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On our third day, we headed down south to Vigan City, Ilocos Sur — a two-hour drive from Laoag City. Vigan was recently listed as one of the New7Wonders Cities of the World and this vibrant historical city is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Vigan City Government, through its energetic Former Mayor Eva Marie Singson Medina, who is the mother of Carlo Medina, the current Mayor of Vigan City, hosted a welcome lunch for the group at her residence. Former Mayor Medina shared to the Cebu Media how she managed the city’s affairs and preserved its tangible and intangible heritage through the efforts of the City Government and its constituents. We were also entertained and serenaded by the Vigan City Cultural Troupe, showcasing the Zarsuelas presentation of the history of Vigan where the performers are all employees of the local government. I was fascinated by the rich culture and history.

While we were in Vigan, it brought back the mood of the historic Spanish times. The town center is small and compact yet full of excitement. We experienced the grandeur of the past as we strolled down the cobblestone streets and alongside ancestral houses in Calle Crisologo, an excellent spot to shop for antiques and souvenir items. I myself did try an excellent calesa ride at the Heritage Village. It is also safe to walk around at night.

The 16th-century churches, bell tower, local handicrafts and native delicacies truly gave us a glimpse of the rich culture and history of its people, especially when we visited their museums showcasing archeological artifacts, relics, pottery and porcelains. Our gracious host Former Mayor Medina proudly showed us around the new Vigan Convention Center which was built for conventions, conferences, seminars, exhibits, special events and gatherings. A quick tour was also organized for us at the Vigan Conservation Complex that houses three museums, a repository of archives, a conservation school and a dormitory. The highlight of our Vigan tour was when we were given the chance to wear the colonial period costumes which tourists can rent for photo ops at the Arce Mansion, one of the oldest structures in the city.

Never miss visiting former Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson’s Baluarte which features a mini zoo, skeet shooting range, pony rides and animal show. Feel the thrill of molding your own jars in Pagburnayan where traditional burnay jars of varied shapes, designs and sizes are made. Also, experience the traditional art of handloom weaving as they offer a variety of intricately designed colorful Abel Iloco woven materials on sale.

Ilocos is also known for its native cuisine. We tried their signature vegetable dishes such as poqui-poqui, pinakbet and sinanglao, the Vigan longaniza (garlic flavored pork sausage), and bagnet (pan-fried pork meat). There are also equally tasty snacks and desserts such as chichacorn (corn bits), special Vigan empanada, okoy (crispy shrimp fritter) and the royal bibingka (oven baked sticky rice cake).

Three nights and four days if touring the Ilocos Region was indeed a wonderful experience. Philip Lo and his wife Cristina, together with her mom Un Liu Chan and siblings Lucy Barba, Rosemarie Lim and Romeo Chan made sure that our stay in Ilocos was memorable. It went beyond our expectations. They prepared pasalubong and cooked special Bagnet for our group which we took back home to Cebu.

Special thanks to the following who warmly accommodated the Cebu Media and Bloggers Educational and Familiarization Tour: Senator Imee Marcos, Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Joseph Marcos-Manotoc, Ilocos Norte Provincial Government and Tourism Office, the Management of Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel, Vigan City Government, Vigan City Mayor Carlo Medina, Former Mayor Eva Marie Singson Medina, Vigan City Councilor Janina Medina-Fariñas, Mayor of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur Luis “Chavit” Singson, Un Liu Chan & Family and to Philip Lo and wife Cristina.

Getting there: Domestic flights leave Manila daily for Laoag City in Ilocos Norte, which is a two-hour ride by bus or arranged vehicles to Vigan. By land, the 408 km. stretch from Manila to Vigan City is a comfortable eight-hour ride along the scenic Manila-Ilocos Highway.

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Robby Alugar

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