We awoke in our very nice hotel room and after dressing went to the dining room for vittles. Breakfast was okay enough, although we were ‘treated’ to yet more bloody white rice, it also contained a very nice spicy sausage alongside a somewhat undercooked egg. Such eggs I am not so particularly keen on but the accompanying cup of tea was good enough and therefore gratefully received. Today, we shall be exploring Vigan good and proper as it all has to be done in the next couple of days, so with military precision we aim to set forth and will not be satisfied until it is broken, bloody and well … well explored – chhhaarrggge!
Vigan looked great right from the outset and from our hotel we soon found our way on to the main street – Calle Crisologo. This road is full of old Spanish-style houses selling all manner of antiques and bric-a-brac, though I must confess I was not entirely sure which was which. The buildings are ‘distressed’ although some would say that they were crumbling especially the plasterwork but it all looks very period or so the tourist blurb would have you believe. It is also cobbled adding even more charm to the authentic look of the place. It was a fine day to be out and about, the sky was nice and blue and clear and there were a good few people about, not unlike ourselves, taking it all in – quite perfect really.
We ventured down the street until we reached the main square in front of St John’s cathedral. The church really stands out as it is brilliant white and has been standing here since 1800. It is considered a major religious landmark not only in northern Luzon but also for the whole of the Philippines. As with a lot of the catholic churches it manages to combine beautiful imagery with those which border on the grotesque.
We left the cathedral to see horse drawn carriages lined up along the avenue at one side of the building, their drivers smoking and chatting. It was such a fine day that we gave in to the temptation of a tour about Vigan town with one of these guides. The tour started off by visiting Bantay belfry and the ruins just a short way from the main town centre. The belfry was quite nice and the view was quite spectacular over the town and surrounding hills, though the belfry and bell were both a bit graffiti marked. We also visited next door and whilst the frontage of Bantay church looked really cool behind the facade it was all a bit more older and tired looking. It was still extremely nice though as this was a more homely type of church than St John’s and more frequented by the locals or so it seemed.
Next on our wild horse drawn tour of Vigan was the Father Jose Burgos museum and nearby prison. This was … well okay, the museum hardly really had anything in it and the prison whilst being very prisonish and including the vital ingredients of any prison – cells – was still a bit poor as it all seemed as if some items had been left out! From here wild horses could not drag us to our next destination – so tame ones took us instead – we went to a local pottery. My sister is a potter, when she is not interior designing for Ikea but she has never had a buffalo doing the mixing of the clay it was amazing but not as cool as the oven which was like a long tunnel. The place seemed to produce millions of pieces of pottery of all shapes and sizes and we managed to see some of the bigger vases being produced on a huge potter’s wheel, probably exactly the same as it would have been hundreds of years ago. I sent my sis a film of the buffalo at work and suggested she install one at her home in Cheshire – a great coup with the neighbours methinks!
From here it was a short ride to our final destination on the tour and this was to the Museum de Crisologo. The Crisologos were the town’s most prominent political figures and this, their ancestral home, has become a shrine of sorts to them and their political machinations. Okay some of the stuff contained within the building is nothing short of being tat and tat which is not exactly being cared for at that but it was still a good place to visit if only to see the Pig System Toilet – which sounded very eco-friendly!!
We were starving by the end of the tour and went back to the vendors near the town square to try a couple of the local delicacies – Okoy and Empanadas – both of which tasted mainly of the fat that they were both fried in. Okoy is basically a deep fried shrimp fritter but the shrimps still have their shells so it can be a bit crunchier than one would usually like, the second dish Empanadas was not so bad though if a little fatty – both together had the desired effect of filling us up though, if a little too stodgy on the belly.
One filled we decided to go and nip to the hospital to get my wife’s back examined. She had a cyst removed from her back a long time ago and it looked as though her old wound seemed to be infected as it was red and angry or, even worse, possibly a new cyst was developing, so we decided to take no chances and get her examined. At the hospital they sent us round the corner to a skin specialist who would look at my wife. The visit itself was quite an insight into Filipino medical practices, as in the doctors the dividing wall between the surgery and the waiting room appeared to be made of not much more than cardboard. This is how we came to hear all about the young chap who was in with the doc just before us and his case of scabies! The doctor also proceeded to inform us waiting patients how it had gone from one to the other of his friends and finally to him – data protection, my ass! The young fellow came out and sat down and we all inched away from him. Soon though Liz was up and first the lady doctor saw her then asked her male colleague to come and have a look – who turned out to be her husband and his diagnosis was not good. It turned out to be another cyst growing in the scar tissue of the old one and would need to be removed. As we explained our schedule he said he could fit us in tomorrow if we could come to the hospital but we would have to pay a couple of fees, one for which we could get a receipt and one which would not – the backhander! We would see him first thing tomorrow.
On the way back to the hotel we took a detour to check out the river cruises, our meanderings took us past a cock pit, which looked like a small arena with seating areas all around but the next fight would be when we were to be long gone. Liz felt she had a macabre interest to see a fight but was still not really sure. The cruise did not seem particularly great and after seeing the set up we felt we would not be missing a greta deal if we gave it a miss.
On the way back to the hotel we discussed the doctor’s news, which had knocked us both back a bit but Liz is quite brave about these things so was probably not worrying as much as I was. After a quick change of clothes and a shower to cool us down we were back out and Vigan looked even nicer than it had during the day. We went back to the square where there was a pond, to watch the Dancing fountains of Vigan which was really quite theatrical (it even started late) but still done very well. It was very popular as there were stands round it for people sit in, the kids in the crowd were loving it especially the ‘Frozen’ bit but it costs nothing to watch and yet was very entertaining.
On the way back to the hotel we relaxed with a couple of beers at a small bar and watched out for the flying cockroaches – who says romance is dead? On the way we also had a photo opportunity with a famous face.