Pope Francis visited the Philippines for five days which meant sudden vacation time for us Metro Manilans. Yeah, baby! So, my friends and I decided to travel up North to make the most of it. We started out in La Union, went up to Baguio, and headed off to Vigan.
For some reason BFF Patintera and I thought it would only take us two hours to reach Vigan from Baguio. Three hours into the bus ride, I knew we had made a miscalculation. It worried me for two reasons: 1. we had not had breakfast, and 2. I did not take the customary bathroom break before going on long bus rides. Thank goodness for bus stops.
We decided to go ahead with our Vigan trip even without having a confirmed hotel reservation. So, we spent the six-hour ride messaging, texting, and calling hotels. But there was no room at the inn. All hotels we contacted were either fully booked or did not get back to us.
When we finally reached Vigan at around dusk, we agreed to put off making any decisions about our dilemma until we get some decent food in us.
We got off the bus a couple of blocks away from Calle Crisologo. We wasted no time and headed to Cafe Leona. It was a little less impressive than I remembered from my first Vigan trip some time in early 2000s. Or maybe I just didn’t notice how untidy the walls and floors were back then because I did not spend the first five minutes searching for a socket.
The disappointment did not stop there, unfortunately. The food was less spectacular than we expected. The bagnet, sadly, tasted like it had been reheated a couple of times in a couple of days. The longganisa was good though and so was the hot tsokolate that we had after our uber late lunch.
Since we still didn’t have a place to stay the night, we considered flying back to Manila. Patintera checked flights online while I went around to confirm if there really was no accommodation available. Stepping out onto Calle Crisologo, I immediately understood why we couldn’t book a hotel anywhere. Vigan was filled to the brim with tourists.
Apparently, Metro Manila did not only vacation in Baguio, they went up to Vigan as well.
After exploring all the side streets near Calle Crisologo, I found out that Vigan was not completely fully booked. There were a couple of hotels that had vacancy – their most expensive suites that could accommodate an entire clan. Since it was just Patintera and myself, we thought it unwise to book a room good for 18 people for over P12,000 a night.
Since flights were a bit pricey and entailed a bus ride to Laoag, we decided to enjoy Vigan first and check streets I might have missed.
We seemed to have caught a break as we stumbled upon Hotel Felicidad. We were intrigued by the quaint exterior and were quite hopeful that it might have vacancy.
We went up to the reception and were told that the only available room was the ‘Maestro Suite’. The girl offered it to us at a discount but this special rate was still quite steep for our budget so we stepped out to continue searching.
As we rounded the corner from Felicidad, we realized we were already too exhausted and not entirely thrilled about going on another bus ride to Laoag for a hefty-priced flight back to Manila. So, we did a 180 and booked the Maestro Suite at Hotel Felicidad.
And, boy, were we ecstatic we did! We’d never stayed in a fancy hotel suite before, we commoners.
As we were led up the staircase to the second floor halls, each step came with excitement. We immediately forgot we went overbudget for this one. The halls were capacious, the floor tiles were gorgeous, and our room was just stunning.
The highlight of our Hotel Felicidad experience was the gorgeous four-poster bed. I gasped when we walked into the room and saw it. I could not control my little happy dance as the porter was leaving.
The sight of this bed made all my aches go away and reenergized me for a night out in Vigan. No sooner had we dropped our bags were we out the door to celebrate our little victory.
We went straight to the pasalubong shops since we planned to leave for Manila right after breakfast the next day.
Since Vigan City is a Unesco World Heritage Site, you can imagine my surprise, nay, disgust when I heard pounding, electronic dance music emanating from one of the old buildings. Upon closer look, I found out that a ‘super club’ was causing the cobblestoned street to vibrate. Yes, for some incredibly unbelievable reason, there’s a night club at the Vigan Heritage Village. Boo!
Some preliminary research has yielded information that one of the influential Vigan families is either a part owner or had something to do with the presence of this atrocity. Huge mistake on their part. Then again, what else is new?
After all the bargaining and walking, Patintera and I began craving for a light snack. We made our way to the food tiangge on Plaza Burgos.
It was almost 11 p.m. and we were lucky to have found an empanada stall still open at the tiangge. We didn’t want to leave without having an authentic Ilocano empanada in Vigan.
After our delicious snack, we decided it was time to enjoy our gorgeous room.
As expected, we slept like babies in our spacious bed with comfortable mattress and heavenly beddings. We were not too happy about getting up early but we still had some pasalubong shopping to do before hitting the breakfast buffet.
We hurriedly jumped off the bed, went shopping and excitedly went back to the hotel.
Breakfast. Buffet. Yay!
Excited as we were, you can imagine our dismay when we found the buffet lacking in variety, quality, and quantity, especially at the room price we were paying. The only ulam available were longganisa and fried egg. The only breads they had were white and wheat. No danish, no croissants, not even good ol’ pancakes. Sad.
Marching band music distracted me from my complaining so I stepped outside to investigate. There was a harvest parade of sorts with local farmers celebrating their trade.
We were not ready to say goodbye to our lovely room but it was time to go back to Manila. Lugging our bags and heavy pasalubong, we were glad to get a free ride from the hotel to the bus station.
It was another day of waiting and traveling but we knew we would be fine. We prayed for a safe, comfortable, and painless trip back home and God answered with a double rainbow.
Traveling Up North has been one bipolar experience. The commute was uncomfortable but the destinations were priceless. The trauma of not having a place to lay our heads was trounced by finding the princess bed I’ve been dreaming of since childhood. It may have been a roller coaster ride but I sure am glad we did it.
I am equally glad, though, to be back in my own bed. The comfort of home will always trump a fancy hotel’s. For now, I’m putting away my backpack, resting my feet, and sipping on green tea.
Until the next wave of wanderlust that is. See you around.