Things To Do In Vigan
Vigan City recently achieved (on December 7, 2014) international acknowledgement as one of the New 7 Wonders Cities of the World. It was recognized as one of the seven highly developed urban areas that speak to the worldwide diversity of urban culture. Officially recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city of Vigan is one of the most established towns in the Philippines that were heavily influenced by Spanish colonization.
Vigan is also the acknowledged capital city of Ilocos Sur. The sight of ancient wooden houses, cobblestone pavement streets, the ubiquitous horse drawn carriage (more popularly known as “Kalesa”) plying along Calle Crisologo, the pottery shops, capiz shell window stores, the famous Vigan Longganisa (locally made sausages), and its freshly cooked “empanada” (a famous delicacy made of orange colored fried pastry bread filled with meat, egg, and vegetables) makes Vigan a city where Philippine history and culture is still very much alive. Next to Intramuros in Manila, Vigan is an ideal city where you will learn and discover the last existing Spanish town in Asia.
When To Go:
Vigan City experiences two major climates; the summer season which occurs from March up to July and the rainy season from August until November. The perfect time to explore this old city is during the dry season months particularly from December to February when temperatures are much cooler and visiting will doubtlessly not be hindered by downpours.
For a wonderful and fun-filled adventure, you must also take into consideration the dates or the important timetable of the festive celebrations in Vigan. Arranging a visit amid the Christmas occasions, New Year's, Vigan City Festival, Holy Week and Vigan Town Fiestas are strongly suggested to enjoy and see the best way these festivities are celebrated.
If you prefer a summer journey, temperatures could go from 21 to 33° C, with daily average of 26° C making it likewise humid. Travelers are encouraged to pack cotton clothes, wide brimmed hats, and a good pair of sneakers or casual sandal for strolling along the cobblestone roads.
A city famous for its antiquities and traditional cuisine, here are the top attractions and popular things to do in the historic city of Vigan:
Calle Crisologo is a place in Vigan City, Philippines that proudly shows a glimpse of the past and the architectural traces of the Spaniards. It's very pleasant to walk down this street with its serene atmosphere. There are many souvenir shops and restaurants, do not hesitate to walk along the paved roads and tour around the town on board the “Kalesa” an old horse drawn carriage with drivers that also serve as guides and has extensive knowledge about the former occupants of every ancient house in Calle Crisologo.
This famous street that winds through Vigan City becomes a magical place especially at night. A quick tour can help bring you back to the 16th century when the city was held under Spanish rule. You can walk in the middle of old Spanish buildings or way past the carriages, go from one shop to another and enjoy the peace and absolute tranquility despite always being crowded. There are a few nice renovated houses, but also dilapidated and almost condemned ones. There are too many souvenir shops which offer all the same stuff.
The cobblestone streets really have that distinct Castilian flavor, although there are buildings that would have to be restored and something must be done to remove the sight of the annoying wires of power lines. At sundown, the street becomes more crowded, busy, and the lights illuminate the dark corners of the street. Visit the small corners where the Vigan empanada is made by local food stalls right before your eyes and served with a bowl of spicy vinegar. Fortunately, there is usually some sort of pedestrian zone, even if not everyone adheres to it. It is especially nice in the dark because of the subtle lighting. If you need to stay near this famous street in Vigan, there is only one hotel in this peaceful area and it is called the "Cordillera Inn”.
The Crisologo Museum is an interesting historical home of an important family in Vigan. It was transformed into a mausoleum and dedicated to the memory of a prominent politician in Ilocos Sur that served during the years 1950- 1960. It is worth a visit to understand something of the past history of the country and understand the lifestyle of the upper-class during that time.
It is a nice home with huge collection of collected antiques and a few personal collections of a renowned family in Vigan. There is no admission fee but a small donation is required after the tour.
St. Paul Metropolitan Cathedral
The St. Paul Metropolitan Cathedral is the landmark church located a few meters away from the “Heritage Village” or Calle Crisologo. It is built on the typical Spanish style of "earthquake-baroque" architecture. Constructed since 1641, the church has endured earthquakes and other forms of natural calamities from this side of the Philippines. The main altar and the iconostasis are equally impressive. You can attend a solemn Mass every Sunday, but the church remains open during weekdays for tourists to explore. Masses officiated in English is held every Sunday at 6:00 pm.
