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Old world charm and modern convenience at Ciudad Fernandina |

Travel and Tourism

Old world charm and modern convenience at Ciudad Fernandina

Ida Anita Q. del Mundo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Even with its name, Ciudad Fernandina recalls the rich history of Vigan, which was once called Villa Fernandina and Ciudad Fernandina de Vigan.

“Quiet elegance, old world charm at the heart of Vigan,” is how resident manager JP Guerrero de Peralta describes Ciudad Fernandina.

A heritage house, the hotel once belonged to the Encarnacion family and was built in 1758. The family also turned the property into a hotel, La Fernandina.

When Benito Purugganan, vascular surgeon at the Medical City and National Kidney Transplant Institute, and his wife Yolanda took over, they further renovated the hotel. Following the specifications of the Vigan Conservation Council as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the renovation took almost four years to complete.

The process was worth the wait, however, resulting in a contemporary look with modern amenities, while preserving the elegant old world ambience.

De Peralta shares that from 11 rooms in the old hotel, Ciudad Fernandina now has 33 rooms. Each has been retrofit with its own toilet and bath. LED lights also replaced some of the light fixtures to make them more energy efficient. The hotel also has a spa, a function room that can accommodate 50 to 80 people, offers free WiFi and hot and cold water, among other amenities one would expect from a modern-day hotel.

De Peralta adds no two rooms are alike. Even the sizes of the rooms are not uniform. “We worked based on what the building provided,” he says.

Following the specifications protecting a heritage house, Ciudad Fernandina retained the original house’s grand staircase and iconic capiz windows. Artifacts such as an antique clock and an ornate rotary phone – that still works – add pops of vintage elan throughout the hotel.

Another major addition to the hotel is a whole west wing, turning the structure into a U-shape, creating an airy courtyard that offers guests respite from the bustling streets of Vigan. “There is no other façade like this,” says De Peralta.

The house’s former garage has now been transformed into St. Martha’s Café, named after the patron saint of the hospitality industry. The restaurant specialty is Paella Fernandina, heaped with even more toppings of prawns, chorizo and vegetables than rice.

St. Martha’s Café also offers its own version of sinanglaw, which De Peralta calls a more tourist-friendly version of the delicacy. A spicy and sour beef stew, the Ciudad Fernandina take on sinanglaw has been toned down with a hefty serving of meat instead of the traditional innards.

Of course, the café serves pinakbet, which they keep close to the traditional Ilocos version of the dish.

Missing from their menu is the popular fried Vigan empanada. De Peralta says they decided not to offer empanadas to be able to support the local community that sells this tourist favorite. Guests would also enjoy the experience and ambience of a snack at the plaza, which is within walking distance from Ciudad Fernandina.

The hotel offers a free, guided walking tour for guests to nearby attractions, proving that its prime location is truly at the heart of Vigan.

Only a few minutes away is Calle Crisologo, Vigan’s heritage village, lined with ancestral houses and cobble-stone streets that will take visitors back in time. Calesa rides, numerous souvenir shops and restaurants complete the experience at this obligatory stop for any first time visitor to Vigan.

Also within walking distance from the hotel is the Syquia Mansion, the residence of Elpidio Quirino; Plaza Burgos and the Vigan Cathedral, nearby is the empanadaan; and the Burgos Museum, marking the birthplace of Father Jose Burgos of the GOMBURZA.

De Peralta adds tours to farther sites around the city, Ilocos Norte and even up to Pagudpud, can be arranged.

Moving forward, Ciudad Fernandina is gearing up for the holidays, a peak season for tourism in Vigan. It is getting ready to offer a three-bedroom penthouse suite which is more condominium than hotel room with a kitchen, dining and living areas. It is the only room of this type in Vigan and is set to be offered this Christmas.

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Ciudad Fernandina is located at #26 Mabini corner Plaridel Streets, Vigan, Ilocos Sur. For reservations, call (077) 722-3765 or visit Photos by FERNAN NEBRES


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