Located along Calle Luna, Vigan City, Ilocos Sur
I have always wanted to go to Vigan.
Aside from the obvious reasons (hello? Empanadas?!), photos of the recently declared UNESCO heritage site in the center of the centuries-old city awakens the history buff in me. The beauty of the restored buildings, the historical references attached to the structures, as well as the romance of an era long gone are so appealing that the nine to ten-hour drive does not deter me from packing up my toddler and famously-impatient husband. Yes, I willingly endured ten hours of complaining about lousy infrastructure and bad drivers just so I can finally make my way up north.
We made our way through EDSA, NLEX, SCTEX, TPLEX, and then through towns in Pangasinan, La Union, and Ilocos Sur. Tired and famished, we finally make it to Hotel Luna where we will stay for the night.
Centrally-located in the heart of the area called Heritage Village, the 3-year-old hotel was built on the bones of a 19th-century home. After it was passed around for over a century, the family of Congressman Eric Singson breathed new life into the crumbling structure. After a massive renovation of the existing house and the vacant lot adjacent to it, the grand Hotel Luna now stands as the only museum hotel in the country, with 54 rooms and suites; a bar; an all-day restaurant; outdoor pool, scenic elevator; roof deck for events; and its centerpiece- a museum which houses some of the greatest works of Philippine national artists.
For our family of four (counting Little Chi's Yaya Jo), we fit comfortably in one of their Deluxe Double Queen rooms. Designed following the hotel's Spanish colonial style, the room is spacious with its high ceiling and massive floor area.
The bathroom is compartmentalized so faucet, shower, and toilet can be used all at the same time. Bathroom fixtures are first class- copper faucets and shower head; marble finishings; the Vovo toilet flushes automatically and has an adjustable bidet.
The beds- we loved those beds! The spotless white linens are high-quality cotton, the mattress just on the right side of springy that it acts as the perfect cocoon for tired muscles. Same goes for the pillows- soft, but dense enough to support your head. I would say it's one of the most comfortable hotel beds I have encountered in four continents, and guess what? It's in Vigan.
Things to do
Hotel Luna is perfectly situated in the center of it all, and almost everything you need to see is within 5 minutes walking distance. Calle Crisologo is a block away, where the cobblestone street and restored homes is postcard-worthy in every angle. This is where you dine, shop for souvenirs, have after-dinner drinks, and take hundreds of selfies.
You can go to Irene's in Calle Crisologo for empanadas, or you can walk to the Plaza where you can sit at Evelyn's food stall for an added dose of local flavor. Vigan empanadas are different from the Laoag ones which are more popular in Metro Manila- those bright orange ones with the thicker crust. The Vigan version is more delicately flavored with a thin, crisp crust and a lighter color similar to fried Lumpia. Sprinkle some salt on it, then season with some sukang iloko and onions. It's an ethereal experience. We need more Vigan empanada stalls all over the country. Seriously.
At night, you can watch a 15 minute light show at the giant fountain in the center of the city. Commissioned by Governor Chavit Singson, it has all the pomp and kitsch of Las Vegas. Although Vigan is a city, it's still very provincial in many ways. So, to have this kind spectacle in an erstwhile sleepy northern town, it makes you think: "so it IS possible." Truly, other local governments need to step up their game.
We were able to catch a kalesa ride before the city turned in for the evening. For P150, all four of us got on the carriage for a short tour of night-time Vigan.
After the kiddo passed out after our long day, Matt and I stepped out for a late dinner and some beers at Bartech along Calle Crisologo where we watched a couple of millennials take photos of themselves all along the stretch of the famous street. It seemed comical at the time, but who can blame them?
Vigan is absolutely gorgeous.
The next day, it was too warm to go out but we didn't mind. The plan was really to visit the hotel's museum and to marvel at the works of Filipino masters. The old house's main room has been converted to house masterpieces by Amorsolo, Joya, Malang, BenCab, Galicano, and the collection's piece de resistance- Juan Luna's Mandolin Player.
The guard, noticing my interest, invited me to view the owner's private collection. The room is filled with his collection of ivory art prices, celadon jars, and the reason for the round-the-clock air conditioning (according to the guard)- a painting of Jesus Christ rendered in blood by local artist Jayson Cortez. Some say it's just an urban legend that blood was used, but it looks pretty real to me. Besides, it makes for a more interesting story to tell the folks back home.
What to eat
We weren't able to explore the local restaurants since we only stayed overnight, but Hotel Luna has a pretty competent kitchen trained by popular chef Robby Goco (Cyma, Green Pastures).
The breakfast buffet at the hotel has a wide selection of local and continental fare. I'm convinced they cure their own bacon- it's fantastic. It's up there with the local longganisa which you can have copious amounts of, accompanied by eggs freshly prepared in front of you.
As for lunch or dinner, I believe they have different themes every week. But I suggest you take advantage of whatever shrimp or crawfish dishes there- they get those crustaceans fresh from their own hatchery.
Perhaps the next time we go, I would take the plane to Laoag then hire a van to Vigan. Don't get me wrong- the car ride was very doable. In fact, Little Chi was the happiest little traveler on her car seat, which to me is now an absolute must during long drives. But, to some kids and the elderly- it might be a bit tedious. So, when I go next time with my parents, siblings, niece, and nephew, we will probably opt to fly.
I can't wait to go back to Vigan! It's such a lovely place, plus the locals are so nice and friendly. Not in a tourist-trap way, but it feels really genuine and sincere. I would love to explore this beautiful city more on my next visit.
By: Chinkee Clemente-Koppe
|There are no products|