Tag Archive: Vigan

What makes a good tour guide? I’ve met quite a few and can easily pick out those who stand out in my list. Them whose credo is to make every traveler or tourist enjoy his trip. Them who treat their job like their religion. With passion. With devotion. In the same vein, I can just as easily weed out the wrong types. Them who spit out names, dates and other historical facts almost mechanically, at times not minding whether or not you caught the trail of the pseudo-history lesson. I’m sure you know the types.




In my experience, I never really found the perfect tour guide. But each experience is rendered unique because of some “connection”. I’ve kept in touch with a few. I’ve even dedicated some blogs to “honor” them. Here’s a short list. ūüôā



Randy, the Butanding Whisperer (Donsol, Sorsogon)


Randy. The Butanding Whisperer.
Donsol, Sorsogon.



To this day, Randy still sends me text messages in his “jejemon” style which gives me tremendous headaches! I am still able to refer to Randy some of my friends eager for a Butanding experience. My grandchildren still remember him fondly.



Rusty, The Last Caretaker of Syquia Mansion (Vigan)


Syquia Mansion in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. Don’t miss this!



I wonder how Rusty is. I failed to take a photo of him. Does he have his “apprentice” to train now? Has Rusty retired already?



Rogers With An “S” (Batanes)


He punctuates his sentences with “I Love You”. And yes, take that seriously!



He punctuates his sentences ¬†with “I love you’s” and his face has a perennial smile sure to infect each person he meets. Rogers — yes, with an “S” — is not young, but his energy and passion is forever on overdrive. Where does he get all the energy? Must be the Batanes air!



Cemetery Guides, anyone? (LA LOMA, NORTH & CHINESE CEMETERIES)




La Loma Cemetery. Who would have thought this makes for an outstanding guided tour? In the league of New Orleans and Paris!



I joined a tour organized by the Museum Foundation of the Philippines and was only too happy to have the brilliant Architect Manuel Noche and the hilarious, ever-energetic Ivan Man Dy walk us through history as we walked around the mounds and mausoleums, some of which are as high as 3 storeys. I’m telling ya….. this guided tour is certainly worth the buckets of sweat that humid day!



Juan Luna Shrine: So, Who Shot The Patriot’s Wife? (Badoc, Ilocos Norte)




The Juan Luna Shrine in Badoc, Ilocos Norte. Drop by on your drive from Laoag to Vigan. It’s the last town of Ilocos Norte on your way to Ilocos Sur.



Bet some of you didn’t know that. Yes, Juan Luna shot his own wife. I’d love to retell the story but that nameless guide in the Luna Shrine can’t be beaten in his craft. It was this man who inspired my grandchildren to always ask for a Tour Guide when we’re traveling. And they do listen….. In a way that makes me real jealous.



Mount Pinatubo: An Ex-Marine For A Guide and A Native Aeta for a Driver



Who would have thought I’d do this at my age? I was determined, but it sure was motivating that the trek was made shorter! I came in my old pair of comfy rubber shoes, then left with a pair of slippers. My guide’s daughter needed a pair and so mine — though used — must have made a good present.




Our Pinatubo Guides!



THANKS TO THESE TOUR GUIDES —- my trips to these places are made truly memorable. There are DIY (Do It Yourself) Trips, and there are those where the experience is enhanced by how a local’s perspective is drawn much differently from what the travel books say. Priceless. Much.

Who does not know Chavit Singson? He was the man who squealed about the Jueteng Scandal that eventually led to Erap’s ouster. ¬†While before his name was associated with Jueteng-gate, Ilocos politics, his friendship with world-famous boxer Manny Pacquiao, and his (Chavit’s, not Manny’s) ¬†lovely women………..of late, people remember Chavit for his not-your-typical-nor-ordinary pets in Vigan’s Baluarte. ¬† Should this make us happy?

