Ahh, the churches and bell towers…easily my favorite part of the entire trip. I could devote an entire post to them (hmm that’s a thought). So here are the highlights in the order that we saw them:
Juan Luna shrine
On our way to Vigan, we made a quick stop at the the birthplace of Juan Luna. The original country home he grew up in was ravaged by fire so what you will find on this Badoc street corner is a reconstruction. Luna was a celebrated artist who won accolades in the art capitals of Europe, and he was a passionate man who lived in the moment. His story is darkened by scandal and crimes of passion and life behind the prison walls, all fodder for a painter’s canvass. The two-story house is a repository of the Luna memorabilia and replicas of his works including the masterpiece Spolarium which won him a gold medal at the National Exposition of Fine Arts in Madrid in 1884. My favorite parts of the house were Luna’s bedroom which is decorated in period furniture and dominated by a large four poster bed, as well as the azotea that connects the 2nd floor living area to the chapel and from which you can walk down to the well and garden.
Vigan, Ilocos Sur
The city of Vigan, with its well-preserved Colonial architecture is a World Heritage Site. It boasts of an urban landscape composed mostly of authentic bahay na bato structures, some of which are built entirely of stone while the upper half of others are made of wood. It was every bit as pretty as I imagined it would be. Did you know that Vigan was built by the Spaniards in 1572 as their 3rd settlement on the island after Cebu and Intramuros? I didn't. I learned that bit from my Insight Guides: Philippines.
Vigan is one big open-air museum, and these are some of my favorite pieces:
Vigan Cathedral & Plaza Salcedo
The cream-colored Vigan Cathedral or the Cathedral of St. Paul was the first of many earthquake baroque style churches we found here in earthquake country. Later we would see many more churches supported by similar buttresses and with a bell tower separately. Not too far from the bell tower is a McDonald's that looked really out-of-place no matter how hard they tried to make it blend in. Stretching out in front of the church is Plaza Salcedo which was named after the Spanish conquistador Juan de Salcedo. It was alive that afternoon with young and not-so-young locals who were playing around the plaza or just shooting the breeze.
Unfortunately, the Burgos house was closed by the time we arrived. Padre Jose Burgos was one of the three martyrs, collectively known as GOMBURZA, charged with subversion and rebellion then executed by the Spaniards in Bagumbayan in 1872. His birthplace is said to now be the finest repository of Ilocano culture, with a fine collection of antiques and a library.
Also on Plaza Salcedo is the Archbishop's Palace, originally established as the Arzobispado de Nueva Segovia. I loved this building! And I loved how it looked bathed in the late afternoon sunlight with the trees casting shadows across it's capiz shell windows. Across the street is a row of kalesas which I adored as well. They looked different, all brown and more not as open as those that ply the streets of old Manila.
I was finally here at Calle Crisologo! The famous street I had only read about and seen thousands of pictures of until now. It's located at the heart of the Mestizo district and is lined on both sides by gorgeous centuries-old houses. I went nuts photographing the beautiful doors and windows! There are many shops selling authentic and not-quite authentic antiques and souvenirs. This is a good reason to drive up to Ilocos - all that trunk space in your car for your stash! I really wanted one of those bauls (chests). At the end of the road is Plaza Burgos which is famous for it's Vigan empanadas. We didn't have any though, but we did try the Pakbet pizza and Tongson's Royal Bibingka which I really liked! :)
to be continued...