Vigan, A Walk Back in Time

During our last visit to the Philippines, we spent some time in the Ilocos region. More specifically we stayed for a few days in Vigan, Ilocos Sur.


Vigan is a quaint historic town that features old architecture and culture. My wife spent some of her formative years in this town, so for her coming to this place is more than just a tour or a visit. It is homecoming.

First of all, we stayed in an old Spanish house that was made into a hotel, which was aptly named Grandpa’s Inn. According to the owners, it was their grandparent’s ancestral home.


front lobby


the inn overlooking the street


spacious hallway upstairs


inviting sitting area


the kalesa room where we stayed

True to its motto: “a home away from home,” we felt right at home in this comfortable inn.


There are many ways to tour the town. The most classic is to ride on one of the many kalesa (horse-drawn carriage), while the kutsero (driver) gives you the insider’s history of places you will pass through. The other way is to walk around with somebody who grew-up there (like my wife), and hear the history of this town in their personal perspective. The last one is just to run around (preferably in the morning, when there’s not much traffic and people yet) on your own, and get both your cardio exercise while touring the place at the same time. Well, I did all of that.

The most well-known part of Vigan is the Heritage Village. This is a preserved tourist attraction, with cobblestone street lined with houses and buildings that retained their relic-like appearance.


Walking in this village is like walking back in time.


Heritage village in the early morning, when it appears deserted.


Heritage during bustling hour.


colorful merchandise


even the brooms looks festive


hotels and inns at Heritage


This old building in Heritage village was transformed into a movie set in Fernando Poe Jr.’s “Ang Panday.”

In the middle of the town is Plaza Burgos, built to remember the martyrdom of Father Jose P. Burgos who died in the hands of Spanish colonizers.



Part of the nostalgia of Vigan are its old historic churches.


St. Paul’s Cathedral; kalesa line in the gate, waiting for the parishioners


St. Augustine Church with Bantay Bell Tower


Bantay Bell Tower



stairway to the top of the Bell tower


the bells


View from the east face of the bell tower; the cemetery with the rising sun and the Cordilleras in the backdrop.

Everywhere you look in Vigan are old houses and buildings. Some are well maintained.


Father Burgos house which is now a National Museum

Some houses are needing repair.


Some old houses were renovated and look like new.


But sadly to say, just like everywhere else, some old buildings are being eaten by progress and commercialism.



I also wandered with my wife, places that she used to go way back when. This includes the public market.


public market


my wife walking under the canopy of Bougainvillea in front of the city market


looking for something to eat


vendors readying their goods


For more authentic feel, we even sample the sinanglao from this vendor.

Just like a homecoming, you would not miss to walk again in the streets where you grew up. So my wife and I walked through old neighborhoods that are dear to her heart.


My wife said she learned to ride a bike in this street.


House where my wife and her family lived and rented sometime in her childhood’s past.

Vigan. A wonderful place. A city indeed rich in heritage, both in our national history and personal memories.

I hope to visit this place again, in the future. Someday. Soon.


me lounging at Heritage village

Take the Photo and Run

It was a perfect autumn day. It was clear and cool, with early morning temperature in the high 40’s but expected to warm up to 70’s Fahrenheit. Excitement was heating up the nippy air. Beautiful day to run the marathon! This was my third half-marathon race. And I even took pictures while running it.

Waiting to start. This was how far I was from the starting line.

There was a sea of people that day. Nice to be in this good company of athletes and wannabe-athletes. This was the annual IMT Des Moines Marathon (which also includes the half-marathon and 5K run). I learned that there were more than 8,000 runners that morning, and perhaps thousands more family and friends who were there to support and to cheer.

It took a few minutes after the official time begun before I even cross the starting line.

Iowa Capitol in the distance. I was trying to follow the pace runner with the red sign 2:20 (that is the goal time I want to finish the half marathon)

Court house building ahead. Can you still see the 2:20 pace runner?

I kept on taking pictures to amuse myself. I also took photos of all the mile markers as motivation for myself of how much distance I already covered. Somehow I missed the mile 2 marker as I was oblivious of other things, like keeping up with the pace runner that I wanted to follow, while watching other runners and not stepping on their toes, for it was crowded.

Mile 3 marker. Where’s the 2:20 pace runner? I think I fell behind already. O well, I’ll just enjoy the run.

After running through city streets we entered Water Works Park, and it was a change of scenery.

Mile 4 marker

Mile 5 marker

I was in mile 5 when there were several runners going the opposite direction, meaning that I was still on my way further and they were on their way back already. Are you kidding me? I must be running slow! The eventual winner of Des Moines half marathon was a Kenyan with a blistering time of 1 hour, 3 minutes and 18 seconds. That was really more than twice faster than my pace.

I was still going upstream, while others were already heading back.

There were several water stations along the way. They offer water and Gatorade. There were even different stations that handed out pretzels, candies, gummy bear, energy gels and power bars. I stopped on most of them and took whatever they offer. Hey, they’re free.  And I don’t even have to say trick or treat!

Gatorade station

Along the route were signs that kind of encourages the runners to go on. There was one that said “Run as if you stole something.” Maybe I should have stolen the prize money for the winner when I passed the starting line and I could have run faster. Playing in my head was the Steve Miller Band song “Take the money and run.” Hoo, hoo, hoo! Here are the other signs.

Why can’t they hand them now in the water station?

I am a Filipino, and I can run fast too. Specially if I am being chased by a rabid dog! (see previous post here)

Besides the spectators on the side of the road cheering the runners, there were also several singers and local rock bands playing, boosting our moods and electrifying the air.

local rock band

Mile 6 marker

I need a break. This kind of break. A breath-holding break, if you know what I mean.

water station

A different kind of station.

They even have an ambulance ready. But not for me. Not today.

Mile 7 marker. I am more than halfway!

Another music band

Mile 21 marker. Huh? Oh, that’s a marker for the full marathon.

Here’s the right one for me, the half marathon marker.

I am not Dave, but I’ll take the motivation. Thanks doggie!

Downtown Des Moines in the distance. That’s how far I need to go still?

Mile 9 marker

Gray’s Lake in downtown Des Moines. A beautiful day indeed!

Still in Gray’s Lake

Mile 10 marker. That’s the farthest I ran training for this half-marathon. It would be sheer determination from here on.

I was on my 10th mile, when a motorcade passed, alerting us to give way. It was the lead runner for the full marathon. He already ran 23 miles in the same time period that I was running! The next marathon runner that passed me was almost 5 minutes behind the leader.

The lead runner for the full marathon.

I learned that this was James Kirwa (#1), a Kenyan runner. He eventually won the race with the time of 2:16:54. It was his third consecutive year winning the Des Moines Marathon.

Mile 11 marker

Mile 12 marker. The next marker will say “FINISH”

This band was blaring heavy rock music when I passed by.

Finish strong? My legs were like jelly. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

I can smell the finish line!

Finally! Finish time was 2 hours 29 minutes. Still close to my goal,while taking photos to boot.

I think I deserve one of those, please.

wearing it proudly

See you again next year! For now I need more ibuprofen.


(*all photos taken with my iPhone)