There is something more to Vigan than just the Hispanic towns with cobblestone streets. Did you know that Baluarte is also in Vigan? Baluarte, which is dubbed as the Fortress of Vigan perhaps because it is located in the hilly part of Ilocos Sur, is owned by Chavit Singson. Baluarte is definitely a place for animal lovers!
Singson himself has an undying passion for wildlife. In fact, the zoo features lions, tigers, monkeys, camels, civet cats, deers, birds (endemic and exotic), peacocks, horses, pythons, and iguanas. Guests, especially the kids, are allowed to get closer to the caged animals like the monkeys and deers. Feeding the animals, particularly the hornbills and parrots, is also allowed. However, pet foods must be bought. Kids may even ride the bigger animals like the camels.
Aside from the petting zoo, Baluarte offers live animal shows where guests can learn not just about the animals themselves, but also animal care. Animal shows occur every 2 hours.
There are a butterfly garden and picnic areas that are also provided free of charge. You can see up to a thousand of different species of butterflies.
Baluarte is an 80-hectare animal sanctuary. If you want to explore the place, you may ride a miniature horse-pulled rickshaw locally known as a tiburin ride. You can also do horseback riding. Rides are also free.
How to get there
The zoo is specifically located iIn Brgy. Salindeg, Vigan City, Ilocos Sur.
By land, you can ride a bus bound for Vigan City. Bus operators going to Vigan include Philippine Rabbit Bus, Partas Transportation Company, and Dominion Bus Corporation. It takes 9 hours to go to Vigan.
By air, you can fly to Ilocos, specifically in Laoag International Airport via Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines. The flight takes only 70 minutes. From the airport, you still need to take an 80-kilometer transport to Vigan City.
Baluarte is only 15 minutes of drive away from Vigan City.
Other things to see and do
While the animals roam free in various areas including the walkways except the lions and tigers, of course, there are more to Baluarte than just the animals.
You can also go picture-taking near Singson’s personal rest house. This golden-clad building – aptly called the Golden Building – is snap-perfect with lush greeneries surrounding it and up its roof. The multi-storey rest house also features a landscaped garden equipped with nature pools.
You can go inside the building for a fee, the only structure in the park where payment is required. The rooftop also serves as the viewing deck, and the view from it is very different – you can even see South China Sea. If not from the rooftop, you may try viewing the panoramic view of Vigan at the lighthouse.
If you are lucky enough, you can have your lunch with the former Governor while inside the building. He is very accommodating when you approached and asked for a selfie with him.
At the grounds of Baluarte, you will see Singson’s yellow mini-submarine. Guests are also allowed to touch and take pictures of the submarine. It may look like one of Singson’s gigantic toys, but it is actually a functional submarine that the honcho uses when treasure-hunting by himself.
Within the zoo is a skeet shooting range.
Consider visiting the pink chapel, too.
Free (Opens Mondays thru Sundays from 7 am to 6 pm)
Aside from the free entrance fee, the rides are also provided for free. Not only that, the entire place has a free Wi-Fi, so you can instantly upload your snaps.