Northern Luzon Project: Vigan City, Ilocos Sur

The Northern Luzon series is a photo essay of scenes I experienced while doing a 3-month project for an NGO. The project requires me to travel to several towns in Northern Luzon to document various disaster-preparedness projects.

Okay, so I’ll start this off with a highly debatable opinion: Vigan has lost its authenticity.

For those who don’t know, Vigan City in Ilocos Sur is most known for its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture. Its most famous street, Calle Crisologo, is lined with mansions dating back to the Spanish era. The street itself is also still lined with cobblestones from that time.

The first time I was there more than a decade ago, I was entranced by its romantic appeal. Although the Spanish colonization was marked with abuse and oppression, there’s no denying that Spanish culture has become an integral part of Filipino culture. For a history nut like me, being in Calle Crisologo evokes a sense of pride for our resilience to hardship and that sense of nationalistic pride for having fought against invaders.

However, my recent trip to Vigan two weeks ago has left me disappointed and frustrated. Somehow, despite having mostly preserved the architecture, the city no longer feels like you took a trip back in time to the Spanish era.

At first I shook it off as mere romanticism on my part. I may have put Vigan on a pedestal in my memories, blown out of proportion from the real situation. After all, it’s been more than ten years and memories tend to become exaggerated. However, the more I walked the streets the more certain I became that this is a new reality so far removed from the last decade.

Eventually I realized what the problem was. Calle Crisologo is now dominated by souvenir shops, trendy cafes, a modern bar, and even a club (though it’s closed now). Sure those souvenir shops have always been there, but now it seems to be the main attraction rather than the structures they’re housed in. I also remember before that food shops offering authentic local delicacies can be found in every block. Now there are so few and they look more like an afterthought rather than a main feature.

The street itself seems to have gotten an overhaul too. The cobblestones, which were what added to the city’s authenticity, now looks more like a badly done replica.

The Kalesas, or horse-drawn carriages, still ply the main Calle offering rides to tourists. I’ve never been a big fan of it though, especially after learning how some horses are not being cared for properly. Still, I guess for a heritage city having Kalesas still operate makes sense. I just wish they’d do more for the proper treatment of horses in a city the gets really hot on most days. I saw some of them with heads hanging, unwilling to move at first until they get smacked on the back repeatedly with the reins.

The museums are still a must-do if you really want to learn the history of Vigan and the surrounding areas. I wish I could have spent hours on each and listen to stories about every item on display. Maybe next time.

I realize that this post is more like a rant based on personal preferences rather than educating would-be visitors. If you found this post hoping to learn more about things to do and places to visit there, then I apologize for disappointing you. You can check out their official website if you need better information.

All in all I wasn’t too disappointed with the city, after all the push of progress isn’t always how we like it to be. But if the things that bothered me doesn’t bother you, go right ahead and enjoy the city! Just remember to be a responsible traveler and have fun!

CSG Sunday Walk July 2017

After more than two years I finally got to shoot in the streets of Cebu City again. Organized by the Cebu Shooter’s Guild, the walk started early on a Sunday morning hoping to catch some activity at the church that was the walk’s last stop. Below are some of the photos I took during the event.

Gear used: Nikon D90 with a Tamron 17-50mm 2.8 lens.

Another yearly tradition done: Christmas night photowalk 2014

It’s that time of the year again when, no matter how hard I resist, the streets become alive and sing that song only walkers can hear.

For the past 4 years I made it a point to do a night photowalk in Colon street where the annual night bazaar is held. I almost didn’t make it this year as I was caught in horrible traffic plus it was raining, but the song of the streets was irresistible. Here are some of the photos I took, click on the arrows at the bottom right corner to see the other photos.

Gear: Nikon D90, Nikkor 10-24mm, Tamron 17-50, Fancier monopod, Benro tripod.

Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk 2014 – Liloan, Cebu

Last October 11 my photography club, the Cebu Shooters Guild, once again led one of the walks for this year’s Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk.

The initial plan was to hold the walk at Bantayan island, with the aim of  documenting and sharing to the world the situation of island almost a year after it was hit hard by typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). Unfortunately, we had to change the venue due to bad weather conditions that made crossing to the island very risky. We held the walk at Liloan instead, just an hour away form Cebu City, as it is one of the fast-growing municipalities in Cebu that is still caught between the old provincial lifestyle and pull of modern living.

Here are some of the images I took during the walk.

Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk 2014

For the 4th time in a row my photography club will be leading another worldwide photowalk.

This year’s Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk led by Cebu Shooters Guild aims to document and share to the world the current situation of Bantayan Island almost a year after it was hit hard by typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). The walkers will focus on 2 things, the recovery and development done so far as well as what more needs to be done.

This will be an overnight trip as the island is quite far from the city where most walkers will be coming from, we will be providing a place for you to stay. In this way, we will have more time to enjoy the walk without worrying about catching the last ferry trip back to the mainland.

If you want to join this walk, you may register here.