The Northern Luzon Heroes Hill National Park is a national park in the Republic of the Philippines, located in the municipalities of Santa and partly in Narvacan in Ilocos Sur province. The protected area was established on July 9, 1963. The protected area covers 1,316 hectares of beautiful mountain scenery with elevations up to 465.4 meters adjacent to the South China Sea. Activities to the park include trekking, mountain biking or sightseeing.
-Vigan City, Ilocos Sur, is home to Baluarte Zoo. It’s about 10 minutes outside of the city, heading towards the China Sea. It’s not a big budget type of zoo. Don’t expect any extravagant shows or pen areas for the animals. A lot of animals actually roam free within the walk areas as the guests.
Besides its low budget feel, I give it two thumbs up. It’s open every day to the public for FREE. Not many things are free in the Philippines, let alone an educational place for kids to learn about animals indigenous to the Philippines as well as around the world.
Chavit Singson, the private owner of the zoo, lets people take rides and visit the zoo at no charge. You can bring the family, have a picnic lunch, and learn something new.
Getting down and dirty is part of visiting Vigan City. But get your minds off the gutter; I’m talking about getting literally dirty, like molding a clay, spinning it and creating something beautiful. Well, maybe not that last part, it takes a very skilled hand to achieve that.
We were at Vigan’s Pagburnayan, the iconic pottery place in the city. Besides Calle Crisologo, this place probably clocks in as the most photographed Instagramed spot in the city.
Its name, Pagburnayan, comes from the root word burnay. It refers to the hand-crafted earthenware pots made from Vigan. Bantog clays these are called. They’re dug from the western barangays of the city.
I once asked a cuchero who was touring me around where they would get more of these if supplies ran out. Impossible, he says, they’ve been sourcing their materials from that area since Chinese immigrants came to Vigan City and established the craft.
Vigan is the proud birthplace of the Philippines’ sixth president, Elpidio Quirino. President Quirino is best remembered as the chief author of economic developments undertaken by the country that helped it rise from the devastation of World War II, as well as the country’s foreign policy direction during that time.
Having the Bigueno trait of independent-thinking, President Quirino became the target of CIA propaganda that made him lose his 1953 presidential bid against Ramon Magsaysay, who headed the National Defense Department under his administration. It was President Quirino’s penalty for his support of the withdrawal of the American bases whose stay in the country was up for review. The Syquia Mansion which houses President Quirino’s extensive memorabilia is actually owned by his
wife, Dona Alicia Quirino. Her ancestor was a Chinese who made his fortune in the robust trading in Vigan. Sy Kia’s pride in his Asian heritage can be seen by visitors to the Syquia mansion where they can view a portrait of him with his braided long hair and traditional Chinese robes. His descendants adopted the hispanize Syquia surname later on. The first lady’s grand ancestral home was where some of the President’s functions were held during his administration so it is not only worth a visit for the presidential memorabilia but also for the feel of the magnificent and historical gatherings that have taken place amongst the elegant furnishings.
To find the Syquia Mansion, visitors may walk through Crisologo Street towards Gordion Inn or the Kingdom Hall of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the two-storey, blue and cream-painted mansion will be in the corner of Quirino Boulevard. Inside the Syquia Mansion, one will marvel at the huge rooms filled with not only Philippine antiques but also those from countries all over the world. There are huge oil portraits of the family, with three identified as being done by national artist Fernando Amorsolo. There is even a huge replica of Juan Luna’s Spolarium, which was painted by the national hero and painter’s assistant. The house is still used by members of the Quirino family, so visitors will see modern implements in the dining room and kitchen together with the exquisite antique chinaware on display.
Visitors should also not pass up on the opportunity to look through the peeping holes found in the master’s bedroom and the second floor which are used to view visitors in the receiving area before they are allowed to enter the grand living room. A caretaker of the Syquia family is always around when the mansion is open to accompany visitors. Visitors can get important details from them, even information on secret doors! The Syquia Mansion tour is free, but a donation may be given to the caretaker.