I haven’t had a chance to see my grandfather as he passed away a decade before I was given birth – he is a pure Ilocano born in 1890s. Ocol’s were originally from Ilocos and I haven’t been in the place nor know any relative in the area. When the F8 group has finally settled to visit Vigan and Pagudpud, I instantly included myself in the list, excited to discover the pride of the northern region and hopefully a family trace.

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It was around 1:00am when we leave Manila for an 8-hour drive to Ilocos. I couldn’t almost make it to the meeting place (SM Trinoma) as I was trapped in the heavy traffic of EDSA. Luckily, I was advised by the bus driver to take the MRT as the town was packed with people leaving for the November 1-3 holiday – whew, that was a relief!

This entire tour was organized by GAFA Travel and Tours with the following inclusion:

Expense: 3,600/head for a group of 14.

Day 1: Vigan, Ilocos Sur
1. Visit to San Agustin Church – Bantay Bell Tower – Chavit Singson Baluarte – Crisologo Museum and Vigan Pottery
2. Sightseeing to Marcos Mausoleum – Paoay Church – Paoay Lake – Paoay Sand Dunes

Day 2: Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
1. Visit to Cape Bojeador Lighthouse – Bangui Windmills – Kapurpurawan Rock Formation – Blue Lagoon and Bantay Abot Cave
2. Trek to Kabigan Falls and Quick Stop at Patapat Bridge

Day 3: Vigan, Ilocos Sur
3. A Visit to Vigan Heritage Village – Souvenir Shops and Empanadahan

Quite a lot of interesting spots to visit, huh? Like how I always feel every travel, I was very excited. And sitting in front of the van makes everything even more comfortable as I got this wide access to the outside sights as we travelled along.

And off to Ilocos we go! The first stop? Vigan, Ilocos Sur.

We arrived in Vigan at around 6a.m and instantly ready for a set of picture taking.

INTRO

And here’s to greet you a good morning: Bantay Bell Tower.

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Bantay is a town next to Vigan which houses a Spanish-old belfry. The tower is situated on top of a hill approximately 10 feet – overlooking the peaceful Bantay town. This magnificent historic structure was built by the Augustinian Missionaries in 1591 as part of the San Augustine church nearby. It was so amazing to be able to climb this 400-year old masterpiece as you see and feel the bricks, rocks and even seashells on its walls. It’s said that there were only minor restorations done, mainly on the stairs and the rest of the parts were preserved as how they were built.

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Above the tower were spots for 6 average-sized bells and a single huge bell used every church mass. Unfortunately, 4 of the original bells were removed as the tower could no longer sustain the weight due to age.

We need to fill in our empty stomach before we get into the real battle so here’s a taste of good breakfast everyone – Kainan NA!

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Ilocos region, I would say is one of the most popular origins of many influential and powerful names in politics and showbiz including Gov. Chavit Singson.

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For those who love to get near tigers, parrots and some cute interesting animals, I suggest you visit BALUARTE. This zoo is open everyday from 7am – 6pm with FREE entrance and FREE rides. Let’s jump for JOY sa free entrance and rides – YEHEY!

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An eye-catcher inside a place where everything seems to walk, chew and fly. Another expensive collection Gov. Singson?

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A not-to-miss historical spot in Vigan is the famous museum owned by the mighty and wealthy Crisologo family.

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This ancestral home invites both calm and mysterious ambiance. Every corner is a reminder of the family’s past as they are filled with memorabilia and private collection of religious figures.

Inside the home’s kitchen were these “rare-to-find” cooking tools. It’s said that only rich families can afford these types of kitchen materials at those times, which then concludes the Crisologo as being among the prominent clans in Ilocos.

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Not far from where the big and old mirror stands were black-and-white photos of the family and their events.

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As soon as you take your steps into the dusty staircase, there’s a couple of family collections beautifully hanged and framed including these antique chandeliers.

FINAL

Everything inside this historic museum has pulled me back to times when everyone’s into slow retro and love letters. And deep inside me, I have felt a lot blessed to have seen and experience a piece of Vigan’s past. And I know there’s still more for me to see.

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Another interesting spot to not miss in Vigan is this pottery where you can see pot makers in action. Can I bring home one of these for FREE?

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Oh walang kukurap – heto na si Manong Potmaker para ipakita kung pano gawin ang mga pots. Everyone: Wow – ang galing, palakpakan!

FINAL

And here’s what Vigan is mostly known for: OLD SPANISH HOMES

Vigan is among my most desired destinations due to its scenic Spanish ancestral homes. I could only imagine dressing myself with those long and elegant Filipiniana gowns with a piece of umbrella and finely woven fan as I walk this narrow and quite avenue.

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Every corner of Vigan is a powerful reminder of the rich and warm Filipino culture tens of decades ago. Your hours of exploration in the area gets you deeper to how the entire community have gloriously thrived to create a peaceful and historic site.

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Imagine going back to the era where the only lights you can find at night are lamps and the circling fireflies – amazing! There’s probably over a hundred ancestral homes preserved in the area, making this slow yet elegant city a major favorite to both foreign and local tourists . Vigan is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO last December 2, 1999 and has an annual visit of 10,000 tourists a year.

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The roads are short and narrow, perfect for all-day walking. Your eyes will be entertained by the Spanish homes dated as early as 1600s. There are Kalesa that you can pay for around P150.00 to tour you around the small city but walking can give a lot more fun especially if you are in a group.

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Our time was limited so we never wasted the remaining hours. We reached the center of the town just a couple of minutes na lakaran galore. It was amazing to discover how the city has remained intact despite the change of time. There were food (McDo, Jolibbee and KFC) and bank establishments (BDO, BPI and Unionbank) settled in different corners but traces of Spanish colonial period were still evident through the building’s window and wall designs.

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We went to their Empanadan station, the famous delicacy of Ilocos but ended up not eating but JUMPING.

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I heard that it’s a lot beautiful at night in Vigan as they start to fill the village with lamp lights. Too bad, we weren’t able to witness this sight as we were scheduled to head back to Manila at 4pm.

My visit to Vigan has been a lot more fun and extraordinary due to my college friends who took the time and effort to fly all the way from Iligan just for this tour. Thank you F8 and all the ampons! It was fun to have you all.

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Vigan is very mystical. And if you’re fascinated to learning how the Philippines has started, get a touch and experience of how the northern locals have spent the Spanish colonization, then this is the place to visit.

And as for my grandfather, this entire Ilocos trip is for you. I may have failed to see you but I wasn’t late to experience a piece of what you had. I hope that one of those steps I had were once your steps too.

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Vigan, Ilocos Sur

More exciting reads in Pagudpud post.

Stayed at: Laoag Parklane Hotel

Days: 3D/2N

Transportation: Van

Expense: P4,000

Enjoyed most: the stroll around Vigan town

Missed: a conversation with locals and hearing their native language

Overall Impression: 9 stars

GAFA Travel and Tours on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GAFAtours

See my Pagudpud post HERE.

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