The congregation was initially established as a house of prayer made of wood during the fifteenth century. In sixteenth century it was supplanted as a congregation and by seventeenth century it transformed into a full service cathedral. The entire church was developed so immovably to guarantee security and not to be demolished by tremors. Throughout the hundreds of years, it survived number of tremors even until today. At present, the cathedral has a noteworthy altar, high roof, excellent segments for dedication, extraordinary religious pictures/symbols and exceptionally delightful tower. The Cathedral is easy to locate. It is right across the Plaza Salcedo (where the dancing fountain is being held consistently every night). Don't miss going by the congregation when you are in Vigan.
Every day at 19:30 PM, the Dancing Fountain starts a water-sound-and-light show on the main square in front of the Salcedo Vigan Cathedral. The fountains "dance" to pop and classical music, all of them fit and tuned at different levels and in different lighting modes to each other, a delight for the eyes and ears as well as cheaper and more environmentally friendly than fireworks and also free making it truly entertaining and worth the time.
Both the music and the choreography of the fountains become different every time the music changes. Overall it is a great show that you should follow from different locations around the park. It plays a nice mix of modern (Psy’s Gangnam Style, Gentleman, Eye of the Tiger, etc.) and old classical music that is never boring. There is a separate area near the church which can also be accessed during the presentation and where a variety of children enjoy fantastic fun. The entire dancing fountain show approximately takes about 45 minutes.
This vacation spot is ideal for the whole family since they have a wide variety of animals kept under their care like camels, ostriches (they are huge and freely roaming around), horses, deer’s, Bengal tigers, and different species of birds that are exceptionally tamed. You can take pictures with the collection of colorful parrots, geese, cockatoos, parakeets, and peacocks. There are separate areas for amphibians and snakes, and a designated area for young animals like; baby goats, ponies, and sheep. Picture taking is allowed everywhere and there are educational corners teaching love and care for animals aimed at kids. The free zoo is well maintained and the animals are well cared for. It is owned and operated by the former governor of the city, Luis “Chavit” Singson, one of the prominent political figures of Ilocos Sur.
On account of Mr. Singson, you can visit this Baluarte for absolutely nothing. It's smaller than any typical zoo and kids can really have a great time. If you feel hungry or thirsty, there are little stores all over to extinguish your thirst and hunger. There are also a few keepsake shops arranged in front or before the entrance gates. You can also check out the new safari display toward the end. It has an amazing exhibit of head mounts, toys, and rugs produced from animal leather. Guests are particularly fond of the butterfly garden because of the vast selection of species and the explanation of their life cycle.
Bantay Bell Tower
This 1591 structure of an old belfry tower is accessible by a Kalesa ride from the central part of the city. Once you get to the Bantay Bell Tower, climb all the way to the top to have a panoramic view of Vigan City. The guides here are very friendly but they cannot give any historical overview of the tower. The site is currently being monitored because most of its wooden floor already squeaks. The bells are lovely and the towers are impressive. You may also visit the adjacent Augustinian Church.
After the visit, the staff asks for voluntary donation but without any compulsory amount. It may be hard to go up the stairs because the narrow stairs to reach the chime tower can just suit a specific number of individuals at once so you need to patiently wait for your turn. Persistence has its compensation as the perspective from the top is truly astounding. From the top you can see the surrounding perspective of Vigan, the old cemetery and all the way to the island of Abra. The Bell Tower was fabricated at the highest point of the slope and utilized as a watchtower amid past wars. Henceforth it earned the name Bantay a Tagalog word that means “guard” in English.
The Hidden Garden is a floral oasis in a quite dry area. A visit here is mandatory if you are in Vigan. It is located on the outskirts of the city and quite easy to reach usually with the offered horse-drawn carriages which are not too expensive. Once you arrive, you will be amused by this secluded spot in Vigan City, and discover precisely why it is called the “hidden garden”. It is located on a straightforward cottage house which you'll most likely take an uncertainty for. You can ask around any local for the exact direction to this tourist attraction. Before you enter, you must pay the admission fee where you will be given a token.
