Friday, December 12, 2014


A tourist who toured Vigan and was not able to visit Baluaarte has not actually gone to Vigan City for reason of trip incompleteness. Besides, this attraction is just a 10-minute drive away from the city’s center. This vast 20-hectare property turned into a zoological park is owned by former Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson located in Barangay Salindeg of Vigan City. It has his monumental mansion with resort complex lying in hectares of land that stretches from the rolling plain towards the hills. On top of his mansion is a rewarding view of Vigan City and the tranquil South China Sea. Most of the animals housed in this zoo are imported from the Middle East, Africa and in some parts of Asia. It offers a free pony ride drawn in a carriage.

The vast acres of Baluarte Zoological Park

Aside from sprawling zoological park setting, most of its part have landscaped garden complete with nature pools. Visiting the place is quite engaging as there are a lot of attractions to make all guests busy like experiencing the butterfly farm like a butterfly aviary, a skeet shooting range, feeding animals like flamingos, Albino Burmese python (Scientific name: Python molorus bivittatus), monkeys, swans, ostriches, spotted deer and the one-hump camel where I found it very tamable. These animals are fenced only.

The butterfly garden contains thousands of kinds of butterflies which according to the assisting staff, are endemic to the Philippines.

Free pony ride at Baluarte Zoological Park

Like Manila Zoo, we also saw caged animals like Indian rock python (Scientific name: Geochelone elegans), Indian Star tortoise (Scientific name: Python molorus), reptiles, birds, green iguanas (Scientific name: Iguana iguana), palm civet cats (Scientific name: Paradoxurus hermaphrodites), peacocks, lions, Bengal tigers and the Philippine cloud rat which is endemic to the Philippine Cordillera region.

One of the one-hump camels in Baluarte

I remember when I had a Safari Tour in Bangkok, where the park personnel would normally have scheduled show when to introduce the animals to the guests which we experienced also in Baluarte.

Taming a one-hump camel

Near the entrance, I saw parrots, Nicobar pigeon (Scientific name: Caloenas nicobarica) and Luzon hornbill (Scientific name: Penelopides manillae) where guests can have a closer look and take pictures with. What screwed my attention was when I heard a voice saying “Pangit ka! Pangit Ka!” where when I turned my head, I was amused to find out that it was a parrot saying those words which means in English, “You are ugly! You are ugly!”

For Catholic guests, this tourist spot has a pink chapel and another added attraction is a lighthouse. Indeed, visiting this park will give a guest a complete experience.

Touring around the park through free pony ride

Guests are assured of signs posted at some points of the park that all these amenities are for free as long as Mr. Chavit Singzon can afford its maintenance. As a form of help from the tourists, they buy pet food sold inside the park. With this, the guests are helping to maintain the park for its operation.

Enjoying the cool park amenities


Take a bus from Manila via Partas, Dominion, Philippine Rabbit by 9 – 10 hours to Vigan City for a distance of 404 kilometers and another 10 minutes drive from the heart of Vigan City to Baluarte. Partas Transportation Company offers the best and comfortable ride with its air-conditioned buses equipped with only three seats across and have better reclining positions. You may check this link for Partas bus operation schedule

Alternatively, through by air which is flying from Manila to Laoag International Airport for three times a week for 70 minutes either by Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines. Laoag City is 2 and a half hours or 82 kilometers away from Vigan City.


The famous Bantay Church in the Municipality of Bantay is actually the Saint Augustine Parish Church which is a part of Ilocos Sur province. This church is also known as the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity or Nuestra Señora de La Caridad housing the miraculous image of Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Charity who is crowned as the patroness of Ilocandia on January 12, 1956. The church was named after its patron saint, St. Augustine of Hippo.

The historical Bantay Church Belfry

During my visit, I was more stunned with its belfry which is approximately 100 meters away from the church, a belfry-church main structure distance, almost the same with the Saint William Cathedral of Laoag City. Dating back on its history, this church’s belfry known as the Bantay Tower during the Spanish colonial era, has served as a watchtower for invading pirates who usually attack the town. It was established in 1590 for that purpose making it one of the oldest in the Ilocos Region.

