Tips, Things To Do and Places To See in The Heritage Town of Vigan

It was through Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s Jose Rizal that I learned of Vigan (thanks to the Department of Education for making it a requisite for all high school students to see the film). Since then I’ve always wanted to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site and feel that old-world romance that Vigan reverberates with.

Getting There

Wanting to avoid the traffic, I left Manila (onboard Partas Bus, fare Php 460) at 10 pm (I suggest taking the overnight bus, the morning bus can take as long as 13 hours – which is what we experienced going back to Manila). Six hours and five Mariah albums later (hey, I like her), I arrive at Vigan.

From the bus station (after meeting with my guide and having a bowl of 10-peso Miki), we walked for about 10-15 minutes to Calle Crisologo in the Mestizo District where the Spanish colonial houses are.  I have neither booked a hotel nor prepared any itinerary; I will let Vigan’s charm direct me.

It was breaking dawn, the shops are still closed and there are very few people walking the cobble streets of Calle Crisologo. Neatly lining the side of the streets are the ancestral homes, imposing their magnificence. Various antiquities also dot the sidewalk, further immersing visitors into the grandeur of the colonial days.

Sights

After checking-in at The Cordillera Inn (Php 1500 per night with free breakfast, expect an additional 5% if paying by card), it’s time to explore! Vigan is a rather small city and most of the tourist spots are clustered around St. Paul’s Metropolitan Cathedral.

You can explore Vigan by tricycle, calesa or on foot. Commuting by tricycle may not be the most quiet or the most romantic way to go around, but it certainly is the cheapest and the fastest; Fare (to just about anywhere within Vigan) would set you back by Php 30-60.

Baluarte
Admission is free. Governor Singson’s Fortress.  Also a mini-zoo with most animals (the friendly-herbivore ones) freely roaming the grounds. There is an animal show at 3pm.

Pagburnayan
Admission is free. You can try your hands on pottery and learn how a Burnay (clay jar) is made. Visit early as this is a private business and operates during regular work hours.

Ayala Museum
Admission is free. Home of Padre Jose Burgos, converted into a museum. Houses Ilocano artifacts, weapons, jewelries and Burgos memorabilia.

Food

Working out an appetite after all the sightseeing, Plaza Burgos is the place to go. Php 100 would go a long way at the food stalls near the plaza; Vigan longganisa (local sausage with strong garlic flavor), okoy, barbecue and (must-try) Vigan empanada are some of the snacks being sold.

Shops at Calle Crisologo have everything from shirts to key chains to cornik (crispy fried corn) to Vigan longganisa. With tourism being one of the main source of income for the people of Vigan, most of the items, unfortunately, are steeply priced.

Several fastfood chains and highly commercial brands are now finding their way into Vigan, which I find very disheartening. I fear that this commercialization, like a raging flood, will engulf the local businesses and wash away with it the charm of Vigan; reason why I like Cafe Leona very much.

Final Thoughts

Vigan doesn’t have much to offer the nocturnal (unless you’re up for some videoke; which, thankfully, are far from Calle Crisologo). Most shops, restaurants and even hotels close up after 9 pm. I think it actually adds to the experience, though it also wouldn’t hurt to have a quiet cafe open ‘til the wee hours where you can enjoy a good book while appreciating the beauty of the city under the night sky.

One whole day (if you arrive early morn) is sufficient to see Vigan; though an overnight stay is highly encouraged, especially if you are staying in one of the hotels in Calle Crisologo (they are an attraction on their own).

Vigan is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unique architecture, a fusion of Philippine and Oriental building design and construction, with colonial European architecture. It’s wonderful that this distinction necessitated the preservation of this portion of our history.

I’m glad I was able to walk the cobble stones of Calle Crisologo, see (and even stay) in one of the century-old houses and wander the wide plazas. But it’s not just the architecture that makes Vigan such a special place; it’s that feeling you get, living the splendour of the past while in the present, a sense of pride in the heritage of your people.

Travel Date: October 2011

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13 Comments

  1. Rainbow Journal

    I believe the Vigan government already have something in place. Where renovations and new buildings are to be designed similar to that of the old structures. I just hope that structures outside of Calle Crisologo receive the same care as those within in.

  2. Mitch Ryan

    The houses bring us back in time. I hope the government will preserve these houses.

  3. Rainbow Journal

    Vigan really is postcard perfect. Hope you'd be able to take postcards of your own soon. :)

  4. Dizkarteng Noypi

    I often see this in the postcards but I've never been here. :( hopefully one day, I'm able to visit this heritage town of Vigan. thanks for this post,, Cheers! :D

  5. Rainbow Journal

    You also need to try the empanadas near the Plaza. :)

  6. Rainbow Journal

    Hope you were able to find some points here when you visit Vigan. Cheers! :)

  7. Maria Theresa Dalagan

    Thanks for the notes about food. Common misconception here is that Ilocano food is mostly vegetable dishes (except for bagnet though). I just kept note of Cafe Leona once I get to visit Vigan myselt

  8. Wena Palma Vargas

    I hope to walk on the streets of Vigan soon!

  9. Wena Palma Vargas

    I hope to walk the streets of Vigan soon!

  10. Rainbow Journal

    Hope you'd get to go there soon and of course have a wonderful time! :D

  11. Raymond Nicolas

    I haven't gone to Vigan yet. This post of yours would be helpful once I decide to go. Thanks for sharing! :-)

  12. Rainbow Journal

    Hi Jennifer! I usually am very OC when I travel. Like you, I also have a schedule for everything. A back-up for everything. It's just that for this trip, I was meeting with someone who lives there. :D
    I agree, Vigan is really beautiful! I like it most at dawn, when there's not a lot of people yet at Calle Crisologo.

  13. Jennifer Lopez Gana

    How I wish I can travel like you without any itinerary. Being an event organizer, I'm quite OC when it comes to the itinerary. From what time to wake up in the morning, have breakfast, what to do, where to go. hahaha! I've been to Vigan several times already and how can you not fall in love with VIgan especially during sunset? love it!

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