Touring Vigan and its neighboring town in Ilocos Sur in a Kalesa made it feel like we were back in the Spanish era. Vigan is known to be a heritage city in the Philippines. There’s no better way to take a quick peek at Vigan than a three-hour ride in a horse-driven carriage.
Bantay is a town just outside Vigan. Since buses don’t normally go inside Vigan, travelers bound for Vigan get off the bus in Bantay and take a tricycle to where they’re headed to in Vigan. The Bantay Church and Bell Tower is about 10 – 15 minutes away from Calle Crisologo in Vigan. The Bantay Church, also known as the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, is a baroque-styled church built by the Augustinian Friars in the late 1500’s and is one of the oldest churches in Ilocos Sur. The bell tower, overlooking the South China Sea, sits on the hill just a few meters away from the church, offering a great view of the mountains in the province of Abra.
Jars of Clay
Introduced by the Chinese centuries ago, pagbuburnay, or pottery, is one of the oldest crafts in Vigan. The making of burnay uses fine sand tempered with grade A clay found in the Western part of Vigan. The visit to Pagburnayan allowed us to see skillful potters roll mixtures of clay and mold them into jars. The place didn’t have any machines to help out with the process. Instead, a potter kicks the wheel, while another one holds and shapes the clay.
Floro Crisologo Museum
Located in Liberation Boulevard, Vigan, the Floro Crisologo Museum, home of Floro Crisologo, the man behind the establishment of the Social Security System, is open to public for free. The century-old mansion houses dozens of antiques and memorabilia owned by the Crisologos. The house tells quite a tale about the late congressman’s life – from news clippings, the blood-stained shirt he wore when he was assassinated inside St. Paul’s Cathedral in 1970, to the old car his wife, who was pregnant at the time, was riding when she was shot.
Syquia Mansion – Quirino Ancestral Home
Everything is just plain huge in this house! Huge rooms, beds, family portraits, and paintings – there’s a huge replica of Spolarium painted by General Juan Luna’s apprentice (though this is not original, the painting was done in the presence of the national hero). The mansion serves as the home to the family of former President Elpidio Quirino (yes, serves, as members of the Quirino family still uses the house). The two-story, blue and cream colored mansion stands on the corner of Quirino Boulevard. Locals say entrance is free, but the caretaker always motions to the box labeled “Donation PhP20.00” before you leave the place.
Baluarte ni Chavit
Sitting in hectares of land, Baluarte has become one of the must-see places in Vigan and is open daily between 7 am to 6 pm. Owned by Gov. Chavit Singson, the complex seems like a mini zoo and offers different activities besides checking out the animals – there’s an area where visitors can feed the animals, a track for horse-back riding, and a shooting range.
The Hidden Garden
A good place for those with green thumbs! Just about 5 minutes away by Kalesa from Baluarte, Hidden Garden in Brgy. Bulala, Vigan has a serene, natural garden setting fit for taking a breather. Hidden Garden has a lot of plants, including bonsai, and garden items on display. Most of them are for sale. Hidden Garden also has a restaurant which serves Ilokano dishes like Vigan Bagnet, Poqui-poqui and Igado.
A trip to Vigan is never complete without visiting Calle Crisologo. The cobblestone street of Calle Crisologo (aka Mena Crisologo Street) has attracted quite a number of tourists in Vigan. It isn’t everyday you see a car-free street in the Philippines these days. . Old houses with thick wooden doors, big sliding capiz shell windows and red-tiled roofs standing along the sidewalk of Calle Crisologo show a classic home architecture. Despite the many calamities brought by nature and men, Vigan has done an impressive job in preserving the Calle Crisologo.
You don’t really need to take the Kalesa tour to go around Vigan, however it’s more fun to take the Kalesa tour, not to mention riding a Kalesa adds that vintage feel when you go around this heritage site.
Check with the hotel that you’re staying at if they can book a Kalesa tour around Vigan for you.
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