Baluarte is the famed home of Gov. Chavit Singson in Vigan. It is part political headquarters, part zoo, and part wildlife sanctuary and facility. It is home to several tigers, ostriches, deer, and other interesting animals. It also features a butterfly garden, a petting zoo, and daily animal shows. I thought the butterfly garden was pretty standard but I overheard someone say that it's better than the one in Sentosa, Singapore. Honey, no.
Equally beautiful is the Burnayan, a little spot that preserves the tradition of pottery-making. The Burnayan preceded the Spanish in Vigan and was established by Chinese settlers, and the process remains faithfully the same. It's basically a roomy hut with earthen floors and a large quantity of pots and vases made by the potters. They showed us the process of pottery, which looked easy but which I am sure is quite complicated. The potter made it look so easy. Each pot is shaped for two minutes and dried for over a week. According to many, burnay (made from Ilocos soil) is stronger than terracotta.
One of the highlights of any trip to Ilocos is Calle Crisologo in Vigan, the street known for its preserved Spanish-style architecture. It is one of the iconic places in Ilocos and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's the only place in East and Southeast Asia that has that kind of architecture.
The place is visually amazing, but all the houses are converted to shops that cater to tourists. So don't expect preserved interiors and quaint memorabilia, as they are replaced with chichacorn and Vigan longganisa. In spite of the tourist trap, it's a good thing to know that the prices are exactly the same as other places. But it is an experience walking through and imagining yourself as a Spanish mestizo walking on a summer day.
Oddly, I saw a friend there. I was walking along, when I heard someone scream my name. It was Christian, a college classmate of mine in UST. It's always a surreal experience to see someone you know out of town or the country. This summer, I saw a high school teacher in Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.