Climbing through the concrete stairs of Bantay Bell Tower

Our group found it very inviting to climb the tower and accompanied by our guide, we did it. We encountered no problem till we reached its second level. However, going up to the third level may require guts since even if the wooden stairs are new, there was the rickety sound that we heard and the tall, open windows may trigger vertigo among the faint-hearted. In our group of 15, only three of us, boys dared to make it to highest level. And alas!!!! The bell tower really provided us the best overlooking scenery of the houses and town cemetery below, the underlying hills within the horizon and the mountains on the side of Abra.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Charity and the Bell Tower at the background

In addition, our guide, told us that the church bell tower did not undergo any renovation except for the repair of the stairs inside the tower. Its original building construction materials are still intact consisting of bricks, rocks, and a mixture of seashells and sugar cane where the guide called it as “apog”. Furthermore, the guide also said that the Ilocano word “bantay” means “mountain” and “guard” as the tower was built on the highest point of the town.

Bantay Bell Tower (Left) and the facade of Saint Augustine Parish Church (Right)

It is highly recommended to visit this spot late in the afternoon as photographers can get the best postcard perfect picture since the blue sky can serve as the backdrop of the tower.

The altar of Saint Augustine Parish Church

How far is Bantay from Vigan City? The answer would vary from which route you will choose coming from Vigan. If you had it Vigan City via Quirino Boulevard, it is just 2.4 kilometers for 3 minutes only. If you opt to take Vigan City via Quezon Avenue, then it would be 2.1 kilometers for 4 minutes drive and via Rizal Avenue, the same distance of 2.1 kilometers for 4 minutes drive also.

Saturday, November 29, 2014


The Crisologo Memorabilla Museum is a tangible proof that once, the Crisologos has established the most prominent political dynasty in Vigan. To continuously remind the glory once they had, they have converted their ancestral home into this strangely compelling family shrine which is located along Liberation Boulevard in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur.

Photographs depicting the life of the prominent Crisologos

Bingbong Crisologo’s parents were portrayed in the name of Floro Crisologo, his father and Governor Carmeling Crisologo, her mother, to have been famous politicians and his father was assassinated while his mother had successfully survived her separate assassination.

The master's bedroom of the Crisologos

The antiquated king size bed in the master's bedroom was stunning and displays an utmost elegance. Other furniture and fixtures of this ancestral house are simply elegant.

The long dining table

I find to see the very long antiquated dining table interesting and the age-old like-latrine toilet in the second floor but the feces would go down from the feasting pigs in the ground.

The dining table of the servants

The dining table of the servants is a proof that once social class was strongly observed most particularly with the rich families

The kitchen or what they call it "la cocina" during the colonial times

The museum charges no entrance fee except if you like to give donation for its maintenance. It is open to public for viewing from 8:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. from Monday to Sunday and even during holidays, though they observe a lunch break. Guests can be greeted upon entry in the museum but there is no guide to show you around. You will be left with your own devices and be guided only with labels of every item displayed. But the big prints of labels attached to items displayed are quite annoying.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


Padre Jose Burgos National Museum located in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur, was once the ancestral house of Father Jose Burgos who was one of the three martyr priests known as GOMBURZA executed by the Spanish in 1872. It was built in 1788 and owned by his grandparents Don Juan Gonzales and Dona Florentina Gascon. The local government of Vigan has funded the museum to maintain its 19th century interior and its well-preserved kitchen.

A musical instrument housed in the museum

This museum houses an extensive collection of Ilocano artifacts, including a series of 14 paintings by the locally famed painter Don Esteban Villanueva depicting the 1807 Basi Revolt. Some other displays that can be found here are the weavings, Tingguian (Itneg) jewellery, musical instruments, pottery, photos of Easter processions and elaborate furniture and fixtures.

The facade of the museum

The original materials of the roof were made of clay tiles. But today, it has been replaced with corrugated galvanized iron sheets except in the kitchen where the clay roof is still well-preserved. The indigenous window system is made of several layers of sliding window panels. Suffused lights enter the spacious room through the capiz incorporated at the wood frame panels. The ventanillas are shielded by finely crafted wooden balusters. The diamond patterned persianas allow the breeze to flow into the interior of the house and at the same time shut out the brilliant sun.

The well-crafted bed

Indeed, the museum really showcases the rich culture of what life was then through its furnishings: from its hallway, spacious living room, well-crafted beds with canopies, musical instruments, bags, farming tools, kitchen and its wares and equipments, dining area for the mighty owner and the servants, veranda and azotea, the model of Pechili Trading Junk or the Chinese Shantung Junk – like a galleon used for fishing and trading and some diorama picturing the historical events related to some heroic scenarios of some Ilocano heroes, namely: the execution of the Fathers Burgos, Gomez and Zamora in 1872; the Battle of the Tirad Pass and a few others.

