FOR as long as I can remember, I had always wanted to see Vigan. Being inscribed in the Unesco World Heritage List of Sites and Monuments, I knew this would be an architectural experience I was not going to forget. Little did I know, Vigan was exactly that and even more than I expected.

Vigan is the capital of Ilocos Sur. It is along Luzon’s western coast, facing the South China Sea. It was one of the earliest Spanish settlements in the Philippines, which was founded in 1572 by Juan de Salcedo. Hence, Vigan’s carefully persevered Spanish colonial structures have made this city a popular tourist destination.

Click here for Election 2010 updates

Getting around and accommodations

If you arrive without much knowledge of Vigan, you can, upon arriving at the bus terminal, take a tricycle or even a calesa ride to the tourism office across Plaza Burgos. The office can help you with basic information like hotels, tours and transportation.

The hotel choices are many, like Vigan Plaza Hotel (www.viganplazahotel.com), Vigan Hotel (www.viganhotel.com), Hotel de Salcedo (www.hotelsalcedodevigan.com), Villa Angela (www.villangela.com), Cordillera Inn or the quaint Grandpa’s Inn (www.grandpasinn.com). But I advise doing some research prior to your trip. Check out these websites for more information www.vigancity.gov.ph, old.vigancity.gov.ph, www.santa.gov.ph and ilocossur.gov.ph. For me, the charm of Laoag is its size. Walking along the streets was a lot of fun, and if you want a more authentic feel, you could easily hire a calesa.

Places to visit

In my opinion, the number one destination to visit in Vigan would be Crisologo street. This is where one would find most of the preserved antique houses in Vigan, now serving as hotels, antique shops and fascinating cafés. Drop by the Syquia Mansion, the Crisologo Museum and Mira Hills Filipino-Spanish Friendship Park. Then, check out Plaza Burgos, St. Paul’s cathedral, Plaza Salcedo, the provincial capitol of Ilocos Sur and the Father Burgos Museum.

From there, I had the time of my life with a calesa tour to the bell tower of Saint Augustine church, Kankanen makers, the pottery makers, Gov. Chavit Singson’s Baluarte and the Hidden Garden. All this was possible in just one morning, but of course, if I had the luxury of time, I think I would have stretched it out to a full day to enjoy all these sites.

Dining

Upon the recommendation of many, their suggestions included Café Leona, Café Uno and Bistro Amarillo. I suggest one samples dishes like borodibod, ladek, lomo lomo, poqui-poqui, warek warek, sinanglao, Vigan empanada, Vigan longganisa and the delicious tinubong.

Shopping

The most common kind of shop I saw all over Vigan was the antique shop. There were so many to choose from. Of course, souvenir shops, selling shirts, bags, and native delicacies like Vigan longganisa were a common sight too. A small shopping arcade called Plaza Maestro, beside Plaza Salcedo had a lot of shops as well.

Important facts

Like in any trip, do not forget to take note of some important facts that you need to know about the city, like telephone numbers or hotlines of the police, hospitals, banks, credit card companies, ports, airports, bus stations and the tourist office.

My trip to Vigan was more than what I had expected. Many told me, that if one saw Crisologo street, that was it. Apparently, there was much more to see, which was a truly pleasant surprise. Not only was it a feast for the eyes, but the trip made me full in my belly as well. Enjoy your future travels to Vigan!