Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur Roadtrip: Marcos Trail






As for me — instead of the Spanish story in ILOCOS and the history of Ferdinand Marcos whose birth place as well as body mausoleum we saw in LAOAG — let me tell you about two pretty interesting ordinary characters we met in Vigan, Ilocos:

  1.  Sir Francis Flores, the landscape artist and owner of the HIDDEN GARDEN in VIGAN, Ilocos Sur.
  2. MAMA in MAKE UP who ran the souvenir shop in Vigan’s Heritage Village.

Both turned out to be ambitious Filipinos with privately owned businesses.

Their business blends into their life inextricably. Husbands and wives and daughters share their work space. Passion and profession live in harmony.

Their best pieces– Francis Flores’ award winning Bonsai forests, and Mama in make up’s collectible were on display in those territories  that could fetch them a lot of money, but these were the pieces they refused to sell ! 
Their staff informed us, ‘Its not for sale. This is from her/ his private collection.’


Francis Flores has an enviable collection of Bonsai in his HIDDEN GARDEN. Miniature forest, a trunk twisted and braided at impossible angles– giving the impression of limbs entwined and holding up a a tuft of leaves. but NOT FOR SALE.

There were picture frames- perhaps forty on the wall near his souvenir shop within  the Hidden Garden — of celebrity visitors with Flores.

At the Entrance to the garden , a sign read: TRY TO DISCOVER THE HIDDEN GARDEN.

A modest maze followed:

…leading to brooks and bird cages, shrubbery and trees, a Bonsai garden and Lovers’ Corner, Coffee tables and hammock, an easy chair; plants for sale and the ILOCANA pottery items, a CAFE and the owner’s home !…and a graduation party for his daughter in swing too! 9for studying restaurant management with honors). Perfumed comfort rooms with pebbles’ floor and glass wall looking into a green garden wall. There also was a prayer nook with the 10  Commandments.

Happy man, content man– I nudged my husband. We shared a knowing smile. We were both equally eager to see this man. We asked the staff if the owner was around.

“Yes. He must be walking somewhere in the garden….”

What would he be like– like an elf, or the rabbit, or a muscular bronzed man in french hat and garden boots? I could just not picture him. It was only near the Exit as we would leave the garden that his pictures would identify him.

As I said, his daughter’s party was on. A man in white vest was taking pictures with I pad and I was wondering if the father was also at the table. 

That there is the owner– Francis Flores ‘.

–Who?? Which one?–

The staff pointed at him yet again amidst the shrubbery. Not at all camouflaged —

The white vest was clean. Head was bald. steps were quick as he hurried to peek into the food pots  supervising the party hands on. Satisfied, Flores was now walking away with his arms locked at his back.

The evening in his Hidden Garden held a rustic magic. Finally he smiled right into our eyes as we came face to face for the umpteenth time in the garden– 

“Would you like to join us for the dinner?” 

This once no one else was around us. It was already night….

When Francis Flores’ eyes spoke, the man dissolved-his homely vest, the bald head,  his passion and skill, his enterprise, and apparent provinciality ALL. And the essence remained– that of an aristocratic GIVER .