VIGAN: New Wonder of the World

It is actually an irony that the modernity of a nation shows from how it values its traditional past. If a country manages to preserve pieces of its identity centuries ago, the more it becomes beautiful as it gears toward future. Creatively put, sometimes a country’s beauty is similar to an old bottle of wine that the longer you keep, the more it gets its much-craved, classic taste.

Philippines is actually that old bottle of wine preserved for such a long time but its unique genuine taste is yet to be known by Filipinos themselves. A serving of that wine is has been recently declared as one of the Seven Wonder Cities of the World, the first of the Philippines in its long list of places yet to be discovered. A serving of that wine- Philippine wine- is called Vigan City.

Located in the coastal region of Ilocos in Northern Luzon, Vigan City is the capital of Ilocos Sur famous for offering a time warp that will bring you back to the time when the country was still under Spanish regime. Colonization of the Spaniards indeed, which can also be seen in an unfavourable light, influenced every aspect of Filipino lifestyle without a doubt. Vigan City, therefore, embodies that time in our past that, even though in the present is, of course, long gone, a puzzle piece of our national pride that we can go back to again and again.

People who have visited Vigan City can clearly attest that the city is not like any other in our Motherland. Also known as the Heritage City of the Philippines, this UNESCO World Heritage Site can surely give anyone the Hispanic vibe that most cities in Philippines have lost over the years.

The architecture of ancestral houses as you walk along the cobblestone alley of Calle Crisologo will give you that pride of having been to a cultural gemstone tantamount to the feeling of walking the streets of Spain. What will give an even greater feeling is the chance to hop on a kalesa and tour the whole city in a different adventure.  Dining inside Café Leona (named after Leona Florentino, the Mother of Filipino Women Literature) will give you the exquisite feeling of what it should have been like eating in a classy restaurant seems underground.

The restaurant preserved its heritage by going all ancestral with their interior and have long been serving Ilocano dishes. And, if you are planning to visit Café Leona one day, make sure to try their pizzas. The café has introduced a next level of uniqueness for pizzas with their menu such as bagnet pizza, pinakbet pizza and tuna pizza.

Another gastronomic treasure and a tummy filler in the city is to eat at The Plaza. For back packers who have their travel budgeted, this place is a must-try for you. You get to try different kind of Ilocano dishes aside from longanisa, bagnet and empanada. Sinanglao, bibingka and Pancit Miki are one for the books.

Visiting century-old churches witness to the faith of Biguenos in the Catholic religion such as the Saint Paul Metropolitan Cathedral will present a remnant of the Baroque age. A ten-minute ride away from Vigan to Bantay will let you see the famous Bantay Belfry, a bell tower sitting in a hill near St. Augustine Church, will not only give you a flashback of the classic movies, Ang Panday and Kampanerang Kuba, but the experience of climbing inside centuries-old brick tower overseeing a breath-taking view of the city on your way to its top. Paying a visit to the Camarin Jar Factory will give you the chance to make your own Burnay, Vigan jar, and experience how it is take charge of the pottery wheel.

Although a private property, Baluarte is a special zoo open to the public taking where one can find ponies giving you an enjoyable cart ride, ostriches posing  with you in your pictures on the background, camels that make you remember the desert, deer that you cannot even find in Philippine forests, and even tiger cubs who are bottle-fed.  Its amazing animal shows can even make adults and children alike rate this as the best private zoo Philippines has. And, not to mention that the entrance in Baluarte is free of charge.

Vigan City will not fail satisfy your gastronomic cravings either as the array of food native to this city is just world-class. That sweet crisply finger-licking double-fried pork belly infamously known as Bagnet? Check.  That small plump sausage said to be an influence of the Mexican salami called Longganisa? Check. That unique vegetable and meat filling wrapped in a thin taco-like dough called Empanada? Check. The mouth-watering mix of eggplant, bitter melon, okra, and squash cooked with bagoong vegetable dish with the name of Pinakbet? Check.  That sugarcane wine with historical significance of having influenced a revolt called Basi? Check. You can even eat with your fingers, as how Filipinos do, and you are good to go.

This sip of that long-kept bottled wine has already captured the international limelight as it is now on the list as one of the Seven Wonders of the World and will surely be one of the bucket list by the back packers. This preserved bottled wine will finally get to taste by the people around the world and will surely enjoy the uniqueness of the savor. And, as soon as you have stepped into the Vigan soil, do not forget to capture every corner of the city as it will give you the vibe of returning to the old times. As the saying goes: You learn while you travel. So come and visit Vigan now!

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