The Great Ilocos Escapade: Vigan and Bantay

Time seems to stretch a bit longer in Vigan. Most of the establishments remain closed until 7 or 8 in the morning. The locals appear to be in a relaxed state, like watering plants, walking, or serving food are solemn rituals they perform to pay tribute to the old era the city seems to have been stuck in. Thus, I have never quite gotten over of Vigan. Two years have passed and I am still enamored.

This time, the feelings I have for the place heightened as I discovered some of its jewels that somehow escaped my attention during my 2009 visit. The tour began as soon as we checked out from Grandpa’s Inn. [Read: Trapped in Time: Vigan City]


Syquia Mansion

First stop: Syquia Mansion, the ancestral home of the wife of the late President Elpidio Quirino, Doña Alicia Quirino. It was built in 1830 and now serves as one of the tourist spots in Vigan. There you can see old furniture, photographs, paintings, home decors, and other memorabilias of the Quirinos. Before we went upstairs, the caretaker told us that we are free to take pictures but we are not allowed to touch anything.

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Entrance is free but Kuya Arnel advised us to give PHP 20/each (USD 0.40) to the caretaker as donation.


The 80 hectares of land known for its wildlife and sanctuary is owned by Governor Chavit Singson. It is home to lots of animals such as camels, ponies, tigers, snakes, birds of different species among others. Baluarte is free and open to public. All you need to do is register by the entrance then you are free to roam and take pictures of the place and of course the animals.

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Hidden Garden

For that famous Vigan empanada, terra cotta souvenirs, and a wide array of plants and flowers (some you can even purchase), visit the (not so) Hidden Garden.

Needless to say, I loved the place, especially the rest room. Yes you read that right, I freaking loved the ladies room. It is clean, and has a variety of disinfectants because who knows, maybe you prefer bar soap over liquid soap, or hand sanitizer over alcohol, and it’s so freaking hot outside but goddamnit you forgot to bring a cologne! But worry not for the Hidden Garden’s bathroom has it all for you! Well for a minimum (maintenance) fee of PHP 10, but if you dined in their restaurant/coffee shop, you can use it for free.

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After inspecting every nook and cranny of the garden, we took the opportunity to catch our breaths in their coffee shop. Our main mission was to try the Vigan empanada. I will talk about that empanada on my separate post about the Ilocano foods. [Read: A Little Taste of Ilocos]

Pagburnayan (Jar Factory)

I found it hard not to think of that famous scene in the film Ghost, where Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze made spinning clay in a potter’s wheel erotic when we reached the Pagburnayan. Burnay in Ilocano dialect means, “jar.” The mental image heightened upon seeing the mock potter’s wheel that the students (seemed to be on a field trip) couldn’t get enough of, for that perfect Kodak moment. I would have wanted a picture of my own, maybe channel Demi Moore, but the kids showed no sign of leaving anytime soon, so I let it go. I just busied myself taking some pictures of the place instead.

From Pagburnayan the group went back to Calle Crisologo to buy souvenirs, but I opted to just stay in the van and get some shut-eye. When they returned we went our went to Bantay city.


Bantay Bell Tower

By the time we reached the tower, the sun was already in its full fury. We wondered if we should just take pictures outside and forget about climbing the tower. Eventually, the “andito na lang tayo, akyatin na natin” mentality (we’re here anyway might as well check it out) reigned and so we went up, and boy was I glad that we did.

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Up there the air was cool and it has a perfect view of the city. Soon we were busy clicking our cameras. An old chap mans the place and also serves as guide to those who want to know more about the history of the tower. There are four bells in the tower, the one in the middle is the biggest, then the other three occupy each space between the columns that serve as the window. Each bell serves a purpose, one is for baptism, one for death, and one for wedding. Unfortunately, none of them works anymore because according to the caretaker, the clappers, or that tonsil like thing that you pull to produce the sound, had been stolen a long time ago.


Now for the damage (per pax):

Expenses PHP USD
Syquia Mansion donation 20 0.40
 Vigan empanada  40 0.80
 Restroom fee  10 0.20
 Bantay Bell Tower donation  7 0.14
Total =  77  8.4

Some photos are courtesy of Patti Agnes.





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  1. I love the hidden garden—plants, flowers, fresh air! Love it! Their restroom reminds me of Palawan's Kinabuch!

  2. I love Vigan. I've been there twice already but I still want to go back. I love visiting ancestral homes =)

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