Food is something the Ilocanos are known for. Among the most popular are the Vigan longanisa (chorizo-like sausage), chichacorn (a popcorn-like snack, except it is crunchier than popcorn), empanada (pastry stuffed with meat) and bagnet (deep fried crispy pork belly). I love bagnet especially if it’s paired with pinakbet (a viand of mixed veggies). Our tour guide does not want us to miss that, so we headed first a pasalubong store to hunt for some nice, crispy bagnet.
I was so excited for the pasalubong, I wanted to go home to sort them out (especially the ref magnets haha). But more things were lined up in the last day of the tour because there are more to see in Ilocos.
Baluarte is something that tourists would never miss during their visit to Ilocos. If Ilocos Norte is the abode of the Marcoses, Ilocos Sur is home to the Singsons, another political clan. Chavit Singson’s name gives a ring to most Filipinos as he became the governor of the province of Ilocos Sur. Oh, he was also the sponsor of Miss Universe when it was held in the Philippines in 2016.
Singson’s love of the game and wildlife gave birth to this place which was located just beside a golden structure which they say was his house. It’s like a shadow of Ocean Park in Hong Kong, but some animals could only be viewed through a shuttle ride. By the way, the entrance was free, but the shuttle was not.
There was also a museum for taxidermied animals caught and hunted by the politician years ago. Beside them are pictures of Singson holding a rifle beside a prized animal that he caught. I must honestly say my stomach fell when I saw the collection of animal heads mounted on the walls. I felt so sorry they had to end up that way.
We returned to Vigan for a calesa ride. It cost only P150 for four people per hour. The sun was so hot, but it did not stop us from touring around the city to see the church and the pottery house.
I was quite disappointed that Vigan has a lot of modern establishments. It’s like Intramurous forced into modernization. The romance of the quiet glow of streetlamps is gone and the sun was raging above our heads. The roads were filled by tourists who only ate their fill at fastfood chains.
We opted to simplier meals along the street. Imagine our joy when we discovered sinanglaw, a soupy meal filled with beef and goat meat. It looks so simple and unattractive, but the Ilocano vinegar gave it a superb taste.
We left the city before the parade started. Today was Ilocos day and roads will be blocked once the street dancers step in. We’d rather not risk our time staying there because of the seven to eight-hour travel.
The trip did not end without stopping by the La Union grapes farm. La Union is almost three hours away from Ilocos. The fruits there were small and not so sweet, with some a bit sour, but I enjoyed the experience of grape picking.
I’m so glad that we made friends with our fellow tourists during tour. The tour guide was so kind to us, I assured him we’d be joining them again. I’d definitely join them in another destination, but my wallet needs to recouperate.