Vigan’s history can be traced all the way back to 1758, when the Seat of Nueva Segovia was transferred from Lal-lo, Cagayan to the already flourishing Spanish settlement. As a result, the Ciudad Fernandina de Vigan was established by virtue of a Royal Decree issued by King Fernando VI of Spain. Vigan then became the center of all activities in Northern Philippines.
More than 2 centuries later, this small city has indeed lived up to its rich heritage. It was rightfully inscribed to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1999 for satisfying the following criteria:
Criterion (ii): Vigan represents a unique fusion of Asian building design and construction with European colonial architecture and planning.
Criterion (iv): Vigan is an exceptionally intact and well preserved example of a European trading town in East and South-East Asia.
Although most would associate Vigan with Calle Crisologo, a narrow cobblestone street lined with Spanish period houses, there is more to Vigan than the famous thoroughfare. They also have culinary treats, historical landmarks and unique local products that would please even those with the most discerning taste.
A trip to Vigan would not be complete without sampling their version of empanada (Php25.00/pc). It is made of thin flour crust stuffed with sliced cabbage or shredded green papayas and an egg yolk. It is deep fried afterwards. An Ilocos vinegar dip completes this simple comfort food, which is to some extent, a complete meal in itself. Other local delicacies to try out are the ukoy (deep-fried shrimp patties) and sinanglao (soup composed of beef innards).
The empanadaan is located at Plaza Salcedo, Vigan’s town center. It is bordered by the Ilocos Sur Capitol in the west and St. Paul’s Cathedral in the East. The belfry of this old church is also separated from the main building like most churches in Ilocos. This was a precautionary measure should a strong earthquakes hit the region. The southern strip is home to the City Hall and fastfood joints.
For pasalubongs, I recommend the royal bibingka (Marsha’s or Tongson’s), Vigan longganisa, chichacorn and inabel (cotton-loom woven textile) products at the public market. For the latter, Kuya Tony from Villa Angela, suggested that we head for Shirley’s store, now known as Judyley’s store. This small store has been supplying them all their towels, blankets, and placemats. Mrs. Shirley Manzano patiently assisted us in our confusion since there was a wide array of products on display and we had only little money to spend. She also gave us huge discounts to what may have been already cheaply priced merchandise. Prices for placemats (Php9.00) and double blankets (Php200) could easily double or triple if they are sold at shopping malls in Metro Manila.
This is just a heads-up for those who are traveling on discounted flights (no baggage for check-in). The Laoag airport would not allow the longganisa and sukang Iloco (Ilocano vinegar) tucked in your hand-carry bags. Items like these must be properly sealed and safely tucked inside checked-in baggage.
I wished we could have stayed longer to explore other interesting places in Vigan – the Baluarte, the Syquia mansion, Pagbunaryan and Plaza Burgos just to name a few. This was then our shortest stopover in our 3-day Ilocos itinerary. Nonetheless, we still managed to get the most out of our stay in the city.