Sunday, August 22, 2010

Time-traveling Vigan

Vigan will never be unfamiliar to any schooled Filipino because several significant and memorable events in Philippine history took place in the city. Regardless of whether they call the  high school subject Sibika at Kultura, Araling Panlipunan, or HEKASI, its books contain “Vigan”. People like Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo, Padre Jose Burgos and many others walked along its streets.

Calle Crisologo in Vigan, Ilocos Sur
Despite its popularity, it was to me just history until it became part of me that fateful night of June 30, 2010.

We arrived at Laoag Airport straight from Manila close to 6PM, rode on a jeepney and headed straight to the bus in the terminal which brought us to Vigan Public Market. Vigan is 80 kilometers away from Laoag and takes about 1½ hours to commute. Once you are there, trikes are the other popular means of transportation let alone a few traditional kalesa. Seven pesos per passenger will take you to any destinations within the city – the same took us to Villa Angela.

Villa Angela Heritage House is a beautiful Spanish house which was built by Gobernadorcillo Agapito Florendo y Bonifacio in 1870 and originally owned by Engr. Candelario V. Verzosa, Sr. and Dra. Purificacion Lahoz-Verzosa before they bequeathed ownership to their own present-day generations . Although online marketing does not make mention of visits and short stays by local and foreign artists, Piolo Pascual’s framed picture with his affixed signature hangs proudly on its hallway wall. Other than that, the attendant revealed about Tom Cruise’s 6-month stay in the place
when they created the film, “Born on the 4th of July”.

In spite of the evening drawing to a close, we walked our way towards Calle Crisologo. It was just a few meters and two turns away from where we stayed. There was no sun but it felt like basking in the light of yellow, dimly-lit lamps scattered all over the calle. You know it is Calle Crisologo because the atmosphere changes almost instantly the moment you arrive at the juncture. The asphalt roads from the main street are now full of bricks stretched to the horizon from where you stand. The old brick buildings on both street sides meet at the center from your perceived horizon in a V-form as you look directly ahead. The quiet neighborhood, sights of wooden chairs along the street, carved wooden ornaments hanging on the wall, painted by the evening sky, layered with dim, yellow light take you to the nights when rich Chinese Mestizos traded and socialized with our local folks while kalesas lined up on the street and beautiful Mestizas surround clad in their intricately-made Spanish dresses. We walked slowly to enjoy the scenes and before we knew it, we were already at the center of Vigan. We were surprised to see that even Max’s restaurant is resident to an ancestral house. Other food shops like Greenwhich and Jollibee were established in buildings with the same Spanish look and feel.

In the morning after that, we could not resist but walk along Calle Crisologo again towards the public market. The feeling was different as more people walk to and fro and shops at both sides of the street open to display souvenir items. In the public market, we decided to shop for pasalubong items, Chichacorn, Tasty Bibingka, Vigan coin purses, key chains, cloths ---- and a lot of it in the form of table mats, and drying towels. They call the fabric and the process used to make it “Abel”. If you are in the public market and would like to scout through a variety of this fabric, I recommend that you make a stop at Aling Crista’s store. Her stall is adjacent to other fabric stores in the market and looked like the picture below then.

clockwise: a.) Aling Crista in her store; b.) store signage and c.) Abel fabrics
Before leaving Vigan, try also their empanada. It is a local delicacy with vegetables, egg and other ingredients stuffed inside a thin dough wrapper before it is deep-fried in oil. Buy souvenir items like the classy native hats Jose Rizal wore, wooden carved ornaments and toys, and probably native tobacco sold at 10 pesos each.

Vigan has maintained an identity no other place can replicate. It seems to hold so much mystery beyond what books made public. It makes centuries feel like it was only yesterday.

Update: As of December 07, 2014, Vigan made it to the list of New7Wonders Cities. Congratulations, Vigan!

5 comments:

  1. Vigan down. More to entries to go! :)

    I am then looking forward to your Ilocos series (i.e., Batac, Paoay, Laoag, Bangui, Burgos, Pagudpud and everything else in between).

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  2. hahahah.. the last time you told me to blog took me almost 3 months to finally write one.. i hope the next ones won't be in years. :) but ey! thanks and congrats for leading this blogathon.

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  3. Has you really been gallivanting in all those places Brennan mentioned above? I think I believe him coz you were probably together hehehe. Gerts, you owe me lots of stories then. Tsk tsk what do we know? Do give us (or me) a shout of your whereabouts next time, ok?

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  4. To Tatz: Yup! Those places you mentioned above are within the Ilocos Sur and Norte provinces. They were quite skillful in making the itinerary and I, being the opportunist me, hitched gladly. hehehe. I'd be very happy to go to places with you now that you are already back in the Philippines and while you are single... which I understand will no longer be the case in a couple of years time. :(

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  5. Typo error "Has", should be "Have". Hahaha I thought I have changed that. I remember that the first thoughts I wrote were for Brennan that I wanted to ask him, "Has my brother really been gallivanting...?". I sure would love to go travelling with you, as long as the situation permits (you know how it is at home, esp with dad).

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