Vigan isn’t the end of the earth. The scenery doesn’t go south as the airplane flies north. Ilocos Norte, home province of former President Ferdinand Marcos, is barely within our fuel radius. Enough for a quick but unforgettable aerial survey.
It’s a wonder that WordPress didn’t censor this title.
Vigan is as pretty on the ground as it is from the air. There are real 18th and 19th century houses here, and restored cobblestones. Only horses, people and Pilots are allowed on Calle Crisologo.
Hotel Salcedo opened only two weeks before we found it. A block away from the center of the old town, the hotel is a restored 18th century building. The building across the street is a mirror image and completely unrestored, so that the pair look like Cinderella and her step-sister.
The hotel is tastefully designed. Capiz shutters, nooks with rattan chairs — under the stairs, on balconies, at the sala on the second floor. Modern bathrooms, radio frequency key locks and alarms, wireless internet.
Carlo and I spent the night agonizing whether longganisa is a mortal sin on Maundy Thursday.
We did our visita iglesia at Vigan Cathedral after a light longganisa dinner (this is where lightning strikes me down!!).
On Good Friday, the santos glared balefully at us.
We fasted. We deprived ourselves of real food and ate cornik chicharon, twin popsies and other dreary deprivations.
Oh, Ilocano cuisine! Hearty pipian, chicken stew with a hidden ground rice surprise. Igado, pork and liver stew, with bato and lapay [English translation deleted by WordPress censorship services].
Pinakbet. Bagnet, like lechon kawali but on steroids. Lato, green seaweed pearls on a vine, like tiny grapes.
Poki-poki — eggplant balls. Enough said.
Sapsapuriket, my personal favorite — like tinolang manok, but with chicken blood, sili, dahon ng sili, siling labuyo. In other words, perfect for when you and your airplane are trapped in Ilocos by heavy, endless rains from a cold front.
But I’m getting ahead of my story… .
With all the voluptuous dishes Ilocos serves up, you wonder about trip blogs that enthuse about hitting McDonald’s for a “yummy breakfast”. I mean, you get on a bus for 12 hours, and then when you arrive your idea of immersion is to gorge yourself at McDonalds, Max, or Jollibee??
Why even bother to leave Manila?
On the other hand, why leave Vigan and its culinary temptations?
But we had to. Ilocos Norte was just 10 minutes north, by Cessna.
Pinget Island is a lollipop-shaped peninsula jutting out into the South China Sea from Ilocos Sur. It must be motivating to hurry across that sandy isthmus as the tide comes pounding in.
There’s more up north. Lapog, renamed to San Juan, is one of the few Ilocos towns I’ve seen on the ground.
I once vacationed here for a few days, staying with a girlfriend’s folks, who hailed from here. Long time ago.
Finally, our meandering arc in northern Luzon crossed into Ilocos Norte.
The fabled beaches of Currimao are even more spectacular from the air. Mouse over the pictures to check the location.
Feet dry at Currimao. Climb to 1,750 feet to stay above the Laoag control zone, but outside the traffic zone of the aerodrome, clearly visible ahead.
At the northern apogee of our odyssey, we turned east to Paoay, with its famous cathedral, made from coral blocks, built from 1704 to 1894.
Next to Paoay town was Batac, Ilocos Norte, the hometown of former Philippine President (or dictator and plunderer, depending on your politics) Ferdinand Marcos. The Mariano Marcos University and the church, with the Marcos museum and mausoleum (or wax museum, also depending on your politics) are easily visible from the air.
No time to linger here, unless we wanted an unscheduled stop at Laoag airport (where they don’t sell avgas anyway).
It was time to lean the mixture way back, pull the RPMs down, and begin the long, slow, fuel-anxious slog back to Ilocos Sur, all the way past Vigan, and down to La Union and our fuel depot at San Fernando airport.
Posted from Bangkok, April 25, 2009
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