Vigan is best very early in the mornings, when apart from makeshift hawker stalls on the side of the plaza, the city is still asleep.
We reached Vigan just after daybreak, when dewdrops still blanketed the surface of what seemed like a time warp from a century ago. But all introspection had to wait; our stomachs were grumbling and needed more than the nourishment the potato chips and energy drinks we packed for the road provided.
LONGGANISA AND SINANGLAW
Despite a McDonald’s outlet flashing against the heritage building it ironically housed itself in, we were more in the mood for genuine Ilocano cuisine. How can one get any more genuine than a hawker stall, really? So off to the hawker stall on the shoulder of Padre Burgos Plaza we went.
Right off the bat, we knew we could not let a plate of the famous Vigan longanissa pass us by, so we got that. But on a cold morning, we also needed the warmth only a bowl of sinanglaw, in all its unhealthy glory could provide. That breakfast, served in neon-colored plastic plates with hot water-dipped tin cutlery, was the best guilty pleasure we’ve indulge in, in many years.
Soon after breakfast, we were joined by fellow travel blogger and RakistangNars, Edmar, who very kindly showed us around his hometown.
After walking along Calle Crisologo and the heritage block, we decided to see the rest of the city on a kalesa. It has become a bit of a habit for me and my husband, to do touristy activities that directly benefited locals. Doing such has become our way of showing gratitude to the communities who welcomed travelers like us in their lair.
The ride cost us PHP 150 ($3) per hour, which was enough to take us around Calle Crisologo, the Bantay Bell Tower (of the Panday saga fame), Vigan Cathedral, P. Burgos Museum and Chavit Singson’s Baluarte.
During the kalesa ride, Edmar did not only stand as broker-slash-interpreter between us and the kalesa driver, he also gave us a running commentary free of charge. Understand that this was Edmar Guquib: arguably, one of the most positively influential modern-day personalities to ever come out of Ilocos.
YELLOW SUBMARINE ET AL
Tourists have began to litter around by the time we got to the kalesa route stops. Save for mandatory landmark photos, we went through places really fast and skipped through long queues of people in the museums. We weren’t really indoors-y like that.
Disapproval of anything that is showcased artificially has been a personal preference of mine that has rubbed off on the husband overtime. We appreciate how history is told through artefacts, but it is not something that we are particularly fans of.
Same was the case when we reached Baluarte, a free-for-all zoo-cum-museum; Chavit Singson’s gift to the people. We have very little respect for people who have bettered their livelihood through politics, but that is another story.
Anyway, we watched in silence as people flocked through the mini-wonderland that featured, amongst others, the Singsons’ controversial yellow submarine. On a distance, his tower of power watched over a kingdom that was clandestinely, undeniably his.
BAGNET AND THE ILOCANO GASTRONOMY
To cap off our short foray to the city of Vigan, Edmar led us to one of the side streets, to the quaint Cafe Uno. For only PHP 1800 ($40), our party of six enjoyed generous servings of Ilocano delicacies: Green Mango and Dragon Fruit smoothies, Puqui-puqui, Sinigang, Bagnet, Pinakbet, KBL (Kamatis, Bagoong and Lasuna), Boogie and Ipon.
The Ilocanos tell stories through food— definitely something far more interesting and enjoyable than anything shelved, framed and caged. So if you ever, one day, find your feet on Vigan soil, go food-tripping. There is no better way to know Vigan than through your stomach.
Vigan Day Trip. This post is part of a travel series featuring a six-week journey around my home country.