I cannot reiterate enough how mildly irritating JG kept scheduling our vacation in the Philippines with more vacations. Aside from our three major trips, and tours on the weekends, he also tried sneaking in more side trips in between the said plans. It caused some major fights mind you, ones that we had to do during trips because it seemed we did not have enough time to fight at home with our busy schedule. I was fighting for some time with my family, while he was fighting for time lost doing nothing in Libya.
One of the trips he decided to sneak in our already busy schedule was to Hong Kong, to which I vehemently said no. In that month, we were already scheduled to ride a plane six times, excluding the ones we had to take to and from Libya; and I was pretty sure that much cabin pressure would cause someone some sort of damage in the eardrums – thus the adamant decline to another one of his out of the country side trip. But JG, being the smart aleck that he is, turned what was usually my tactic on me, he said to compromise. A day trip, something not of the country, no flying involved, and that he would let me go straight to my Mom’s house the second we return to Manila. And so Vigan was planned.
I wasn’t really happy with the terms, but I was already too tired to argue with JG. Besides, he promised he would get us the best kind of bus (the ones with spacious seats that reclines to almost bed-like status), and assured me that we would be back the next day.
So along with his mom, we take the latest bus that leaves for Vigan. The bus was okay, but for some strange reason I always find myself seated where the air-conditioning is in pointed and in always in full blast. It was like Berlin all over again.
A bit frozen, we arrive, at around 5 am the next day ahead of the sunrise, and began walking around as soon as it did. For those of you who don’t know Vigan is in the northern part of the Philippines in Ilocos Sur. The city is famous for maintaining the old Spanish themed architecture of the area, which has been dubbed as a Unesco Heritage Site.
So you can’t just go crazy and build a Japanese inspired Zen home, or a modern cubist building made of glass in Vigan, you have to make sure that it is uniformed to the traditional Old Hispanic feel, to continue with the theme that makes the place special. This is why even 21st century franchises have to abide by the rules.
A particular street that truly shows what Vigan is all about is Crisologo Street, which really takes the theme at heart so much so that modern vehicles are not allowed to pass, instead only the Filipino version of Horse carriages known in our language as Kalessa (I think that’s Spanish as well, but not sure).
In line with the old feel of Vigan, the province is also popular for its antique shops, woodworks, and very Filipino merchandise such as woven table runners and hand crafted accessories.
We also visited the ancestral home of my home town’s Representative in Congress the Crisologo family. I gotta say that it was a good thing I went to that house because I never really liked my district’s statesman. It’s nothing personal I just did not really see any good that he has done in the neighborhood I grew up in, in fact the most that he did for me was during my great grandma’s wake, when we rented tables, chairs and tents where his name were plastered all over them – for that alone, I have him to thank. Anyway so we went to his ancestral house where there is a museum dedicated to his father who was a beloved leader of the town and was tragically assassinated in the 70’s. On the side of one of the wall are the pictures and diplomas of my Congressman’s brothers, sisters, cousins all are well established highly educated individuals. Which I have to say says a lot about a person at least, so that’s one good stop during that trip.
We also wanted to visit the Syquia Mansion, the home of our former President Elpidio Quirino but it was either closed, or we were too stupid to find the entrance, or if we did we were probably even stupider to not knock or push the doors open.
Lucky for us a special festival was currently celebrated, and we chanced upon a special market where
business folks from all over the province came to exhibit and sell their prided products, specialties only found in Vigan.
Aside from the antiques there were also their famous Vigan Longganisa, a plump sausage, famous for its unique garlicky taste, served mostly during breakfast with eggs and friend rice (I personally am not a fan of it but JG ate it every day for almost a week). I also scored some special table napkins and ethnic Ifugao inspired clothes for those special parties where National costumes are required. (I promised the lady who sold them to me that I will blog about their store, unfortunately I misplaced the paper where she wrote the name of their establishment. So if you are reading this Ate, sorry talaga, if I find that paper I promise to update this blog, promise talaga.)
My favorite part of the trip was stopping by what was once the house of Padre Jose Burgos, one of the three famous martyr priests who were garroted after being accused of going against the then Spanish regime, which inspired a young man who then influenced his smart little brother who would then become our country’s National Hero.
The old old house is now of course a museum that also houses artifacts from the natives that live in the country. Such artifacts for example ranging from materials that they used in hunting and farming to the very coffins that they are laid in at the end of their life.
One picture that really got my attention was of a girl, which our guide says is the picture of what single young women looked back then. Adorned with only accessories on her head, her neck, and her arms, she is shirtless, her young breasts dark and bronzed exposed. But she doesn’t care; her face is gentle but shows a bit of arrogance. She lived in a different time and a very different culture from mine, and I wondered what her name would have been, or whether or not she did get married. If she had been shown a photo of me would she have found me odd? Or would she wonder what my name is as well?
On the second floor is where you can get a glimpse of what Padre Burgos was like, and how his family lived. For one thing he was really into religious stuff, proven by his collection of saints and more pictures of religious icons .
But the most interesting for me was one of the ten original published Noli Me Tangeres sitting there.
The guide was a nice young Tourism student, who was happy to show some of the old relics in the house, like what they used as a pot holder, and the veranda where they would usually hold parties. But I have to say that I wished that he added a bit more story to his tour instead of just pointing and naming. So I told him, that I would come back, and when I do he make sure that he has interesting Padre Burgos anecdotes ready for me. Nevertheless it was really cool (for lack of a better term) to visit such a place with such treasures in it. I find it sad that most Filipinos would rather go to theme parks and spend money to watch Pokwang dress funny and sing, instead of visiting such places as Vigan.
Coming there I kind of wished that I was an Anthropologist or something, someone who better understands and appreciates the way life was lived in the past. I get a kick out of stuff like that actually, imagining how people went through their day to day so much different from how life is now. The thing that I like most thinking about when in historical places is that people then probably valued a lot of the everyday things we take for granted today like well-drawn drinking water, gathering around the family patriarch for a story, or a love letter from a suitor or a secret love. Although there are a lot of things I probably wouldn’t be able to live without today (for instance access to the internet or a bottle of coke) it would probably be nice I thought to have a time machine and be able to live during those times and experience it, even for just a while. Places like Vigan is as close as you have to a time machine nowadays, so visiting is definitely a must.
I wish I can tell you that the end of our trip was perfectly capped; we realize that it was only pass lunch time and we’ve already seen enough, we did not expect to be done that early. JG suggested going further to Baguio so as not to waste the day, another one of his sneaky ploys, which I quickly objected to, stating firmly that going there wasn’t part of the deal. He almost had his way once more, when we learned that the next deluxe bus wasn’t to leave in another 10 hours and we were probably better off going to Baguio where buses leave almost every hour. Thankfully we chanced upon one that, although wasn’t the deluxe kind, was leaving that very second for Manila. I did had to sit cramped in a bus for 10 hours, and arrived at my Mom’s house hungry and nursing a headache; but I did get my half of the compromise. Or that’s what I tell myself at least… I enjoyed my Vigan trip anyway, so I guess it was a good deal still.