As part of our visita iglesia trip to Ilocos in 2017, we made a short stop to the beautiful city of Vigan. Vigan is the capital city of the province of Ilocos Sur. It is host to the most preserved Hispanic-era historic town in the country and this is best experienced in Calle Crisologo.
Just a little bit of history. The Philippines was conquered by Spain. In 1565, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi returned to the islands to colonize it after Ferdinand Magellan’s discovered it in 1521. He then named the islands after Spain’s King Philip II. And for 333 years, Spain ruled most of its islands until 1898 when it was ceded to the US along with Guam and Puerto Rico.
For these 3 cruel centuries, Spain has left beautiful structures that are of European architecture. Walled cities like Intramuros of Manila and fortresses like that Fort San Pedro of Cebu were built to protect key cities. Huge stone churches were built in every center of towns. Many houses in town centers were built on adobe rock foundation with wood, straw, and coral stones.
The Philippines is located in the Ring of Fire where volcanic events and earthquakes are common. It’s location in the Pacific where strong typhoons commonly pass by has resulted many of this structures to lost. And during the WWII, many more are lost specially in Manila which was mostly flattened and burned down. With poor maintenance and modernization resulted to more historic structures to disappear.
The historic city of Vigan on the other hand was awarded as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 for having the best preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia. Vigan City is also the capital city of the province of Ilocos Sur. It is technically an island as it is fully bounded by the Mestizo and Govantes Rivers and the West Philippine Sea.
And so on the first day of our trip to Ilocos, we headed straight to the city of Vigan. We reached the city limits when we crossed the great Abra River by the Vigan Gap. At the Gap, we made a quick stop to take some shots and simply appreciate the natural beauty of this location. The Ilocos Sur Adventure Zone is located in this area which provide adventure seekers the chance to rappel between this gap.
After a very long drive, we finally arrived at the city proper around 5PM. We’ve got our driver to park our van beside the Vigan Cathedral. From the cathedral we walked for about 150 meters southwards to the famed street of Calle Crisologo. Around a kilometer stretch of Calle Crisologo (Crisologo Street) in the center of Vigan showcases some of the city’s century old houses and cobbled street. It extends from the intersections of Florentino Street down to Mabini Street. This section of the city what makes Vigan listed by UNESCO to be the most-preserved Hispanic-era town.
Calle Crisologo is closed from modern vehicles. Only horse-drawn carriages, called the calesa, are permitted to pass through this section of the street. Tourists who would want to explore the city using the calesa allows them to experience how people commute since the colonial years.
The houses that line this street are mostly made of adobe or corals as its main base structure and its windows are decorated with capiz shells. Capiz shells are oyster shells that are traditionally used for windows. It’s white color and thin feature allows light to enter the room even when windows are closed. Most of the houses have shops at its ground level and the main residence on its second level.
Since we visited Vigan during a major holiday, Calle Crisologo is filled with tourists and it’s a bit challenging to look for a spot to take our pictures. We had to walk at the far end near Mabini Street to get a good shot of the place. Also with a number of stores along this street, we were able to buy some of Ilocos products, like the chicacorn.
When darkness started to come over, we decided to eat at one of the restaurants along this road. And then after dinner, we took a brief stop at the Vigan Cathedral to give thanks for our safe trip to Vigan. During that night, across the cathedral, Plaza Burgos’ dancing fountain and lights provide some entertainment to the guests of this city.
Aside from Calle Crisologo, Vigan also hosts the Baluarte Zoo, or simply Baluarte. This is a zoo owned by the former governor of Ilocos Sur, Chavit Singson. Baluarte features different animals from around the world and it offers free entrance to guests. It would have been a great attraction for kids but since we arrived very late, we were not able to go. The zoo is also only around 4 kilometers away from the Vigan Cathedral.