This is yet the best unplanned trip for me. The evening before our scheduled flight came my biggest surprise—my passport was nowhere to be found!
I had searched my whole room, even checked my books page by page if I ever slipped it between the pages. I didn’t get enough sleep that one night just to look for it. 😦 Desperate, I went to our office as early as 5am to see if I left it in my locker.
Beginning to feel hopeless, I gave up on the search and delivered the sad news to my travel buddy who I bugged since a couple of months ago for this trip to be pushed. She doesn’t want to go to Siem Reap alone, so we decided to be somewhere else in Luzon and Vigan popped-out of my mind. Luckily she agreed having no choice after being ready and had everything packed for the trip.
To at least not waste our money spent for the airfare, we took the Cebu–Manila flight, but have not made used of Manila-Siem Reap via Cebu Pacific. After arriving in NAIA, we headed to Resorts World Manila for lunch and visited the casino there after signing up with their free membership card. We contacted our friends to ask for tips and also visited an internet cafe to google on how we go about our 5 days leave.
By 4:30 PM, we took a bus with a signboard ‘Laoag’ at Partas bus terminal in Pasay. The ticket was for P465. It was an almost 10-hour bus trip to Vigan.
We arrived in Vigan past 2:00AM and decided to look for a budget hostel. Recommended stays are Casa Teofil and Grandpa’s Inn but no rooms good for 2 were available at that time.
The tricycle driver took us to a homestay with a P1,000/night rate after checking the hostels we have researched are either fully-booked or closed during late hours. It is a decent place to stay with shared bathrooms and you can also buy spicy Ilocano longganisa in their karenderia (local eatery).
The morning after, my friend Dorothy was still fast asleep almost 9AM and I was already hungry, so I decided to ask around where to eat and they pointed Sinanglao eatery. They serve this Ilocano spicy hot soup which consists of innards of cow. I thought they also offer lean meat and more in their menu but they only serve Sinanglao so I tried it.
The tricycle driver, Michael, who took me there offered a tour around Vigan for P100/hr instead of the regular rate of P150/hr and he gave his contact number.
After having my stomach full, I strolled around Calle Crisologo and instantly fell in love with Vigan’s old-world charm.
Vigan Tricycle Day Tour
As a relatively small town, you can tour around almost all recommended attractions including many museums in a day. To help you get around Vigan, you can download the map from the tourism flyer at the bottom of this page and to give you more idea, below are the places we enjoyed:
We first headed to Baluarte of Gov. Chavit Singson. I have to say that the park falls short on my expectations but this one is surely fun for kids as they will enjoy the zoo. They probably need to work more on the landscaping.
The place features pony riding and animal statues and real ones too like the colorful parrots, young horses for pony rides, swans, butterflies and caged tigers.
Because the garden is not a straight view from the roads, they call it hidden and good thing they did not keep it a secret.
Before entering the hidden garden, there is a restaurant where we stayed for lunch. They offered tasteful Ilocano dishes. I ordered a eggplant dish and the extra-large empanada.
The place has pottery and ornamental plants available. I had wished I could bring home the lovely ornamental plants in tiny pots but realized they might be a hassle to bring on flight.
Vigan Heritage River Cruise
By cruising the Mestizo River, you will learn the historical timeline of Vigan and the significance of the river where trade flourished between the Chinese and local settlers.
Owned and operated by the City Government of Vigan, the cruise will have you appreciate the rich history through a voice-over story telling which takes around 45 minutes.
Some statue figures are installed in the river banks for tourist to see how trade between the merchants and locals took place. Also, locals hunt for small freshwater crabs here.
Bantay Bell Tower & St. Augustine Church
We carefully climbed the stairs of the 1591-built belfry made of brick, which is said to be the tallest point in town. It is located beside St. Augustine Church.
It served as a watch tower in the colonial period where you can get a panoramic view of the province. You may give a donation for maintenance of the area.
St. Augustine Church
St. Augustine Church is the oldest standing church in Ilocos Sur. It is dedicated to Our Lady of Charity (Apo Caridad), the Patroness of Ilocandia. This is where the uprising led by Diego Silang took place.
It was built in 1590 and was named after St. Augustine, the patron saint of the Augustinian friars. It was damaged during the World War II and was reconstructed in 1950. It has a neo-gothic design mixed with pseudo-romansque elements.
St. Paul Cathedral
Another earthquake baroque church is the metropolitan church in Plaza Burgos – St. Paul Cathedral (aka Vigan Cathedral). It was raining when we went there so we just stop for a while to view it inside the tricycle.
The first and second churches were destroyed by previous earthquakes and this is the present one which is completed in 1800.
You will have the chance to learn pottery hands-on. It’s fun to try!
The residence of late president Elpidio Quirino and his wife Alicia Syquia is located in Quirino Blvd, a street named after their prominent family. The mansion was given as a dowry.
The house has elegant old furnitures, paintings and many rooms. Our museum guide, a former history teacher, explained the functions of each rooms.
It was said that there are separate spaces to entertain affluent guests and ordinary visitors suggesting discrimination during those times. There is a peek hole to see if the guest is worthy to be received in the main sala. Also, it has different bells in the kitchen rooms to call their househelps and has secret doors designed for escape during upheavals.
Our musuem guide told an interesting love story of former President Quirino and his wife and also the detailed story of the courtship of Ferdinand to Imelda Marcos.
The museum houses the memorabilia of Cong. Floro Crisologo. Inside this old law office is a library that now showcases old books and historical artifacts. There’s no entrance fee but you may give a donation for its maintenance.
In the evening, we went to Cafe Leona for dinner and devoured vegetarian pizza rolls–the most delicious pizza rolls I’ve tasted to date.
The cafe was named after Ilocano poetess and playwright Leona Florentino hailed as the Mother of Philippine Literature and the building was her ancestral home.
They also offer flavorsome and appetizing longganisa, an Ilocano pride.
This is how Café Leona old building looks outside.
Walking through its cobbled streets between vintage houses and seeing horse-drawn carriage (locally known as kalesa) will let you travel back in time to the 16th century.
Vigan was declared a UNESCO heritage site in 1999 and here you will find the best-preserved Spanish colonial structures in the country.
During day time, there are many antique and souvenir shops open.
You shouldn’t miss strolling and riding a kalesa around Calle Crisologo during the evening. The nice thing about our experience after a light pour of rain was that we were the only ones on the street, and this totally gives us that feel of a hundred years ago with the night’s soft romantic breeze.
The kalesa ride will cost around Php150.
To keep the heritage alive, all establishments around Calle Crisologo conforms to the colonial style. Look at Max Restaurant perfectly fitted to keep the old-world charm.
We want to hang around a little more that night but decided to go back to our homestay inn. We prepared our backpacks and had enough rest for tomorrow’s trip to Laoag.
Here’s the tourist map of Vigan scanned from the flyer provided by the Tourism Office — telephone number: (077)722-8771-76