Cobblestone street in Vigan
Vigan is in Northern Luzon. Its Spanish colonial influence in local architecture and old-world charm make it a unique city in the Philippines.
In pre-colonial times, Vigan was an important trading post for Chinese junks, trading gold beeswax and other products from the central Cordilleras for exotic Asian goods. Many Chinese traders settled in the mestizo district, marrying locals and starting new bloodlines.
Vigan was captured and settled by the Spanish in 1572, and grew to become a centre of Spanish political and religious power in the north of Luzon. In 1758 Vigan became the Seat of the Diocese of Nueva Segovia.
Interestingly the town was also a hotbed of anti-Spanish politics. Diego Silang was perhaps the most notable resistance leader, but was assassinated by his friends (on commission from the Spanish) in May 1763. Undeterred, Silang's wife, Maria Josefa Gabriela Silang, assumed leadership of the uprising but was later captured by the Spanish and publicly hanged in on September 20, 1763.
Local legend has it that Vigan got its name from a simple communication breakdown. A Spaniard walking along the Metizo River apparently met a local and asked which the city's name. Not understanding what he was being asked, but seeing that the Spaniard seemed to be pointing to a tree, replied "Bigaa Apo" (a giant Taro plant that was common in the area). It is from the word "Bigaa" that Vigan is said to have derived its name.
Vigan is a relatively small city with two hearts: the recreational and shopping area around the adjacent Plaza Salcedo and Plaza Burgos in the north, and the commercial centre around the public market in the south. The mestizo district is focused along Plaridel and Mena Crisologo Streets, running south from Plaza Burgos towards the cemetery.
There is a helpful and friendly provincial tourist information office south west of Plaza Burgos (next to Cafe Leona) that can dispense information on Vigan and the rest of Ilocos Sur. Banks with ATMs accepting foreign credit cards are located around the recreational and shopping areas and at Quezon Avenue, as are internet cafes with access that charge P20 per hour. Some restaurants offer Wi-Fi access.
By bus or car
It's seven to ten hours' drive along the scenic Ilocos Highway from Manila to Vigan. Partas Bus Co., Dominion Bus Lines, Viron Transit, and St. Joseph/Aniceto Transit have regular trips to Vigan. Bus lines like Philippine Rabbit Bus Line, Farinas Transit, Maria de Leon, Florida, and RCJ Transit have regular trips plying the Manila-Laoag route, which passes by Vigan.
Interisland Airlines  flies to Mindoro Airport , also known as Vigan Airport, the airport serving the general area of Vigan City. Alternately, you could go to Laoag's airport (1.5 hours by car), the Laoag International Airport. Philippine Airlines flies to from Laoag everyday of the week from Manila. Cebu Pacific flies daily from Manila.
A fun throwback to colonial days are the calesa horse-drawn carriages that still clip-clop through Vigan's streets. Rates for calesa rides should be the same as those for the many tricycles (P8-P10 within the city limits) that will undoubtedly by vying for your custom. But you could also hire a private calesa for around 150php per hour. Unless you're absolutely sure you have a tour guide that will give you in depth information about the sites you're visiting, A whole day calesa adventure for about 1000 (roughly 6-7 hours) would be advisable. You can take your time visiting the sites and not being rushed by a guide, as well as picking and choosing the areas you want to visit.
St. Paul's Metropolitan Cathedral
- The Mestizo District offers a wonderful glimpse into the Philippines' colonial past. The ancestral houses were mostly built by Chinese traders using a mixture of local, Asian and Spanish architectural styles. Movie fans recognize the streets from the movie Born on the Fourth of July. If someone looks closely, there are still evidence left from the shooting, e.g. signs in Spanish but hastily and thinly painted over with white paint.
- St. Paul's Metropolitan Cathedral (admission free) was built by Augustinians around 1790 and features a unique design intended to minimize earthquake damage; a style that came to be known as "earthquake baroque". Look out for the brass communion handrails forged in China, complete with Chinese characters scrawled by its ancient installers (if you look closely). The eight-sided bell tower is just south of the cathedral. Its position was actually the safety measure of the earthquake baroque style: it was built separately from the church so that it would not topple into the church in the event of an earthquake. Its eight-sided design reflects its Chinese Feng-shui influences. One would look closely inside the cathedral and one would find the tombstone of the great Ilocano poet Leona Florentino (in the column near the entrance facing Plaza Burgos).