The dining room

For visiting tourists, the museum is open from Monday to Friday and by appointment on weekends and holidays. Museum hours are 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. then 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Admission fee is P20.00 for adult and P10.00 for 12 years old and below.

The model of Pechili Trading Junk or the Chinese Shantung Junk – like a galleon used for fishing and trading

Monday, November 24, 2014


The Calesa Parking Lot beside Vigan Cathedral

Established towns during the Spanish period in the Philippines followed the same architectural pattern where the church is the center of the town and fronting the church is a plaza. Other structures like the church convent, the municipal hall, parochial school, the market and other public domain structures are just within this vicinity and the residential houses are already on its periphery. Vigan City is one type of town that followed this design.

Vigan Cathedral and its bell tower

The Church and its fastfood vicinity

Part of the Plaza Burgos

Thus, Vigan Cathedral even at present still remains the center of activities of the city. Fronting the cathedral are fastfood outlets like Jollibee and McDonalds bearing fancy and dramatic architectural design. The right side of the cathedral is the queue of “calesas” waiting for tourists for an exhilarating ride in the city.

Just after a sumptuous lunch at Cafe Leona

Tourists are delighted with an array of delectable local cuisine that you will find in the city. In fact, you will not only feast on the attractions that you will see around but also with the fine and dining restaurants as well.

Cafe Leona's Signage

Our group had tried to dine at Café Leona for our sumptuous lunch. We gave the restaurant an overall rating of excellent to include the service, the ambiance, the facility not to mention their highly appetizing gourmet served. It was like a party where there is no tomorrow.

Daddy Jay and Mommy Josie savoring yummy empanada

For our snacks, we tried Vigan’s pride, the empanada in Irene’s Empanada just within the vicinity of the Heritage in which this empanada is emphasized to be the celebration of the Ilocos Sur cuisine.

The historic Plaza Salcedo

Plaza Salcedo is fronting the Vigan Cathedral and on other sides are the City Hall, Jose Burgos Museum and the prominent structure of McDonald and Jollibee.

A lavish dinner at Uno Grill of Grandpa's Inn

Dinner was even great as we dine in at the Uno Grill of Grandpa’s Inn. It was like a big feast where we brought the house down with scrumptious seafoods, We really savored charcoal grilled specialties of fish, seafood and vegetables though they also have grilled pork, chicken and beef. Indeed, that dinner of ours can be considered as real gastronomical treat for all of us. The ambiance was great as it is housed in an original brick wall with a relaxing atmosphere in a garden setting with so many ornamental plants planted in terra cotta jars (burnay).


Vigan City of Ilocos Sur is famous for its Heritage Village, a UNESCO Heritage site. However, tourists who visited Vigan also came to know that the place has high quality jars produced from their pot making industry that dates back to pre-colonial times when Chinese traders who opted to settle in Vigan introduced this craft.

The making of a pot photo courtesy by Leah De Leon in this link .

Tourists who wanted to see this craft can visit Brgy. Pagburnayan of Vigan. Thus, pot making here is called Pagburnayan where the word “burnay” to the locals, is an unglazed earthen jar with small opening. I can still remember when I was still a child since I grew up in Calbayong City of Samar when we used to have a jar to store drinking water and it is quite cold when you drink it even without putting some ice on it. Waraynons call it “bisô” for drinking water storage while the “tadiao” is the bigger one usually a water storage in “pantao/pantaw” or bath room.

Jars for Sale photo courtesy by Leah De Leon

These jars actually vary in sizes. Smaller ones can be used to store brown sugar, bagoong (fermented fish) or “dayok” in Waray, salt, tea drinking and local wine (basi). For the locals, burnay jars are also used in the fermentation of vinegar that comes from the sweet sap of the Arenga Pinnata, a sugar palm tree also known as “kaong.”

I did not visit this attraction in my last three visits to Vigan but I visited it the first time I was here. Unfortunately, by that time, digicam was not yet in use and thus the hard copies of pictures I kept were destroyed by Typhoon Ondoy. For purposes again of providing a one-stop convenience for my blog readers, I included this in my post.

