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As we are the only guests staying at Hotel Felicidad here in Vigan, the staff has set up a small table in reception for us to take breakfast. We were given a small menu last night to choose from, with Rey disclosing that the food is delivered from the local Jollibee, as the owner of hotel also holds the franchise for the fast food restaurant.


I choose the Breakfast Burger Steak with Egg and Rice, whereas David selects the Koko Krunch with two slices of Bread.


Bantay Church

The church, officially named Saint Augustine of Hippo Parish Church Archdiocesan Shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad de Bantay (I can certainly see why the shorten the name to just Bantay Church), is one of the oldest surviving churches in the region dating back to 1591. It was heavily damaged during WWII, and again during an earthquake in 2022, and is now shrouded in scaffolding.


Being Sunday, there is a service on, which is so popular it is spilling out into the courtyard in front. Rey and the local guide Richie lead us through the congregation to the left to see the bell tower on a small hill nearby, which makes me feel very uncomfortable as it seems rather disrespectful.

The bell tower was used as a watch tower where Filipinos positioned themselves to see any impending attacks from enemies. This is also how the town got its name, as bantay means ‘to guard.’


Legend has it that an image of Our Lady of Charity was found in a wooden box floating on the river by some fishermen. It was said that only people from the Batay region were able to move the box, and in 1956, Bantay Church became a shrine to Our Lady of Charity when the miraculous image was crowned as the patroness of Ilocandia by the Papal Nuncio to the Philippines at the time.


The guards on the gate open them especially so that our driver can bring The Royal Carriage (our nickname for the vehicle we’ve been using) to collect me from the church.


Having preserved much of its Hispanic colonial character, particularly its grid street pattern and historic urban layout, the colonial city of Vigan is now inscribed on the UNESCO Heritage List.

The bell tower of Vigan Cathedral on the left, and what is now McDonald's used to be the Theological Seminary

Archbishop's Palace

I send up a drone to get a different view of the city.


The Old Carcel Museum

Serving as the provincial jail until 2014, the building is now a museum.


The Basi Revolt Exhibition

This part of the museum is filled with ethnographic and botanical items associated with basi, the traditional sugarcane wine of the Ilocos.


The most important display here is Esteban Pichay Villanueva’s 14 paintings depicting the Basi Revolt of 1807 when local people took up arms against the Spanish who wanted to introduce a wine monopoly and prohibition of private manufacture of basi.

12 of the 14 paintings telling the story of the battle of the sugarcane wine

A couple of the old cells are still open for tourists to check out. It would certainly not have been a cushy existence to be incarcerated here!


Traditional Potter

We visit Bong, who is the latest generation to practice pottery throwing in the traditional way for his 102-year-old family business.


Bong’s kiln, unfortunately, was damaged during the Typhoon in May this year (2023).


Pinkabet Farm

The farm has been developed by the local government as part of a sustainable tourist program, sharing the culture while creating revenue and jobs.

Lemon grass welcome drink

As well as being a working farm, the staff put on a cultural performance showcasing the traditional Ilocano way of life from courtship and marriage to growing old.


Flying the drone shows the extent of the farm, ith wist fisheries, and fields growing vegetables and fruit.



Hidden Garden

Back in Vigan town, we stop in a small side street. With an unassuming frontage, once we get inside this space (a cross between a garden centre and an art gallery) it is like entering another world, one which features a maze of pathways, surrounded by eclectic sculptures and lush vegetation.


Lilong and Lilang Restaurant

At the very end of the path is a charming open-air restaurant, with tables under the cover of shade.


As usual, Rey orders a huge amount of food for the five of us (us + Rey, our guide, Richie, our driver, and the local guide, also called Richie).

Pinkabet - bitter gourd with fish sauce

Poqui Poqui - aubergine with egg

Vigan Longanise - a famous local sausage

Crispy bagnet - pork belly

Bagnet Sisag - sliced belly of pork with vegetables

Empanada with sausage and egg

Shrimp in batter

Igado - pork and liver

The ever-present chips

Halo halo - a traditional and colourful Filipino dessert, the name meaning "mix-mix" in Tagalog: jelly, ice cream, beans, sweetcorn, coconut slivers, and shaved ice


After all that food at lunchtime, we need to lie down for a snooze, before exploring the cobbled streets and dilapidated colonial buildings of the old town.

My puerile mind found this sign amusing

Horse-drawn carriages known as kalesa ply the cobbled streets where motorised transport is banned.


Still feeling full from lunch, we forego dinner this evening and just chill in the room after a full and exciting day in Vigan. Thank you Undiscovered Destinations and their local team for looking after us on the trip.


Posted by Grete Howard 09:47 Archived in Philippines Tagged museum philippines prison unesco pottery vigan jail potter halo_halo bell_tower prison_cell drone ilocos_sur undiscovered_destinations kalesa drone_photography church_service dronography bantay bantay_church our_lady_of_charity vigan_cathedral archbishops_palace old_carcel_museum basi_revolt pinkabet pinkabet_farm hidden_garden lilong_and_lilang lilong_and_lilang_restaurant

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Vigan looks amazing, my friend visited it also last year and liked it as well.

by Ils1976

Vigan was fabulous, I could have walked around the town for days! ♥

by Grete Howard

Vigan looks like my kind of place for sure! I love the old buildings and the Hidden Garden :)

by ToonSarah

I think you'd really love the Philippines, Sarah, we did. ♥

by Grete Howard

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