This tiger had a lengthy “pictorial” with a long line of guests, each of whom posed for a fearless solo shot with the awesome animal. ¬† Watching them line up, pose and try to touch the animal, helped along by the zookeepers who never let go of the leash on the animal, I couldn’t help but feel pity for the tiger. ¬†It didn’t look like it was having a grand time. The way it growled and ¬†turned its head left , right, up, and down, ¬†it could have easily lopped off somewhere away from this scene, ¬†perhaps dragging one of the zookeepers along. But it didn’t. ¬†I’m sure not even a team of those short and thin-looking zookeepers could manage to hold it down. I suspect the animal’s drugged. ¬†

After the pictorial, ¬†back to the cages they go. ¬†Very small cages. ¬†I hear Chavit “plays” with these animals when he is not busy playing with something else like they are his pets. ¬†I can only surmise that they are fed very well before meeting the master. ¬†

The ostriches we found in Baluarte probably had a better life. ¬†They had the “space” and were likely left to roam around the grounds. ¬†

So with the deer, ponies and other animals we found.  Well, at least they look healthier than those starved at the Manila Zoo!

Fed well. Clean environ.  Drugged, maybe not.  Would that make it better?

The Zookeeper and (His Ward) Tiger


From Laoag City to Vigan and back, we remember our wonderful dining experiences in these 4 restos. If there was more time, I’m sure we would have tried other dining places in between those yummy bagnet, longganiza and empanadas. So. Let’s not beat around the bush. Whenever the subject is food, no one should be kept waiting.

Vigan Empanada

Herencia Cafe

Best dining location ever.  Pick a table by the window and enjoy a panoramic view of the Paoay Church in all its majesty. It rained while we were cruising in a van from the airport thru a couple of touristy sites before sitting down for a proper lunch here.  A late lunch, but no one was complaining.  

This is the home, the birthplace of the famous Pinakbet Pizza. ¬†Pinakbet as in that very Ilocano dish which found its way to almost every Filipino family’s dinner table. ¬†Pizza as in that most famous export of Italy, along with spaghetti. ¬†And it was such a treat to be able to taste the authentic Ilocano dishes such as Bagnet, Poqui Poqui, Dinengdeng and Crispy Dinuguan.¬†

Herencia Cafe : Right Across Paoay Church

Herencia Cafe: Home of Pinakbet Pizza

Bagnet, Kilawin, Pinakbet Pizza, Poqui Poqui, Dinengdeng, Crispy Dinuguan

La Preciosa @Laoag City

Our van driver wanted to bring us here on our very first day. ¬†Perhaps he felt an authentic Ilocano meal here would have made a fine introduction to Ilocos Norte. ¬†He wasn’t wrong. ¬†Even if we actually “ended” our trip with a meal here on our last day. ¬†

The restaurant has a bakeshop right beside it. ¬†Which is fine if we have grown “tired” of Ilocano cuisine. Not so though. ¬†We have not outgrown our taste for Dinengdeng and Crispy Dinuguan which they call Crispy Dinardaraan here. ¬†

La Preciosa

But we were not prepared for Warek Warek. ¬†No Ilocano has ever introduced me to this local dish of pig’s meat and entrails (tongue, liver, intestines) parboiled with calamansi, grilled, sliced, served with the juice of more calamansi and seasoned with salt and pepper. Having tried it, I was convinced we should not order any more dish involving innards. So no Higadu for us. But don’t miss the chance to try it when you get here. ¬†Along with the Inabraw, Insarabasab, and Duyduy.

Cafe Leona

No one goes to Vigan without a “proper stroll” along Calle Crisologo. ¬† You can do it during the day, but we strongly recommend you don’t miss it at night. ¬†It had just rained when we got here, and the rainwashed cobble-stoned paths glistened as the lights from colonial-inspired lamp posts reflected on the water. ¬† At the end of Calle Crisologo is Cafe Leona. ¬†I didn’t mean to stop here for a meal except for my usual late afternoon brew. ¬†Thought it would be a good place to sit out while the rest of the family explore. ¬†By the time they were back, they were famished and ready for an early dinner.¬†

Cafe Leona. Along Calle Crisologo, Vigan

Cafe Leona’s menu is as confused as my current state while there, minding my 2 “elves” while their parents and aunts camwhore outside. ¬†Thinking the best thing to do was to submit to Fusion Cuisine, ¬†that was exactly what we did. ¬†I wasn’t too happy with my Pasta with Longganiza, but the kids were happy with theirs. ¬†Guess this place provides a “good break” while our stomach enzymes were still busily digesting our Ilocano breakfast and lunch.¬†

