vigan for dummies
First things first, there’s no airport in Vigan. The nearest airport is in Laoag, about 2 hours bus ride away. Cebu Pacific Air flies twice daily (to and from). Vigan is a very small town, you can actually cover a complete itinerary in one day, so it’s a good idea to also check out other towns like Sta. Maria, Narvacan and probably some nearby beaches in La Union province.
For someone like me and Monette, this town is perfect to unleash the creative animals within us. She can just sit along the curb side, set on trans mode and start writing. As for me, I can walk around and be the clicker happy that I am.
It’s a town where everything moves slowly, so hurrying up to catch the pre-plotted itinerary isn’t exactly the fun way to enjoy the place.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotels and hostels within the blocks around the town center are mostly old houses. They decorate the house with all sorts of antique items ranging from flat iron converted to an ash tray to a make shift corner table out of an old sewing machine, and the list goes on. The interiors are basically colonial, they just put rooms and beds and a signage outside and voila! An antique thrift shop cum hostel. To some lone travelers who got wild imagination, you may want to look for a companion. Rooms resemble those that we see on classic horror films where you can expect to see Lilia Cuntapay materialize in the dark corner of your cold brick walled suite. Room rates are ranging form 700-1500 inclusive of Filipino breakfast. Grandpa’s Inn is where we stayed.
WHERE TO EAT
There are three ways to have a blast with your Vigan food trip.
Fine Dine at Cafe Leona where the perfect time to sit down and order would be at night where they have al fresco dining right at the end of Crisologo street. I never got the chance of eating out here during my recent trip, but a decade ago, the chokolate-E was 0h-so-wicked. I believe they also serve the good old Vigan faves like the bagnet (deep fried pork meat) and longanisa (Filipino garlic sausage).
Street Food trip is also popular among tourists and locals alike. Grab your bag of chichacorn (fried corn kernels) of a small box of cheesy royal bibingka (rice cake). This is a perfect snack while walking around the old town or riding a Kalesa.
Eat Vigan empanada at the park. Shredded lettuce, longanisa and whole egg wrapped with a hand rolled soft dough, then deep fried to perfection.
WHAT TO DO
Get a private kalesa, it’s the horse drawn carriage and a very eco-friendly means of transportation which started during the colonial era. I always wanted to just chill and ride one. Manila still got these iconic road runners, but it’s definitely not a good idea. The very essence of riding a kalesa is to enjoy the picturesque town and fresh air is an important element.
Kalesa ride costs around PhP 150/hour. There is a city ordinance that sets the fare so even if you want to haggle, you can’t. One thing is for sure, the kutcheros (drivers) are friendly and they are not as adamant as those from tourist traps elsewhere. They will tour you around the city. They will take you to several spots like Bantay church and bell tower, Baluarte and Burnayan.
Bantay Bell Tower
Old bell of Bantay Belfry
pottery of burnayan
WHAT TO BUY
Or what NOT? In the past, Vigan is the spot for antique collectors. They hold the biggest collection of colonial artifacts. Like their houses, the household knickknacks were perfectly preserved. But in recent decades, residents decided to just sell them to antique shops, foreign tourists and collectors. I’m not sure if I am fully against this trade, but it would be cool to leave these items in Vigan where they belong. I heard the number of antique items in this town is dwindling down.
Ilocos Sur skyline, view from the Bantay bell tower
From Manila, land transportation is one of the most economical, PhP 500-600 (one way). Travel time may vary depending on the traffic, it may take around 8 hours on a night trip and 10 hours on a day trip. Several bus companies are operating daily from Manila to Vigan:
Partas Transportation Co. (Cubao QC/Sampaloc Manila) – They can cut the travel time from 10 hours to 7. Drivers got a death wish.
Fariñas Transit Company (Lacson Sampaloc Manila) – Owned by a political family in Ilocos Norte, so people throwing stones is pretty normal, no worries, there’s no recorded casualties or injuries so far. The buses are pretty clean and brand new.
Florida Bus Line (Espana Manila) – Newest addition to the competing bus lines to the north. Known as the “Pink Bus”, obviously not owned by Bayani Fernando but the buses are pretty decent pretty girly decent.
Maria de Leon Bus (Dapitan Manila) – probably one of the oldest in the bunch. They got the friendliest staff but circulating rumors says: the drivers are as senile as the buses, they are really pros, however, the 10-hour trip may become 15 hours. The drivers tend to stop every 30 minutes to take a leak.
In a nutshell, Vigan is the place to visit if your life is moving faster than it should be, and you are dying to have a break. The place will help you recalibrate your pace with the universe, as you take your slow steps around this town of classic beauty and elegance, you will also get the chance to go back in time and enjoy the simple pleasures in life.