Stepping out into the Partas bus terminal in Vigan and its immediate surroundings after a 120 pesos 2.5 hours bus ride from Laoag, you would not think anything is special. It was just like any bus terminal in the Philippines, filled with unsmiling people arriving and going, fully intent on their own business. For us, it didn’t help that it was raining hard when we arrived.
Everything was wet. Buses were honking their horns, a lot of people were talking, tricycle drivers were shouting at the new arrivals for attention, and the vendors were incessant at hawking their wares – all the noise went straight to my head like a pro boxer’s jab. All of Vigan’s famous attractions such as Crisologo Street, the horse-drawn carriages, the museums bursting at the seams with history, the old yet still architecturally sound churches, all became like the sludgy water disappearing down the sidewalk drains.
Then I recalled.
This day was my birthday and we’re in Vigan. One of the top destinations in our travel bucket list Vigan. Vigaaaaaaannn!
Energy and excitement came rushing back and the downpour stopped being a bother. V and I quickly found a tricycle driver (yes this time we made sure he is not evil) and we proceeded to our accommodation for this part of the vacation – Grandpa’s Inn. This bed and breakfast was okay and it fits well into the image of Vigan as it is an old Spanish house converted into lodgings for travelers. Just like in Balay da Blas in Laoag where we spent Day 01 of this Ilocos holiday, we booked a room with 2 separate beds. The room given was sufficient and it had an antique feel that would either delight or scare the living daylights out of you if you let your imagination run wild. I will write a more detailed review about Grandpa’s Inn later.
Since we arrived in Vigan around 9 AM, we couldn’t check in yet so we left our backpacks at the counter and went back out into the rain. The tricycle driver who took us from the bus terminal to Grandpa’s Inn was waiting as we’ve hired him to tour us around for the whole day for 800 pesos. You can see a summary of our itinerary and our budget at this page.
Baluarte ni Chavit
Our first stop was Baluarte ni Chavit, a huge property that was sort of an open zoo owned by a known politician Chavit Singson. Despite the pouring rain, we enjoyed watching the animals there, which included an ostrich, some llamas, tigers, small horses, and deer. The animals, except the tigers, were not caged but free to roam around within a large grassy area. There was an area dedicated for reptiles but we weren’t able to go there since the rain became torrential and we didn’t buy umbrellas at this point yet.
Lunch at Hidden Garden
Hungry and wet, we headed to Hidden Garden, which is both a nursery and a restaurant. It has been decided that if ever we were going to splurge on food during this trip, it has to be done on this day because hey, we were in Vigan and it was my birthday! Our lunch was definitely delectable and we didn’t regret any bite of the empanada, poqui-poqui (sort of eggplant salad dish), longganisa (packed with meat and worlds better compared to the insubstantial ones we usually get in department stores), and garlic rice we ordered. The meal set us back Php 435 but we were super satiated so no complaints.
Of course, we toured the nursery too and enjoyed the many plants they had on display. I particularly enjoyed the bonsais they had there, so pretty and so… tiny.
After lunch, we agreed to go back to the hotel to check in and change clothes since we were soaked. We did not tarry in our room for the gloomy day was becoming darker and there were still lots to see! Oh and we finally managed to buy us some umbrellas.
Bantay Church and Bell Tower
Next up was Bantay Church and the Bell Tower. The church had a very pretty maroon façade and a cavernous, albeit very simple, interior. I’m not into churches much by the way except if we are talking architecture, so I’ll just stick to those points, okay 🙂 As for the bell tower, it was old but still stood strong. It wasn’t showy but just stood there like a silent sentinel watching the world pass by. It was simply wonderful! We of course climbed that tower and the view from the top was really nice.
Fr. Jose Burgos House
Afterwards, we went to the Fr. Jose Burgos House, Fr. Burgos being one of the GomBurZa trio. The ‘house’ was actually a museum housing very old tools and implements used by our forefathers during the Spanish regime around 300 years ago. The museum looked so rundown but the history packed into that small space was amazing and definitely eye-opening.
Next, we visited another church, the Vigan Cathedral. This one had a peaceful-looking white façade and is even more cavernous than the Bantay Church. Its interior was more decorated and well-maintained and for sure a lot of church goers in the Philippines would marvel at the beauty of the Vigan Cathedral. The nearby bell tower was also charming.
Oh we’re not done yet. After all, we did our best to pack as many things to experience as possible on this leg of the trip. Next stop was Pagburnayan, or the pottery making place. Rows and rows of jars and pots and half-formed clay await you there. Be nice to the potters and they might allow you to try your hand at pottery making!
Crisologo Museum & Syquia Mansion
Then, we visited two more museums – the Crisologo Museum and the Syquia Mansion. Vigan is a world heritage site and the history to be found in this part of the Philippines is staggering. In fact, it is preposterous to claim to experience Vigan in just one day. We definitely visited as many tourist spots as possible but we barely scratched the surface. It would have been better to spend at least a week in each museum and listen to detailed explanations of each artifact and presentation there. But we only had that one day, oh well. Someday, I’ll go back there for sure.
Crisologo Street – saved the best for last!
Finally, we got to visit the crowning glory of this tour – Crisologo Street, the famous spot that comes up most of the time when you research about Vigan online. It is a stretch of cobbled street lined on both sides by really old Spanish colonization-era houses. Additionally, only calesas or horse-drawn carriages are allowed to pass through this street. So, basically, set foot into Crisologo Street, Vigan and it’s like you are transported back in time when people still walk around in their barong tagalong or filipiniana dresses. The pouring rain made my experience so surreal and when a calesa ambled down the road, my, was the whole scene beautiful!
We then decided to head back to Crisologo Street before turning in for the night. Why? Because Crisologo Street at night is even more beautiful! Imagine the yellow glow of the street lamps illuminating the cobblestones giving them a shine like gold… you have to be there to experience fully just how beautiful it is! I wasn’t able to take a decent picture at all though because it was still raining. Apparently there was a typhoon that just passed by and that’s why the rain never let up while we were in Vigan.
Still, despite the bad weather and our tiredness, we were fully satisfied. We headed back to our hotel ready for a warm shower and warm bed covers. Our day in Vigan was a roaring success and that was definitely one of the best birthdays I ever had!