Kusina Felecitas / Cafe Uno @ Grandpa’s Inn


In Vigan, we would have been quite content with the empanadas filled with Vigan longganiza, egg and papaya. ¬†But in Kusina Felecitas in Grandpa’s Inn, ¬†we found this rare Malaga fish on its Menu, prepared in sour broth as with any other sinigang dish, ¬†but soured with the local santol fruit! ¬† We also indulged in the famous Vigan longganiza, the usual accompaniment of Poqui Poqui and Dinengdeng, ¬†and the Kulintipay Shells. ¬† These shells are actually the very same capiz shells you see framed in the sliding windows of Grandpa’s Inn. ¬†I have not seen them for ages, much less, ate them. ¬†Well, we were in luck in Vigan! ¬†

Sinigang na Malaga Sa Santol

Among all the dining places we have tried, this one’s our favorite in terms of ambience. The restaurant looks more like an art gallery. The paintings hanging on the walls cover all the way to the Inn’s coffee shop aptly called Cafe Uno. Next time we are in Vigan, we would most certainly check in at this lovely Grandpa’s Inn.¬†


Kulintipay Shells

More? Read my TravelBlog post. 

We had lunch at Cafe Uno / Kusina Felecitas @Grandpa’s Inn. ¬†Little did we know that we would not only enjoy our lunch, we actually fell in love with the place. ¬†My “elves” wanted to stay in this inn and wished we didn’t have to go back to our hotel in Vigan. Frankly, I was quite tempted to pack up and transfer to this place too and forego a night’s paid room in the other hotel. ¬†

This small hotel is located  near Plaza Burgos.  The jeepney we hired took us here after visiting Burgos Museum.  Exact address is  No. 1 Bonifacio St. cor. Quirino Blvd.  We could have walked.  It should be an easy walk from Calle Crisologo too. 

The hotel is called Grandpa’s Inn, an ancestral house transformed into this charming 22-room inn. ¬†Its dining place is called Kusina Felecitas and its coffee shop, Cafe Uno Restaurant. ¬†Oozing with old world charm along with the many paintings hanging on its brick walls, ¬†the place is also a gourmand’s delight given its extensive menu. ¬†(Food here deserves a SEPARATE blog……coming!)

A marker by the entrance to the Inn states that the ancestral house was a wedding gift of 3 spinster sisters to their younger brother Mariano.  The sisters were children by first marriage. Young Mariano was one of 8 children by 2nd marriage.  (Their father remarried after 2 years from the death of his 1st wife)  Of them 8 by the 2nd marriage, only Mariano and a sister got married.  On the other hand,  only 2 of the 7 children by 1st marriage got married.  Hmmm, talk about sibling love here! I simply love this trivia. Love Love Love!

A Case of Sibling Love. Read This Marker!

Reception Desk of Grandpa's Inn

All around, from the Reception Area to the Second Floor Sitting Room, to the ground floor restaurant, we found very interesting art pieces. Ended up buying one painting.   Quite an experience to dine here, really.  

Isn't this a lovely painting of Calle Crisologo? Like ur walking right into it!

Reception Area: More Art Pieces That Seem To Jump Off The Canvas

It was hard to peel ourselves away from the Calesa Rooms.  The fact that they were vacant made us agonize whether to transfer to this Inn or not. The kids loved this room!

Sitting Room at the Second Floor

Calesa Beds?

You can check out the hotel rates but allow me to say that given its location and charm,  I find the room rates very reasonable.  In fact, they even come out a wee bit cheaper than the other hotel we stayed in. 

Room Good For 8: Dormitory!

And if that Calesa Room good for 4 pax is reasonably-priced,  the Dormitory Room good for 8 pax wins hands down!

So there. ¬†More photos in this blog than write-up. ¬†Just had to show you where we plan to stay next time we’re in town. ¬†Coming up: ¬†Food Tripping in Ilocos

Here's the Painting I Bought For My Friend!

