A visit to Vigan is the next best thing to traveling back in time. It was definitely an exciting experience for me as I reveled in the Spanish Colonial surroundings. The sounds of horses trotting as the carriages passed by reminded me of how people used to get around town many moons ago.
The city of Vigan is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the New7Wonders Cities. Back in the 16th century, Vigan was a trading post, and being part of the Silk Road, connections were established between the indigenous peoples of Taiwan and the Philippines, and later included parts of Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and other areas in Southeast Asia. There was also some information from the older folk that trading used to be done at the back of the Vigan Cathedral where boats used to come in. The waterways mentioned by the elders are, of course, non-existent in the present time.
Vigan used to be detached from the mainland by three rivers—the great Abra River, the Govantes River, and the Mestizo River. Chinese boats coming from the South China sea would come and trade exotic goods in exchange for gold, beeswax and other products brought down by the natives from the mountains of the Cordilleras.
How to get here
We drove from Manila for just about 7 hours, thanks to the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) which saved us an hour or so of travel time. It’s well worth the price of the tollway. The trip will be faster if you leave Manila at the evening with less cars, tricycles and motorbikes on the road.
If you need fuel for the hungry tummy, there are numerous restaurants and eateries along Agoo and San Fernando, La Union. They serve good Ilocano food and also provide great views of the countryside.
My Vigan Home Hotel
The old-world charm of Ilocos welcomes you at this hotel. Parking is not a problem since they have their own space inside the property. This was a welcome surprise since we didn’t have to park on the street. The hotel is also just a stone’s throw away from the world famous, Calle Crisologo which is very convenient. I can already see the street sign and the flow of tourists from the hotel’s entrance. There are also many restaurants and a grocery nearby.
The property is spacious and very clean. There was a lot of narra wood used for the polished floors, window frames and surroundings. The grand flight of stairs which usually welcomes visitors in old homes leads you to the rooms on the second floor.
The standard rooms are big enough for three persons and there is also a choice for a family room to accommodate more guests. The dining area is also on the same floor and very close to the hotel rooms.
The property was, indeed, a home before. The owner and his family used to live here before they settled in Manila. With the prime location, they converted the home into a hotel. It surely felt like a home for me with the personal service they provide. It was an experience of living in this Mestizo district of the past, with its cobblestone streets and rustic houses.
For breakfast, the hotel provides a menu and orders can be served as early as 7 am. They offer Ilocano foods such as bagnet, Vigan longganisa, sinanglaw and the usual early morning favorites, tapa, corned beef and morcon. There is also a pot of coffee available in the dining room.
The hotel is also a few minutes walk to Plaza Burgos, a major plaza in the area which is right beside Saint Paul Cathedral’s Bell Tower. Plaza Burgos was built to honor the martyrdom of Father Jose P. Burgos, one of Vigan’s illustrious sons put to death by the Spaniards. Father Burgos fought for ecclesiastical reforms to help fight the discrimination suffered by Filipino priests during his time. He was executed in Manila’s Bagumbayan together with two other members of the clergy. They are known in Philippine history as the Gomburza, which stands for their surnames Gomez, Burgos and Zamora.
The plaza is beautiful and I recommend going here on an early morning stroll just as the sun is coming out. You can meet some of the locals and experience the true Ilocano way of life.
The area also has various eateries that offer Ilocano favorites. Customers can have it served there at the tables near the plaza, or take it to the hotel for lunch or dinner. The prices are affordable and the food is delicious.
My stay here in Vigan is one of a kind. It’s a visit to life in the past while enjoying the conveniences of the modern times. It’s time to visit and explore through the pages of the history books.