Abra River, Mestizo River and Govantes River had formerly separated Vigan from the mainland. Vigan is unique among the Philippine towns because it is the largest and only surviving historic city in the country.
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Vigan was an important coastal trading post in pre-colonial times. Long before the Spanish galleons, Chinese junks sailing from the South China Sea came to Isla de Bigan through the Mestizo River that surrounded the island. On board were sea-faring merchants that came to barter exotic goods from Asian kingdoms in exchange for gold, beeswax and other mountain products brought down by natives from the Cordilleras. Immigrants, mostly Chinese, settled in Vigan, intermarried with the natives and started the multi-cultural bloodline of the Bigueños.
In the book, The Philippine Island, Vol. III, p. 276, Blair and Robertson, two letters of Governor General Guido de Lavezares to King Philip II of Spain mentions: “It seemed best to send Captain Juan de Salcedo with 70 or 80 soldiers to people the coast of Los Ilocano on the shores of the river called Bigan.” Salcedo then sailed from Manila on May 20, 1572 and arrived in Vigan on June 12, 1572.
Thus, after the successful expedition and exploration of the North, Don Juan de Salcedo founded “Villa Fernandina de Vigan” in honor of King Philip II’s son, Prince Ferdinand who died at the tender age of four. From Vigan, Salcedo rounded the tip of Luzon and proceeded to pacify Camarines, Albay, and Catanduanes.
As a reward for his services to the King, Salcedo was awarded the old province of Ylocos which then composed of the Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, La Union and some part of Mountain Province as his Encomienda and was accorded the title as Justicia Mayor de esta Provincia de Ylocos.
In January 1574, Salcedo returned to the capital of his Encomienda, Vigan, bringing with him some Augustian Missionaries to pioneer the evangelization of Ylocos and established a Spanish city, for the purpose of controlling the neighboring country.
Places to visit in Vigan
One of the most beautiful places in the Philippines is Vigan so when you’re in town, make sure to check out these places for an amazing trip! From Vigan houses to jar factories, we’ve rounded up all the best places you must see in the historic city of Vigan.
A trip to Vigan Philippines won’t be complete without walking along the iconic Calle Crisologo. The Spanish houses erected here by the wealthy families have been so well-maintained over the years. Tourists can ride a kalesa or simply take a fun walking Vigan tour to see the marvelous heritage houses.
Syquia Mansion Museum
Located in Quirino Boulevard, the Syquia Mansion Museum has been decorated with antique furniture, paintings, and exhibits from the time of President Elpidio Quirino, a native of Vigan. The stunning house was owned by Quirino’s wife, who belonged to the affluent Syquia family.
RG Jar Factory
After you’re done exploring the Vigan heritage village, go for a unique couple or family bonding activity in RG Jar Factory where you can make your own pot and jar.
The jar makers can demo how it’s done and let you create your own clay pot or jar. The place does not have any entrance fees whatsoever but you could donate any amount, it’s up to you
Bantay Church Bell Tower
If you can’t get enough of the Vigan heritage village and want to get a taste of the city’s old-world charm, go to Bantay Bell Tower. The Bantay Church Bell Tower served as the town’s watchtower in 1591.
The magnificent view may have been the reason why it was supposedly “Diego and Gabriela Silang’s favorite date spot during the 17th century.”
Just 10 minutes away from Calle Crisologo, Baluarte Resort and Mini Zoo lets you get close to nature’s wonderful creatures from cute little birds to big cats a.k.a. tigers. It’s also dubbed as the “Home of the Big Cats in Vigan,” as it shelters Bengal tigers, white lions, and leopards
Things to do in Vigan
Here are some of the most fun activities you must try in Vigan City
Vigan Ilocos Sur is a haven for foodies! Wherever you look, you’ll find a grand restaurant, hole-in-the-wall cafes, or quaint eateries that serve oh-so-delicious food! You must try their famous Vigan longganisa and empanada! What’s even better is that the food here isn’t expensive unlike in other touristy places.
Abel cloth is a traditional woven product in Vigan known for its unique beauty and durability. Many families hand abel cloth down to younger generations as heirlooms as this is something that represents their culture. Places you can visit are: Cristy’s Loomweaving, Rowilda’s Loomweaving, Vigan Public Market, and Calle Crisologo.
Make your own pot
Another fun activity you can try in Vigan Ilocos Sur is pottery making! If you love planting, this might come in handy for you! You can visit RG Jar Factory and test your hand skills at pottery. If you don’t have the patience and creative “skill” for it, you can try the less graceful but possibly equally satisfying alternative: smashing jars to make clay beds for fishponds.
Visit the Vigan Cathedral
The Vigan Cathedral, also known as the St. Paul’s Cathedral is considered a major religious landmark not only of northern Luzon but the country as well. The original structure was built in 1574 with wood and thatch. It was just a mere chapel then. It was only in 1641 when it was turned into a church and was completed in 1800.
The St. Paul’s Cathedral follows a Baroque architectural design that has been modified by Ilocanos to strengthen the structure against earthquakes which is known as “Earthquake Baroque.”
Contrary to its name, Hidden Garden Vigan is not actually hidden. In fact, it’s found at the heart of Vigan City and is frequented by tourists and locals alike. Here you can shop souvenirs, clothes, and plants or dine at their garden restaurant that serve fresh food everyday after a tiring Vigan tour at the Vigan heritage village!
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