And here’s the painting I could have bought for myself but decided against buying because the painting makes me feel sad. Lovely piece of art. But sad. Who’d want to feel sad? ¬†Not this old lady. Er, I mean not me. ¬†

ūüė¶ ūüė¶ ūüė¶ ūüė¶ ūüė¶

Gomburza.  How much do we know of Fathers Gomez, Burgos and Zamora?  Years before Dr. Jose Rizal was executed in 1896, there were these 3 martyrs garroted in Bagumbayan in 1872 for their suspected role in the Cavite Mutiny. Their martyrdom inspired our national hero to write another novel.  El Filibusterismo was dedicated to their memory. I would even venture to add that they may have actually planted the seeds of rebellion or at the very least, inspired subsequent Philippine independence advocates. To them, we owe much. Indeed, the freedom we now enjoy was nourished by the blood of these martyrs.  Let no one forget that.

The Museum Opens Up To This Cozy Garden

The bodies of the three priests were buried in a common, unmarked grave in the Paco Cemetery which was built in 1820, and was originally intended for the victims of cholera epidemic. There they lay nearly forgotten. So so forgotten that a toilet once stood right above the place where the 3 martyrs were buried! Such irreverence.   

Beside Burgos Museum is the Provincial Jail where former President Quirino was born. His father was then the Provincial Jail Warden. Some trivia for you!

Presently, a Gomburza Marker stands in Rizal Park where the 3 priests were executed, just a little behind and to the left of the Rizal Monument. ¬†Not too many know about it. If they do find it, they may even likely be surprised with the discovery. Don’t you just wish these martyrs were accorded more respect and attention? ¬†

Wen Manong Makes 3

Father Gomez hails from Santa Cruz, Manila.  Father Jacinto Zamora hails from Pandacan, Manila. Both Manilenos.  Only Father Burgos hails from the province.  He is a purebred Ilocano from Vigan, Ilocos Sur.  He grew up in this lovely 2 storey house built in 1788 which over time served as a Post Office (American Occupation) and as an office of the Philippine National Bank (1946-1965). 


Right beside the Burgos Ancestral House is the Provincial Jail where the former President Elpidio Quirino was born. His father was then the Provincial Jail Warden. Still it does not explain why and how his mother happened to be there where his father worked. ¬†ūüėČ ¬†Perhaps there is a Provincial Health Officer or Doctor or Midwife in the Provincial Jail then? We asked, but no one seemed to know.¬†



During the Spanish colonial period, there was an “imaginary” caste system in society. The Spaniards born in Spain were called “peninsulares”. ¬†Those born in Spanish colonies (to include the Philippines) were called “insulares”. ¬†And then there were the “mestizos” or half-breeds. And the lowliest of them all — the “Sangleys” (Chinese and/or Chinoys) and the rural “Indios”.


The Burgos Ancestral House. Now A Museum.


Father Burgos belongs to the “insulares”, having a Spanish army officer for a father and mestiza mother. A photo of ¬†his lovely mother hangs on the wall with an inscription that cites how the young Jose Burgos desired to be a lawyer but was dissuaded by his mother to instead become a priest.¬†


Inside the Burgos Museum

When we visited the Burgos Museum, ¬†we were quite happy to find that the Museum is well-managed and has an interesting collection of archaelogical finds as well as memorabilia of Father Burgos and his family. Of interest , and quite unexpected, is the diorama showing local historical events. ¬†Like the construction of the lovely Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte. There was even a “Wall of Fame” featuring eminent Ilocano ¬†heroes and achievers. ¬†Guess who were there! As a hotbed of social unrest against colonial abuses, ¬†the Ilocos Region was most certainly not short on patriots in the league of Padre Burgos, the poetess ¬†Leona Florentino (sounds familiar? yes, of the Cafe Leona fame), the first Ilocano President, Elpidio Quirino, and ahhhhh, guess who’s the other Ilocano President? ūüėČ


Diorama of the Execution of The 3 Martyr-Priests

A Diorama of Paoay Church Under Construction

The Kitchen

This Corner I Find Just A Little Creepy


His name is Rusty. ¬†We met him when we decided to visit the Syquia Mansion without an appointment. We are not sure if we needed to make one. ¬†But we were a group of 12 pax, and so we thought it would be worth his while to give us a guided tour. Besides, how can he refuse my 2 “elves”?

