Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Road trip to Ilocos - Visit to Vigan, Laoag and Bangui

Ilocos Sur - Welcome signTwo days after I landed in Manila, my family and I went on a road trip to the northern part of the Luzon island. 

We went to the picturesque and historic towns of Vigan, Laoag and Bangui and discovered a truly unique Ilocos experience.

For a background, Manila is in the Luzon island. The Ilocos region is on the northwest part of the Luzon island. The language spoken in Ilocos is called Ilocano. My mom has roots in the Ilocos region. Even though Ilocano is her native tongue, she spoke to us in Tagalog at home so we never learned Ilocano. Though I always say 'basit laang' whenever someone asks me if I speak Ilocano.  Of course, this is not entirely true.

Before this roadtrip, the farthest I've been north of Manila is San Fernando, La Union. In fact, when I mention the word province, images of San Fernando, La Union from when I was a young kid come to mind. I never mentioned to my mom and my siblings that I was totally looking forward to this trip. I was more excited about this road trip than any of my other trips in the past. I don't know why?

In the end, the trip was absolutely enjoyable and totally memorable. Whenever I mention Ilocos in the future, hopefully, images from this trip would come to mind. I found out what I was looking forward to this trip. I needed to reconnect to my mom's heritage.

Here are the pictures I took during this road trip.

From La Union, we continued our road trip farther up north. 

Here's my first glimpse of Vigan City. 
This is the Lagben River. My aunt, my mom's sister, lives near Vigan and we picked her up right before we passed this bridge. 
Ilocos Sur - Lagben River 

After we checked in to our hotel, we strolled around Vigan right away.

Cobbled stone street of Calle Crisologo reminds me of Latin American cities I've been to. Lots of houses are still in its colonial era style. The sounds of horse drawn carriages going up and down the streets add to the charm of Vigan's main attraction.
   Vigan - Calle Crisologo calesa Vigan - Calle Crisologo Gen Luna Vigan - Doors and benches Vigan - Calle Crisologo souvenir shops

We went to Cafe Leona for our first Vigan lunch. 
Of course, one of the dishes we tried was Vigan longanisa.
Vigan - Cafe Leona outside Vigan - Leona Florentino statue 
Vigan - Cafe Leona lunch Vigan - Cafe Leona longanisa Vigan - Cafe Leona beers

The fun on Calle Crisologo does not stop at night. In fact, the crowd seemed thicker in the evening than during the day. The restaurants extend their dining tables outside for an al fresco dining. The shops stay open till late in the evening. 
Vigan - Calle Crisologo evening crowd Vigan - Calle Crisologo crowd at nightGet a personalized I Love Vigan t-shirts at the Island Souvenir.Vigan - I Love Vigan sign 

There is a water and light show at Plaza Salcedo in the evening. It is quite spectacular and entertaining. We visited Vigan at the start of Christmas season in the Philippines. I am not sure if the light shows are held all year round or it just coincided with the season.
  Vigan - Light and Water show 

It was fun to stroll and watch the crowd around Plaza Salcedo. Aside from the historic structures, the great thing about Vigan is that they built outdoor sculptures that are uniquely Vigan and they are great for taking pictures and selfies.
Vigan - Vigan Cathedral night Vigan - Plaza Salcedo Ilocos Sur night

I woke up early the next day to walk around the Vigan city center before the rest of the tourists get up. I was able to catch an English mass at the Vigan Cathedral. Even though it was very early in the morning, there were already people taking pictures around Vigan. I also noticed a lot of vans parked around the area, possibly families stopping for breakfast in Vigan on their way to other destinations up north. They were probably folks from Manila on a long drive that week. Manila was hosting an APEC meeting that week so it was holiday in Manila the entire week.
Vigan - Plaza Salcedo Christmas Tree morning Vigan - Vigan Cathedral  Vigan - Vigan Cathedral mass Vigan - Plaza Salcedo Ilocos Sur sign  

I also had time to snap pictures around the hotel. We stayed at Hotel Veneto de Vigan on Bonifacio St. The hotel's location is central and only a block away from most of Vigan's sites. The hotel is beautiful and tastefully decorated and it looks like it has been newly remodeled. The hotel service is also top notch.
Vigan - Hotel Veneto Vigan - Hotel Veneto lobby Vigan - Hotel Veneto hallway Vigan - Hotel Veneto grounds Vigan - Hotel Veneto art work hallway

The hotel also includes breakfast. They have Filipino breakfast where the Vigan longanisa is always on the menu. They change one or two dishes everyday. I think their Vigan longanisa is the best I've had so far. I also liked their poqui-poqui which is grilled eggplant mixed with scrambled eggs and onions and tomatoes and then mashed together. I've had several poqui-poquis in this trip and I think Veneto makes the best one, in my opinion.
Vigan - Hotel Veneto breakfast Vigan - Hotel Veneto dessert Vigan - Hotel Veneto daing 

After breakfast at the hotel, we got off to do what we had planned to do. To site see around Vigan. 

