Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ilocos Road Trip Part 2

March 18, 2007

The next day in Vigan, ted was asking if the kids wanted to enjoy the pool at the hotel. I told him we can't anymore since we have a full-day ahead. Ted wants a lazy-dazy schedule, while I want to cover lots of places. I know that there are so much to see and we have to be on-time, otherwise, we run the risk of getting stranded on the road by nighttime.

El Juliana Hotel is near Calle Crisologo. On the way to breakfast we took few pictures near the old houses, this time, in daylight. The old Spanish houses are really quaint, some with antique stores, or Vigan souvenirs items. We are not keen on local souvenirs when we travel so we didn't realy spend much time looking around.

We were told that the old Spanish houses, after the war were left by the Spanish Owners, and many enterprising Indios (that's us, Pinoys) occupied them, until they become the owners. They pass it on to generations. Before Vigan was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site, the old Spanish houses were spooky to the residents of Vigan, and they generally don't ply the street were the old houses were. There are about 140++ old houses now maintained for tourists pleasure. You can feel that Vigan people are really, really proud of them.

There are very few restaurants in Vigan that serves authentic Ilocano fares, saved for Casa Leona where we dined last night. We went around the plaza, it seems that Vigan folks don't usually have Vigan Longganisa for breakfast, their Carinderias don't have them! So, we looked and asked around the plaza and they pointed us to Ej's. It's a small carinderia at the back of Landbank. There we sampled Vigan longganisa. They're very small and dark colored, almost black. But since we hailing from Quezon Province, we love Lukban Longganisa more!

After breakfast we rode a calesa again to continue what we've left off yesterday. Our calesa driver is better this time. He gave a running narrative about Vigan and the history of the places that we are in.

We passed by the Penitentiary. Apparently, it's the same penitentiary since 1600s. Elpidio Quirino, one of Philippine presidents was born inside the penintentiary. His mother was visiting his father, who's the jail warden (not an inmate) when she had contractions :) Well, I'm sure she'd rather give birth there, than in their town Caoyan, which was 20 minutes away from Vigan proper.

Next stop was the Burnayan. Burnay is ilocano word for Jars. Burnayan is the place where they make jars. Nowadays, Jar-making is mostly ceramic and involves modern technology. There are now only 2 burnayans in Vigan that still retain the old ways. It entails the use of bare-hands in shaping the clay, and using feet to run the improvised rolling machine.

Once a jar is formed, it is air-dried for 7 days. Afterwhich, they placed it (along with all the other jars) in a huge makeshift oven. They use firewood to cook the "jars." The oven is so huge it's about as big as two nipa huts! As soon as the jars are "cooked" they wait another 2-3 days until the oven is cool enough for them to retrieve the jars inside! The Burnayans could use some reinvention when it comes to designs. They're very, very simple and no nonsense jars. Use mostly for gardens. Or for storing bagoong. It's a trade that can use a lot creative process.

After the Burnayan, we went to the traditional weaving industry, using old wooden looms. I got to the looms. Most of those doing the weaving are old women who listen to radio dramas while they're on it. They make the famous Ilocano blankets, table runners, shawls, table sets etc. The Ilocano blanket is usually cream or white. It's very cool to the touch. You can use it even to warm summer nights. We bought some small kikay bags for my officemates, blankets, shawls and a table runner.

Next we visited to houses of famous Vigan people in history. The Crisologos used to rule Vigan, before the name Chavit permeated the air. Bingbong's father used to be Mayor, Congressman, Governor, you name it, of vigan. We went to their old house. It's the first time I've seen a wooden refrigerator. They've preserved almost everything, even old perfumes bottles of Crisologo senior's wife. Even the car where he was ambushed was there with bullet holes in it. Tons of old books and newspaper clippings about the crisologos political affairs were preserved.

We went to another house, the ancestral home of Elpidio Quirino's wife. Elpidio was a former schoolteacher who married a congresswoman. The lady descended from a Chinese Trader whose trading business did very well, making them one of the richest families in Vigan. The Syquia mansion, owned by the family of the wife of Elpidio Quirino is very well-maintain by the katiwala, a friendly dude named Rusty. A beautiful painting of the lady of the house was done by Mananlasa.

We feel that we've seen the best of Vigan, so we decided to check-out of the hotel and continue our Ilocos Journey...

Watch out for Ilocos Road Trip Part 3 ! (Off to Laoag!)

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