Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ilocondia Tour Day 1: Vigan Tour

At the start of our trip in Ilocos Region, we had so much fun at the airport although our flight to Laoag Int'l Airport was delayed for an hour. Instead of being pissed with this typical situation with CebuPac, we just focused on so many nice things to see at NAIA and pleasantly-looking passengers who were with us at that time including the flight steward and stewardess. My friends and I thought that it was a good sign and our trip would turn out to be awesome. After four days of spending time with Joan, my high school friend, JG, her son, and John, my newly-found friend who also loves to travel,  we were able to visit all the sites both in Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte and make 4x4 ride in Sand Dunes a truly memorable one as the finale of our trip. I could say that four days and 3 nights will be an ideal number of days if you plan to visit these places in Northern part of Luzon. To be honest, we never felt so rush in every itinerary we had each day. Also, we had so much fun inside the car while Kuya Arman, our driver slash tour guide, was explaining the details of the sites. Many travelers say that a tour in Ilocos Region is merely a very long drive, so one has to endure the long hours of travel from one attraction to another.
Calle Crisologo on a mid day light
May 25, 2014 (Sun)
     08:00 pm- ETD at NAIA Terminal 3
May 26, 2014 (Mon)
     08:00 am- Vigan Tour
May 27, 2014 (Tue)
     08:00 am- Pagudpud Tour
May 28, 2014 (Wed)
     10:00 am- City Tour with Lapaz Sand dunes
     08:00 pm- ETD at Laoag Int’l Airport

Expenses for Four Persons
     Manila to Laoag- P983 (regular fare is P2500)
     Laoag to Manila- P832 (regular fare is P2500)
Terminal Fee at Laoag Int'l Aiport- P100/head
Tour Package & 3d2n accommodation
     Inclusive of 2-way airport transfer and breakfast- P2900/head
Additional 1 night accommodation- P320/person
Food- P600
Souvenirs & Pasalubong- P600 
Entrance or Admission fee- P200
Taxi to and from NAIA- P400
Blue Lagoon Cottage- P100/head
4x4 Ride at Lapaz Sand Dunes- P375/head (P1500 per ride max of 4 passengers)
Total Expenses: P8010/head
Savings: Approximately P3000 from regular flight fare

Day 1: Vigan Tour
Travel Plan
1. Juan Luna Shrine
2. Welcome Arc of Ilocos Norte
3. Bantay Church & Bell Tower
4. Syquia Mansion Museum
5. Rowilda’s Handloom Weaving
6. Baluarte
7. Hidden Garden
8. Pagburnayan
9. Crisologo Museum
10. Heritage Village
11. Plaza Salcedo & Burgos
Note: The welcome arc of Ilocos Norte was not actually included as one of the main sites in the itinerary, but I just added it for documenting this trip.

Juan Luna Shrine
This site used to be Juan Luna’s house when he was growing up together with his family. Today, Juan Luna Shrine houses important artifacts and vintage photographs of Luna’s clan. It also showcases various parts of their house furnished with some of their antique furniture and his masterpieces. The structure was then reconstructed from the concept of the original architectural design of their house.
The heritage house of the great painter, Juan Luna
For those who don’t know Juan Luna Y Novicio, he was the great painter behind the magnificent “Spoliarium,” which made him won gold medal at the National Exposition of Fine Arts in Madrid in 1884. Juan Luna was born on October 24, 1857 in Badoc, located in Ilocos Norte. He is the son of Joaquin Luna De San Pedro and Laureama Novicio. He studied in some prestigious schools in Manila like Ateneo Municipal, Escuela de Bellas Artes, and Escuela Nautica. At the age of 17, he became a licensed pilot. Then in 1877, he spent his time studying in Madrid, Spain to enhance his skills in painting. His famous first art work entitled “The Death of Cleopatra” gave him recognition. He was also awarded a gold medal at the Barcelona Exposition in 1888 for his another masterpiece entitled, “La Batalla de Lepanto.” Due to these enormous recognitions, he was able to place our country in the fields of arts in the world and became the master painter both in our country and Europe.
The statue of the head painter, Juan Luna beside his family house
Tuesday to Sunday
08:00am to 05:00pm
Contact Information
Mr. Angel Raguindin (Shrine Curator)
Add: Badoc, Ilocos Norte (near Rizal Street)
Cellphone #: +63927-356-9370 (Globe)

Arc of Ilocos Norte
Many tourists who visit Ilocos Region always make memorable photo shots of their own. And for us, this trip was just once-in-a-lifetime experience, so we decided to have a quick stop over on this arc. Kuya, our tour guide suggested us to have a photo behind Ilocos Norte’s welcome arc. But what we did, despite the passing cars, we had our jump shot under the arc. By the way, this site divides between the territories of Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte.
We didn't care about vehicles passing through this arc to capture a jump shot.

