A Heritage Stroll in Vigan

March 17, 2018, thirty minutes past five o’clock in the morning: I found myself walking in the quiet, cobblestoned street of a city in the North called Vigan. The old houses lining up the Calle Crisologo were still illuminated by golden lights, making the sight specially glimmer together with the developing sunshine of the breaking dawn.

I brought out my phone and captured the moment. The sight was new to me. As it was narrated by the previous visitors, it exhibited the ambiance of the Spanish period more than a hundred years ago. As the daylight started to scatter around the place, the men in kalesas started to drive their horse carriages.

It is indeed a living museum. The heritage houses are not only for display but also serve as different establishments – be it a small souvenir shop, a restaurant, or a hotel. As I walked through each of them, my thirst for historical knowledge grew stronger and stronger; I appreciated more my country’s past.

img_5759

I went to the accommodation I have reserved just the night before I arrived. Check-in wasn’t still available, but I opted to leave my baggage first to have an ease of stroll. My hunger pushed me to one of the public canteens to eat my breakfast before proceeding to the tour. When I went back to the old street, the shops have already opened their doors to the customers. Boutiques of different pasalubong items such as keychains and shirts were dominant, which transformed the street into a more colorful one.

In the morning, I visited adjacent sights on my personal list. My first stop was Plaza Burgos, where a monument dedicated for the martyr Father Jose Burgos lies. It is a simple park where people may hang out and organize group activities. At the moment, there were still no people at the area. I continued to walk towards St. Paul’s Cathedral, commonly known as Vigan Cathedral. As I entered the solemn structure, I noticed the resemblance of it from the grand one in Manila. It was beautiful. I could see the old Archbishop’s Palace at the side of the cathedral once I exited from one of its doors. Located in between the cathedral and the nearby Ilocos Sur Provincial Capitol is Plaza Salcedo, where a spectacular dancing fountain is presented at night. There also located are the giant letters bearing the name of Ilocos Sur, where tourists are most likely seen taking photos with.

The municipality of Bantay, with its accessibility from Vigan, boasts its church and the bell tower by its side. With the aid of the map in my phone, I went ahead to these spots. The historical sight doesn’t require entrance fees but accepts donations for its maintenance. I climbed the top of the tower, leading me to a vantage point of entire Vigan and Bantay. I stayed there for a while, enjoying the beautiful sight of the life below. After my descent, I attended the mass though I could not understand the Ilocano language. Once it concluded, I walked back to Vigan and had an early lunch.

In the afternoon, I strolled around the streets of the city. Heritage-houses-turned-into-museums are found everywhere. I started with the ancestral house and birthplace of Father Burgos, which is now a branch of the National Museum. The rooms inside were open and I was awed by things which already last about a century as of the present. Almost everything inside the house were made of wood – from furniture, to its floors, and to the stairs. After it, I walked further and entered Crisologo Museum, which is home to memorabilia of a Congressman of the same name who was assassinated at the cathedral by a still unidentified gunman. Not to mention he is the man behind the establishment of Social Security System in the country. Last of the antique houses I visited during the trip was Syquia Mansion, which is the ancestral house of President Elpidio Quirino’s wife. Her ancestor, Sy Kia, was a Chinese trader who made his fortune in Vigan. The descendants later adopted the Hispanized name, Syquia, which is still used until now.

After visiting the antique residences, I proceeded to Ruby’s Pottery which is located in the famous Pagburnayan place in the city. I was able to see the actual process of making pottery jars, which seemed interesting, as well as the finished products stored inside the establishment. After it, I hailed a trike to lead me to Baluarte to be entertained by the live animals and collections by the politician Chavit Singson. I took a shuttle inside the premises which brought me to the different parts of the zoo. Finished the self-guided tour, I sat at one of the huts by the museum and enjoyed the view of the sea from afar. Finally, I went back to the hotel early in the afternoon and took a rest.

As the evening came, I went to Plaza Salcedo to wait for the show at night. By the time I arrived there, people in numbers were already sitting beside the fountains. I was excited to see the spectacle. When the clock struck half past seven, the lights dimmed, and it finally started.

Of all the similar dancing fountains I’ve seen, I repeatedly said that this is by far my favorite. The show was excellent, the lights were colorful, the demonstration lasted long, and the songs used were mixed modern and classical.

img_5762

The most interesting thing I’ve done at the event was joining some of the people to experience the excitement standing between the fountains on the ground, where there is also the Philippine map, illuminated, synchronised to the song.

