Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Wish Vigan Will Not Be Gone

I always imagine Vigan as a place where I can travel back in time, walking in the middle of moonlit cobbled pavements. Wearing a pink "terno"(a type of Philippine traditional dress) and holding an "abanico"(a handheld fan) on a cozy and starry night while sitting on an old but comfortable bench. The sound of clip-clops of horse drawn carriages going around the plaza echoes on a peaceful night and the quaint bell tower stood silently as if watching all the people roaming around the place. Sighs.

Old but elegant.

Going to Vigan City is just 8 hours away from Manila by land. I know that 8 hours of driving is not just, but I swear you will not get bored with the panoramic view of landscapes, seascapes and places with old structures that you will pass by. The Quirino Bridge is one of the most beautiful bridge in the country and famous for its excellent engineering. The bridge was named after the late President Elpidio Quirino and connects the town of Santa and Bantay, Ilocos Sur and serves as the gateway to Vigan City and all the other historical places in the Ilocos Region.

The town ahead of Vigan is Bantay, it is famous for its bell tower which stands on a hill, the structure was built by the Augustinian Missionaries in 1591. The bell tower is situated in the highest spot in town as watch tower during the Spanish regime which corresponds with the name of the town "Bantay" meaning "guard" in English.

People will probably feel nostalgic the same way like I did upon reaching Vigan City. Vigan by the way is approximately 400 kilometers from Manila, and is located in Ilocos Sur, Philippines. It is the only town in the Philippines with so many preserved historic sites and in this manner Vigan was listed in UNESCO's World Heritage Site. Legend tells that Vigan was saved from destruction by the Japanese forces due to a romantic link between a Japanese officer and a charming lady from the region, and with this...I wish to express my gratitude to that beautiful lady for the heritage that has been preserved and that we as Filipinos have been very proud of. 

Old ancestral houses built under the Spanish era still stands in every streets of Vigan. They were made from bricks, woods and concrete and most of them were owned by the most prominent residents in the city, who still maintains and preserves their legacySome of the houses were only restored back to its original condition, due to fire which broke out during World War II that burned several houses. 

My kind of vacation house.

"Calesas" or horse drawn carriages are still being used as a means of transport in Vigan. It was introduced by the Spaniards to the Philippines in the 18th century which only the nobles and high ranked officials could only afford. The calesa driver called as "cochero" directs the horse to turn right or left. Calesas are usually seen in the streets, which are elaborately adorned with colorful curtains and flowers, giving tourists a joy ride around the city for a small fee. 

The city proper.

Souvenirs shops can be found along the streets, plazas and public market. But the shops on the old alleys were the most frequented by the tourists because of its accessibility and cozy atmosphere. They sell tees with different prints, native hats, bags and other locally made products. Vigan is also famous for its burnay industry. The "burnay" are earthenware jars crafted by a potter’s hands with the aid of a potter’s wheel. It uses fine sand (anay) as a tempering material and fired at a high temperature in a huge brick-and-clay ground kiln that makes it harder and more durable than other terracotta. The local bagoong (salted anchovy), sugarcane vinegar and basi wine would not taste as good if not fermented in stoneware burnay jar for your information.

I have been to Vigan twice and do you know why I keep on returning? It's their specialty dish, Vigan ukoy and empanada! You can find these delicious snacks everywhere in Vigan.  The empanada is similar to taco that is fried to crisp. Rice flour is used for the making the crust or shell and the filling is made up of grated green papaya, mung bean sprouts, egg and the delicious Vigan longganisa (native sausage).  Your craving for empanada and ukoy wouldn't be complete without sukang  Iloko (local special vinegar) with onions, garlic and chili. Yum!

Delicious! I swear!

Time for ukoy...yum again!
On the other hand "ukoy" is another appetizing treat after going around Vigan, and it goes well with empanada. Vigan ukoy is crispy shrimp fritter made up of small shrimps and glutinous rice batter and served in Ilocos cane vinegar with garlic, onion and hot chili. As I am writing this blog my stomach began to grumble, it craves for empanada and ukoy and I must go the kitchen and get something to eat. Well that's all for our Vigan tour, I hope you enjoyed reading and I thank you for your time in following my blogs.

NOTE: Some parts of the blog were taken from the book "Places With A Heart Philippines". And the Vigan City Official Website.