The weather has been less than kind to us during our recent visit to Vigan City. Rainclouds dutifully followed us like a pack of dogs following a fake hare. It wasn’t until our third night in the city, enjoying bottles of beer at Casa Caridad and blasting away at the videoke, that the clouds at last relented and the moon finally made an appearance.
And what were we, mere commoners, doing inside Casa Caridad?
It was just our good fortune that Mr. Jose Singson invited us inside his family’s ancestral house.
Most Bigueños refer to the casa as the White House. It sits, stately and proud, a few steps away from where we were staying, Hotel Felicidad, and the famed Calle Crisologo.
I have often passed this house from my previous trips, even managing to take a few photos of its facade, totally oblivious to the fact that this is the ancestral house of one of Vigan’s most influential families.
Often referred to by his friends as Bonito, Mr. Jose Singson was our gracious host during our stay in Vigan City. He accompanied us on our tour, often explaining in detail the history and little known facts about the place we’re visiting.
The guy is a walking
encyclopedia Wikipedia, not only when it comes to Vigan, but almost everything else about the Philippines.
I was totally impressed with his original collection of vintage photographs—he even has one from Rizal’s execution—as well as other Ilocandia mementos like a copy of Noli Me Tangere translated in Ilocano. How cool is that, eh?
Casa Caridad is one of Vigan’s 187 Bahay na Bato. Upon its door, a marker inscribed it to be from 1872.
Named after their mother, Caridad Crisologo-Singson, the house is a testament to Bigueños underlying belief in preserving their history. For sure, time has laid its mark upon the house; but with diligence, it has now been restored to its former glory.
Almost museum-like in its quality, Casa Caridad can hold its own against the various ancestral museum houses that dot the country. Its floors are made of wide hardwood planks, its ceiling of remache imported from Europe. Most of the furniture are originals, relics from bygone eras when Ilustrados still walked the streets of Vigan.
Touring the house, we were quite impressed with how they managed to retain the old charm of the casa without sacrificing the convenience of modern appurtenances. A fine example is one of the guest bedrooms at the ground floor; beautifully-carved four-poster Atay beds, antiquated porcelain sink and 36” flat-screen televisions co-existing in harmony.
One of Casa Caridad’s rooms is pretty special.
At first glance, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, that is until our host told us that Tom Cruise shagged a certain Mexican girl on this particular bed. It was only from a movie though, Oliver Stone’s 1989 film Born on the Fourth of July was shot right inside this house (only it was disguised as a Mexican Pueblo rather than a Bahay na Bato.)
But what really made our numerous visits to Casa Caridad quite memorable were the dishes that came out of their very quaint kitchen. Every time we went at the casa, be it for breakfast, lunch, snacks or dinner, we were always served with delicious home-cooked Vigan cuisine.
Vigan Longanisa for Breakfast (local pork sausages stuffed with native garlic)
Poqui-Poqui for Lunch (mashed eggplant and egg)
Turones de Mani for Desserts (small, nougat-like candies made from honey and egg-whites mixed with crushed peanuts
and wrapped in a wafer-like edible stuff)
Vigan Empanada and Okoy with Sukang Iloko for Snacks (egg, veggies and longanisa wrapped in a crunchy crust made
from flour / veggies and shrimps, crisply fried in a batter / dark vinegar made from sugar cane)
Miki for Snacks (thick soup with flat noodles)
Arroz Caldo with Pusi for Dinner (rice porridge and chicken, sprinkled with pigeon peas)
Pipian for Dinner (ground rice grain, chicken and epazote stew)
Whew! And you can probably tell we were always gut-bustingly full whenever we visit Casa Caridad.
But wait, there’s more! To easily push everything down, there’s the unlimited bottles of San Miguel just waiting at the cooler—more than enough to cover the whole night and the wee hours of the morning.
Address: Bonifacio cor. De Los Reyes Street,
Vigan City, Ilocos Sur
Open Hours: Not Open to the Public
GPS Coordinates Map: 17°34'21.7"N 120°23'23.1"E