Monday, January 14, 2013

ilocos 2013: day two

Our hotel, Palacio De Laoag, suggested an itinerary which entailed being on the road promptly at 7AM every day.

Uh, no way. Some major tweaking was in order.

This is what our second day looked like, revised:

I would not have thought that it was possible to tour Vigan in just one day-- last time we stayed overnight-- but our time was very limited. So we ended up skipping the recommended museums and shrines, simply because there wasn't enough to visit them and still have delightful, leisurely meals.

And y'all know how important mealtimes are to me.

After mass at St. Paul's Cathedral, we walked over to Café Bigaa at Vigan Plaza Hotel. While perusing the menu, we munched on a local delicacy, Tongson Royal Bibingka.

Vigan-style bibingka (rice cake). Very heavy and dense. A little goes a long way.

Of course we had to order the Vigan Sampler (600 pesos)...

Bagnet, longganisa, pork dinaldalem (nasty bits), sinanglaw (beef soup) and pinakbet.

As well as the Inihaw Sampler (650 pesos).

Grilled prawns, liempo (pork belly) and tilapia. Salted egg, tomato, okra and eggplant with shrimp paste. A bit of pickled carrot and ampalaya (bitter gourd).

Wikireena, my go-to gal for all things Vigan, told me that we should try the Guardia Sibil (160 pesos) and Turon Cigars (100 pesos).

Café Bigaa's take on the ubiquitous spring roll.

Deep-fried banana and jackfruit rolls, dusted with sugar and served with crème anglaise.

The rest of the day was spent sightseeing. I had already been to most of the places on our list and it felt like calling on old friends.

Although the new bridge was completed last year, the beautiful old Quirino Bridge is still standing and still passable.

The San Agustin Church and the Bantay Belfry beside it are as imposing as ever.

And Calle Crisologo? Every square meter of it is indelibly and intimately imprinted on my memory, even after four years.

But the best part about being back in Vigan was being able to do the things that we missed the last time. Like eating Vigan empanada at Hidden Garden...

And visiting Santa Maria Church. More about that in my next blog post.

Verdict: Café Bigaa is probably the nicest and safest place to eat in Vigan. I haven't had a bad meal there yet, and it's an excellent place to bring first-timers because they have Vigan's greatest hits on their menu. My favorites were the sinanglaw, light but packed with beefy essence, and the turon, perfect little sweet bites at the end of a wonderful meal.

However, I enjoyed the food in Laoag more. The dishes are basically the same-- such as the bagnet, longganisa, pinakbet and even the empanada-- but up north, I found the flavors to be a smidge more forceful and distinctive.

In the end, it doesn't matter. It's all good. Ilocos regional cuisine, whether in the north or the south, is one of the best in the Philippines. And in a country with 80 provinces, each with its own special dishes, that's saying a lot.

Related posts: Vigan 2009 here.

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