On the western coast of northern Luzon in Ilocos Sur lies the greatest example of Spanish colonization in Asia in the city of Vigan. Protected as a World Heritage Site, Vigan represents a major period in the history of the Philippines. As you enter into Vigan, you’ll find yourself transported back in time to the sights of horse drawn carriages working their way down cobble stoned streets among buildings and architecture from the days of old.
This coastal town first played a major role as a traders settlement between the Chinese and the local indigenous people. During the 16th century, the Spanish arrived led by Juan de Salcedo. As the Spanish developed the settlement in an urban layout while creating structures similar to the housing styles of their homeland while merging styles from the local asian influences. Several of these buildings have been renovated as hotels and living quarters with modern amenities while still faithfully maintaining the historical architecture. We stayed at the newly renovated Hotel Felicidad and highly recommend it!
Along the cobble stoned streets of Vigan, you’ll come across several shops for pasalubong. You’ll find several examples of textiles from the local weavers, woodwork, pottery, wine and especially the popular Vigan longganisa. There are also several cafes along the street to grab a cup of coffee and surf the wi-fi to catch up on e-mails. Don’t forget to pick up a Vigan empanada for a savory snack!
One of the most celebrated figures of Vigan’s past is Ms. Leona Florentino, a Filipino poet considered to be the “mother of Philippine women’s literature.” Located in the main plaza is a statue of Leona welcoming all to the city. In the building adjacent to the statue is Leona Florentino’s ancestral home which now house the popular Cafe Leona restaurant, Provincial Tourism Center and the Vigan Heritage Commission.
“Clip-clop clip-clop” is a common sound that you’ll hear as you travel around Vigan. One of Vigan’s most popular attractions are the calesas, or horse-drawn carriages, all over the city. Calesas were made popular in Vigan during the Spanish colonization and seem to fit right in with the surrounding historical architecture. The horses are extremely used to being around people and travel down the streets alongside cars and trucks with no issue. The cocheros are very similar to tricycle drivers, just using a different vehicle. As you walk down the street, you can expect a few cocheros offering rides in the calesas to tour around Vigan and the surrounding attractions.
With all the cocheros going around and offering a ride, it’s hard to resist. If you’ve got a few hours to kill, the cochero will give you a tour of the entire city of Vigan. You’ll travel outside of the historical area through the local barangays on your way to Governor Chavit Singson’s home of Baluarte where you can visit the free wilderness conservation. Check out our guide here! Once you’ve spent some time enjoying petting the animals and seeing the graceful tigers and birds, you’ll head over to the Hidden Garden to pick up some beautiful local pottery and plants and grab a bite to eat at the restaurant. As you head back into town, you can enjoy the beauty of historic Vigan at night and try out some of the local dining options.