Saturday, 27 December 2008

Manila to Ilocos in a Picanto, Part 3, (Vigan)

For our last evening in San Juan, La Union, we decided to get dinner elsewhere. After stopping at three restaurants, we ended up at Sunset German Beach where Pedro was offered a massage as soon as he got out of the car by a very enterprising young man which, of course, he politely declined.

The food was actually quite good, and we spoke to the tipsy German owner who said the rooms go for PhP 1,100 for a/c and PhP 900 for fan. That's half of what we paid for at Final Option. Oh well. The rooms look a bit gloomy, and if you call your resort Sunset German Beach you're most likely to attract robust German families with their beer and determined-looking children; one in particular scared Pedro a bit.

The next day, we left San Juan for Vigan, driving through Bacnotan, Balaoan, Luna, Bangar and Sudipen, La Union, then crossing onto Ilocos Sur, through Tagudin, Sta. Cruz, Sta. Lucia, Candon, San Esteban and a brief stop at the Unesco Heritage cathedral of Sta. Maria. The place was shut, but the church was gorgeous and it's on top of a hill, which mean great views of the entire town. After the brief stop we carried on and drove onwards through Narvacan, Santa, then crossed the Quirino Bridge and finally got to Vigan.

Originally we booked a room at the Gordion Inn, which we decided to just ditch when our host Sammy in Laoag confirmed that he's got a room that evening for us at Balay da Blas. A few days ago I frantically rang hotels in Vigan hoping to book a room for one evening. I found Gordion Inn which was charging PhP 2,500 for two with breakfast thrown in. I thought it was a tad expensive but it certainly beats sleeping in the car.

When we got to Vigan, we decided to have get some lunch and ended up in Gordion Inn. We thought, well, if you're a proper establishment you'd be serving proper food, right? God we were so utterly wrong. We first ordered bottles of cold drink, which were deposited on our table still with the
caps on, then a waitress plonked a bottle opener in the middle like it was an integral part of any first-time Vigan visitor's experience. Pedro ordered something called Lomo which turned out to be bits of fatty pork trimmings swimming in broth with a few bits of scallions thrown in for good measure. It tasted like, well, bits of fatty pork trimmings swimming in broth with a few bits of scallions thrown in for good measure. I ordered three things which were all "out of stock" of course, because such is my luck. I was determined to have an Ilocano lunch but the waiter wasn't fully cooperating. He couldn't explain the Ilocano dishes on the menu. I asked him if he was Ilocano, to which he answered in the affirmative, but when asked why he doesn't know these apparently typical Ilocano fare, he said that it's because he's new in the job. Let's take a moment here and talk about waitering in a big hotel restaurant. If I were to do it, and I get five minutes of down time due to lack of custom, I would certainly try to know what I am serving. People don't seem to treat waitering as a real job anymore.

That was the worst meal we've had in a long while, and while it makes for good
conversation topic to justify giving an overnight stay in Vigan a miss, it's the kind of thing which puts one off for a very long time. I certainly won't have much glowing reviews for the entire city.

The minute we stepped into Calle Crisogo in Vigan I got a strangely familiar vibe about the place. Then I realized what it was. It's Intramuros, with more souvenier shops and crappy knick-knacks. We drove all the way here for that. I mean sure, the old houses are nice, but most of them are in various stages of serious disrepair, and I got an eery feeling that I was just in Nayong Pilipino in Clark in a row of souvenier shops and not much else. They even had a Ye Olde Havaianas Shoppe in the old
quarters. That really blows.

After a brief stop at Tongson's Royal Bibingka shop and a hot fudge sundae from McDonald's it was time to leave Vigan.

We're actually quite glad we weren't staying the night there. Something about the place just feels a little too, um, artificial. It was more like a theme park rather than a
heritage site. But I guess it's one of those things one romanticizes inside one's head for the longest time that when you actually get there it was bound to be a huge disappointment. Oh well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just a friendly note - the website for Balay da Blas has moved to: