Vigan has always been one of those places that spring up to mind when talking about road trips up north. Probably the other equally favored one is a road trip to Sagada. But I digress. My co-workers and I took advantage of a long weekend to go on this road trip to Ilocos, just to take a break from the usual grind at work and, for some, to take advantage of the school break. Of course, any road trip up north would not be complete without spending time at the famed city of Vigan. Specifically, its Calle Crisologo.
My first visit to Vigan, not just Calle Crisologo, was on February 2016, and I realize I never got around to blogging about that. (Maybe I’ll be able to still talk about it in between. 🙂 )
That time, however, we visited the famous Calle Crisologo in the evening, which means we were practically jostling for space and elbow room, and trying not to lose our companions, in the thick crowd on the streets and alleys. It was fun and interesting, but not necessarily the fun and relaxing stroll that I expected.
So when the first stop of our road trip from Baguio City turned out to be the center of Vigan, I was skipping around (inside, of course) in joy because that means we can enjoy the Calle without an entire horde of tourists.
I mean, just look at how clear the streets and alleyways are!!!
About Calle Crisologo
Any talk about the capital town of Ilocos Sur will not be complete without talking about this particular street, or calle. In fact, a huge contributing factor to Vigan City earning the recognition of being a UNESCO World Heritage Center.
In fact, UNESCO described the “Historic City of Vigan” as the “best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia”. And that is apparent in the houses lining the maze-like network of streets that is now widely known as Calle Crisologo.
This colonial town was established in the 16th century, which means these structures are already as old as that. Of course, looking at them now, most people would probably have doubts about that.
But therein lies the charm of this corner of Vigan. These Spanish colonial houses have been preserved very well by the generations of families that owned them. No doubt some restoration work had to be done, but the bases and foundations remained the same, and any renovation work had been performed to keep the houses looking like they did back in the Spanish regime in the country.
Today, these houses are still being used, some as residences still, but most as business establishments selling a wide range of goods and services. But it was impressive how, no matter what business operations are being run, the facade and interior are still in keeping with the original design and architecture of the building.
Of course, one downside is that, at 6 to 7 in the morning, most of the shops and stores are closed. While walking around, we were also looking for a place to have breakfast, since we left Baguio at around midnight earlier.
Unfortunately, most of the establishments were closed and those few that were opened were still not actually open for business.
So we made do with checking out the views, reading a bit about the old buildings on various panels and marble plates placed by the doors. Seriously, just by reading the names of the buildings, you can pretend you’re transported to the Spanish era.
Also, you know how frustrating it is to have a clear view and take a photo sans photobomber in sight? We were able to actually enjoy that this time!
By the way, let me just make note of how, by this time, we were already sweating because of the heat and humidity combined.
I was thinking, “I’m sweating without working out. At half past six in the freakin’ morning.”
Clearly, we’re not used to this temperature, us folks from the boondocks.
Early in the morning, the almost empty cobblestoned streets are perfect for taking photos. I swear, if you come here later in the day, particularly in the evenings, there won’t even be a space for you to stand to have a solo pic taken, without at least half a dozen people behind you.
And I do commend whoever is in charge of keeping the area clean, because considering the foot (and horse!) traffic in the evenings and nights, the streets are actually clean the next morning. Props. Major props.
After walking around and almost getting lost in the maze of streets and alleyways, we gave up on ever finding a breakfast place within the Calle Crisologo.
So we decided to just walk over to the Plaza, where we saw several fastfood chains, because by this time we were already starving, we’d settle for fast food. XDD
Before getting there, however, you’d pass the calesa parking area.
The calesa is a horse-drawn carriage, which was the main mode of transport back during the Spanish regime in the Philippines, and they remain popular in this City. In fact, riding a calesa while touring key places around Vigan City (yes, not just around Calle Crisologo) is highly recommended.
We did not go for it, though. We were too hungry, for one. Plus it was already hot. And we weren’t really keen on it, since we had a packed itinerary on the road ahead of us.
Meanwhile, here are some calesas in action.
One other place you’d definitely not fail to miss when you’re near Calle Crisologo is the Vigan Empanadaan.
Empanada is another delicacy and signature food item of Vigan. It’s classified as a snack, but considering how filling it is, it is already a complete meal, at least for me. It’s Vigan’s version of the taco of Mexico. So you have this crispy shell made from ground rice, and inside is stuffed with sauteed cabbage or papaya, with egg and the equally famous Vigan longaniza.
Basically the Vigan Empanadaan is like a small area lined with stores and seats where empanada is made right in front of customers. They can sit there if they want to enjoy the snack afterwards.
As you can see on the photo below, the place is still closed. When we went back the next day in the evening, it was so alive, with lights everywhere, all the stores busy with staff making empanada, and visitors queuing for it.
Finally we got to the Plaza Salcedo.
Plazas are also a permanent fixture in many Spanish colonial towns and cities, and they exist even today. Naturally, it was not a surprise at all that there is at least one plaza that is a stone’s throw away from Calle Crisologo.
Plaza Salcedo is certainly a very wide square, and it’s centrally situated in the City, since it is flanked on all sides by key buildings such as the Vigan City Hall, the Ilocos Sur Provincial Capitol…. and a slew of fastfood chains such as Jollibee, KFC and Chow King *sniggers*.
That statue is of Spanish conquistador Juan de Salcedo, one of the conquerors from the invading Spanish that established several colonial towns all over the Philippines. Needless to say, he was the one that founded the colonial settlement in Vigan.
In the evenings, the Plaza Salcedo comes to life with their dancing fountain and lights show. There is this wide man-made pond in the middle of the Plaza where the state-of-the-art fountain thingamajig is built into.
The light show is free for the public, and it is held every night, barring rain & storms. That alone is already impressive since the locals get to have a free show every single night. The entire Plaza gets filled with people on all sides, ready to be entertained for around 20-30 minutes.
I had the pleasure of witnessing the spectacle twice, and for days afterward – both times – the phrase & melody that went “Sure, Ilocos Sur~!” kept ringing in my head.
This, right here, directly facing the statue of Juan de Salcedo, is the Saint Paul Cathedral, also known as the Vigan Cathedral.
That building is the fourth “incarnation” of the Church, which was originally built in 1641. The first three constructed churches succumbed to earthquakes and fires, until the Cathedral that is standing today was completed in 1800.
The structure on the right is the Archbishop’s Palace, which was also built around the same period. Today, it lays claim to the distinction of being the only remaining Archbishop Palace in the country that was built during the Spanish regime.
History buffs or not, you’d definitely find something fun and interesting to see and do in this town. And you don’t have to limit yourself to the Calle Crisologo and the Plaza Salcedo, either, because the entire city has a lot to offer, clearly deserving of its title as a World Heritage Center. If I manage to find where I stored some of the older photos during my first visit, I’d probably be able to blog about those other places. Hopefully.
After walking around, we grabbed some breakfast at one of the many fastfood places by the Plaza, then hit the road again to continue on to our next destination. See ya in the next post about this road trip up north!