Vigan: Tracing Back Philippine History
January 1, 1970
by Gracielle Curtom
It was a seven to eight hours drive from Manila, Philippines. It became a famous tourist destination for many travelers as it was recently awarded as one of the seven wonder cities in the world but what really makes Vigan unique is the rich history that traces back to its colonial era during the Spanish regime.
Located at Ilocos Sur, Vigan, Philippines used to be part of Bantay but its budding economic growth paved way for Vigan to be an autonomous city.
Last year, my family and I had a privileged to spent our New Year at the famous city.
Checked in at Hotel Luna, the only five star hotel found in the said area. The hotel captured the Hispanic theme. Located at General Luna street, the hotel is great for people who wants to relax and be pampered. They offer exquisite dining experience with their breakfast buffet and merienda packages. Also, one can dip into their pool or have a tour at their very own museum where you can see art pieces from famous Filipino sculptors and painters.
For groups and families who wants to save, the Cordillera Inn and Cordillera Family Inn is also a good place to stay.
What to see in Vigan:
– The Calle Crisologo also known as the Heritage Village where you can see the old houses owned by the rich Ilustrados during the Spanish time. The houses where claimed to be made from clay as it was rampant during those times. You will walk at gravel pavements that will transport you to the European feels. Here, you can buy goodies such as t-shirts, fans, food (chicacorn, vinegar or sukang iloko and longganisa) at an affordable price.
–Crisologo Museum where you can see and understand the rich history of the town told from the point of view of its founding fathers Floro Crisologo. Their lives depicted in the various displays shown in the museum also highlights the lives of the Ilustrados during their time.
-Burgos Museum where it honors and preserves the life story of one of three heroic priest, Fr. Jose Burgos.
–Syquia Mansion– showcases the family life of the wife of the late President Elpidio Quirino.
–Baluarte displays the wide variety of animal collection of their governor, Chavit Singson. You’ll be amazed to see different exotic species of animals from snakes to tigers to ostrich and a like. The entrance fee is free for everybody.
-Dancing fountain, a thirty minute water, light and musical show that runs once on weekdays 7pm and twice during weekends 7 and 8pm. Best to come early to reserve the best spot in the plaza. Luckily, we were one of the special guests and we took the advantage to sit at the glass room in the middle building and had the best view of the fountain.
-Hidden Garden where you can see and buy several kinds of plants and flowers. You can also eat at their restaurant offering freshly cooked veggies and wide selection of fruits.
-Vigan Cathedral Ilocanos were known to have a deep Catholic faith which is evident in the preservation of this Cathedral. This houses many images of Catholic figures and saints. According to our guide, it becomes one of pilgrim churches during Lenten season. It is also famous because this is where late Floro Crisologo died during a regular Sunday mass. The case remains unsolved until today for the killer is still a mystery.
-St. Augustine Church and its Bell tower located across Vigan. It became popular because it was once featured in the movies. The century old tower is also destination for couples who are taking its pre nuptial shoots. Also, take a moment to offer prayers to Our Lady of Charity, the patroness of the said church.
Other things to do:
To capture the Spanish experience, it is best to go around by riding a Kalesa. A horse drawn carriage that will take you around the city.
They also have pottery making venue where you can have a hands on experience of making vases out of clay.
Several antique stores can also be seen in the Crisologo Street. There you can buy several handicrafts and furnitures. Also, you can buy hand woven bedsheets, pillow cover and placemats. Try to haggle to get the best price.
To capture the looks of men and women in the Spanish era, one shop lets you borrow and wear Barong Tagalog for men and Filipiniana for women for photography sessions .
Try to eat also their famous Vigan empanada. A famous delicacy made from a bread with stuffings.
It is a must also to bring home Bagnet chicharron or fried pork rind or pork belly. The price is way cheaper if bought at their local market.
Another local food to try is their version of Royal Bibingka. The Tiongsons claimed to be the original maker of such delicacy. For me, it is something that one shouldn’t missed.
Where to eat:
-Cafe Leona found at Calle Crisologo offers authentic Ilocos food such as Sinanglao, Pakbet, Kabatiti. Better to reserve early as this restaurant is usually full.
–Uno Grille also found at the Heritage Village offers similar menu. How to get there: -Several bus companies can take you to the famous city. You can also take a plane to Ilocos Norte then go down to Ilocos Sur to see Vigan.
Added tips: If you still have time, you can also tour around the neighboring town of Ilocos Norte where you can see Paoay Church, Marcos Museum, Malacanang of the North, Kapurpurawan rock formation, Bangui wind mills and Pagudpud beach.
Truly, the one of a kind experience we had is something we want to share to other travelers. If we want to understand our unique and rich history, Vigan will help you travel back in time as if one is walking with our fore fathers. It will make you realize why the said city in the north wows the world and makes it one of the top see places in the Philippines.