Vigan Historic Town

UNESCO World Heritage Site in Philippines

 Situated almost four hundred kilometers, or 249 miles away from the capital of Philippines, Manila is Vigan, the historic town which is also Ilocos Sur’s capital city. It is present in the northern Luzon’s western coastal area, facing towards the South China Sea. It is a fifth class city, which has been included by UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Sites. Established during the era of Spanish dominance in Philippines, during the later 1500s, it presents a well preserved demonstration of a typical colonial town under the Spaniards.

The unique architectural fusion of colonial Spanish and Philippine building designs resulted in the development of a townscape and culture, which had no resemblance or parallel with any other location in South-East/East Asia. It derives its name from the word ‘Biga’, which implies a giant taro plant, growing in abundance on the banks of river Mestizo.

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History, Highlights and Features

Before the arrival of the Spaniards, Vigan used to be a settlement for traders who migrated from the Fujian Province of China. Later, after Spanish colonization it was named Vigan, and the name still finds use. From 1645 to 1660, the entire Vigan city was demarcated into 21 Town Mayors, under whose control was the law and order of the town. The immigrant Chinese traders were, however, allowed to settle in a different neighborhood, and were kept separated from the Spanish settlements. Today, though, the city has been subdivided into 39barangays or barrios.

The cobblestone streets, along with the Chequerboard Street planning, ascertain the fact that the Europeans were masters in their architectural skills. Terracotta, shells, wood, line and stone were obtained from the neighboring regions and were used as construction and building materials. Other than the normal dwelling houses, tourists can visit significant building, which also represents the multi cultural influences.

These include several museums that were built here, in the memory of the various national heroes who were born in this town, old Vigan colonial houses that used to be the ancestral houses for rich Chinese traders, St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was built by the Augustinians during the years 1790-1800, Palacio de Arzobispado, which resembles the official residence Nueva Segovia’s Archbishop and also contains a wide array of manuscripts, paintings, and religious documents, Burgos National Museum, which was the Padre Jose Burgos’ center of accommodation, St. Paul’s College, the early 20th century, neo-classical provincial Capitol, and the Catholic Cemetery Chapel.

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Good to Know and What not to Miss

The right time to visit Vigan for tourists is when the town celebrates the fiesta. Sheer festivity and celebration grasps the entire town for one whole week, which concludes on the 25th of January every year. This is done to remember the St. Paul, the apostle’s conversion. The entire Vigan town is decorated, and various events like beauty pageant competition and other variety show are held. Also, majority of the local and international visitors decide to hop in at Vigan during the Holy Week, when the streets are filled with religious processions and parades, comprising statues which are quite ancient and antique, and which are mounted on beautifully designed carrozas.

  • How to get there: From Manila, Vigan is approximately a 7 hour trip. There are buses plying between the two cities. The Partas Bus Company, Dominion Bus Line, Maria de Leon Transit, and Philippine Rabbit Bus Lines offer bus services on a daily basis. Besides, one can opt for a flight to the city of Laoag, which is about 80 kilometers from Vigan. From there, tourists can reach Vigan within 1 and a half hours.
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