It is an enormous and an excellent arrangement of different sorts of blooms, exotic garden plants and trees. Don't forget to visit a part in the enclosure where a little restaurant is placed (cooks all the famous delicacies of Vigan, including their acclaimed Empanada). For the best souvenirs you can shop in front of the garden for some trinkets, distinctive handicrafts, their well-known burnay earthen wares, and vividly printed souvenir shirts.
Chapel By The Ruins
The Chapel by the Ruins is an ideal place for contemplation and a peaceful sanctuary located in the outskirts of Vigan City. If you have already seen the Bantay Bell Tower, take a trip to this ruined chapel whose roof is indeed missing, but, especially in the afternoon gives a light and airy ambience accompanied by the chirping of the birds and creates a peculiar atmosphere that is quite different from the often oppressive heavy and closed buildings. It is definitely an interesting experience, provided that keeps the crowd in check and time your visit after lunch when there are not much tourists.
Banaoang Bridge (The President Elpidio Quirino Bridge)
The Banaoang Bridge along Abra River is the first sign that you have reached Ilocos Sur and just 20 minutes away to Vigan City. You can stop by and take pictures of the wide river and one of the longest bridges in Ilocos Sur. History says that this bridge was developed to replace the old bridge that was destroyed by a tropical storm in 2001. The government initiated the total repair and rehabilitation and it is now regarded as one of the important points of interest that is identified with Vigan City.
If you’re a great photo enthusiast, then it’s an absolute necessity that you drop by to take various shots of the bridge from all locations. Furthermore, inside the same range, they have a Zip Line adventure that would convey you over the vast waterway. The Zip Line rates as of as of August 2014 is P250 ($ 5) for a sitting position and P300 ($6) for the Superman pose.
Plaza Salcedo is the promenade park facing St. Paul Cathedral and where the dancing fountain is located. This famous square is centrally situated in the heart of the city. It has a manmade pond (assembled by local people to put away water for the blazes they had experienced before) this is likewise the exact spot where Gabriela Silang was executed way back during the seventeenth century. She was sentenced to die by hanging and it was held in this square. She was punished by the Spanish government for being the first lady pioneer of the revolution.
If you are in Plaza Salcedo, visit the nearby attractions (St. Paul Cathedral, Calle Crisologo, Tirad Pass, the Padre Burgos House, and the Municipal Hall). St. Paul Cathedral, the best time to go there is before 7:00 in the morning for a comfortable walk or during the evening to watch Vigan's most recent fascination which is the Dancing Fountain and Light Show. It is a wonderful spectacle at night and the creation of this fountain was accomplished thru the initiative of former Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson as his gift to the people and the Provincial Government of Ilocos Sur.
Padre Burgos House - National Museum
The Padre Burgos House- National Museum was in existence since 1788. This former ancestral house of Padre Burgos (he was one of the 3 priests who complete the term GOMBURZA and executed by the Spaniards at Luneta in 1872) now serves as a museum and art gallery about the life of the late priest and his family.
It is an old heritage building that is already showing obvious signs of dilapidation. If you love history then you will most likely appreciate this tourist attraction where the entrance fee is modest and for just 20 pesos you will see genuine antiques indicating the old Ilocano's methods for living during the Spanish era.
The Syquia’s were one of the elite families in Vigan and their mansion was converted into a historical center. It is also the most preserved house in the city. The huge house gained prominence as a stunning second floor house built in all stones and equipped with a fountain. The mansion of the Syquia’s also served as the official presidential palace in the northern part of the Philippines during the term of President Elpidio Quirino (whose wife is a direct descendant of the Syquia’s). The Syquia Mansion also served as his official residence each time he visits his wife in Vigan City.
Vigan City is not only rich in history, it is also highly recommended for its great effort in preserving its historical landmarks and significant points of interest in and around the city. If there is one place that you must see aside from the capital city of Metro Manila, this is it. A week’s journey will lead you to learning a lot about Philippine history, the hospitable and friendly people, and unique Spanish houses that can only be found in Vigan City.
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