Friday, November 21, 2014


Vigan City is indeed a pride of the Philippines as it was hailed as one of the New 7 Wonder Cities of the World with awarding ceremony held in Dubai on December 8, 2014 organized by the 7 Wonders International Organization where Vigan City was among the 1,200 cities from 220 countries nominees when the global search began in 2012. (Updated as of December 8, 2014)

The trip started with a Partas bus overnight trip boarding from its Aurora Boulevard Bus terminal at 9:00 P.M. It was an 8-hour trip arriving Vigan City at 5:00 A.M. the following day and we checked in right away at Green R Hotel located along Alcantara Street of Vigan City, Ilocos Sur. This was actually my fourth time to be in Vigan City.

Vigan Heritage Village: A UNESCO Heritage Site

Whenever I visit Vigan, its Heritage Village is always the first that I would visit. This place is considered as the best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia which was included on the World Heritage List commemorating its cultural significance in November 1999.

Green R Hotel: An affordable accommodation in Vigan

Records revealed that this village was established in the 16th century when trade and community activity started to flourish along the Mestizo River, lasting up to the 19th century. The name “Vigan” was derived from a giant taro plant “biga” that grew abundantly along the riverbanks.

Wood carvings and crafts for sale

Looking at these old houses, you will see that they are made of adobe, pebbles, brick and posts. But these materials were not from the Philippines since they were brought from Europe through the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade. On the other hand, the construction works of these houses were done by Chinese laborers which is evident on their architectural design that reflects a unique fusion of Spanish European and Chinese culture.

Getting intimate with a horse of a calesa at rest

Strolling around the village, you will notice the cobble-stoned streets frequented by calesas or caruwaje carrying the mesmerized and excited tourists.

Calesa, by the way, is a ride pulled by a horse which is an alternative transport along the heritage and any part of Vigan City, During the Spanish era, calesa, is a ride used by common people while the Illustrados would normally have their prestigious “Caruwaje” A caruwaje is well-decorated also pulled by a horse normally with curtains, too.

Apparels, accessories and crafts for sale

Of course, it is really exciting to ride in a calesa. But walking through cobble-stoned streets of the village, will give one the opportunity to experience the place at its best getting all the details of the glorious past.

A furniture for sale

This village is indeed a proof that once for 333 years, our country has been colonized by the Spaniards and this is somewhat a remnant and legacy that the Spaniards left us from their glorious past in the Philippines.

Tourism industry in Vigan is so vibrant and they capitalized much on the rich historical value of the Heritage Village by housing souvenir shops and cafes. The shops sell Ilocos’ elegant and fancy ornaments which are beyond perfection in appearance.

While on souvenir shops hopping

Delicious and delectable local cuisine and delicacies and antique furniture and fixture are also being sold within the area.

Our group also tried to eat Vigan’s pride – the empanada in Irene’s Empanada just within the vicinity of the Heritage in which this empanada is emphasized to be the celebration of the Ilocos Sur cuisine.

Nightlife in Heritage Village

One may also consider to visit Heritage Village in the evening to witness its truly stunning ambiance most particularly to honeymooners where they would find this place to be truly romantic.

The Vigan Heritage Village also has some modern additional buildings. But despite the modernization of these establishments, their architecture is still correlated to how the Spanish constructed the houses centuries ago. Fastfood restaurants such as McDonald’s can be seen in this place and you’ll be amazed that they are constructed just like the Spanish houses.


Take a bus from Manila via Partas, Dominion, Philippine Rabbit by 9 – 10 hours to Vigan City for a distance of 404 kilometers and another 10 minutes drive from the heart of Vigan City to Baluarte. Partas Transportation Company offers the best and comfortable ride with its air-conditioned buses equipped with only three seats across and have better reclining positions. You may check this link for Partas bus operation schedule

Alternatively, through by air which is flying from Manila to Laoag International Airport for three times a week for 70 minutes either by Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines. Laoag City is 2 and a half hours or 82 kilometers away from Vigan City.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


When we hear the word “Pagudpud,” we always associate it with those white beaches of Ilocos Norte dubbed as the "Boracay of North," not knowing that Pagudpud is a fourth class municipality and a coastal resort town of Ilocos Norte province, in the northern Ilocos Region of the Philippines, a part of Luzon mainland with a total land area of 194.90 km2 (75.25 sq mi) consisting of 16 barangays. It has previously been a part of its neighboring town of Bangui.

Saud long stretch of white beach

Maira-ira Beach is the northernmost tip of Luzon Island located 18°39′4.44″N 120°50′46.68″E. There are no ATM"s in Pagudpud. The nearest ATM is in Pasuquin which is about 1 and 1/2 hours from Pagudpud. Since Pagudpud is blessed with white sand beaches, then tourism is partly a significant part of its growing economy.

