Reminiscing the Past in Vigan

Our North Luzon Road Trip Leg #2
Reminiscing the Past in Vigan

by Danny Tariman

I will always remember Vigan as a town that brought me to yesteryears. Yes, it was an experience roaming around a town set at the turn of century – old houses, cobblestone streets, horse-driven carts – perfect for a post-card photo!

And so, after our La Union experience, we drove further up north, passing through several towns on our way to Vigan.

Sta Maria Church, - a UNESCO Heritage Site
Sta Maria Church, – a UNESCO Heritage Site

Along the way, this baroque church on top of a hill in Sta Maria, Ilocos Sur caught our attention. It is so beautiful, I can’t just pass by; I have to stop and see the details of this old church. We noticed this was declared by UNESCO as “World Heritage Site” – as the marker says.

We toured the surroundings of the church. It is really so fascinating of how it was made! Layers upon layers of bricks. We also get inside not only to thank the Lord for all these blessings, but also to see the interiors of this old church which was originally built in 1769. Indeed centuries old!

Passing by a bridge to Vigan
Passing by a bridge to Vigan

The road infrastructure were all good, I had a really enjoyable ride.

Finally we arrived at our destination: Vigan. I was mesmerized by the charm of this city especially the town square – centuries-old houses, cobblestone roads, horse-driven carts called “karetela”. What I used to see only on postcards, I am now in the midst of the place! This is Vigan Heritage Park.

The Iloko empanada
The Iloko empanada

While captivated by the turn-of-century beauty of Vigan, we tasted one of the famous local dishes – the empanada. This is not the kind of empanada you will usually taste in Manila. The crispy thin crust is filled with sauteed cabbage, Iloko pork sausage (longanisa), and fresh egg. Dip it into Iloco vinegar before biting – uhhhhm, so much, so good!

Of course, there is bagnet – a crispy-fried pork belly – similar, but not really, with Manila’s crispy pata.

After this short food-trip, we hired two karetelas to tour us around the city – one for me and my wife, and the other for our 2 children. Really an experience we hadn’t done in the past.

Riding a karetela -- a horse-drawn cart -- in Vigan
Riding a karetela — a horse-drawn cart — in Vigan

Our first stop was St Paul Cathedral. After we had offered our thanksgiving prayers, we toured around the vicinity and had some photos taken.

Beside the cathedral is the Bantay Bell Tower. It is a structure by itself. I really have no idea why the bell tower is separate from the church – forgive me, I didn’t do some research. Hahaha. But this is also one of the places to visit in Vigan.

My family in front of Bantay Bell Tower
My family in front of Bantay Bell Tower

We also went to the Padre Burgos Museum where we saw some interesting pieces of history for Vigan. In one wall hung the pictures of famous personalities from Vigan, called “Hall of Fame”. There were also some old furniture which were used by some of the city’s renowned individuals.

A display inside the Padre Burgos Museum
A display inside the Padre Burgos Museum

We visited a pottery house where we witnessed before our very eyes how pots and jars are done by hand. Indeed the final look and form of a jar or pot depends on the potter’s hands. After forming the pots, it goes through drying process in an oven powered by firewood! Very educational for me and my family!

After we had toured the places in city, we went back to Heritage Park where we left our car. We bought some souvenir items from the stores lining the cobblestone street.

Rows upon rows of newly potted jars waiting to dry.
Rows upon rows of newly potted jars waiting to dry.

We were pressed for time, it was getting late in the afternoon. We missed other interesting places to visit: the Baluarte and the Crisologo Museum.

We hit the road again, and drove further north. Our next destination: Laoag.

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