The first destination was Syquia mansion. Unfortunately, it was closed that day.
Vigan - Syquia Mansion closed 

Our next destination was Baluarte. There is no cost to get in. There is a P20 fee to get on the golf carts to go to the Baluarte museum. I actually find the museum awfully distrubing. How can they put wildlife and this museum in the same context? I neither find it educational nor enjoyable seeing pictures of someone who kills animals as a sport and then cuts their heads and puts them on display. I enjoyed one thing though. I enjoyed the snacks that I bought from the food carts  just outside the gates. I would skip this part of the trip if there was an Undo button in life.
Ilocos Sur - Baluarte Ilocos Sur - Baluarte animal heads pics Ilocos Sur - Baluarte animal heads Ilocos Sur - Baluarte snack stands

For lunch, we went to Hidden Garden's Lilong and Lilang Restaurant to eat more Ilocano cuisine. The place was packed and we waited for almost an hour but the wait was all worth it. After our delicious lunch, we walked around the garden next to the restaurant.
Ilocos Sur - Hidden Garden Lilong Lilang 
Ilocos Sur - Hidden Garden Lilong Lilang Poqui poqui Ilocos Sur - Hidden Garden Lilong Lilang pinakbet Ilocos Sur - Hidden Garden Lilong Lilang green coolers  Ilocos Sur - Hidden Garden Plant Collection

We checked out the Weaving Room after our lunch. Unfortunately, nobody was there. The site was open but nobody seemed to be there so we took pictures and left.
Ilocos Sur - Weaving room view Ilocos Sur - Weaving room

I didn't know we got to the Pagburnayan until we got inside the facility because it is hidden inside layers and layers of souvenir shops. The pots and urns outside should have given me a clue but I was not paying attention. Inside, a pottery making demonstration was going on. The consistency of pottery making is mesmerizing. The amount of clay, the speed of the wheel, the expertise needed to shape the pots, etc. After the demos, the potter has made three identical pots.  
Ilocos Sur - Pagburnayan pottery 
Ilocos Sur - Pagburnayan pottery warehouse Ilocos Sur - Pagburnayan pottery storage Ilocos Sur - Pagburnayan pottery making demo Ilocos Sur - Pagburnayan pottery making 

Next was Burgos National Museum. This area is just adjacent to Plaza Salcedo but it was so quiet and the scene was entirely different that I thought we were some place far from Vigan. 
Ilocos Sur - Burgos National Museum 
Ilocos Sur - Burgos National Museum courtyard 

I especially like the halls showcasing the Basi, which is the locally made alcoholic drink which is fermented from sugarcane. This is where I connected the urns from Pagburnayan because it is where the sugarcane is fermented to become Basi.
Ilocos Sur - Burgos National Museum Basi Revolt
Ilocos Sur - Burgos National Museum Basi variety Ilocos Sur - Burgos National Museum Basi tool  

There were also paintings of The Basi Revolt by painter Esteban Pichay Villanueva.
Ilocos Sur - Burgos National Museum Basi Revolt Pichay 2 
The Basi Revolt (XIV)
Oil on canvas

Ilocos Sur - Burgos National Museum Basi Revolt Pichay 1
The Basi Revolt (XIII)
Oil on canvas

The complex also houses the Gregoria  M. Rivera National Library. The library displays memorabilia from the late Elpidio Quirino, the 6th President of the Philippines. 
Ilocos Sur - Burgos National Museum Elpidio Quirino bust Ilocos Sur - Burgos National Museum Gregoria Rivera Memorial Library Ilocos Sur - Burgos National Museum Epidio Quirino clothes Ilocos Sur - Burgos National Museum Elpidio Quirino shoes Ilocos Sur - Burgos National Museum Elpidio Quirino hats 

Next was Bantayan Bell TowerThis was the last site in our itinerary that day. It was late afternoon when we got there so the sun was a little low and it painted stunning views of the church and the tower bell. The climb up the tower to see the old bell was a little steep and it was a bit dark inside. Be careful when you go up there. The belfry was small too. I had to use my phone's pano option to capture some more scene.
Ilocos Sur - Bantay Church Bell Tower 
Ilocos Sur - Bantay Bell Tower steps Ilocos Sur - Bantay Bell Tower bell

We got back to the hotel to freshen up. While everyone was resting,  Mijo, Roberto and I found this coffee place near the hotel called Coffee Break Vigan.

Vigan - Coffee Time Vigan sign 
Vigan - Coffee Time Vigan Vigan - Coffee Time Vigan coffee 

After coffee, I had time to walk around the hotel area and dropped by The Hotel Luna
Vigan - Hotel Luna carriage 

I've heard about the hotel's paintings on display in their main room and asked one of the hotel staff if I can take a peek. Even though I was not a hotel guest, they let me in. After signing in, a hotel staff escorted me and gave me a tour to see the paintings. Talk about service! Thank you Hotel Luna!!!

Here are my favorites.