- Just adjacent to the Cathedral is the Archbishop's Residence, which dates back to the Spanish Era--the oldest archbishop's residence still in use in the Philippines.
- Plaza Salcedo west of the cathedral features a 17th Century monument to Juan de Salcedo, and was also the site of resistance leader Gabriela Silang's public hanging in 1763.
- Plaza Burgos is a favourite hang out for locals. It is also used for staging major public events. It has also food stalls selling native snacks, notably the empanada.
- The Ayala Museum used to be the home of Father Jose Burgos but now houses Ilocano artifacts, weapons, kitchen utensils, basketry, costumes, jewellery and Burgos Memorabilia. There are also some dioramas showing important events in the history of Ilocos Sur, and a mini library. Beside the museum is the Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail, where the Philippines first Ilocano president, the late Pres. Elpidio Quirino, was born.
- The Crisologo Museum used to be the home of the late Congressman Floro Crisologo and wife Carmeling, former governor of Ilocos Sur. It contains memorabilia of the late Congressman.
- The Syquia Mansion used to be the Vigan residence of President Elpidio Quirino. There are memorabilia inside the residence, which includes a campaign portrait of Quirino.
- Take a swim at the nearby Mindoro Beach Resort.
- Visit Baluarte, the governor's fortress. It also features a mini zoo with exotic animals and you can get a free ride with the small horses.
- Try your hand at pottery. Vigan's Pagburnayan makes burnay jars which are made of sand and fire-blasted in a huge kiln.
- Ride a calesa, a horse-drawn carriage, around Vigan and the surrounding towns.
- Witness old women weave abel at Camangaan.
- Visit St. Augustine Church in nearby Bantay and climb up its belfry to get a breath-taking view of the town.
- Join the Viva Vigan, Kannawidan, and Binatbatan Festivals when it happens.
- Try the Heritage River Tour, with its main base at Celedonia Garden in Beddeng Laud.
There are dozens of antique and souvenir shops dotted about the city, particularly on Crisologo and Plaridel Streets in the mestizo district. Although most of the antiques are only reproductions, you'll still enjoy browsing odd items, religious paraphernalia (look out for the toddler Jesus figurines) and some unique foods. You can also buy hand-rolled cigars, sold in packs of three.
You can buy native handwoven abel cloth at the Vigan Public Market, as well as delicacies like longganisa (native pork sausages) and bagnet (deep-fried crispy pork) at its Meat Section.
Eat and Drink
Popular snack stands along Plaza Burgos serve up a variety of local treats, among others, like:
- sinanglao (soup made from beef innards)
- arroz caldo (rice soup with chicken)
- miki (flat noodles in a thick soup with meat bits and sometimes drizzled with eggs)
- empanada (turnover with a filling of eggs, Vigan longganisa/sausage and vegetables wrapped in a rice flour crust/shell)
- okoy (a pancake made with local shrimp).
Nobody should leave Vigan without tasting their empanada. It is a different concoction from the flour-based empanada that one usually knows.
Royal Bibingka is very popular at Tongson's Royal Bibingka, #8 Florentino St., Vigan City--just a street away from Plaza Burgos.
Also, one should have a try of the Vigan longganisa which is spicy unlike its Pampanga counterpart which is sweetish.
There is also a delicacy called tinubong, a sticky sweet rice cake that's sold in bamboo tubes, and you have to break the bamboo to eat the sticky sweet rice inside. They are usually sold in the Heritage Village in bundles of three to five.
Fried tasty corn (cornick) can also be bought in the various stalls. It comes plain or flavoured.
Native sugar is also made in surrounding towns and barangays of Vigan. However, they are in the form of tagapulot (molasses) and balikutsa (a very hard sugar concoction shaped into scrolls).
Also try the Basi, a local wine (native rum) made from sugarcane.
