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Vigan is in Northern Luzon. It's Spanish colonial 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 dotted about the city, as are internet cafes with access from P20 per hour.

Get in

By bus or car

It's seven hours drive along the scenic Ilocos Highway from Manila to Vigan. Partas Bus Co., Dominion and the Philippine Rabbit Bus Line have regular buses along this route.

By plane

The nearest airport is in nearby Laoag (1.5 hours by car), the Laoag International Airport. Philippine Airlines fly to from Laoag three times a week from Manila.

Get around

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 (P6 within the city limits) that will undoubtedly by vying for your custom.


  • 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.
  • 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. The eight-sided bell tower is just south of the cathedral.
  • 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 and its snack stands are a favourite hang out for locals. It is also used for staging major public events.
  • 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.


  • Take a swim at the nearby Mindoro Beach Resort.


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 fakes, you'll still enjoy browsing the odd items of religious paraphenalia (look out for the toddles Jeseus figurines).


Popular snack stands along Plaza Burgos serve up a variety of local treats such as sinanglao, arroz caldo, miki, empanada and okoy. There is also a string of fast-food outlets nearby.



  • Grandpa's Inn (1 Bonifacio St. cor. Quirino Blvd; phone: 722-2118; fax: 722-1446; email: [email protected]; 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).

Get out

External links

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