Gathered on the 2nd floor of the Mansion,  Rusty immediately went into Tour Guide mode.  He was very systematic. Laid down the rules early on.  He reminded everyone to stay together;  no one should stray away as we move from hall to hall, from room to room.  No camwhoring while tour is underway.  Photos can be taken only AFTER his monologue. One can ask questions, but no one should touch anything. 

I’ve met these types. ¬†And love them all. ¬†Stickler for rules. ¬†Efficient. Passionate with what they do. Fierce! And they know exactly what information to dish out to perk up our interest as we move around the heritage house.¬†

Rusty belongs to a family of caretakers. ¬†He is 5th generation and being single, ¬†he claims to be the last caretaker from the same family taking care of the Mansion. ¬†He lives here. Alone. ¬†He is not young anymore, and when he goes, ¬†we wonder who would dare take his place. ¬†It’s a beautiful house. ¬†But we all found it a little creepy. ¬†When asked, ¬†Rusty admitted to “faint” creepy stuff happening in this Mansion during his watch. ¬†Yay!

Rusty started off by pointing out the “holes” strategically located around the Mansion. The first hole is on the floor, to peek newly-arrived visitors in the ground floor of the Mansion. ¬† When deemed “worthy”, the guests are then led to a receiving anteroom upstairs. ¬† From where they are seated, ¬†another peep-hole is used to check if the same guests are “worthy” to enter through the Main Door and into the sala or living room of the Mansion. My “elves” love this trivia about lifestyles and practices back then.

As “worthy guests”, we were first shown the most precious antique piece in the house. A Ming Dynasty vase made of silver graced a round table in the anteroom. ¬†Its ‘twin vase’ graces another round table inside the living room, but its beauty and importance is overshadowed by a painting of the lady of the house, resplendent in her pink gown. This lady is Vicky, the daughter of former president Elpidio Quirino, a widower when he assumed the presidency of the republic. ¬†His daughter is thus the youngest ever First Lady of the country. In fact, the only teenage First Lady I know. She is also the only First Lady who got married. ¬†Not being a Presidential Spouse, Vicky married Luis Gonzales of Pangasinan when she turned 19, with whom she had 3 daughters and 1 son, Louie, whom many know as the man who married Kuh Ledesma. ¬†Luis died and left Vicky a widow in 1984. ¬†Vicky then remarried a man by the name of Don Paco Delgado, a shipping magnate. ¬†This marriage was marred by tragedy and a lot of controversies which haunt the descendants to this day. ¬†But that’s another story, isn’t it?¬†

Glibly referred to as the Quirino Mansion, this heritage house was actually inherited by the wife of Elpidio Quirino, the very first Ilocano President.  From the Chinese family of Sy Kia,  the house was passed on to Dona Alicia, who unfortunately died during the Second World War , along with 3 of their 5 children, while fleeing their home. This widower was subsequently sworn in as the 6th President 2 days after then President Manuel Roxas died in 1948. 

This is the corridor where household staff pass......

Rusty informed us that the Mansion belongs to no single person, but instead to all the surviving heirs of the Quirino clan. While not one of the heirs live here, ¬†Rusty claims there are enough affairs held here to keep them all busy. ¬†No wonder the Mansion has a more “modern” and functioning kitchen that looks out to a patio and a fountain. ¬†I can just imagine the parties held here. ¬†I just wonder if any of the guests stay behind to spend a night or two here. ¬†Surely, the big beds in the bedrooms can accommodate them. ūüôā





An hour or so away by plane, all of 8 to 9 hours travel by road. Take your pick.

