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Thursday, October 25, 2012


Vigan is in Northern Luzon. Its Spanish colonial influence in local architecture and old-world charm make it a unique city in the Philippines.

In pre-colonial times, Vigan was an important trading post for Chinese junks, trading gold beeswax and other products from the central Cordilleras for exotic Asian goods. Many Chinese traders settled in the mestizo district, marrying locals and starting new bloodlines.

Vigan was captured and settled by the Spanish in 1572, and grew to become a centre of Spanish political and religious power in the north of Luzon. In 1758 Vigan became the Seat of the Diocese of Nueva Segovia.
Interestingly the town was also a hotbed of anti-Spanish politics. Diego Silang was perhaps the most notable resistance leader, but was assassinated by his friends (on commission from the Spanish) in May 1763. Undeterred, Silang's wife, Maria Josefa Gabriela Silang, assumed leadership of the uprising but was later captured by the Spanish and publicly hanged in on September 20, 1763.

Local legend has it that Vigan got its name from a simple communication breakdown. A Spaniard walking along the Metizo River apparently met a local and asked which the city's name. Not understanding what he was being asked, but seeing that the Spaniard seemed to be pointing to a tree, replied "Bigaa Apo" (a giant Taro plant that was common in the area). It is from the word "Bigaa" that Vigan is said to have derived its name.

Vigan is a relatively small city with two hearts: the recreational and shopping area around the adjacent Plaza Salcedo and Plaza Burgos in the north, and the commercial centre around the public market in the south. The mestizo district is focused along Plaridel and Mena Crisologo Streets, running south from Plaza Burgos towards the cemetery.
There is a helpful and friendly provincial tourist information office south west of Plaza Burgos (next to Cafe Leona) that can dispense information on Vigan and the rest of Ilocos Sur. Banks with ATMs accepting foreign credit cards are located around the recreational and shopping areas and at Quezon Avenue, as are internet cafes with access that charge P20 per hour. Some restaurants offer Wi-Fi access.

A fun throwback to colonial days are the calesa horse-drawn carriages that still clip-clop through Vigan's streets. Rates for calesa rides should be the same as those for the many tricycles (P8-P10 within the city limits) that will undoubtedly by vying for your custom. But you could also hire a private calesa for around 150php per hour. Unless you're absolutely sure you have a tour guide that will give you in depth information about the sites you're visiting, A whole day calesa adventure for about 1000 (roughly 6-7 hours) would be advisable. You can take your time visiting the sites and not being rushed by a guide, as well as picking and choosing the areas you want to visit.


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