The heritage city of Vigan in Ilocos Sur has long established itself as one of the tourist draws of Region 1. A visit here is like a glimpse back in time as one walks through well-preserved colonial houses and cobblestone streets. This characteristic alone earned the city a listing under the UNESCO World Heritage Site. But for someone like me, who has been here several times already, I’m always on the lookout for new things to do in the city. Luckily, new establishments and initiatives by the local government have kept things interesting for return visitors.
It’s the 3rd year for Jim Cline’s Photo Tour in the Philippines headed by none other than Karl Grobl himself. I was told that they were quite surprised that the tour filled up unexpectedly. I guess many foreigners are really interested in the Philippines lately. We had a full house this time. A French, an Australian, a few from England and the rest from the USA. Their 2-week journey in the Philippines started the first week of June. I stepped in at the 4th of June to for a 6-day guiding and photography assistance to 10 enthusiastic participants while exploring the historic streets of Ilocos and the breathtaking landscapes of Sagada, Mountain Province.
We all deserved that long rest after that full day of driving from Vigan to Sagada via Besang Pass National Park. The group arrived in Vigan a little past 6pm and stayed at the elegant old-Spanish style accommodation of Hotel Salcedo de Vigan. With enough time to recharge the photo tour group starts to explore what makes Vigan so special. I’ve been to this UNESCO World Heritage City a few times already but I still like it, especially the photo opportunities it offered.
It’s the last day of our stay in the Ilocos region. I know yesterday was a grueling ride from Vigan to Bangui and back despite having the enthusiasm to see all the sites of Ilocos Norte. But it did took a toll on my sister who has a special occasion. She got tired already and she wants to go home. But we have one more stop in Vigan before we check out from our hotel. I’m sure the rest of the family would enjoy a visit to Chavit Singson’s Baluarte Zoo before w hit the road back home.
We arrived at Grandpa’s Inn in the afternoon. We took our time to get acquainted with our rooms and also to ease up from that long drive. I let our driver who also happens to be a friend of mine and fellow mountain climber before take his much deserved rest. He just came from a climbing stint from Bicol and drove all the way to our house to continue up here in Vigan. In the mean time, the family rounded up to prepare for a late afternoon walk at the famed Calle Crisologo.
It’s always a pleasure to go on a road trip up north to the Ilocos. Did I tell you I had my first glimpse of Northern Luzon when I was in grade school on a road trip with mom and dad? Today it’s my elder sister’s treat to take the family on a trip up north when she came back from Canada (sans my other sister from the US). Of course from my side here, I was the one to help on the logistics – where and when to go, where to stay. Uur first stop is Vigan, and looking for a good value place, I found Grandpa’s Inn.
Harry the friendly tiger
A new attraction around the Vigan area in Ilocos Sur is Chavit Singson’s Baluarte. If Ilocos Norte is Marcos territory, Vigan is where the Singson’s rule. The Baluarte is a 20 hectare land with a mini zoo, shooting range, and a chapel. It is also known as Chavit’s Fortress. Access to the mini zoo, where Singson’s numerous pet tigers and other animals are found are free for the public, as he considers this as a gift to the people.
Even if the place is still being developed, the place does look good. Harry, the friendly tiger is found at the entrance. Unfortunately, the handler isn’t around because I’d really want to touch that tiger. Seems like a giant stuff toy. I must warn though that if you are going to bring children, watch them closely as the cages for the wild tigers aren’t safe. The cages are too accessible and a child can easily slip their hands as the bars are too wide apart.