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.

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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.

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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.

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