The first time I visited Baluarte was in 1998. I never really called the place “Baluarte” – I called it “Chavit’s House”, and I called it so it felt very homely despite its large size. We were able to visit some private quarters then. Until now I remember the giant tree growing from inside one of the marble washrooms. I’m not sure if it’s still there.
My second time was this year. We strolled along the park’s open areas. We walked alongside ponies, peacocks and posed with dinosaurs. I was happy as I didn’t get to do those the first time we were there.
We also got to visit Chavit’s private quarters – but this time it was located in a new area in Baluarte, and is open to the public. His new home includes an open dining area, function rooms, and a building adorned with gold tiles. The building had eight floors – and a bronze burning bush atop it. The building is still undergoing construction as of writing this post.
Three giant mahjong pieces adorn the entrance.
There was a garden on the second floor of the function room area, leading to the golden building.
There were animals too. Unfortunately I didn’t get to ask the manong tour guide if they get to run free when nobody’s around. (Honestly – I hope so!)
The view from the garden.
As an Ilocana, I recommend you to visit our province, Ilocos Sur and its wondrous places, especially the capital Vigan. Visit the grotto in Sulvec, Narvacan, the hundred-plus steps leading up to the Nuesta Señora de la Asuncion Church (Assunta Parish Church) in Sta. Maria and the Bantay Bell Tower in Bantay, just outside Vigan. Taste authentic Vigan empanada and some of our homegrown vegetable and meat dishes such as lomo-lomo (pork soup), puque-puque (eggplant omelet), kabatiti (gourd) and utong (string beans). An Ilocano tour is an experience you’ll never, ever forget.