|Street lamps intensify Calle Crisologo’s charm at sundown
|Time travel on a kalesa (horse-drawn carriage)!
The town’s saga continued well into the 20th century. ‘After the Second World War, many families abandoned their ancestral houses and moved to Manila to seek a better life. Vigan was like a ghost town,’ explains Marjo V. Gasser, one of the first heritage advocates who campaigned for the town’s conservation. ‘It took us more than a decade to resurrect the city.’ Their hard work and perseverance paid off when the Historic Town of Vigan was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, as the best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia.
|Syquia Mansion, home of Pres. Elpidio Quirino
• This walk is circuitous, so one can start it at any point. However, most of the bus terminals are on the southern end of the city center. The bus stations of Dominion and Aniceto are near Crisologo Museum and Simbaan a Bassit, so I’d recommend you start here, especially if you’re visiting Vigan as a day trip from elsewhere. Crisologo Museum (entrance fee: donation only) is the ancestral home of a prominent lawyer and politician, while Simbaan a Bassit, which means “small church” in Ilocano, is a cemetery chapel built in the 1850s.
|Garlicky Vigan longganisa
• Stroll to Plaza Salcedo where revolutionary heroine Gabriela Silang was hanged in the 18th century. Don’t miss the empanada (sausage turnover) and okoy (shrimp pancakes) sold at the food stalls!
• Traverse Plaza Burgos to cobblestone lane of Calle Crisologo, lined with beautiful mansions of Chinese and Spanish mestizo (creole) families. Many are converted to quaint shops selling antiques and souvenirs. Others are nice restaurants like Cafe Leona, Cafe Uno at Grandpa’s Inn and Tummy Talk, which serves eat-all-you-can miki noodle soup for only PHP 40 from 2-5pm! Don’t leave Vigan without trying the local specialties like bagnet (deep-fried pork belly), longganisa (pork sausage) and pinakbet (vegetable stew).
|Fisherman at Mindoro Beach
• Return to Calle Crisologo. You may continue wandering its streets until dusk when the street lamps light up to intensify its charm, and enjoy a lantern-lit al fresco dinner at Cafe Leona. Another option, if you have spare time, is to hop on a tricycle to Cristy’s Loomweaving (+63 9164919320) in Brgy. Camangaan to watch how abel iloco (Ilocano cotton fabric) is crafted. Or to RG Jar Factory (+63 777231550) along Gomez St in the Burnayan quarter to watch how burnay jars and other pottery are shaped and fired in 19th century kilns.
|Tom Cruise once stayed at Villa Angela Heritage House!
WHERE TO STAY: Complete your time travelling by sleeping on a splendid four-poster bed in an airy colonial mansion. A bahay na bato (stone house) built in 1870, Villa Angela Heritage House was once the residence of the gobernadorcillo (municipal governor). It offers exclusive bedrooms in a spacious home furnished with hardwood furniture, antiques and family memorabilia. No wonder Tom Cruise enjoyed his stay here while filming Born on the Fourth of July. Villa Angela Heritage House, 26 Quirino Blvd, tel: +63 (77) 7222914. Double A/C rooms start at P1,500, inc. breakfast.
For those looking for basic accommodation, check out the newly-opened Henady Inn (Tel. +63 77 7228001 or +63 9175158001), located along the National Highway in Bantay, next to the Caltex Station and just right across the Vigan City Arch. The town center is just 15 minutes walk away, or you can take a short tricycle ride. Rates start at PHP 200/person/night for a fan dorm room. Private double rooms are great value at PHP 600 with A/C, CATV and toilet.
Special thanks to local travel blogger Edmar Guquib of http://edmarationetc.blogspot.com/ for touring me around Vigan on his motorbike during my revisit last weekend!