Ilocos Travel Diary: 10 Things I Love About Vigan

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Vigan has always  been a dream destination for me and my habitual liking for heritage and cultural places caused me to long for this place all the more. With its scaling appeal to the tourism industry, both foreign and Filipino alike are going nuts about visiting this UNESCO heritage site. And so because its summer and the family is complete, together with some friends we decided to pursue this long overdue trip to Ilocos, finally! God has been so good!


Unlike Ilocos Norte, where tourists destinations are very distant, the most visited places in the South are just nearby. In fact, we have visited almost, if not all, of the tourists spots in Vigan in a span of 5 hours and left the city back home right after. There can be a lot of things and places to enjoy and visit at this southern part of Ilocos, and Vigan City is a well-loved spot among all. Of course this place never fails to capture the heart of every tourists with its lovely fusion of well preserved antique houses, cobblestone layered pavements and a selection of authentic Ilocano foods to try. And here's my favorite!

VIGAN DANCING FOUNTAIN



From Ilocos Norte we traveled for almost 4 hours until we finally arrived at the City of Vigan. And thank God it was just in time for the most awaited Dancing Musical Fountain Show. It happens only once on weekdays every 7:30pm and lasts for 30 minutes. It is repeated twice during weekends at 7:30pm and 8:30pm and its FREE.


Judging from what i saw, it was really something that you shouldn't miss when in Vigan. The synchronicity of the music, the lights and the fountain is just amazing. If you have been to Sentosa's Songs of the Sea or maybe at Manila Ocean Park's Musical Fountain Show, then this is probably the counterpart of it in Ilocos Region. What's appealing to me and my kids is the musical fountain's version of "Let It Go", Disney's Frozen movie soundtrack and my daughter enjoyed it with all her whoaahh and wooowww! Here's a video clip below that you might want to check from my Youtube Channel.



CALLE CRISOLOGO



Calle Crisologo is the heart of Vigan, and while walking around it gave me a sudden escape of feeling like being transported back into the colonial Spanish times. Vehicles are prohibited to set foot on this part of the road as the area is carefully preserved and well-maintained.



During the day it has the spirit of a market place where varieties of shops selling local goods and pasalubongs are piled along the century old houses and Kalesa (horse-drawn carriage) are passing by from time to time. 




KALESA RIDE


After some souvenir shopping and hoarding some "chichacorns" for pasalubong, we decided to rent a kalesa to visit other tourist spots and to enjoy the rest of our tour. It was a first time for my kids to ride a kalesa and they loved it. All the other tourist destinations around the city is best traveled by renting a kalesa for P150 an hour.


In our case we exceeded some time and we paid P200 because we went to a nearby bagnet factory and our time was consumed by too much waiting. Anyhoo, we all enjoyed the city and the ride. Actually, the 1 hour Kalesa ride is just enough to get around the significant places around the city and your coachman (Kalesa Driver) will serve as your tour guide, so it's sulit na rin!


BANTAY BELL CHURCH AND BELL TOWER


Not so far from the city proper is the St. Augustine Church or Bantay Church, one of the oldest churches in Ilocos Region that was built in 1590. From Calle Crisologo, our kutsero brought us there.


On the right, not so distant from the church is Bantay Bell Tower seated on a landscaped hill. People can climb up the stairs inside the tower to feast their eyes on the beautiful landscape, but we didn't bother to climb anyway.


This old historic belfry serves as a watchtower for pirates back in the spanish colonial era which gave the town its name "Bantay".


BURGOS MUSEUM



This museum is the ancestral house and birthplace of priest patriot Fr. Jose Burgos and is one of the notable historic structures in Vigan. It is a two-storey building preserved and was now turned over to the administration of the National Museum.


PAGBURNAYAN JAR MAKING FACTORY


I might just say that this is the place that i was really looking forward to visit during our Vigan tour. Simply because i wanted to see and experience how jars are being crafted, the traditional way. And also, Pagburnayan Jar Making Factory was said to be one of the highlights of this Kalesa Tour.


I love earthenwares and i was actually planning to buy something for the home, but i got so engrossed snapping away while my husband tried the potter's wheel for himself. And then, i tried it too! 


PLAZA SALCEDO AND ST. PAUL CATHEDRAL


As i have mentioned earlier, the Musical Fountain Show takes place at Plaza Salcedo every night and it was a lovely attraction during night time due to its amazing lights with the stunning view of the St. Paul Cathedral at the backdrop.




During day time, Plaza Salcedo has a different vibe with the captivating glow of the lagoon and it used to be a favorite hangout for the locals. It can be a perfect spot for photo ops with the distinct Ilocos Sur letter standees and Vigan standees around the plaza.


HIDDEN GARDEN



We actually had Hidden Garden as our first stop that morning to start our Vigan tour itinerary. From our Vigan homestay, we traveled to Hidden Garden and we lost quite a few minutes wondering where this garden is located. It made me think that it really is a "hidden" garden. Lol! My GPS didn't cooperate that morning and it gave me a sour grief that day as the organizer of the trip. (Anyway, that's a different story, thanks to the bananacue vendor. We brought some banana on sticks and it cooled me down a bit.)



Back to my story, the Hidden Garden is not hidden at all! It is a sprawling garden in the city, yes in the city, where you can feed your soul with an atmosphere of tranquility. Different kinds of ornamental plants for your landscaping needs are present here, and i find the gorgeous bonsai plants all so pretty! I was really dying to take one of them home!





Hidden Garden is about 3 kilometers away from the city proper of Vigan and entrance is FREE. There's a restaurant inside the garden, The Lilong and Lilang Specialty Restaurant which serves the best authentic local Ilocano cuisine. The open-aired cafe really feels cozy with its native-inspired design.




BALUARTE


The fortress of Vigan is an approximately 10-15 minutes drive from City. This time my GPS decided to point us the right way and i'm happy we're back on track. Baluarte is a privately owned zoo by the city's Governor, Chavit Singson as we all know. The entrance is free to this interactive mini zoo where some wild animals from other countries and others endemic to the Philippines are in-housed.




We've got a few photo ops at some areas like the famous life-sized dinosaurs which we often see from visitors who come by, while photo ops with the tigers and other special animals are with fees. My kids enjoyed their animal encounters while wandering around even if the sun is really painful. They also tried the pony or "Tiburin" ride for only P30 pesos.




What really appealed to me and my kids is Governor Chavit Singson's private collection of meticulously preserved wild animals which are housed in a museum uphill at the other side of the zoo. I believe those were memorabilias from his hunting trips abroad. I'll be sharing more of it on the next blog!



BAGNET FACTORY


You've never been to Vigan if you're not able to taste its authentic and famous dish- the Bagnet- a crispy fried pork belly recipe of the Ilocanos, as well as the Vigan Longganisa. In our case, we decided to visit the Bagnet Factory, care of our Kalesa Driver. We bought our shares of Bagnet for take home and we also shopped for some Vigan Longganissa there, where they are freshly made. Longganisa in the market would cost P150/ pack but if you'll buy at the factory, you'll get it for only P100/pack same with the Bagnet which is P380 in the market and only P360 in the factory.

So there you had a peek of my vigan travel diary! And i'll be sharing more of our Ilocos travel stories on the next blog! Stay tuned!





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