The Blue Lagoon Beach of Maira-ira photo courtesty by Beach Resort Philippine website

So, it is safer to say that most of the long stretch of white beach of Pagudpud is in Saud where it is called a Municipal Beach Park and other coastal barangays of the municipality. Saud is actually one of the 16 barangays of Pagudpud. And along Saud are a number of resorts like Polaris Beach House, Terra Rika Beach and Dive Resort, Saud Beach Resort and Hotel, Evangeline Beach Resort and many others. If you want to stay for an overnight or longer in the pristine beaches of Pagudpud, you may choose an array of accommodations in this link or simply have this link for reservation.

While enjoying my moment at Saud Beach Resort

Comparing the beaches of Pagudpud, it is not as white and fine as the sand of Boracay but it offers almost the same excitement for beach lovers.

A closer glimpse of the white sand of Saud Beach

One should also know that Pagudpud has a water falls in the name of Kabigan Falls located in Barangay Pancian where this one can be trekked for a maximum of 40 minutes to reach the spot through a very easy trail. The falls itself has a strong current and is spectacularly beautiful at dusk. I have not visited this place but my acquaintances in Saud Beach who visited the place highly recommended this one to us. They even told us that a one day tour around Pagudpud is not enough. Mabaga Water Falls and Bantay Abot Cave had been also recommended to us as must-see destinations.

Kabigan Falls photo courtesy by Arianne and Ahrel Goes Blogging

Apart from Saud Beach is the Blue Lagoon or the Maira-ira Beach. It is where the Hannah’s Beach Resort and Convention Center is located in Barangay Balaoi. On June 27, 2013, Hannah’s Beach Resort and Convention Center was also awarded by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources—Region I with the most-coveted and prestigious title of “The Most Outstanding Individual Initiative on Environment Management.”

Hannah's Beach Resort and Convention Center photo courtesy by Filipino Times News


A refreshing stop at Patapat Viaduct

The Patapat Viaduct of Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte is a 1.3 km elevated concrete coastal bridge highway by 31 meters above sea level constructed along winding mountainside in the northernmost section of Ilocos Norte. As per record, it is the 4th longest bridge in the Philippines where the longest is the 2.2 km San Juanico Bridge which connects Leyte to Samar. It is 16 kilometers away from Pagudpud town proper. If you happen to be here at Patapat Viaduct, then, you should not miss to experience Saud beaches.

This picture is through the courtesy of Pueblo Philippines

This highway is footed on the rock seashore just several meters along the picturesque mountainsides which gives motorists a spectacular view of the Pasaleng Bay. Its construction has solved the problem of landslides in the area which before was a peril to the motorists.

A photo taken at Patapat Viaduct on October 3, 2003

I still remember that wayback on October 3, 2003 when I rode in a commercial bus heading to Aparri, I asked the bus driver and the passengers that I be allowed to have a picture along the Patapat Viaduct where they all gave me a resounding “Yes” since I was only traveling that time alone. The bus conductor was the one who took the picture. This was the time after I just had my Batanes Trip and heading for Aparri heading for my Camiguin de Babuyanes Trip.

In my recent trip, we drove along this impressive in order for us to reach Saud Beach of Pagudpud, dubbed as the Boracay of the North. Prior to this, we spent the whole morning touring at Cape Bojeador Lighthouse and Bangui Windmills. We settled in Saud Beach for a refreshing beach swim.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Coming from Paoay Church, we drove to the Marcos Mansion and Maoseleum in Batac City. We arrived there passed 4:00 P.M. and it was closed already. Fortunately, the caretaker, without us, asking on it, reopened the gate of the maoseleum and others who were waiting outside joined us inside.

The main door leading to the Maoseleum

The maoseleum is well-maintained, carpeted and airconditioned. Lights are colored violet and one may have that feeling that the room is really creepy with a background music very appropriately for the dead. Being alone inside would send one a spine-chilling feeling. Taking pictures inside the maoseleum is prohibited but the adjacent Marcos Mansion is equipped with the various old Marcos memorabilia.

Marcos portrait outside the Maoseleum

Personally, I am not a Marcos loyalist, but I give high regard to him since he is really a great person and he deserves respect like any other great men who died. With all those accomplishments, the more I respected and admired him. Whether we like it or not, he is not an ordinary person, politics aside.

Marcos' Office inside the Marcos Mansion