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Weekends Away: Vigan City

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Vigan  is one of the best preserved time capsules in the Philippines. Its old world charm show us how the Philippines looked when it was still under Spanish rule. Vigan City is located in the northern part of the Philippines and its historical centre, called the heritage village, has been included in the UNESCO world heritage list since December 1999. Its unique Spanish colonial history and influence in Asia and the very well preserved with Spanish monumental buildings built in the 18th century.



According to UNESCO, the historic town of Vigan was inscribed based on the following:

Criterion (ii): “exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts or town planning and landscape design.”

  • Under this criterion, the World Heritage Centre officially cites: “Vigan represents a unique fusion of Asian building design and construction with European colonial architecture and planning.”

Criterion (iv): “be an outstanding example of a type of building or architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant change in human history.”

  • Under this criterion, the citation reads: “Vigan is an exceptionally intact and well preserved example of a European trading town in East and East Asia.”



The historic infrastructures in Vigan manifest the unique artistic and technological achievements of 18th and 19th century artisans who developed an architectural style adapted to the earthquake-prone tropics and reflected their native art. Most of the original structure and architecture of the buildings are still intact. It is also a “living heritage site” where local traditions and nationalism are still followed. Local industries also continue to fuel economy.

Today, Vigan is home to proud Biguenos who welcome everyone with warm smiles to the city where traditions blend with the demands of  time. Images and sounds of modernity have established their presence, however, they are unable to drown the stillness and elegance of the past. It opened itself to change but it has not sacrificed the wealth of its heritage. It is the ability of coping with the present amidst the bounds set by centuries-old legacy that makes Vigan a living, historic city.



Special Attractions:
1.  Baluarte –  Not just a zoo, Baluarte is an interactive wildlife sanctuary and facility, with the breathtaking view of its dominating scenic boulders amidst trees and greens. It is dedicated to facilitate education, conservation and protection of endangered species and wildlife. Children and those who are young at heart will rediscover life amongst the animals in unique and entertaining ways specifically through first-hand experience. Located at Brgy. Tamag, Vigan City.

2.  Calle Crisologo – Kamestizoan District in Vigan is replete with ancestral houses with ancient tile roofs, massive hardwood floorings, ballustrades and azoteas in varying Spanish-Mexican-Chinese architectural styles. Calle Crisologo brings back the old Spanish atmosphere starting with the cobblestone streets, the gorgeous backdrop of the old houses against the shadows of each houses, and of course the the clacking noise of horse driven carriage, kalesa. This is the most photographed site in the city. They say, you have never been to Vigan, unless you walked through this street and posed for all the world to see.

3.  Cathedral of the Conversion of St. Paul – The massive structure was built by the Augustinians in the distinctive Ilocano earthquake-baroque architecture. The cathedral is the setting of many religious festivities attended by devotees from outside the province.

4.  Fil-Spanic Friendship Park and Buridek Museum –  Trees are abundant in this place where visitors can relax and savor fresh air. It has a swimming pool, an open amphitheater and an added attraction-the Buridek Children’s Museum. First of its kind in the region and the 3rd to be established in the country, the Buridek Museum is a perfect venue for visitors to interactively learn the culture and history of Vigan.

Entrance fee:

5.  Hidden Garden – This garden is owned by Mr, Francis Flores, a retired Engineer who used plants and flowers for his therapy. Now, a wonderland of greenery, with a mini-snack bar, souvenir shop and coffee shop nestled somewhere in the middle for a complete oasis in the North’s Garden of Eden. Located at Brgy. Bulala, Vigan City.

6.  Pagburnayan – The burnay is an earthenware jar crafted by a potter’s hands with the aid of a potter’s wheel. It uses fine sand (anay) as a tempering material and fired at a high temperature in a huge brick-and-clay ground kiln that makes it is harder and more durable than other terra cotta. The local bagoong (fish sauce), sugarcane vinegar and basi wine would not taste as good if not fermented in stoneware burnay jars. Located in Brgy. Pagburnayan, Vigan City.

7.  Semana Santa – St. Paul’s Metropolitan Cathedral is the venue of religious rites during the Holy Week. The Good Friday procession features decorated carrozas bearing life-size statues of Spanish vintage. On Easter Sunday, the dawn celebration depicting the Resurrection of Christ, called “Sabet,” is a scene to behold.

8.  Simbahan a Bassit – Simbahan a Bassit which means small church is actually a cemetery chapel. The only one in the region to have an “espadaña hung with bells.” A statue of the crucified Christ is found behind the main altar or the Apo Lakay of the City. Located in Quezon Ave, Liberation Blvd.

