12-14 June 2010. Ilocos Sur.
It was the long weekend of June, the 12th being the country’s Independence Day. My feet were starting to itch, and I thought I’d leave the city’s freedom festivities for the quiet and solemn observation of the holidays in the historic town of Vigan. Besides, I wanted to backpack the Philippines, and the Ilocos Region was a very good spot to start. I dragged a friend and my cousin for this particular trip. A cousin had his priestly studies in Vigan, so I tapped him to provide a free guide for our backpacking, and he gladly lent his friend, a then-deacon-now-priest who is Ilocos-bred.
Vigan is located in the province of Ilocos Sur. It is accessible by bus (straight to Vigan), or by plane (via Laoag, then take a bus to Vigan). Our backpacking trip was to start in Vigan, and was to end in Laoag, where we would take the Cebu Pacific plane bound for Manila. My friend and I thus took the Partas Bus bound for Vigan on the 11th of June, and our trip was supposed to be at 11 o’clock in the evening. However, the influx of people going home for the long weekend pushed our 11 o’clock evening trip to 2 o’clock in the morning on the 12th. The misfortune did not end there. While we were still in Narvacan, a good 30 minutes away from Vigan, the bus bailed out on us. My friend and I transferred to a non-air conditioned bus, and as I cast an appreciative glance out the window, I smiled to myself and whispered I am officially a backpacker.
We finally arrived in Vigan at around 10.15 in the morning. Derik, our guide, met us at the town’s Public Library. Since I was famished, the first order of business was a sumptuous brunch at Vigan Plaza Hotel, at the heart of Calle Crisologo. There was so much Ilocano delicacy to eat, so we had a bit of everything via the Vigan Sampler.
I have heard so much about Vigan’s beauty from friends and relatives that as soon as I was fed and watered, I immediately hit its streets. I was transported back in time, to an era when women still wore their Maria Clara’s and men, their top hats and canes. The cobblestone and Spanish-style houses lining Calle Crisologo were well-preserved, except that the houses have been converted to coffee or souvenir shops. Although cars are not allowed along Calle Crisologo, horse-driven carriages (kalesa) are, but I suggest you tour the street on foot as it evokes a feeling of nostalgia. At the end of Calle Crisologo and at the heart of Plaza Salcedo is the Vigan Cathedral and Belfry. According to the marker, the Cathedral was merely a chapel of wood and thatch erected in 1574 by order of Juan de Salcedo. A stone structure was built in its place in 1641, and had become the refuge of revolutionists and American Forces alike. The church became a Cathedral when the seat of the Diocese of Nueva Segovia was transferred from Lal-lo, Cagayan to Vigan in 1758. Derik informed me that the Cathedral served as a burial place for the town’s prominent families. It has numerous side altars, and priests simultaneously prayed before these altars for the people’s special intentions. There are kalesas parked along the side of the Cathedral, and for Php150.00/hour, one may tour Vigan and the nearby towns of Ilocos Sur. It’s a fixed rate, so do not waste your time haggling.
Images of Vigan: