BALUARTE NI CHAVIT SINGSON

Wrapping up our Byaheng Ilocos Sur, our last destination was Governor Chavit Singson’s Baluarte – an interactive wildlife sanctuary and facility, with the breathtaking view of its dominating scenic boulders amidst trees and greens in the heart of Vigan, Ilocos Sur.

Baluarte is a ten minute drive from Vigan City. It is owned by Ilocos Sur Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson and sometimes called Chavit’s Fortess.  Unlike other zoos, Baluarte is a wildlife sanctuary dedicated to facilitating education, conservation and protection of endangered species and wildlife. Visitors of Baluarte are guaranteed to rediscover life amongst the animals in unique and entertaining ways through first-hand experience. In fact, one can come and play with the animals inside Baluarte. It is so interactive that visitors can feed them, pet them, whistle with them and even roar with them.

There are so many things one can do there interacting with the animals. In my part, I had fun riding a small horse-drawn carriage called “tiburin”. I also enjoyed whistling and playing with the parrots. I visited the butterfly garden and petted some exotic iguanas. It was incredibly awesome. I also had the chance riding a camel. It was actually my first time to see a camel and riding on it was a rare experience. There were plenty of snakes and pythons there too but I can’t just go nearer. I’ll die if I do. I have huge fear for snakes.

The most unforgettable experience I had at Baluarte is my close encounter with the tiger. It was a new experience for me. At one point I’d like to cuddle the tiger as if it was a huge stuff toy but the moment it moved, I felt apprehensive. I had a perfect photo with the tiger though.

There are more to see and more to do in Baluarte. Indeed, it is more than just a zoo. Going there will surely be an extraordinary adventure especially for families. For us, visiting Governor Chavit Singson’s Baluarte was a perfect treat to end our Ilocandia Tour. The best thing about it – IT IS ABSOLUTELY FREE! Yes, you read it right – admission to Baluarte is FREE!

TRAVEL SERIES: Byaheng Ilocos Sur, Lakbay Ilocos Norte

  1. PAGUDPUD: The Charming Tropical Paradise of the North
  2. The Humongous Windmills of Bangui
  3. KAPURPURAWAN ROCKS: The Prized Gem of Burgos, Ilocos Norte
  4. Sunset at the Sand Dunes of Ilocos Norte
  5. Visiting Malacañang of the North
  6. Beholding the Grandeur of Paoay Church
  7. The Heritage City of Vigan
  8. The Picturesque bantay Church and Bell Tower
  9. Baluarte Ni Chavit Singson

THE PICTURESQUE BANTAY CHURCH AND BELL TOWER

Adjacent to the Heritage City of Vigan is yet another charming town of Ilocos Sur called Bantay. Just like Vigan, it is also a place to behold as it boasts ancestral houses and some historical sites. The most famous landmark of the town is the Bantay Church and Bell Tower.

Bantay Church and Bell Tower is about 15 minutes Kalesa ride from the Calle Crisologo ofVigan City. To be honest, I was amazed to know that the town of Bantay is just minutes away from the city proper of Vigan. In fact it is a walking distance from the heritage city. I never knew there are towns like these two so closest to each other. And being adjacent, Bantay is also part of the Vigan Heritage Tour where it highlights the visit to Bantay Church and Bell Tower. 

Bantay Church is also known as the St. Augustine Parish Church. Built by Augustinian Friars in 1590, it is considered as one of the oldest churches in the Province of Ilocos Sur. Bantay Church is a baroque-gothic style church. It has a separate belfry situated on top of a small hill few meters away from the church.

The picturesque Bantay Bell Tower overlooks the stunning view of the mountains in nearby province of Abra and the vast South China Sea (now West Philippine Sea). During World Wars I and II, the belfry was used as a watchtower for invading enemy forces. Clearly, this manifests how Bantay Church and Bell Tower became monumental witnesses to different significant and historical events during those days.

Today, Bantay Church and Bell Tower is a great reminder of the rich history not just of Bantay as a town but the Philippines as a nation. It is a true remainder of our past that tells us we could withstand our future. Bantay Church and Bell Tower truly is a must visit piece of our history in this part of Ilocandia.

TRAVEL SERIES: Byaheng Ilocos Sur, Lakbay Ilocos Norte

  1. PAGUDPUD: The Charming Tropical Paradise of the North
  2. The Humongous Windmills of Bangui
  3. KAPURPURAWAN ROCKS: The Prized Gem of Burgos, Ilocos Norte
  4. Sunset at the Sand Dunes of Ilocos Norte
  5. Visiting Malacañang of the North
  6. Beholding the Grandeur of Paoay Church
  7. The Heritage City of Vigan
  8. The Picturesque bantay Church and Bell Tower

THE HERITAGE CITY OF VIGAN

I have a huge fascination for anything that is antiquated – antique furnishing, vintage stuffs, old houses and everything that has a touch of antiquity. So when I travel north to Ilocandia, I was full of astonishment to finally see the Heritage City of Vigan, the capital City of the Province of Ilocos Sur known to be the only heritage city in the whole Philippines.

Vigan City is one of my dream destinations in the country. It is incredibly exceptional among the other cities and towns in the Philippine because it is the country’s oldest surviving Spanish colonial city that dates back to the 16th century colonial period.

In fact, Vigan City is officially included in the UNESCO World Heritage List of Sites and Monuments. This is the list of more than 600 cultural and natural properties of exceptional universal value in entire the world.  In the Philippines, it is one of the only five heritage sites found in the whole country.

As a World Heritage Site, Vigan City is the perfect example of a Spanish colonial town in Asia – eminent for its cobblestone streets and a unique architecture with the fusion of both Asian and European building design and colonial architecture. Being the oldest surviving Spanish colonial city in the Philippines, Vigan City preserves and restores antiquated houses and cobbled narrow streets making it the perfect colonial city to visit in the whole country.

Visiting Vigan City for me was a very remarkable experience. I was like traveling back to the old Spanish colonial days while walking around its cobbled stone streets and entering its antiquated houses. Being there, I experienced the feeling of being a true Filipino taking pride of its colorful history and rich heritage. Everything there is a source of pride. Vigan City, for me, is another national symbol of the Filipino people.

TRAVEL SERIES: Byaheng Ilocos Sur, Lakbay Ilocos Norte

  1. PAGUDPUD: The Charming Tropical Paradise of the North
  2. The Humongous Windmills of Bangui
  3. KAPURPURAWAN ROCKS: The Prized Gem of Burgos, Ilocos Norte
  4. Sunset at the Sand Dunes of Ilocos Norte
  5. Visiting Malacañang of the North
  6. Beholding the Grandeur of Paoay Church
  7. The Heritage City of Vigan

BEHOLDING THE GRANDEUR OF PAOAY CHURCH

I’ve been a huge lover of church structures – may it be old or new, baroque or modern. Whenever I get to visit one place, I make it a point to visit at least one church, first to pray and second to see what’s inside. There is something in churches that I consider special.

If there is one thing I love about Ilocos Norte, it is the fact that the Province is home to the many century-old churches in the Philippines. The most prominent of those is the Paoay Church also known as the San Augustin Church located in the town of Paoay. This historical church is in the bucket list of my dream churches to visit.

From Malacañang Ti Amianan, we drove straight to the town proper of Paoay. The church is located at the very heart of the town. It was nearing dark when we get there but I was so ecstatic to see the grandeur of the Church. As I stepped out of the van, it was the tranquil view of a 300-year old church that welcomed me. It was so peaceful that I can feel its serenity inside me. I moved to the front alley and from there gazed in full admiration the century-old structure that I have been dreaming to see. It was so admirable.

Paoay Church is perhaps the most admired “earthquake Baroque” church in the Philippines. It is a unique combination of Gothic, Baroque and Oriental architectural designs. It is among the first churches in the Philippine listed in the famed Unesco World Heritage List. It is for this reason that at one point, Paoay Church was used as the tourism emblem for the province of Ilocos Norte.

For more than 300 years, San Agustin Church of Paoay has lasted with the test of times – from destructive storms to devastating earthquakes. It has played significant role in the lives of the Ilokanos and has played a vital role of the Philippine history. Above all, it has witnessed the changes and challenges of the town yet remained strong and proud.

The Church was already closed when we got there. A substantial restoration and renovation was going on at that time. We did not get the chance to see what inside but just like the grandeur of the façade, we knew it was as equally magnificent.

Visiting Paoay Church was a dream come true. It is a sheer experience I will truly cherish. Indeed, when we wish for something and we push to make it happen, it will really come true! I may not wander inside the Church but being just there staring at its full grandeur is enough to say, “I WAS AT PAOAY CHURCH”. It used to be dream and finally a reality.

The Travel Teller with his RTour Travel Buddies

TRAVEL SERIES: Byaheng Ilocos Sur, Lakbay Ilocos Norte

  1. PAGUDPUD: The Charming Tropical Paradise of the North
  2. The Humongous Windmills of Bangui
  3. KAPURPURAWAN ROCKS: The Prized Gem of Burgos, Ilocos Norte
  4. Sunset at the Sand Dunes of Ilocos Norte
  5. Visiting Malacañang of the North
  6. Beholding the Grandeur of Paoay Church

VISITING MALACAÑANG OF THE NORTH

Still on our second day of Lakbay Ilocos Norte, one of the most important landmarks of the whole province that we did not miss to visit is the Malacañang of the North locally called as “Malacañang ti Amianan”.

“Malacañang ti Amianan” is one of the rest houses of the late President Ferdinand Marcos located in Suba, Paoay, Ilocos Norte. The rest house is actually a gift from her wife, the former First Lady Imelda Marcos, in time for his 60th birthday. It is also considered as their official residence in Ilocos Norte during the former President’s regime.

“Malacañang ti Amianan” is a two-storey mansion built impressively on a 5-hectare property in Suba, Paoay. It sits on a beautiful landscape overlooking the serene Paoay Lake. Its design is a mixture of both Spanish and Ilocano influences.

The entire structure is very impressive. From grand living room to the elegant dining rooms, attractive guestrooms to the grand master’s bedroom – everything is a work of art. It has also an equally elegant grand staircase that compliments the grandeur of the whole mansion.

“Malacañang ti Amianan” is among the properties of the Marcoses sequestered by the Philippine Government when former President Marcos was removed from power. For than 20 years, it was under the care of the Philippine Government until it was finally given to the care of the Provincial Government of Ilocos Norte. After going through series of restoration and renovation spearheaded by the incumbent Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, on January 1, 2011, it was open to the public as one of the Province’s key museum.

I am glad that I was able to visit the Malacanang of the North. To enter and personally see one of the most famous houses of the most influential families in the land on their time was a rare experience. It is like seeing history. So, when in Ilocos Norte, never leave the province without visiting this part of Paoay endearingly called by the Ilokanos as “Malacañang ti Amianan”.

FOOTNOTE:

“Malacañang ti Amianan” is strictly open from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM from Tuesdays to Sundays. It has an entrance fee of Php 20.00 collected for the maintenance of the mansion. The Malacanang of the North is accessible by tricycles and by cars from Laoag City, the capital of Ilocos Norte, however; if you are doing the trip by car, it is important to make sure you have a reliablemotor trade insurance to fully cover you in case of any accidents.

TRAVEL SERIES: Byaheng Ilocos Sur, Lakbay Ilocos Norte

  1. PAGUDPUD: The Charming Tropical Paradise of the North
  2. The Humongous Windmills of Bangui
  3. KAPURPURAWAN ROCKS: The Prized Gem of Burgos, Ilocos Norte
  4. Sunset at the Sand Dunes of Ilocos Norte
  5. Visiting Malacañang of the North