Here’s why you should be less busy and have enough time for Vigan. The town of Vigan in Ilocos Sur has lots of scenic places to boast of. But what I liked best when I went there was this entire neighborhood of edifices and houses with their colonial Spanish architecture all preserved intact. Even the cobblestone streets were conserved, looking like the archaic streets in Europe.
A Little History
This part of Vigan was declared a UNESCO site and among the world’s wonder cities. I used to admire Vigan only on the Net, seeing pictures especially of the streets or calles that made you feel like re-living the past. We went there as part of the tour package we availed last summer. After touring Ilocos Norte and spending some days there, we stopped by Vigan on our way home.
You parked your car somewhere at the town plaza and hiked to the location, which was a mere 15-minute walk. As you approached, the surroundings gradually brought you to the time the Spaniards occupied the Philippines, a hike back in time. At first the hot afternoon sun felt painful to the skin, but on reaching Calle Crisologo which was walled in by tall houses and business establishments on both sides, we found ourselves protected from the sun. Then we enjoyed the sights.
What’s in Crisologo?
Tourists local and foreign where all over the place, walking, taking pictures, and shopping. Actually, it was my first time to experience going through a town just walking around. We often did it by driving around. So people enjoyed the streets for themselves, without any vehicular interruption, save the passing archaic calezas or carts or wagons pulled by horses. When you hear the horses coming, you better give way.
The shops and stores were quite interesting, many of them souvenir shops and local pastries stores. But you have to be smart with your bargaining strategies to get the best prices. You have to understand that these are Ilocanos doing business, and Ilocanos are pretty smart at handling money and business. But they can give you good discounts if you know how to talk with them.
We bought native hats, accessories, toy weaponry, sweets and, of course, Vigan longganisa (Vigan sausage) which is popular for its spicy and garlicky flavor with zero preservatives and chemicals. It’s preserved only with garlic and the famous sukang iloko (Ilocos native vinegar) plus other natural spices. The secret to full enjoyment of this native sausage is frying it to a golden brown crisp. Better if you fry your rice in some of its residual cooking oil with chopped garlic and salt to taste (that is, if you don’t have high blood pressure).
Where to Have Lunch
And do you know where we had our lunch earlier? You’d never expect. Not in any fastfoods there or posh restaurants around the town plaza. In fact, few people had lunch in them. We opted to lunch at the makeshift eateries with their shanties crowding near the street at the plaza. The food was cheaper, too. They looked like rugged shacks and you stepped on soil and sat on makeshift wooden benches, but they served superb and authentic Ilocano cuisines. We had pinapaitan and dinakdakan for lunch, plus delectable barbecue.
Though we roamed around the streets walking all afternoon, I never felt more relaxed during shopping. I and my wife often shopped at SM North and Trinoma with relatives and friends and we often ended up exhausted. But it was different in Vigan.