Viva Ilocandia: A Time Traveler In Vigan
Itching to do more in the historic city of Vigan?
Here are a few ideas as to how you can spend your holiday there:
Shopping In Vigan
Calle Crisologo is not just a great place for sightseeing and cultural immersion—it’s also a fantastic retail therapy haven. If you are looking for unique native items to bring home to your friends and family, this is the best place to shop in Vigan.
Some of the most popular merchandise include woodcraft, bags made from mother-of-pearl, paintings, lampshades, flavored or traditional basi (Ilocano rice wine), fans and hats, rattan handicrafts and many more.
A word to the wise: Holiday makers should be cautious about snapping up so-called antique furniture at bargain prices.
Most of the items being sold today are mere reproductions, if you are unsure as to the pedigree of a piece, don’t buy it yet. Consult someone you know who’s experienced at spotting the original from the reproductions.
The Ilocanos are well-known all over the Philippines for their healthy, high-fiber diet, but you’ll surely find something that will make your moth water. Try the Vigan empanada (pastry filled with meat, carrots, green peas and raisins) sold in the stalls near the church plaza and a few blocks away from Calle Crisologo. Every empanada is deep-fried and cooked until golden-brown and crispy.
Speaking of crispy, crunchy things, you can also buy a packet of Vigan bagnet. This is the Ilocano version of the world-famous lechon baboy, or whole pig roasted over a pit. After cooking the pig over hot coals, it is cut up into fist-sized chunks and deep-fried to lock in the flavor. Bagnet is best paired with slightly spicy vinegar dipping.
Other food items you may want to try or bring home with you include chichacorn (fried corn kernels), chicharon (fried pork rind), Vigan longganisa (native pork sausage).
If you’re tired of going around and checking out this or that attraction, you can take a seat in front of the potter’s wheel and literally try your hand at this native craft. Earthenware jars made in Vigan are much sought-after by locals and foreigners alike because of their beauty and durability.
The making of Vigan burnay jars dates back to pre-colonial times, when Chinese immigrants first arrived on the western shores and settled in the town.
Today, burnay jars are mostly devoted to decorative purposes in and around the home. You can also buy a couple of miniature jars as souvenir.
If you have never dabbled in pottery-making before, you are in for a wonderful surprise.
Fashioning a perfectly shaped and stable earthenware jar from clumps of clay is a difficult job. You start with a big clump of wet clay in the middle of the potter’s wheel, and then you push the foot pedal to make it go round as you use your hands to shape and pat the clay into submission.
If you do it too slowly, the clay dries up and you need to add water to the mixture. However, too much water may make the jar brittle and prone to cracking. Only those who are skilled at pottery-making can produce strong and beautiful earthenware jars.
A Visit To Baluarte Zoo
Just because you’re smack dab in the middle of the oldest Spanish colonial town in the Philippines doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a bit of nature. Baluarte (translated as fortress in English) is a private resort complex cum mini zoo that features the animal collections of Chavit Singson, one of the most powerful and wealthiest politicians in Ilocos.
Baluarte Zoo is Open everyday from 7am to 6pm. Entrance and rides are free.
For a private collection, Baluarte’s array of animals is quite impressive and well-maintained. You can get up close and personal with monkeys, swans, flamingos, ostriches, one-humped camels, and deer. You can ride a carretela drawn by miniature ponies as you explore the area.
You can even feed some of the animals with long stalks of grass and watch them from a distance of less than two feet as they reach over the fence and munch their treat.
There are also caged displays where live lions, peacocks, Bengal tigers, civet cats, iguanas and pythons lie around all day. Finally, you can swing by the butterfly farm, horse riding track and shooting range to round up your tour of the area on your Philippine holiday.