Ilocos : Vigan

This is the first of a series of posts about Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte, provinces in the Philippines I visited about a decade ago. Since we (my dad, sister and I) covered a lot of ground in the 3, maybe 4 days we were there, I thought it would be best to split the stories up into bite-sized portions. 🙂

Sometime in 2005, the Philippine Department of Tourism produced several music videos which encouraged Filipinos to travel within the country. The video below (it’s in Filipino, but I’ll translate the words in a separate post) was the first of several, and I admit that it did make me want to travel.

The video that prompted me to drag my sister and my dad  up north to Ilocos was the one which featured Regine Velasquez. As much as I would like to share it here, I can’t find any decent clips on Youtube. So anyway, after doing a bit of research and a lot of cajoling, I managed to convince my sister and dad to explore Ilocos.

Ilocos is a province about 500kms north of Metro Manila. You can reach Ilocos by car, by plane or by bus and since we only had a not-so-reliable over 10-years old Mitsubishi, and flying was a wee bit out of our budget, we had no choice but to take the bus. We were told that we could take either Partas Bus or Farinas Bus Lines … I think we chose Partas because the bus terminal was closer to our home.

We thought we would be traveling in a hot and cramped bus but these Partas buses were fairly new. They were all air conditioned, with reclining seats and … were surprisingly very comfortable! The trip took about 8 or 10 hours – I can’t remember how long it was, all I can recall is leaving Cubao (Quezon City) in the evening, and waking up to see the sun rise in Ilocos.

While we were at Ilocos, we stayed at the Vigan Heritage Mansion which was right next to Calle Crisologo, one of the many fascinating streets of Vigan.

The lovely and picturesque Vigan is the capital of Ilocos Sur. Because it is one of the few hispanic towns in the Philippines where the buildings have remained intact, Vigan, with it’s cobblestone streets, is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.

I honestly don’t know how the municipality did it, but a lot (if not all) of the buildings in Vigan retained their original architecture. I’m sure some of them have received a bit of strengthening here and there (you’d also see the occasional modern appliance – air conditioning units – sticking out from windows), but the overall look and feel have remained the same. The windows were made of capiz shells, the doors were of timber, walls were made of stone. It looked and felt authentic. Walking down Calle Crisologo just catapults you back to when the Philippines was still under the Spanish rule.

Although there were motor vehicles in Ilocos, I can’t recall any traversing the streets of Vigan. I remember seeing Calesas (horse-drawn carriages) and a few bikes around, but I can’t recall seeing cars. I think, motor vehicles aren’t allowed in this particular area of Vigan – which is undestandable. The weight of cars and buses would cause irreparable damage to the cobblestones. No one would want that. Residents and visitors would have to walk to the main arteries to get a ride, or hail a passing calesa or tricycle.

Anyway, here are some photos of Vigan. These images really do not do the place any justice.

I’d like to visit again sometime in the near future. I just hope that it would still look and feel as unspoiled as it was 10 years ago.

Useful Links:
It’s More Fun in the Philippines – Ilocos Norte
Vigan City Official Website

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