Fort Ilocandia

Fountain Inside Fort Ilocandia

We chose to fly, then rent a car from our base which is Fort Ilocandia Hotel and Resort.¬† The hotel is a good base for many day trips to various parts of the Ilocos Region.¬† Top of the list is a visit to Vigan, the only surviving colonial town in the country.¬† Declared a UNESCO Heritage Site,¬† it is a must see for all visitors who want to catch a glimpse of how it was in the 18th and early 19th century.¬† Time stood still in this part of Northern Philippines.¬† It helped too that Vigan , unlike Cebu and Manila,¬† was spared of the bombing last World War II.¬† Do not forget that Manila is the second most bombed city during that war. By God’s mercy,¬† Vigan survived and preserved¬† its antiquated houses, cobbled pathways, even the calesas or horse-drawn carts. The township with all its narrow streets speak of an architecture which blends Spanish, Asian and Mexican influences. At the time, it was called Ciudad Fernandina before it became Vigan which comes from the word “kabiga-an” where a tuberous plant called “biga” abounds. Then famous as a commercial and trading post,¬† it attracted Chinese junks sailing from the South China Sea. Some of these Chinese seafarers married natives and settled in Vigan. This was long before King Philip II of Spain sent Captain Juan de Salcedo who then “founded” the town in 1572 and called it Ciudad Fernandina in honor of the King’s son Ferdinand who died at an early age. Since then,¬† Augustinian missionaries visited Vigan and the rest of Ilocos Region and initiated the evangelization of the area. Many churches and monuments still stand today , spared from the bombings of World War II.

Paoay Church

Paoay Church Sideview

Paoay Church,  A Very Spanish Legacy

Back in Laoag, Ilocos Norte,¬† we spent the next day visiting Paoay Church, another UNESCO Heritage Site.¬† I have not seen a church compound anywhere in the Philippines as grand as this one.¬† Paoay Church stands proud. It is by no means as grand as the churches you’d find in Europe, but the colonial heritage and the Spanish legacy give it its well-deserved grandeur.¬† Built of bricks and coral blocks, the architecture combines Gothic, Baroque and Oriental. Built over a period of nearly 200 years, the church belltower is a fitting reminder of the Christianization of the Philippines as well as its role in the Philippine Revolution when it was used as an observation post by the local rebels called Katipuneros. Another church , the St. William’s Church, was built by the Augustinian frailes or priests in 1612 in the Italian Renaissance design. Right next to it is the Sinking Belltower leaning slightly to the North.¬† This is our local though much scaled-down version of the Pisa tower. A 3rd church we visited was Sta. Monica Church , a century old church of¬† neo-classical and baroque architecture.


Sinking Bell Tower

Ferdinand Marcos Hails from Ilocos

Of more recent history is the fact that ex-President and strongman Ferdinand Marcos hails from Batac, not too far from Laoag. The ancestral house of the Marcoses is now the Marcos Museum and Mausoleoum where the late President’s body lies like a wax statue. During his 20 year reign,¬† Marcos built a Malacanang of the North (Malacanang in Manila is the official residence of the President, much like the White House in Washington DC).¬† The mansion is an expression of opulence and overlooks the lovely Paoay Lake. Now a museum,¬† visitors can tour the mansion for a minimal fee.

Bangui Windmills

Bantay Belfry, Ilocos Sur

These days, the Ilocos Region is still considered Marcos land despite the fact that the dictator has passed on many years ago.  His only son, Ferdinand Junior,  Bongbong to most, is the current congressman representing the Ilocos Region. Bongbong earlier served as governor of the province, during which time the Bangui Windmills were established.  This wind farm lies nearly next to Pagudpud and now has 15 wind turbines. It has since attracted many visitors to the area just to view the 70 meters tall wind turbines. And not too far from here is the Cape Bojeador , a lighthouse built in 1892 north of Laoag City. It is the highest, and I think the oldest, lighthouse in the country.

Vigan's Heritage Site

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse

Many Ilocanos to this day idolize the late President Marcos.  Without dwelling on politics,  I will venture to suggest that the more prominent and admirable Ilocanos should be Juan Luna ,  Diego Silang and his equally brave widow, Gabriela.  All three are martyrs and heroes of the land.  They have done far more for our country than any other Ilocano. That said,  let me invite everyone to visit our land!



More photos can be viewed in my TravelBlog site.