I didn’t get to sleep the night before we depart Negros because I had to finish some deadlines. Our flight to Manila was scheduled at 6:30am. For the first time, I decided to bring my tripod so I could take better photos especially at the different calles (streets) of Vigan, Ilocos Sur (considered as UNESCO World Heritage Site).
I prefer to purchase travel lite tickets because they cost less. I am a budget adventurer, any part of my travel or adventure where I need to spend money I always choose the option that won’t cost me much. So in this trip, aside from the usual backpack, I had a tripod (assuming that I don’t have to pay anything when I have it checked in, you know just like when they ask you not to bring your umbrella in the plane and you can just give it to them for check in but doesn’t have to pay anything). I was disappointed that the teller asked me to pay P440.00 to have it checked in. Ridiculous! I didn’t want to pay any amount for the tripod and I didn’t want to leave it at the airport either, so I looked for someone who had a baggage allowance and hitched my tripod (it took me however a long time to negotiate with the teller since she’s pressing that I should pay for it), in the long run, I managed to overpower her style with my negotiating skills (lucky me! but was I really lucky to have done this negotiation?)
I was hoping to get a sunrise shot while on the plane but 6:30am seems too late and it was raining. But I still managed to capture some yellow orange sky while waiting for the plane. By the way, I would like to mention that my adventure comrades this time were the 2 lovely ladies whose names have the same initials as mine (let us name them: Adventurer1 or A1 (my former coworker) and Adventurer2 or A2 (my friend since grade school) and it’s our first time to have an adventure together. We will be together for 6 days.
When we arrived in NAIA terminal 3, we headed to the restroom and when we were approaching the baggage claim area when the kuya, (an older man) to whom I hitched my tripod, was carrying the tripod and eagerly gave it to me (thanks po, he’s a kind man and he saved me the effort of walking to the baggage area :D) . Walking out of the terminal, a lady who’s standing outside was pointing at me and asking me something and I couldn’t hear her because of the crystal wall, (confused whether she was referring to me or to A1) I continued walking until we met A2, who was waiting outside (she took a different airline and had an earlier flight). I found out, with the help of A2 that the lady is our batchmate in high school. Yes, I know who she is and we actually had a bonding moment last January when she visited Cebu for Sinulog, but I had a hard time recognizing her maybe because she’s a little thinner than the last time I saw her. (hahaha sorry F!)
We headed to the bus station to catch the ride to Vigan. There’s a 9:30am schedule and when I asked the ticket-man what time we will arrive to the destination, he said around 7pm. It’s a weekend and a holiday (All Saints Day) so chances of being caught in heavy traffic were highly probable. We reached Vigan past the hour of 10 in the evening! (aside from the traffic our choice of the bus liner also affected the long ride, I asked the ticket-man how many bus stops during the trip, he answered 2, but it turned out that we kept on stopping to unload and load passengers!) It was the longest bus ride of my life! So we reached the streets of Vigan – a far place from where I live, I was surprised to see someone at Calle Crisologo watching the Halloween street dancing – a classmate in college that I have not seen for years!
We checked in the hotel and leave our backpacks and decided to walk outside until we found a place to eat. We reached Café Leona, I opened the tripod case, eager to use it while there were still performers on the street, but I was shocked to find that the tripod has a different color than my tripod! All the while, I was carrying the tripod of someone else! And the worst part, I couldn’t use it; there’s no part where I can mount my camera! So I guess, I was not that lucky earlier at the check in counter (but blame it too my own stupidity of not checking it while still at the airport!) .
We ordered the native delicacies of Ilocos – pinakbet and longanisa. The longanisa tasted good but I didn’t like their version of pinakbet. Café Leona is a cozy place. If we’re not very tired that night we could have stayed there and drink a bottle of beer or a cup of tea and had some chit chat. Luckily we were tired because this café is not my kind of place to hang out (when I am travelling) – it’s way too expensive for my travel style. We walked through the calle until we reached our hotel. We finally had the time to lay down and rest our tired bodies. We stayed at Cordillera Inn, like the other buildings or establishments in Vigan, the Inn looks ancient.
The next day (the first and official day of our tour), as we walked out of the Inn, there’s a number of calesa lining up waiting for tourists. Calesa is the primary mode of transportation during the Spanish era and Vigan, known as the only place in the Philippines to have preserved that atmosphere and way of living, calesas are available for tourists to take when they want to explore the attractions in the city (there are also tricycles that can be rented if you don’t want to ride the calesa). Since we were there to feel the “Spanish era atmosphere”, we opted to ride the calesa. It’s a nice feeling to explore Vigan with calesa, however, the experience was tainted by how the cuchera (the one driving or leading the horse). I told her that we can skip the hidden garden, she insisted that we should see it (and later did I realize that was her way of keeping us longer so we had to pay more) and there were other incidents that led me to dislike her style. In the end, she made us pay for 4hrs rent when we initially agreed that we initially agreed that we will have it for 3hrs. Awful!
So the cuchera dropped us at the bus terminal to catch the bus going to Paoay, Ilocos Sur, to see another UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were very hungry because we didn’t have the time to eat lunch,we decided to buyVigan’s famous cassava cake and ate inside the bus. The cake didn’t disappoint us, thankfully!
After getting off the bus, we had to ride a tricycle to take us to the church. Another awful story here with the tricycle driver, miscommunication (?), or they are just the type of people who would like to take advantage? (I am a believer of the innate goodness of every person however, there are just moments when that belief needs to be set aside). Anyways, let me talk about St. Augustine Church of Paoay or also known as the Paoay Church. It was built around 1700 and built as a baroque style church (earthquake proof). The church is grand. It is really a great sight to see. After taking some photos at the church we went to Café Herencia to grab some coffee but upon entering the café, we didn’t feel the ambiance that would make us stay there, so we went to the other café , Strasburg Café – a small place but I can feel that it’s a good one, the lady who greeted us was smiling ( a good sign)! So we ordered some cold or iced coffee to counter the heat. While waiting for the coffee we tried their siomai – and those were the best siomai we ever tasted! (Better than the siomai sa Tisa in Cebu, in my opinion). We didn’t get to taste their coffee because they ran out of ice and we couldn’t wait for the ice because we’re in a hurry, the tricycle driver (yes that tricycle driver!) was waiting for us near the church. It was a long tricycle ride from the church to Laoag. (My advice: if you want to see the church, just ride a tricycle (don’t make him wait) and get another tricycle to drive you back to the same street/ highway where the bus from Vigan will drop you).
At Laoag, we just took some photos of the Sinking Bell Tower and the St. William’s Cathedral then off we went to the bus station to catch a ride to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. We didn’t spend much time in Vigan, the place didn’t really impress me. But if you have plans of visiting the place, I don’t discourage you, after all I am just talking about my personal experience. So this is the first part of our Northern Luzon escapade. Stay tuned for the stories that happened on the following days.