The day was concluded meeting my college classmate which happened to be there too as part of his work, and we watched the second show of the dancing fountains that night. Walking along Calle Crisologo, we had a chitchat and took photos before we finally bade goodbye.

Things in the history should not always be forgotten; some of them are better preserved which may present information to the future generations. Vigan has proved that in this modern world, the old memories still has the capability to catch the new people’s interests.  To sum up, my trip to this city was memorable despite of traveling solo. If ever I have a chance in the future, I will return to this place.

Benguet 2018: An Escape, A Greeting, An Adventure

Sometimes, we just need a break after we have gone through a lot of things to make ourselves peaceful and calm. It is through a quick pause in our life where we can temporarily forget our problems and just appreciate the beautiful things around us. As for me, the first two months of the year have been tough in some aspects, so I wanted to take a retreat somewhere far from my city where I can see new faces and new places. After moments of finding an escape, I finally decided to visit The City of Pines.

93B00626-77A3-49B2-9951-2C3351FB10E6Baguio City is a highland destination in Northern Luzon that boasts a cool temperature, scenic panoramas, a colorful flower festival, and countless pine trees, thus its nickname. One of the most visited places in the country, it is a neighborhood full of local and foreign tourists, as well as a number of students including East Asians pursuing to learn English through a number of educational institutes around.

Ever since childhood, I’ve never been to the Summer Capital of the Philippines. Only in 2018 I thought about going to this place. I spent one of my weekends there last February and it was a memorable trip for me, and here my story goes.

EE017416-8CB4-4927-A2ED-73D774A10466

February 16 – Cubao, Quezon City: I took a Victory Liner bus from Cubao Station straight to Baguio City. My trip was scheduled at 11:45 pm and it costed me PhP 450 for a 6-hour journey.

February 17 – Baguio City: As I woke up to the sunrise which could be seen at the bus window, I peeked at the mountains of Benguet shined upon by the scattering rays of sun. It looked like a warm welcome to me.

I alighted at the terminal station and started walking towards Burnham Park. No one goes to Baguio without visiting this area, where the central lake is flocked with romantic swan boats available for renting. I thought I wouldn’t be able to ride one, but later in the trip I joyfully did.

As I strolled the park, I grabbed the chance to try the unique Strawberry Taho which delighted my taste buds. I was then enticed to put on the traditional costume offered for a selfie pictorial worth PhP 10 each. Typical tourist traps. After it, I bought souvenirs from the local shops and headed to Baguio Cathedral. I took a rest there for a while, admiring the colorful designs of the window mosaics.

I ate my lunch at one of the fast food chains along the ever-crowded Session Road before checking in at my AirBnB room to take a nap. I only brought the essentials with me as I went out again, and continued my trip in the afternoon.

My first stop was SM City Baguio where I’ve seen most of the foreigners in the city, mostly Koreans and Chinese. It is the only mall I saw uncovered with glass, mainly because of the cool temperature there all-year round. I walked further, reaching the sights on the road such as the solemn Pink Sisters’ Convent, the haunted Laperal White House, the Botanical Garden, The Mansion, which is the official summer house of the President, the horse riders-filled Wright Park, Good Shepherd Convent, and finally the breathtaking Mines View Park.

I spent most of my time at the latter in the afternoon until sunset where I saw the most beautiful sight in the city. I adored the sky as it exhibited a reddish color when the sun finally bade goodbye to the daytime. I then took my supper and went back to my dorm to have a good night’s sleep.

42D80464-377D-4D98-A050-332B547AE475

Mines View Park

February 18 – Baguio City: I woke up at 6 o’clock in the morning as I planned to visit the Strawberry Farm in the nearby town of La Trinidad, which is about an hour away from Baguio. Discovering that my fellow AirBnB guests are headed to the same direction, I made friends with them during our discussion on the breakfast table then I asked to join. They didn’t hesitate.

My second day for the weekend trip was not spent alone. I was merry about it. We went together to see the actual strawberry fruits ready to be picked by customers, as well as the green and leafy lettuce plants at the further side of the field. It is also where I bought freshly-picked strawberries for my family and friends back home.

We tried the specialty ice cream before going to the next destination, the chromatic Colors of Stobosa – a village painted with different colors which appeared especially pleasing to the eyes. Passing back to the border of La Trinidad and Baguio, we visited the Chinese-designed Bell Church before going back to Session Road to have lunch.

