A Pinch of the Aegean in Ilocos Sur

For my sister’s birthday, our family heads to northern Luzon for the weekend – specifically, a resort in Ilocos Sur province. The Vitalis Villas is located in the coastal town of Santiago, about a seven-hour drive from Metro Manila and an hour’s drive south from the provincial capital Vigan.

Since our check-in at Vitalis is at 2 in the afternoon the next day, we head first to Vigan, where we’ll stay at a hotel near the historic Calle Crisologo and tour the city a bit in the morning. Then, we go on an hour-long drive south to Vitalis.

Vitalis is a beautiful place that mimics the cliffside houses of Santorini. It can be kitschy in places, but well worth a day or two to wind down and imagine yourself on a cruise in the Mediterranean. Here, it’s all about dipping in the infinity pool (or jacuzzi if you booked a room that has one of those), eating in a buffet meal, and lying down in a Mediterranean-inspired room.

We left Metro Manila on a really rainy afternoon, but other than a slight drizzle one morning, the weather has been fine here. In fact, the sun makes the afternoon really romantic. Makes you wish the weekend stretches for a couple of days longer.

But leave we must eventually. Upon checking out, we check out the mini zoo up the hill just in front of the resort’s front gate. The compound has a couple of camels, as well as some donkeys, zebras, llamas, and rams. Here, it’s less Greece than a — I don’t know. I would’ve said African safari, but only the zebras are African. Anyway, we spend a few minutes feeding the animals with corn stalks. And then we start the long drive back home.

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