Walking Down the Memory Lane in Vigan

Calesas at Burnayan
Vigan, a World UNESCO Heritage Site  and the capital of Ilocos Sur, is undeniably one of the favorite tourist destinations in northern Luzon. Its fascinating Hispanic structures remain intact, evoking nostalgia as you walk along the cobblestone streets and see the houses in colonial European architecture.

Tourist arrivals ballooned even more when it became one of the New7Wonders Cities in May 2015, alongside with  Beirut, Doha, Durban, Havana, Kuala Lumpur, and La Paz.

In my second time in Ilocos, I really made sure to include a day in Vigan in our itinerary.

How to go to Vigan:
By Air
Local carriers like Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines have daily flights from Manila to Laoag. From Laoag, you may ride a bus or van to Vigan. Travel time is about two hours. For a more comfortable trip, you may rent a car or van like what we did. This will also save you time as buses and vans tend to pick up and drop off passengers along the way. Our ever reliable Kuya Lenzer has a tricycle, car, and van for rent.

By Land
There are several buses that ply the Manila-Vigan route. Hubby, my brother and his girlfriend took the Farinas bus bound for Laoag. Make sure to book ahead.

At Burnayan
Our first stop in Vigan was the Burnayan. Named after the Ilocano word "burnay," which means jars, this spot showcases how the Ilocanos make earthenware out of high grade clay from the Western area of Vigan using their skillful hands, a pottery wheel, and kiln. The jars are what they usually use for storing water, vinegar, or wine.

Guests can explore the entire Burnayan, try making pots and jars on their own, and buy earthenware and other souvenirs such as shirts, ref magnets, inabel items like bags, scarves, and bed sheets. I got a very nice inabel bag here for Php 180 (they sell this for Php 240 at Calle Crisologo).

A foreigner trying to make a jar
Next stop was the Hidden Garden. Who would have thought that in a city full of colonial houses and cobblestone streets lies a secret sanctuary for nature lovers and foodies alike? Designed by the landscape artist Francis Flores, the family-run property features a sprawling garden and a restaurant called Hidden Garden Lilong and Lilang Restaurant. With its lush greenery, Hidden Garden is like an oasis in the heritage city.

Third stop was Chavit Singson's Baluarte. A mini zoo (if you can even call it mini because it is expansive) that hosts about 50 donkeys, a couple of tigers, ostrich, and a lot more, this destination is perfect for family outings and school field trips. You can ride a carriage or a donkey, have an upclose photo with a tiger, watch an animal show, and explore the newly opened Safari Gallery.

The Hacienderos
The place was nice though I have one comment on the staff who was navigating the carriage where we were in. He keeps on mumbling "Merry Christmas" to us, and by his tune, we could already guess that he's trying to persuade us to give him a tip. Because of that, I ignored him all throughout. Hello? It was the donkey who was working hard, not him! =)

Akisha, despite having a fever, enjoyed her donkey ride
A family having a photo with the tiger
The animal show
The newly-opened Safari Gallery
Ensconced on a hill, the Bantay Belltower (belfry) is another must-see in Vigan, as its highest point commands a spectacular 360-degree view of the city. Also a part of history, the belfry served as a watchtower to keep the enemies from intruding Vigan. I suggest that you go here at sunset and see how it can dramatically turn your photos into postcard-like keepsakes.

St. Augustine Church
Beside the belfry is the St. Augustine Church, a centuries-old church that features rich brown, neo-gothic architecture.The grounds where the belfry and the church are located is said to be the place where Diego Silang and his troops have fought the Spaniards in 1763.

Bantay Belltower

Inside St. Augustine Church
The belfry at dusk
A trip to Vigan is not complete without visiting the iconic Calle Crisologo. Also called Mena Crisologo Street, this strip used to be a mestizo district teeming with houses that radiate a bygone era when its people lived in abundance during the Manila-Acapulco trade. Here, you can walk or take a calesa (horse-driven carriage) to explore the four-block street lined with old houses and stores that carry local products perfect for souvenirs and pasalubong. Put it this way--this might be the equivalent of Forbes Park back in the day.

The old houses had survived many natural and man-made calamities, thanks to the owners who have vowed to maintain each and every home. A few of the houses were turned into inns for tourists to stay at, a great way to immerse in Ilocano culture and heritage.

We arrived in Calle Crisologo at about 6:00 pm but the crowd has not worn off yet. It was impossible to take a photo with not a single photobomber on it, but that was not a big deal. I was their photobomber, too, right? Fair deal.

Walking along the famous street was like walking down the memory lane. I almost wanted to change into my terno and put my hair up to complete the vignette.

A busy night in Calle Crisologo
There's night life here!
Where we got our souvenirs
Our last stop before going back to Laoag was at Marsha's Delicacies where we grabbed some Royal Bibingka to eat along the way and bring home. It's located beside One Vittoria Hotel. It was Kuya Lenzer who recommended the place to us, vouching that it is one of the best delicacies in Vigan. And he is right, the box turned empty in a jiffy.

Marsha's Royal Bibingka

Capping our day was a night visit to Paoay Church. While it is very charming during the day, it has its own captivating lure once the skies turn dark. It was very dramatic. Unfortunately, the curch was already closed at that hour.

Next time, I will make sure to spend a night in Vigan (not in the colonial-inspired inns, though, because I am honestly scared of them, hehe) and explore the nearby towns of Sta. Maria, Currimao, and Cabugao.


Special thanks to Kuya Lenzer for being the best guide ever!

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