Thursday, July 10, 2014

Syquia Mansion in Vigan

It’s July! I will be celebrating my birthday this 26th and I’m still not sure where we will spend the Ramadan 9-days vacation, which starts on the 25th until the 2nd of August. I haven’t thought about that yet. I don’t want any addition to the backlog of posts that’s been nagging me for months and I’m not even halfway through with my Philippine vacation posts!

Let’s tackle the Syquia Mansion this time.

If there's one house where I learned so much about the Filipino way of life during the Spanish era, it's the Syquia Mansion. It's the first of the three stops of our calesa ride. The calesa driver mentioned some mansions we can choose to visit but we said yes to Syquia Mansion when he told us that Elpidio Quirino, one of the Philippine presidents, owned the house.

Syquia Mansion epitomizes the more than three centuries of Spanish colonization in the Philippines. It evokes of wealth, fine living and aristocracy. You can easily guess that the former occupants of this house were either insulares (those who were born in the country to pure Spanish parents), or Filipino/Chinese mestizos (Filipinos having both Filipino and Spanish/Chinese bloodline). Syquias, I later knew, were Chinese Mestizos.

A stern-looking caretaker greeted us at the entrance and gave a brief introduction on the history of the mansion. Because he delivered the introduction in a way that you would be lured to go up the mansion to know more about it, we paid the donation which served as our entrance fee and went up. (But looks are quite deceiving. The caretaker we mistook as stern was very friendly on our way out. He even took our family picture with the Quirinos' carriage!)

I fell in love with the intricate carvings on the bed and other furniture. Did you know that those carvings have meaning? They denote social status and family rankings. I also liked the big windows that let the air and sunshine in.

The Spanish mansions have what they call “eyes”. They're holes the residents or the helpers use to check the arrival of guests. If the guests were wealthy and prominent, they were ushered to the receiving area. But if they’re not, they were not allowed to go inside the house. The caretaker explained that such attitude was the basis for the famous Filipino proverb: "Aanhin pa ang bahay na bato kung ang nakatira ay kwago, buti pa ang bahay kubo ang nakatira ay tao" ("What good is a stone house when owls live there. A nipa hut is better when a person lives there.") Owl, obviously, was used to represent those "eyes".

This dining area is big enough for another one-bedroom house. It may look small to you but if you're like me who grew up in houses with either small dining areas or with them incorporated in the kitchen, then this is already a dining area and a playground for you.

By the way, did you notice those big curtain-like materials hanging from the ceiling? I initially thought they were used to fan diners during the summer season. But they're not. They’re used to drive away flies from the dining table. Flies, notorious for carrying many diseases, reproduced rapidly then and led to outbreaks of diseases. You wouldn’t want to know why that happened but still, I will tell you. Because sanitation wasn’t the main concern then, people would just throw their poop outside, the catapult way. Okay, I went overboard in imagining things again. The tour guide didn’t mention any use of catapults but people really threw their poops as far as they could! As a result, the flies indulged in those free throwaways, carried bacteria, and spread communicable diseases. The unhygienic practice only stopped when the Americans came to the Philippines and taught proper waste disposal.

Remember my simple dream of going inside a Spanish house or mansion? I already achieved that when I went to my classmate's house during my high school years. But it wasn't as big as Syquia Mansion though. How I wish I could live in a house maybe not as big but as spacious and well-ventilated as the Syquia Mansion. But because I live in a time when a 42-sqm is the norm on urban living and an 85-sqm house and lot in the suburban areas fits a family of four, I should be thankful enough to be living in a city back home where everything you need is within easy reach - including toilet bowls and flushes!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Heritage Houses in Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Fred and I both have a thing for looking at old houses. More specifically, old Spanish houses. Our penchant for this architectural beauty began long before we met.

When I was a pre-teener, I would always stop and linger for a while whenever I see Spanish houses. I remember there was one along the street where I grew up. And there was another on the way to school. A rich classmate lived there and his stories of his Spanish grandmother's extravagant parties and condescending attitude were reminiscent of my childhood's after-school days. Because the house was so big that it stretched over half the street, my other classmates and I found joy in walking along its beautiful garden. We didn't drop by to enjoy the flowers but to get a good glimpse of what's inside that old mansion. Sadly, befriending the caretaker and the gardener and convincing our rich classmate that we wouldn't be over five minutes inside his house were all futile ways of getting past that elusive main door. I blame it on my classmate's antagonistic portrayal of his grandmother. I got so scared of her that I left the idea of discovering how Spanish houses look inside. I haven't seen that old Spanish house in decades but its facade is still etched vividly in my mind. Such beauty.

