Monday, July 28, 2014

A City Frozen in Time

It is an irony that though I am a self confessed culture junkie myself, I have never been to many cultural places. So, when this summer road trip came, I took the liberty to witness at large the heritage treasures of our country that I have always wanted to visit.

We reached the world famous Spanish colonial town of Vigan on the third day of our road trip to the north. Vigan City was such a welcome twist from the nature adventure we had in Baguio City after five hours of butt burning travel.

Vigan was the seat of politics, religion, culture, economy and education in the north during the Spanish colonial times. As we entered the town, I felt I was transported back to the past with its cobbled stone streets, crumbling pillars side by side, and imposing house architectures. We were toured by a horse drawn carriage and everything just felt nostalgic.

We saw old houses, many of which were converted into hotels, restaurants, botiques and shops. The city government though has taken care of these treasures. According to a resident whom we had a small talk, any house repair by the owner has to secure permit and acquire design from the city. Thanks heavens for this kind of preservation efforts.

And although there are a number of modern Spanish inspired buildings around Vigan notably the fastfood chains like Jollibee, Chowking and McDonalds, there are a good number of authentic Spanish era houses dotting all over the city. The best preserved ones are those that are located in Calle Crisologo, a seemingly time frozen section of the city that tourists should never miss.

Aside from Calle Crisologo, another corner any visitor should never miss is the pueblo, a plan itself so characteristic of Spanish towns of the olden times. It is where the public plaza, the city hall, and the central church could be found. Until this day, this planning can be attested exceptionally conserved in this old city.

Well loved cultural and educational destinations in the city also include museums. The house of Father Jose Burgos, one of the three priest martyrs, and the mansions of famous illustrado families of Syquia and Quirino were converted into museums. It was only unfortunate for us to visit them late in the afternoon and they were closed for public.

We stopped a while at Bantay Church, another well preserved religious structure. At first I thought it was only a reconstruction of an original old church because its facade looked very intact, but viewing its colossal pillars I confirmed it was authentic. Beside the church, the iconic century old bell tower located on top of the hill is a must view.

It was dark when we went back to the downtown. What made Plaza Salcedo buzzing was the multitude of spectators and alike waiting for the spectacular dancing fountain show which I can only describe as world class.

Having toured the entire heritage city, I realized that its real charm is more than its material culture, but the tenacity of its people to safeguard a historical treasure that remains remarkably well preserved amidst the challenge of time.

Strange realization but that was how it felt Vigan for the first time, and I vowed it will not certainly be the last.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Exploring Up, Up North

Okay, back to the abbreviated travelogue I promised to spin before I took another unexplained hiatus from this blog.

Aside from travel account, I should be writing an obituary for my feet after a day of walkathon with my buddies. On our second day of summer vacation, we headed up north for an exquisite cultural and history trip this time.

Batac in Ilocos Norte is a lesser known spot for tourists. But after visiting this thriving city, I would say that it was worth the trip. 

We spent lunch at Jollibee. We walked across Marcos Museum which is just a stone's throw from the fast food chain. The museum is more likely of a gallery filled with framed clippings about the late dictator president Ferdinand E. Marcos.

We walked further to the Marcos estate which consisted of their ancestral house and the mausoleum of the late president. What was intriguing were the swollen veins, as if live, in the hands of the late president. Too bad picture taking inside the dark mausoleum was strictly prohibited.

From the ancestral estate, a view of the imposing facade of a century old church looms over. It is beautiful but I think it has been reconstructed many times that it is not as quaint looking as those other Spanish churches.

We then side tripped to Paoay, a fifteen minute ride by a tricycle. It was a beautiful small town. Located at its heart was the grandeur of the century old Paoay Church, enlisted as one of the few UNESCO world heritage sites.

From our nature trip in the summer capital, it was really a three hundred sixty degree turn going further north to Batac and Paoay in Ilocos Norte. If I have a regret, it was that we had no enough time to linger more.