Philippines is more than just clear blue waters and white sand. This country of 7,500 islands is more than just beaches. I had the opportunity to see the other side of Philippines in the Ilocos region which is the northwestern part of Luzon in between the West Philippine Sea and the Cordillera Central mountain range. It is here in Ilocos that travelers get to see and experience scenic coastlines, rock formations and windmills, sand dunes, UNESCO World Heritage churches and provincial museums.
Aside from the aforementioned places of interests, Ilocos Province particularly in the south i.e. Ilocos Sur has some notable attractions, one of which is the renowned historic Spanish town, Vigan. Vigan is one of the few Spanish towns in Asia, and probably the best preserved, dating back to 16th century.
I was supposed to stay in Vigan for one night, and the itinerary was to explore the main street of Vigan, Calle Crisologo, on a calesa (horse-drawn carriage ride) through the cobble-stoned streets lined with ancestral houses, some of which are converted into souvenir shops, restaurants, cafes and boutique hotels, and watch the Fountain Show at Plaza Salcedo in the evening. And the following morning to visit a jar-making factory and Abel cloth weaving, a Vigan traditional craft. However, me and a group of travel bloggers were caught in the middle of a typhoon in Vigan. From the time we were travelling from Ilocos Norte to Vigan, we were constantly updated on the typhoon – the typhoon category and when will it hit landfall in Vigan.
When we arrived in Vigan, there were light showers but shops were shut because of the impending typhoon. After making a short visit to Vigan Cathedral and checking into Hotel Luna, the rain was getting heavier. Instead of holing ourselves up in the hotel throughout the night, seven of us decided to take a walk through the lanes adjacent to the hotel in heavy rains and strong winds, dressed in raincoats and armed with our cameras, to take photos of the empty streets. There was no one on the street except us crazy travel bloggers and a black cat crossing the street!
We were informed that landfall would hit around 2am but it hit earlier, close to midnight. Howling winds could be heard from my hotel room. Vibrations from the ferocious winds could be felt from the roof. The rains lashed against the doors and along the walkways, water was everywhere. Power was cut off temporarily but luckily, the hotel was powered by generators, thus electricity was restored within ten seconds. Phone network was down. Still, we were safe inside the hotel. I had imagined that things would have been much worse especially for those whose homes do not have such facilities.
Because of the typhoon, the rest of our tour activities were cancelled and we had to leave Vigan in the morning for Manila which was a 10-12 hour journey on the road.
It’s a shame that we could not stay longer in Vigan to appreciate this charming Spanish town. I’m definitely coming back to Vigan in the near future, hopefully it will not be in the middle of typhoon season 😉
* I was delighted to be part of the Ilocos World Heritage Tour organised by the Tourism Promotions Board of Philippines. Opinions expressed in this post, if any, as always, are my own.