Where: Vigan City, Ilocos Sur, Philippines
Who: Mr, Mrs & Little Miss Wanderlust (with her nanny)
When: October 2014
What: Exploring the UNESCO World Heritage site and historic town.
Capital of Ilocos Sur province, Vigan City is a World Heritage Site that is one of the few Hispanic towns left in the Philippines where its structures remained intact, and is well known for its cobblestone streets, and a unique architecture that fuses Philippine and Oriental building designs and construction, with colonial European architecture.
The area of Vigan was originally a settlement of traders coming from the Fujian Province, China. At the time of Spanish colonisation, the Chinese settlers, whose language was Southern Fujianese (Min Nan, often referred to as "Hokkien" by most Filipinos), referred to the area as "Bee Gan" (Chinese: 美岸; pinyin: Měi'àn), which means "Beautiful Shore." Since the Spanish conquistadors interchanged V and the B to refer to the B sound, they spelled the Hokkien Chinese name "Bee Gan" as "Vigan", which is the name used to this day.
According to other sources the most commonly known source of the city's name is from the Biga'a plant, which once grew abundantly along the banks of the Meztiso River, from which captain Juan de Salcedo derived the city's name (after a misunderstanding with the locals, thinking he was asking the name of the plants).
Laoag in Ilocos Norte will be your flight’s entry point.
It’s a one-hour plane ride from Taiwan, or a 45-minute flight from Manila.
By Land (Bus):
It is 7-10 hours drive along the scenic Ilocos Highway from Manila to Vigan. Partas Bus Co., Dominion bus Lines, Viron Transit, and St. Joseph/Aniceto Transit have regular trips to Vigan. Bus lines like Philippine Rabbit Bus Line, Farinas Transit, Maria de Leon, Florida, and RCJ Transit have regular trips plying the Manila-Laoag route, which passes by Vigan.
By Private Vehicle:
This is what we did, some may consider it tiring and dangerous, but not really, if you come prepared and have a plan, may make your trip a little bit more relaxed. It is an 8 hour drive from Manila. With all the traffic in congested Manila, you want to leave as early as possible (we left at 04:00am). Went straight North bound road to NLEX, then SCTEX - awesome sunrise by the Mt. Pinatubo view by the way, then TPLEX, (we actually just used google maps.) to go though towns and a quick stop over to eat in our favorite surf town in San Juan, La Union. Then went for a few more hours drive north to reach Vigan.
Getting around Vigan is easy. The city is not as big as you might think and you can easily get around by walking / jogging. You can get around Vigan through tricycles (8-10php within city limits), however it is recommended that you ride Calesa, or a horse drawn carriage that is used back in the Spanish colonial days. Rates are 150/hr with guide, but it may take 3-4 hours for a complete tour which may add up to a total of 600-1000 PHP.
There are many places to stay in Vigan, from hotels to inns, you can find place to stay for different budgets. But as always Mr & Mrs Wanderlust would always find nicer places that would give you your money's worth. And what we were looking for specifically was a room that would still have historic interior design / architecture of the place.
Mr & Mrs Wanderlust's Rating
Hotel Veneto de Vigan
Hotel was very good, maintained old colonial house mansion look outside, and it was newly renovated with the modern conveniences such as air-conditioner since it is very hot at noon, a modern bathroom with hot/cold shower and toilet. But still maintained the old feel of the room, beds, furnitures walls and even the wooden floors.
Staff were always nice and willing to help. Service was great, and location was perfect as it was just a block away from the historic and tourist spots, but maintains the quietness of its area.
Price: $$ (around 3,000++ PHP / night)
Service: 5 star
Facilities & Amenities: 5 star
Restaurant (foods): 5 star
Bar: 4 star
Overall: 4.8 / 5
Food Trip! - Don't know what food to eat when in Ilocos? Let us help you out:
a. Vigan Longganisa – A garlicky sausage usually eaten during breakfast, and best dipped in sukang Iloco (Ilocano vinegar).
b. Empanada – A longganisa-stuffed pastry shell, deep-fried to a crisp.
c. Bagnet – It’s crispy, fattening pork belly that melts in your mouth!
d. Chichacorn - Puffed, crunchy, and flavored corn. Garlic is the most popular flavor.
Explore Calle Crisologo - the cobble-stoned street in Vigan with Spanish period ancestral houses left and right, puts on different faces depending on the time of day. At day to night it is busy with souvenir, antique shops, and other business establishments with people and calesa around. Now if you want a more quiet Calle Crisologo, you can try jogging before sunrise just be sure to bring a camera, because the sight will be awesome as streets are empty with the picturesque old colonial buildings and lighting is also good to see the dark sky turn to morning.
Explore Plaza Burgos - a favourite hang out for locals. It is also used for staging major public events. It has also food stalls selling native snacks and other establishments, notably Cafe Leona.
St. Paul's Metropolitan Cathedral - built by Augustinians around 1790 and features a unique design intended to minimize earthquake damage; a style that came to be known as "earthquake baroque". There is also a saying that whenever it is your first time you visit a church, you get one wish.
Visit the museums - Being an old historic town, witnesses to many happenings in the past, you would see antique houses of significant people in history, turned to museums, that will surely give you the feel of how it was to live back in their days.
Go to Baluarte - Governor Chavit Singson's residence features a mini zoo, butterfly garden, pony rides and animal encounters.
Get your hands dirty at the Pagburnayan - where traditional burnay jars of varied shapes and sizes are made. Feel the thrill of molding your own jars.
Heritage River Cruise - operated by the city government of Vigan to reinforce its heritage conservation program using the historical Mestizo River in telling the historical timeline of Vigan from the pre history to the present time through a 45 minute animal encounter show.
Food / Dining - Vigan Empanada - 50-60 PHP
Food / Dining - Famous Vigan Longganisa - 120 - 150 PHP per dozen (uncooked for pasalubong)
Food / Dining - Chichacorn - 35 - 40 PHP per pack
Food / Dining - Famouse Bagnet - 380 - 400PHP per kilo
Food / Dining - Pinakbet Pizza / Vigan Special Pizza - 350 - 500 PHP for family sized
Accommodations / Hostel Bed - 500 - 1,000 PHP per room
Accommodations / Hotel Bed - 1,000 - 2000 PHP per room
Accommodations / Hotel Family Room - 2,000 - 3,000 PHP
Activities / Museums 20 - 50PHP per head (or some asks for donations only)
Activities / Souvenir 50 - 100 PHP keychain / ref magnet - may go up to 1,000 ++ if buying antique
Transportation / Callesa Ride - 150PHP per hour and may take 4-6 hour for complete city tour
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