More than the picturesque scenes the eyes could catch, the gastronomic satisfaction the taste buds could savor and the immortalized art the cameras could capture, I think there is nothing more splendid than finding a realization in a simple trip. Vigan may have been just a place where memories of the past continue to live – but in this old-fashioned place, I found a new beginning. A beginning of a life I never once thought I’d seek.
I learned to pick up the pen even before I learned about the existence of Algebra. From campus newspapers in grade school to College, I took writing with me and took it as something I would do for the rest of my life. But I guess even passionate people doubt their passion at one point in life – especially when pressures come in. So the proposed trip to Vigan in 2012, came to me like blessing. I needed that break for two reasons: I wanted to spend a day with my family, and I needed inspiration. I never thought though, that I’ll discover a third reason along the way.
The moonlight had already encompassed the skies when we arrived. We spent a hearty dinner at My Vigan Home Hotel after securing our accommodations. We tried to avoid meals we could easily have in the city – so as to fully experience the place. And top that with genuine smiles and laughter, I couldn’t have been any fuller. After dinner, we explored the souvenir shops before calling it a day. One thing I loved about local markets, was how histories of the place existed in each and every product sold. For Vigan, miniatures of kalesas (horse-drawn calashes) were sold at every store – a reminiscent of how our ancestors once traveled.
The following day had a more packed itinerary. For breakfast, we tried the famous empanada (stuffed pies) and Vigan Longganisa (sausages). Even these delicacies, told me of stories – stories of how the local people kept their identities alive even as they made their living in the modern world. After sipping some coffee, we visited the Cathedral of Vigan, where I spent a few minutes reading the short chronicle of its history on the display outside. While I was completely engrossed with the architecture’s triumphs against time, voices of children running around on the circle behind me filled my ears. It was amazing how the pictures of the past and sounds of the present made for an interesting ambiance.
After hearing the mass, we proceeded to ride a kalesa – the conventional ride in touring the historic village. To fully enchant myself with the sights, I opted to sit beside the coach, despite the protests of my mother. I interviewed the kind man about how the place lived in the now modern times, and he even gave me the privilege of hearing how it was like to grow up in Vigan. He even let me hold the strap and coach the carriage myself. After a few more chats, we arrived at our first stop: the Shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad, and the Bantay Bell Tower. Being the feisty one – perhaps because I was the youngest, I led the journey to the topmost of the bell tower. The view was breathtaking. That moment I wondered, if it was even possible for words to describe the pictures I saw as I overlooked the lush scenery. If the Gods and Goddesses of Olympus existed in this time – these would have been the sights their eyes would be witnessing every day. And if I were indeed an angel, like my nickname suggested, this would have been the world I would have adored from the clouds.
Another interesting site we visited was the Syquia Mansion Museum, where the former president Elpidio Quirino once lived. My mother especially marveled at the furnishings inside, as someone who had a heart for interior design. Meanwhile, my eyes feasted on the history of the family painted on the large displays. For every stroke and color, the legacy of their lives lived – and putting altogether created a historical book-like storytelling in front of my every eyes. And being the curious cat I was, I chatted with the caretaker – who did not hold back in telling me stories of paranormal sights, as a bonus.
To be quite honest, we didn’t spend a very long time exploring Vigan – mainly because we had to head to another destination the following day. That night before we left the historical village, I sat on my bed on my hotel room and opened my laptop. With nothing else to do, I opened my Microsoft Word and attempted to write a few words – but ended up with dots. What hit me during my stand on the topmost of the bell tower, hit me again. Was it possible to keep memories of a trip forever, just like how the history of the cathedral was etched on its walls? The trip was memorable to me – because it was an answer to both big and small dreams of mine alike. Then it was that moment that I finally found the third reason, as to why the trip was bound to be unforgettable. The trip had made me realize, what I wanted to do from then on: to immortalize memories of travels through what I committed to do for as long as I live – write.
Our journey to Vigan was a brief journey back to the past. But more than touching, seeing, tasting memories of the old Philippines, the travel made me discover my future self. The enchantment Vigan gave me, directed me to find what I wanted to do with my writing for the rest of my life – travel writing. And the following year, I took my internship with a travel magazine, and went out of the country for the first time. A well-directed life, thanks to Vigan.