Bantay Church & Bantay Bell Tower
Bantay Church also known as St. Augustine Church was created in 1590. The structure was built with neo-gothic fa├žade and could withstand any magnitude of earthquake. If you could notice the structure of the church, the architectural design resembles Vigan’s typical baroque style. Then after a year, the belfry, a few meters away from the church was erected on the top of a small hill. This belfry or bell tower used to serve as the watch tower of the town against the possible enemies. It just took one year to finish this structure.
The facade was never like this 10 years ago. This one is too contemporary.

I think, it would take minutes to reach the altar 
for any bride who will have a wedding ceremony here.

These relaxing tables in front of the church will give 
you a nicer view to Bantay Bell Tower
It was a decade ago, when I first visited Bantay Church and its belfry. And for a span of ten years, I could say that there have been a lot of alterations on these essential sites of Vigan. The church used to be as plain as other typical churches in Ilocos, but when I came to visit it last month, I hate to see the way they changed the church. It became more contemporary or too modern that doesn’t even leave any traces of authenticity and antiquity particularly the facade. Before, going to the belfry didn’t have any stairways and it was completely nothing but a belfry on top of the hilly landscape. 
A closer view of Bantay Bell Tower
Today, however, they constructed stairways leading to the bell tower. The bell tower used to be closed for public viewing to preserve the site, but today, people can go up even to the top of it. It was such a breath-taking experience to be on the top of Bantay Bell Tower. I was able to see Ilocos on bird’s eye view and touch its bells which I think had witnessed the colorful history of VIgan.
Entrance Fee
You can donate

Syquia Mansion Museum
Syquia Mansion Museum exhibits President Elpidio Quirino’s memorabilia. This 2-storey heritage house showcases the extravagant lifestyle of Syquia Family shown on their colossal furniture and other accessories draped on its major rooms. Each room of the house turned to be the galleries of the museum. On the first floor, the family’s vintage horse carriage welcomes you as you enter the museum. The main galleries are mostly located on the 2nd floor exhibiting age-old furnishings like life-size mirror and a 6-ft father’s clock in the living room, several family portraits are still on display, and the long table at the dining area.  
The typical day-to-day situation in front of Syquia Mansion

The elegance of these furnishings shows the status of the family who used to live here

Flat tapestry hanging over this long table serves as the 
fan for the people who are eating here

Open daily
09:00am – 12 noon
1:30pm – 5:00pm
Tuesdays- by appointment
Entrance Fee
Adults- P30
Students- P20
Below 6 y/o- Free

Rowilda’’s Handloom Weaving
That afternoon, a few handweavers were busy working with their own masterpieces, but one thing that caught my attention was the young girl. She was arranging her multi-colored strings as she was about to make her own work of art. It looks that their job was pretty easy, so we asked them if we could give it a try. But when we started to place strings and arrange them, I could not imagine how hard it was. Perhaps, it takes more practice for me to perfect my own fabric. The products of Rowilda’s handwoven fabric are best as pasalubong or presents. They are affordable and high in quality.
The entrance to the area where they make the fabric

This is the intricacy of each fabric they weave manually.
Entrance Fee
Free of charge
Contact Information
Telephone #: (077) 722-1482 / (077) 722-2731

Baluarte seems like a mini safari for me. Farm animals such as ducks, ostriches, caribou, deer, and donkeys are roaming freely around Governor Chavit Singsong’s vast land. What surprised me was almost everything here was totally free of charge including the admission fee, the ride on ponies or calesitas, and the animal encounter show. Actually, the management doesn’t allow guests to give tips or any amount of donations except for the printouts with their tiger and from the photobooth. What's fascinating about this place is the huge replicas of different dinosaurs such as brontosaurus, stegosaurus, triceratops, and tyrannosaurus. 
Gigantic replicas of common dinosaurs welcome you in Baluarte

People from Ilocos Region and other neighboring provinces who travel long distance just to visit this attraction won’t get disappointed. They can enjoy seeing these animals I’ve mentioned up close and personal and take some photos with them. In fact, out tour guide told us that traveling to see Manila Zoo would cost people from the North much money and time, so Gov. Singson decided to build Baluarte for the benefit of his fellow Ilocanos. This free attraction has a souvenir store, a small theatre, and a vast land for his wandering animals.
These are the animals you are going to meet in Baluarte and have photos with them

This is the final part of Baluerte's animal encounter show

The best thing in life is free. Yup! Riding on this calesitas is totally free

You can have a photo with Mr. Chavit's very own tiger after 
the show for only P150 for a maximum of 4 persons
Many tourists who flock in Baluarte should not miss the animal encounter show. Audience usually take part in this fun show with affable animals such as the mighty eagle, the cuddly bearcat, its long albino python, sugar glider, and the lovable iguana. Plus you can take photos with them right after the show without any charges.

