept by the rentals (of vendors) or profit from the stores.

As tourists, snapshots are mandatory.

All snapshots of Eman.  I took his pictures, he took mine.  Unfortunately, he has not yet uploaded his shots so no picture of me.

Will I go back to Vigan and revisit this place?  YES!  However, there are other places to visit and returning here is still quite low on my priorities.

Hidden Garden in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur

June 16, 2012

Our last stop on our Vigan trip (before buying pasalubong) is the Hidden Garden (Restaurant).  It is located in the city of Vigan and is a refreshing place to unwind and eat.

The garden sells ornamental plants and has a restaurant serving Ilocano dishes (like dinakdakan and a pinapaitan-like dish which we both had).

There are various ornamental plants for sale, including some bonsai.  However, the variety of plants in Quezon Ave cor. EDSA still beats Hidden Garden.



There are also sculptures around the garden.  However, similar to other places, the sculptures are not of one theme – there are Buddhist/Hindu themed ones, Christian-religious themed and contemporary sculptures.

The general decor of the place is also disparate (though a little less) as the sculptures around the garden.

Despite the different design themes around the garden, there is a general sense of relaxation – helped by the shade of the bamboo and other trees as well as the gentle wind.

It is in this place that we ate our lunch.  I didn’t find the food spectacular (probably because I’m not used to Ilocano dishes) but it’s ok.  Price is comparable to a similar restaurant in Metro Manila (which means the restaurant is a little expensive for a provincial city).

Rest after touring Vigan.



Will I be coming back to this place?  Yes, when I get the chance to visit Vigan again.  Not only because of the place or the food or the plants but also because of something else.

Pottery Barn of Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Clay plant holders (?) drying.

June 16, 2012

One of the stops of any of the tours of Vigan is the pottery barn (not the store but a real place where workers are creating pottery).  It is located in the city of Vigan and they say you can try creating your own pot.  We did not try doing this as we are in a bit of a hurry (the kalesa we were riding costs Php150 per hour).

The inside of one of the planters * Planters all lined up

Entrance is free and there are stalls selling some of the products of the pottery as well as other types of souvenirs.

Some of products (including a penis-shaped ashtray) * Scrap wood used to fire the kiln

Workers of the pottery barn.

I don’t know where they actually sell most of the products they create as most tourists don’t have their own vehicles (including us) or will not have brought a big vehicle to transport these big pots.

It’s a nice place to visit, especially if you can stay longer and try creating your own pot.