- Villa Angela Heritage House, #26 Quirino Blvd, Vigan City, Ilocos Sur 2700, Philippines (2 Streets away from Calle Crisologo), ☎ +63 (77) 722-2914, +63 (2) 722-6947, +63 (2) 425-6473, +63939-364-4282, . checkin: 2:00 PM; checkout: 12:00 PM the next day. Villa Angela Heritage House is actually more like a house than a typical hotel. The owners decided to keep the house like how it was during the time of their ancestors. Hence, the rooms: Cuarto del Senor (Master bedroom at P2500/night), Cuarto delas Hijas (Girls room at P2800/night), Cuarto delos Hijos (Boys room at P2800/night), Cuarto Pequeno (literally "small room" -- used to be the boy's study room at P1500/night). The rooms on the first floor used to be storage areas for harvest from the farms. These were converted into Dormitory rooms to accommodate bigger groups. The rates mentioned are applicable during the regular season. Staying here in Villa Angela would give you the authentic Vigan Heritage experience with the true feel of the fast vanishing lifestyle of yesteryears. Though all rooms are equipped with the modern comforts of air-conditioning, cable TV, exclusive toilet and bath and more; the classic heritage identity is preserved. Accommodation is personalized so special requests like tours and transfers assistance, home service massage, etc are always given. Villa Angela is now a WiFi zone. Please visit http://www.villangela.com Rates start at Php 1500/night. All the rates include breakfast.
V. delos Reyes corner Salcedo Sts.
2700 Vigan City, Ilocos Sur, Philippines
Manila Line: (02) 246-1502
Phone:(077)-722-2526 / 722-2565
Mobile Phone: 09088915612 / 0922-878-4657
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Check in at 1PM Checkout at 12Noon Room Rates start at Php 2000 per night with breakfast for 2. A hotel set in and around an ancestral home, located right at the heart of Vigan City--UNESCO World Heritage Village. It is the only twin ancestral house with a courtyard and romantic ruins, where old touches like furnishings and memorabilia from another era perfectly complement the comfortable modern day amenities for sleeping or unwinding. Tour Packages available. Affiliated with Gordion Travel and Tours
- Hotel Salcedo De Vigan, V. de los Reyes corner General Luna Streets, Vigan City, Ilocos Sur 2700, Philippines, ☎ +63 (77) 722-1200, +63 (77) 722-2798, . Your stay at Vigan city will be more romantic if you'll stay in Hotel Salcedo De Vigan. Their air-conditioned rooms are very spacious and well-appointed. They have a casual yet elegant setting to enjoy superb local and international cuisine. Visit their website: www.hotelsalcedodevigan.com
- Grandpa's Inn (1 Bonifacio St. cor. Quirino Blvd; phone: (6377)722-2118; fax: (6377)722-1446; email: email@example.com; rooms from P500) is in a charming old residence and is also one of the cheapest options in town. The downstairs restaurant serves good food (from P60) and even espresso (P35).
- Taj Resort, Pantay daya, Vigan, (077)722-7476.
- R.F. Anicieto Mansion Hotel, near Plaza Burgos, (077)-722-2383/fax: 722-2384.
- Vigan Plaza Hotel, Mena Crisologo Street, Brgy 2 (near Plaza Burgos), ☎ +63 77 7221527, 77 6320317, 2 2461501, . Showcasing Spanish-Colonial accommodations combined with modern luxury. Rates start at PHP 2,100.
- Vigan Hotel, Burgos Street, ☎ (077)-722-2588. Basic hotel in an old colonial house with old-stile wooden floors and furnitures. The rooms are very basic but acceptable. At 500 php for double, this is one of the few budget option. No food, breakfast or whatever. PHP 500-800. (17.5780740,120.3802806)
- La Feliza Tourist Inn, # 8 V. delos Reyes St., (077)-722-2994.
- Mom's Courtyard, Bongtolan, (077)-722-2105.
- Socio-Pastoral Center, besides the Archbishop Palace, (077)-722-1442.
- Cordillera Inn, Crisologo St., (077)-722-2727
- Fernandina Hotel & Restaurant, 26 A. Mabini St., (077)-722-2964.
- El Juliana Hotel, 5 Liberation Blvd. Cor Quirino Blvd., (077)-722-2994/09123508350
- NSCC PLAZA, Don Alejandro Quirolgico, Caoayan, Metro Vigan, Ilocos Sur, ☎ (077)7223281, .
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