In the afternoon, I led my three new friends to the same destinations where I went on the previous day. I was finally able to ride the boats at Burnham Park with them, before going from Mines View Park downwards to The Mansion, Wright Park, and Botanical Garden. Our last destination was the infamous Heritage and Nature Park, which is commonly known as the old Diplomat Hotel. We actually arrived there few minutes past 6 pm, which is the closing time. Lucky enough, we were allowed by the security guard to enter the premises to take a look at the interior. As we walked towards the structure we already felt the spooky atmosphere it withholds, highlighted by the orange-colored lights used inside. We took photos for a while before immediately running outwards after one of us claimed to see apparitions on the second floor window. After observation of the park, we then went back to the dorm room to get our baggage and go back to the bus station. We had dinner there before catching the night bus to Manila.

In these two days I spent in the city, I was thankful for having so much experiences. Not only I was able to see spectacular sights, enjoyed a different city vibe, tasted local delicacies, and felt a colder weather but also I was able to meet new people which instantly became dear to me. As I conclude the trip, I was surely happier than I first went. Truly, traveling makes me glad.

Special mention to my new friends: Rye, Cris, Maica, let’s have another trip together soon. See you again!

Binurong Point: A Gem in the Island of Catanduanes

I was in a four-bunk bed hostel room in Albay when I suddenly woke up in the middle of the night after falling asleep, browsing the map on my phone. At that moment, I was finding a new place to see in close proximity of the said province as a one-day trip for the weekend before I go back to Manila, after my passport renewal appointment at DFA Legazpi.

img_2875

Lignon Hill, Albay

After continuing to imagine so much intrepid thoughts in my mind, I finally came up visiting the island of Catanduanes where a vista I loved at first sight is located. This is actually the only place I experienced when I was there due to my limited time. It is called the Binurong Point. The name came from the local word “buro” which means to preserve foods using salt – that’s what the people do to the fishes they harvest on the pond located somewhere on that place.

A short 20-30 minutes’ trek through rough and sometimes muddy trail in the woods leads to a paradise at the edge of the island facing the Pacific Ocean, perfect for watching the horizon as the sun rises and shines through the green grasses and blue waters which continuously strike the gigantic rocks on the side.

Getting there is not so easy, but the trip is already considered a part of the adventure. Being an island located off the coast of Luzon, Catanduanes is accessible either by air or sea travel.

Flights to and from Manila or Clark airports are welcomed through Virac Airport, while RORO and Fastcraft ferry passengers are received through either Virac or San Andres Port. From the latter, one can ride a jeepney going to Virac for PhP20, and once in Virac another jeep or van going to Baras or Gigmoto can be hailed. The fare costs PhP35 to get off at the town proper of Baras. Finally, a tricycle from there can be negotiated as a transport to the base of the trek for PhP300-500, roundtrip, depending on  haggling skills. Upon arrival, the registration site should be sought for the payment of PhP20 registration fee and PhP200 (minimum) for the tour guide, which is mandatory for all groups to hire.

Once at the point, the view will not disappoint.

 

Thingyan: The Burmese Water Festival

My trip to Myanmar this year was a fun and exciting experience as the dates fell on the most important national holiday called Thingyan festival, a celebration done to welcome the Burmese New Year at the end of the hot season on mid-April. This Theravada Buddhist celebration is similar to the ones in neighbouring countries of Thailand (Songkran), Cambodia (Chaul Chnam Thmey), and Laos (Songkran/ Pii Mai).

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

The most remarkable thing on this four-day period is the Continue reading

East Asia 2016, Part 3: China, Day 1-2

The last part of my last year’s Asian journey was the China’s biggest city: Shanghai. Actually, this was the place I really wanted to visit; Tokyo and Taipei were just added to my itinerary. Looking up the skyscrapers and feeling the dynamic city vibes, this is what I always dream to experience – as close enough as greater cities like New York and London.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Oriental Pearl TV Tower

November 3, Shanghai: I arrived at Pudong International Airport at around 5 in the morning. I stayed there until the bus to the city was available, which was the cheapest option I know. The fare was 20CNY. I checked in to the hostel which is near the centre. I went to the bank to exchange money and walked around my neighbourhood. I fell in love with the city immediately with the different buildings with creative designs. Continue reading