Vigan - Hotel Luna La Mandolinera Juan Luna 
La Mandolinera
by Juan Luna
80.3 x 62.5 cm
Oil on canvas

Vigan - Hotel Luna Lavandera Amorsolo 
by Fernando Amorsolo
year unknown
Oil on canvas

Vigan - Hotel Luna Sculpture BenCab 
The Basi Revolt (XIV)
Oil on canvas

Vigan - Hotel Luna Mother and Child BenCab 
Mother and Child
by Benedicto Cabrera (BenCab)
Acrylic on aluminum plate

Vigan - Hotel Luna Sabel BenCab 
by Benedicto Cabrera (BenCab)
Acrylic on canvas

Vigan - Hotel Luna Three Women BenCab 
Three Women
by Benedicto Cabrera (BenCab)
Acrylic on canvas

Here are the rest of the beautiful Hotel Luna.
Vigan - Hotel Luna more paintings Vigan - Hotel Luna rooms Vigan - Hotel Luna 3d mural Rene Robles

The following day, we drove even farther up north. I was enjoying looking at miles and miles of idyllic provincial scenes. I wonder how much of Ilocos Norte has changed through the years? 
Ilocos Norte - Scene 

After two hours, we arrived at our first destination. The Bangui Windmills are wind turbines that dot the coast of Bangui. It was hard  to walk at first because the area has huricane-force winds. The waves are huge too so swimming was not advisable. There are souvenir shops next the beach by the parking lot.
Ilocos Norte - Bangui  Windmills and beach 
Ilocos Norte - Bangui windmill Ilocos Norte - Bangui windmills and shops Ilocos Norte - Bangui beach Ilocos Norte - Bangui  Windmills

I saw a light house on our way to the windmills. On our way to Laoag, we decided to drop by the Cape Bojeador Light House. From the parking lot, we took a tricycle to get to the base of the light. I saw people walking up but time is of the essence so we all decided to take the tricycle. It was an easy hike up to the tower. The views from the deck was breathtaking. Blue skies, blue waters.
Ilocos Norte - Cape Bojeador lighthouse Ilocos Norte - Cape Bojeador lighthouse sideview Ilocos Norte - Cape Bojeador view 

 We took a break and had lunch at Papa Pau's Diner near Laoag's city center. And then brought some sweet breads from the nearby Baker's Percent for dessert.
Ilocos Norte - Papa Pau's Diner 
Ilocos Norte - Papa Pau's Diner steamed tilapia Ilocos Norte - Papa Pau's Diner grilled tilapia Ilocos Norte - Papa Pau's Diner grilled squid Ilocos Norte - Baker's Percent mamon

The next destination was Fort Ilocandia or Malacanang of the North. This is the place to where the Marcoses used to spend holidays. Everything about it is opulent. The size of the rooms, the height of the ceilings, the wooden floors, the capiz shell windows, the library, the furnitures, wall arts, and the views of the Paoay Lake from the house. There is even a beautiful garden at the back of the estate. I didn't venture far from where the house is but there are more structures in the complex.
Ilocos Norte - Malacanang of the North 
Ilocos Norte - Malacanang of the North main hall 
Ilocos Norte - Malacanang of the North lawn Ilocos Norte - Malacanang of the North 2nd floor hall 
Ilocos Norte - Malacanang of the North a bedroom 
Ilocos Norte - Malacanang of the North wall art Ilocos Norte - Malacanang of the North Paoay Church 

Here's a pano of Paoay Lake
Ilocos Norte - Paoay Lake 

We might have spent way too much time at Fort Ilocandia because we almost didn't get to Paoay Church while there was day light. Thank God that we got there with about 15 minutes of day light. In a way, it was great that way because we were able to see the church during the day and at night.  Both views are stunning and I recommend seeing the church at both times.
Ilocos Norte - Paoay Church day 
Ilocos Norte - Paoay Church mass Ilocos Norte - Paoay Church stained glass Ilocos Norte - Paoay Church altar Ilocos Norte - Paoay Church almost night shot Ilocos Norte - Paoay Church

We got back to Vigan just on time for dinner. This was also our chance to shop for souvenirs. Some of the family members took this chance to shop. My sister and I, Randy and Kaye decided we'll meet up near the area where empanadas are sold to finally sample the famous Vigan Empanada.
Vigan - Empanada on fying pan Vigan - Empanada on plate

The following day, we shopped for food before making out way back to Manila. There was a long queue when we got to Tongson Bibingka. This is where my mom got her Vigan longanisa for give aways to friends. She got another set of longanisa for personal consumption from Hotel Veneto. My favorite here is their Royal Bibingka
Ilocos Sur - Tongson Ilocos Sur - Tongson Longanisa Ilocos Sur - Tongson kalamay Ilocos Sur - Tongson goodies Ilocos Sur - Tongson Tinubong Ilocos Sur - Tongson Royal Bibingka 
Ilocos Sur - Tongson Royal Bibingkas

My aunt recommended to get some goodies at Marsha's Delicacies and she was right. There no substitute for a savvy local!
Ilocos Sur - Marsha's Delicacies Ilocos Sur - Marsha's Delicacies kalamay Ilocos Sur - Marsha's Delicacies goodies

On our way to Manila, we had lunch at Chow King in Agoo. After lunch, I saw this church near the restaurant.
  Ilocos Sur - Agoo cathedral

The road trip was a blast. I am thankful that we had safe travels, the scenes we saw were all beautiful, the food great and the company  even better.


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