Hidden Garden
Hidden Garden is filled with extra-ordinary collections of endemic plants that you can only see here. Mostly, they are grown and purely bred in this big garden. The establishment is well-known not only for its plants but also for the food they serve here. You heard me right, it has also a restaurant that drives its patrons to keep on coming back because of its authentic Ilocos local cuisine especially ‘bagnet.’ They have an extensive list of meals that are best tasted here. Apparently, popularity of this restaurant has reached numerous kinds of people from celebrities to politicians. The photos can be seen at the celebrity and guest corner upon entering the restaurant.
The ambiance at the restaurant was homey and relaxing. The entire area is surrounded by bamboo and local trees, so the fresh air flows freely into the restaurant. In addition, serving the food on an earthen pot was such a pleasant experience. It just reminded us the traditional way of cooking food before.
Entrance Fee
-free of charge

Pagburnayan is jar-making in Ilocano words. So, this site is simply about making pots out of clay. This is a must-visit in Vigan because the potter or a sculptor shows the guests how to make jars on the spot. You can even purchase of their products and other souvenirs located at the entrance.
Jar making is like baking. You need a gigantic oven to bake these earthen vessels.

Kuya showed us how to make a jar that took him for about 5 minutes to finish
Entrance Fee
-free of charge

Crisologo Museum
The 2-storey museum exhibits the memorabilia of Crisologo Family. On the first floor, you can find the family’s traditional vehicles such as calesa (horse-drawn vehicle), calesin (smaller version of calesa), and caruaje (bigger horse carriage), the only one that can be ridden by the tourists. Then on the second level, the highlights are usually in all major rooms of the house that turned to be the galleries. Compared to other heritage houses and other shrines in Ilocos Sur, Crisologo Museum is somewhat a bit modern, but the way these people live in such a huge house is similar to other Iloconos with big family who used to live also in lavish lifestyle.
Caruaje awaits you at the entrance of the museum

It was so funny to see a wooden refrigerator, but it existed.
The tour coordinator said that the family used dry ice to preserve the food here.

This is another type of refrigerator but this time it's electricity-generated.

Also on the second floor, you can see the clothes being worn by the late Atty. Floro Crisologo when we has assassinated in Vigan Cathedral in 1970 by unknown criminals.  Atty. Crisologo was the author of numerous bills in the government including the creation of Social Security System, The Virginia Tobacco Law, and Republic Act 4449 to build University of Northern Philippines. He was born on July 29, 1909 in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. He finished his elementary and secondary studies in the public schools of Vigan. Then he took bachelor of laws in the University of the Philippines which placed him as the 4th topnotcher in the 1933 bar examination.
The portrait of Atty. Floro Crisologo welcomes you by the entrance
Currently, other members of the family are living and working abroad. The guide in the museum added that, in a rare occasion, the family visits their historical house.

Heritage Village
Without the heritage village, Vigan will just be as simple as other towns in Ilocos Sur. Most heritage houses are enlisted and protected by UNESCO. No doubt, the whole city is being included to be chosen as one of this year's world 7 wonders.  Although the entire city is congested with several establishments where ever you go, I salute the city government of Vigan for strictly implementing the laws to protect the centuries old museum, shrines, churches, and heritage houses specifically along Calle Crisologo (Crisologo Street).
To vote please click the link below
Then click Finalists on the tool bar above and click for Vigan. 
Plaza Salcedo & Burgos
Do you know that the main attraction of Vigan was not actually the heritage village? It was Plaza Salcedo that many people used to visit and hang out. The city government made this attraction by adding dancing fountains synchronized with chosen music at night. It becomes more spectacular to witness by many from the nearby towns due to its various lights creating magnificent effects with the water.  

The show runs for about 30 mins and  usually starts at 7:30 pm until 8:00 pm every night. Unfortunately, I was not able to capture it when I was there.

For more details about the accommodation, you may refer to this article
Laoag Homestay

Next Topic: 
Day 2: Pagudpud Tour
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Blogger's Note

Please be informed that details are subject to change at any time, particularly the price, location, and contact numbers. I, therefore advise that you visit their website or email ahead for confirmation when making your itinerary. The blogger cannot be held responsible for the experiences of the readers while travelling.