Type: Province, Rural
Best Date to Visit: December
Things to Do: Kalesa (horse drawn calash), Dine, Visit Museums, Shop
Points of Interest: Sycquia Mansion, National Museum of the Philippines, Crisologo Museum, Plaza Burgos, Calle Crisologo, St Paul Cathedral, Bantay Church, ect
The Good: Unique well preserved spanish colonial structures
The Bad: Small city, can get crowded at peak holiday periods
Vigan city is the capital of the ‘Ilocos Sur (South Ilocos)’ region in the Philippines. The city is very popular for its old Spanish buildings that have been preserved through the years. Vigan is also known for the ‘calesa’ (horse drawn carriages) rides through the city. Now the historic city is a UNESCO world heritage site and many tourist flock to see the only Spanish styled colony in East Asia.
Vigan city is the Philippines most preserved Spanish colonial city and tourism here is large because of its architecture, culture and culinary influence from its past. There is plenty to see and do here but all can be done in one single day through riding a ‘calesa’ which costs 150php/ hour (equivalent of £2/ hour). The Calesa do a circuit of all the attractions in the city and allows you to get down to roam and take photos (just like a hop-on and hop-off bus). Usually a full circuit will take 1-3 hours depending on how long you roam at each point of interest.
The Calesa starts beside ‘St Pauls cathedral’, and as the ride starts you pass around the city’s ‘Plaza (Plaza Burgos)’ this is where the evening ‘Light and fountain show’ takes place at around 19:00 everyday of the week. This show lasts about 20minutes and is very busy full of spectators so an early arrival is advisable.
After riding past the plaza in about 5-10minutes you arrive at the first stop ‘Bantay church’ or ‘St Agustin church’ and its ‘Bell tower’. The church is free to enter however its bell tower requires registration and a donation which could be as much as you want. The bell tower once served as a watch tower for pirates during the Spanish colonial era.
Next is the ‘National Museum of Ilocos’ and the ‘Old provincial jail’ both which requires registration but no fee and donations are required. There are plenty of cultural and historic objects and artefacts of this the Philippines and the Ilocos region.
The ‘Crisologo museum’ is next followed by the ‘Syquia mansion’ which is now dedicated to the Philippines late president Elpidio Quirino, who was born in the city. The Crisologo museum is also a place with many different memorabilia from Philippines past. Furniture, paintings,different artworks and even vehicles are seen here.
After that you ride through the ‘Calle Crisologo’ the old Spanish street which in my opinion is the highlight of the tour. At any point you may ask the coachman (horse drawn carriage driver) to stop so that you may take a photo (but not to roam). Here there are plenty antique shops, bakeries, restaurants, hotels and bars all in older Spanish styled buildings. I believe this street is the cover attraction of the city and it is busy throughout the day.
Lastly you are dropped off where you got on beside ‘St Pauls cathedral’ also known as ‘Vigan cathedral’ another of many UNESCO world heritage sites across Ilocos. The ride took 2hours paying a total of 300php (equivalent of £4), you may or may not give a tip if you want. The Calesa ride is an invaluable way of transport in the city and the price is nothing compared to the gain of experience. Positives of the ride were its ease, cheapness and its uniqueness, whilst its negatives are little in smell of the waste (horse) and fumes of vehicle on the road.
In conclusion, Vigan is for tourists more fascinated about history and culture as there are no adrenaline activities here. Hotels here are fairly cheap but there can be the odd expensive ones, whilst restaurants are vast. A good place for families and groups in my opinion.