Sunday, December 27, 2009

The old-world charm of Vigan

For one night, we stayed in Grandpa's Inn in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. A heritage house dating back to the era of Spanish regime, this residence of the Donato family was converted to be an inn during 1979. Vigan City, by itself, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, being a well-preserved Spanish colonial town.

Walking inside the hotel, one will feel the old charm that it offers as articles dating back to decades ago are prominently on display to the public.

Even the reception and lobby areas outside of the rooms gives visitors and guests a feel of like living in the old days with the Spanish era inspired look of the area that you would think you're in your own ancestral home.

Our family stayed in an airconditioned dormitory room that is good for 8 persons (rate is at PHP4480 a night, inclusive of breakfast). It has the usual basic amenities but I regret chosing this room as there was no ensuite toilet and bathroom.

After dinner last night, we walked around the plaza and surrounding area of that part of the city. As you would when you're here yourself, we felt like walking into an old movie, or perhaps at least the old times looking at the beautiful architecture of buildings and houses here of the Spanish colonial era. Intramuros, in Manila, may share some of this feeling to visitors, but Vigan is much bigger and walking into its streets gave me some sort of an eerie feeling thinking about how many years some of these building has stood and what it may have witnessed during those years.

Of course, one can't be faulted if you do a bit of a food trip in the city, like buying the famous bibingka (rice cake) in town, tasting the okoy, trying the delicious Vigan empanada or even these Vigan longganisa. As small as it may seem, the city is bustling of flavors and spices present on its local delicacies.

Calle Crisologo (Crisologo Street) is the street in the city, closed to vehicular traffic and open only by foot or by horse-drawn carriage, where one can find majority of the well-preserved heritage houses. It is also the most touristy place around.

a part of Calle Crisologo at night

I woke up early today, to walk around Calle Crisologo as I expect that there will be not much tourists in the area at that time which will give me more opportunity to look closer at the beautiful well-preserved architectures. I have to say that when you got the chance, take a stroll on the streets and alleys of Vigan both at day and night.

Calle Crisologo street sign

Later in the morning, we also heard mass at the cathedral. We passed by this church (St. Paul's Metropolitan Cathedral) three days back if you've been following my blog.

horse-drawn carriages or calesas lining up outside the cathedral

After mass, that's when we finally had our breakfast in the hotel's restaurant - Kusina Felecitas.

After breakfast we immediately checked-out the hotel as we headed our way back to Manila with hours long drive ahead of us. Somewhere along the way we stopped at this spot in Ilocos Sur as it looks nice (both in person and in picture) and thought the scenery was very beautiful.

As we hit Tarlac, at the town of Gerona to be specific, we passed by our favorite all-time destination restaurant - Isdaan. We've been here a few number of times and I've blogged about the first encounter we had of this floating restaurant-cum-theme park.

floating hut

Here are the items we had for dinner tonight:

tinupig, lechon manok or roasted chicken

ehrr.. not sure what this is called. help!

pork binagoongan and rice in small calderos

crispy plapitos

What a good way to cap off a good road trip! Definitely we left the restaurant with full stomachs (and actually a bit sleepy to drive) and all the things we did and covered during this four day will never be forgotten in our minds and in our hearts.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

En route to Vigan

Woke up early today to the smell of Vigan longganisa, a small and plump meat, similar to sausage, primarily distinct from other longganisa as being garlicky, because the region of Ilocos is rich with native garlic. It is also best with sukang iloko, a native cane vinegar that is usually spiced up with a number of small peppers, which serves as its dipping sauce.

A few of us had spent the early morning dipping and swimming at the beach and by 9:00AM, our bags were packed and we're ready to hit the road again, southbound to the direction of Manila, but we intend to pass by Vigan, Ilocos Sur and stay there for the night.

On our way, we passed by Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, a century old lighthouse built during Spanish regime, sitting on Vigia de Nagparitan Hill.

This lighthouse located at the town of Burgos, Ilocos Norte, although aged and old, still functions as a lighting guide for ships entering the Philippine archipelago.

We were glad that we were able to come up the tower and have a glimpse of the view of the surrounding area on a not-so-hot day of December. We were told by the caretaker that are days that the lighthouse is locked up, especially when he isn't around. He was already on his way out when we came and there weren't a lot of visitors but he accomodated our request of opening the door leading to the top.


Be careful though when climbing up as the stairs may be a bit rusty. Don't rush your way to the top for you may hit your head with something hard on the way.

I'm very glad that despite the age of the structure, it is still maintained by the government. This brick-walled lighthouse is definitely a must place to visit when you happen to pass by the area. There is also a small museum showing relics and history of the place.

Half an hour before lunch time, we arrived in the capital city of Laoag, Ilocos Sur and immediately proceeded to Saramsam Restaurant for a meal. The restaurant located at Rizal corner Hizon Streets in the city is arguably one of the good restaurants to experience local delicacies. Eating at the restaurant, which literally means informal and constant dining, is an experience by itself. Prominently displayed within the corners of the place are different goods, handicrafts and artworks that one can appreciate or take home (for a price).

So these are the items we have ordered and tried:

Lauya a Baka - meaty beef bones, potatoes and cabbage delicately soured with tomatoes

Dinardaraan - also called dinuguan in other regions, pork blood stew

pork stew?

Insarabasab - slices of grilled pork, mixed with salt, vinegar, onions, & calamansi

Poque-poque - grilled eggplant, tomatoes, onions, egg

It all has been a great lunch for all of us. Not only did we experience some weird sounding delicacies which turned out to be delicious viands, but it definitely had our stomach full and even if we wanted to try other things like dinardaraan pizza or saramsam pasta, we were already not able to accomodate those.

Our next stop was at the Marcos Museum and Mausoleum in Batac, Ilocos Norte. It is dedicated to the past president who passed away and is also where is body, preserved by covering with wax, is on display to the public. Unfortunately taking pictures is not allowed inside.

Ferdinand E. Marcos words

Then we headed to the city of Vigan, Ilocos Sur and went straight to Baluarte, a zoo-like sanctuary open to public for free owned by Chavit Singson, the former governor of Ilocos Sur.

I was amazed by these colorful birds who appears to be very friends as I am taking pictures of them..

.. then they started kissing..

.. and later on necking! Oops enough of this already!

There were also other animals in the zoo like these:




eastern bearded dragon

albino burmese phyton

There was even an enclosed butterfly garden for children to appreciate!

One of the main attractions is a show of the siberian bengal tiger.

We got hungry later on and looked for something to munch. I happen to see a vendor selling Vigan empanada just outside baluarte. Vigan empanada is a fried local delicacy warapped in flour and filled with meat (usually Vigan longganisa), egg and some vegetables.

To make one, they mash flour into a small shape first..

.. roll it thinly then put the filling inside..

.. then fry it up! Best served again with sukang iloko! The crunchy covering and the yummy filling makes me drool even as I write this blog.

After this, we went to the hotel we will be staying for the night, checked-in and currently resting, at least until dinner time.