Even if they look a little eerie, Fred, on the other hand, would sometimes get closer to old houses trying to explore them  from all angles. As weird as it seems, these beauties make us stop, look and listen to their stories wherever we find them. But when you're in Luzon and way up north, relive Spanish colonial times by walking through the Heritage Houses of Calle Crisologo.

Maybe just like my classmate's old mansion, these Spanish houses evoke stories of love and war. One tourist guide told us a story behind all these preserved houses. A Japanese war official fell in love with a beautiful local. Because he knew beforehand that the Americans were going to drop bombs in Ilocos Sur where he and other Japanese soldiers were hiding, he ordered all residents to lay down American flags on the roof of their houses. Upon seeing these flags, the Americans spared all Spanish houses of Vigan from destruction. Such a lovely story, right?

What better way to enjoy this UNESCO World Heritage Site than with a calesa ride. For P350 per hour, you can tell the calesa driver which mansion or tourist spot you'd like to visit. We chose the Syquia Mansion, the Burnay Pottery and these Heritage Houses.

The Heritage Houses of Vigan is too beautiful to be ticked away on my travel bucket list. But I'm so glad I've seen them before they become more famous. With Vigan being nominated as one of the New 7 Wonders Cities, I'm sure more tourists would flock to this beautiful city. Please click on the link and vote for Vigan!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Baluarte in Vigan, Ilocos Sur

With all the time I have because it's my kids' summer vacation, I should have blogged all month long but I still didn't. I may be a lousy blogger but there's one thing about me that's kind of helping me post better things here. I'm not a lousy vacationer, that is. I have this insatiable hunger for checking out new places and trying out new cuisines.

This year, we spent more than a month in the Philippines. A month and three days, to be exact. First on our travel itinerary was the Northern Philippine provinces getaway. That's because we received a birthday invitation from friends who live in Pangasinan and a get-together/house visit invitation from another friend who lives in Narvacan, Ilocos Sur. These are the times I appreciate our OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) life. We get to meet people from all over the Philippines and get invited to visit them when our vacation coincide with theirs.

Baluarte in Vigan, Ilocos Sur

After attending a birthday celebration on Day 1, we left for Ilocos Sur in the afternoon. Our Day 2 was jam-packed with places we haven't visited yet. Let me start with the Baluarte in Vigan.

Baluarte is 80 hectares of gently rolling terrains, hills and mountain sides, the structures of facilities and amenities, its phases of construction is in its best possible realistic and natural habitat for good and sound animal care.

Located along the western seaboard of Northern Luzon 408 kilometers north of Manila and bounded in the South by South China Sea, Baluarte has a breathtaking view of Vigan City. It is open to the public and admission is free. It is Governor Chavit's gift to the people of Vigan where residents are accorded free use of spaces for their livelihood programs. -
 source and more info here

I didn't hear these two parrots talk but they will greet you at the entrance.

Ostriches roam freely much to my fear, really.

I won't write too much about Baluarte because almost everything about it is written in its website. So please just enjoy looking at the pictures as I enjoyed looking at these animals and strolling along Baluarte's meandering pathways.

There were iguanas and snakes, too.

The entrance to the Butterfly Garden

Pupae of butterflies on the Butterfly Garden

We are so clueless on what these butterflies were eating.

40 foot dinosaur statues

We caught the free animal show!
This Bear Cat really tickled us!

Fee for posing with this tiger: P250 for four persons

I would like to have something like this in my garden!

Last look at Baluarte's Dinosaurs

For those who are planning to visit Baluarte, try doing so during cooler months when the animals aren't so stressed out and dehydrated. Though we were a little sunburned but that's because we got there past 10AM, Baluarte is such a good start for an Ilocos provinces tour. As much as we want to linger, we had to move on to our next destination.

Opens from 6AM - 6PM (that's what the sign at the entrance says)
Monday - Sunday

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