9.  Vigan Heritage River Cruise – The Vigan Heritage River Cruise is operated by the City Government of Vigan to reinforce the Vigan Heritage Conservation Program using the historical Mestizo River to tell the historical timeline of Vigan from the pre-history to the present time. Through the 45 minutes river tour, a voice-over is played narrating Vigan’s origin, historical background and other significant information while passing thru 5 life-sized tableaus. It serve as a stop over erected to depict the major historical events during pre-colonial and Spanish periods that shaped Vigan to become today as the only UNESCO World Heritage City in the Philippines.

River Cruise Rates:
P70.00-Senior Citizen

10. UNESCO World Heritage Cities Solidarity Day – As part of UNESCO World Heritage Cities, Vigan celebrates its unity with the world through commemorating on old traditions, customs and arts still present today. One of the highlights of this festival is the Repazzo de Vigan, an interactive street pageantry performed by competing clusters of schools and barangays. Other events like Dallot, Choral Competition, Vocal Duet, Folk Dance and Zarsuela are also competed in the Cultural Festival of the said event. This is held every 8th of September.

11. Arzobizpado de Nueva Segovia (Archbishop Palace) –  Completed in 1783, the arzobizpado is the official residence of the Archbishop of Nueva Segovia. The only surviving 18th century arzobizpado in the country, the palace served as the headquarters of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in 1898 and the invading American forces under Col. James Parker in 1899. Its Museo Nueva Segovia showcases ecclesiastical artifacts, antique portraits of bishops, a throne room, archdiocesan archives and other religious paraphernalia gathered from various colonial churches all over Ilocos Sur.

12. Plaza Salcedo – The elevated elliptical plaza west of the cathedral features the 17th century Juan de Salcedo Monument, the oldest of its kind in northern Luzon. It was in Plaza Salcedo where Gabriela Silang was executed by public hanging in 1763.

13. Plaza Burgos – The other major plaza of historic Vigan, Plaza Burgos is flanked by the the cathedral and the old “seminario” (which burned down in 1968). Its ambiance and the presence of kiosks offering local delicacies make Plaza Burgos a favorite promenade for local folks and visitors alike. It is a landmark tribute to the Vigan martyr priest, Father Jose P. Burgos. On the east end of the Plaza is the newly renovated, large stage where important events are held. The Plaza has an adequate and attractive lighting system, clean surroundings and mini Children’s Park. At the northwestern portion stands the century-old Bell Tower of Vigan Cathedral. The plaza’s special attraction are the “empanada” stands which are situated at its premises in the afternoon up to late evening.

14. The Vigan Houses – The Vigan ancestral houses were built by Chinese taipans who made fortunes out of indigo dye, abel fabrics, gold, tobacco and other export items. The massive brick and plaster houses with red tiled roofs and imposing doorways, grand staircases, broad narra floorboards and piedra china, sliding capiz windows and ventanillas and cool azotea reflect the artistic and technological craftsmanship of the 18th and 19th century native artisans who developed an architectural style adapted to the earthquake-prone tropics.

15. Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail – Beside the museum where the late Pres. Elpidio Quirino, the first Ilocano President, was born particularly at the Warden’s Office.

16. Syquia Mansion – The ancestral home of Dona Alicia Quirino, the Syquia mansion was a venue of official and public functions during the administration of the late Pres. Elpidio Quirino. Soon to be a museum, it will feature an impressive collection of presidential memorabilia.

17. Crisologo Museum – The Crisologo Museum is an old two-storey building of durable concrete and hardwood, with colintipay windows at the second floor, and thick walls made of bricks, iron and steel window grills at the ground floor. Besides various exhibits on natural history, it has rich collection of articles of historical value, antique furniture, santos (icon), ethnological pieces, and Congressman Floro Crisologo’s memorabilia.

18. Leona Florentino House – Leona Florentino, mother of local hero Isabelo delos Reyes, was the first Filipina poetess to gain international recognition. The Floretino house has been designated as the Provincial Tourism Center and administrative building of the Vigan Heritage Commission. Her monument is in a triangular park across the street.

19. Vigan Tourist Park (Mira Hills) –  Situated in Barangay Pagburnayan and just a stone throw away from the burnay jar factories is the Mira Hills Park, the city ecological park. A cylindrical water reservoir at the peak of the hill has provided tap water to poblacion residents since the American period.

20.  Mindoro Beach Resort –  A community-based beach resort, this is an ideal place for sea lovers. Picnic sheds, well-maintained toilets and overnight accommodation are available for budget tourists.

21. Shopping – Antiques, souvenir items and Vigan furniture at bargain prices are found in shops lining Crisologo and Plaridel Streets. Native crafts abound at the Vigan Public Market.

22. Recreation – Pools of Naturales Pavillion, Mom’s Courtyard or El-Juliana Hotel; play bowling at TAJ Resort, a game or two with local tennis buffs at the Vigan Tennis Club, a night of singing and dancing at Cafe Leona Videoke Bar and Halftime Sports bar, and 8.88 Videoke. Public beaches are in Mindoro and San Pedro, both coastal barangays of Vigan.




Kindly contributed by Mary You of MultiRational Corporation

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