When I was planning this trip to the Philippines, the idea of a family road trip had been appealing to me. We have never done a road trip as a family before, so it was kind of new to us. We have travelled quite a bit for the last 5 years, and it had always been by plane. Sure, we’ve previously gone to places close to home but they were always quick and easy drives. I have done my share of road trips here in the US before, which was always memorable, so why not do it with my family, right?!. When I told them about this idea, my Mom was a bit hesitant. Like most Moms, she worried about road accidents. (Actually, she worries about everything). During our first trip to Hong Kong, she feared the plane ride also but I explained to her that lots of other people traveled the world before her and ended up quite safe and fine. I told her she’ll never know what she’ll miss, especially now that she’s getting older, unless she’ll do it. Fast forward to today, she now loves to travel. This time though it was different since we are driving, I told her that Dad (as well as I) is a safe driver so there was nothing to worry about. It’s just a matter of getting over that fear, and getting out there.
Our itinerary read as follows: Pangasinan (starting point) to Vigan to Laoag to Pagudpud for 4 days and 3 nights. On our first day, we woke up at around 5 am and we arrived in Vigan at noon. Total driving time to Vigan was about 6 hours. Before I forget, I think my Mom was extremely nervous whenever it was my time to drive. She freaked out at simple things. She even said ” Lakay, sika laengen ti ag-drive baka haan na ammo ag U-turn ni Jeff! “ (She even told my Dad to take over when it was my turn because apparently to her knowledge I didn’t know how to make a U-Turn). Haha! That cracked me up. Well, I can’t blame her. When I was out practice-driving, I almost drove our car off a cliff. Maybe she got traumatised but that was 8 years ago. I’m a pro now! My dad and I laughed about it then, but sometimes it really gets on your nerves. Hahaha! I love you Nay! 😛
We stayed at Grandpa’s Inn. The hotel was a welcome treat after long hours of driving. The place looked small but there were a lot of antiques on display and beautifully-carved wooden furnitures and fixtures. It was like staying at your grandparents’ ancestral house from the Spanish times. Since we were hungry at that time, we treated ourselves to an Ilocano lunch at Cafe Uno which was just across the street. If you happen to try this restaurant I would recommend the Bagnet (chunks of pork belly boiled and then twice deep-fried to a crisp) and their Pinakbet which is made from mixed veggies steamed with Bagoong (fish sauce). Yummy!
Vigan is the capital city of Ilocos Sur located on the west coast of northern Luzon. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 due to its well-preserved Spanish colonial towns. The city is well known for its cobblestone streets and fusion of Oriental and European architecture.
Calle Crisologo is the whole point of going to Vigan. I have seen photos of this place before that serves as a mental image of Vigan but nothing compares to seeing it up close. I have a thing for small towns. It warms my heart to see that places like this still exist. Calle Crisologo is a walk through history. You can see colonial architecture, cobble-stoned walkways, horse-drawn carriages and stalls selling antiques. I just hope that the local government would expand the areas of the Heritage Village. There still are other well-maintained old houses a few blocks away from Crisologo Street that could potentially be developed.
That afternoon, we took the Kalesa tour which can accommodate a maximum of three persons to go around Vigan. You don’t really need to do it but riding the kalesa (horse carriage) adds to that vintage feel when you go around the tourist sites. We paid 150php per hour and it took us 3 hours to visit all the sites. Some of the spots we visited were Bantay Church and Bell Tower, Paburnayan, Crisologo Museum, Syquia Mansion, Baluarte, Hidden Garden and Calle Crisologo. Early that night, we met my old pal Roselyn and her husband for a boodle fight dinner at Ihawan sa Caoayan. Surprisingly the food was good! We used our bare hands, ate on a long table where the food was placed on top of banana leaves… what a treat! We had a quick stopover at Calle Crisologo that night. The whole street was lit with soft yellow lightbulbs, a real sight to behold. It looked really vintage-y and classy.
I woke up early morning the next day to take pictures before the street became busy for the day. It was a refreshing sight to see the streets empty, filled with rays from the beckoning sunrise. Back at the hotel, we had a traditional Ilocano breakfast — longganisa and garlic fried rice. I think Vigan’s longganisa is very garlicky and quite salty… I like that.
This Vigan trip was a reminder of how rich and diverse our culture is. I’m hoping that the ancestral house owners and the local officials of Ilocos would keep preserving what they have for the future generations to see and experience. *fingers crossed*.