It’s the seventh day on my trip across Northern Luzon and I’ve arrived in the World Heritage City of Vigan, Ilocos Sur.
Vigan is one of those places that immediately enters my mind whenever I think about “Traveling in the Philippines.”
It’s the pinnacle of Spanish-colonial heritage tourism in the country. In my opinion, there are grander structures elsewhere but there’s no other place in the Philippines where a considerable part of the city still has its old structures intact.
Walking along the cobblestone streets of Vigan’s Calle Crisologo have long been a dream of mine. A wish come true for me!
Ilocos Sur Tourism Information Center, my first stop in Vigan
Arrival in Vigan
The bus from Laoag to Vigan took 3 and a half hours. Upon arrival, I decided to visit the tourism information office to ask for advice on cheap places to spend the night in the city.
I couldn’t find any solo traveler friendly accommodations mentioned in travel blogs. I was hoping the tourism officers could help me.
They showed me a list of hotels with their corresponding rates. Almost all of them had rates P500 up, which was a bit out of my budget. Being a popular tourist spot, I expected to find at least one hostel at the P200 price range.
I jotted down Vigan Hotel, which was the cheapest on the list. Since it was just a block away, I decided to check it out.
Signage of Vigan Hotel, Aristocrat of the North
The cheapest room at the Vigan Hotel was P350 per night. It was at the upper spectrum of my budget but still within reach.
When they showed me the upstairs area and the room. I couldn’t resist. Sleeping at an old Spanish-colonial house has been one of my fantasies :)
Despite its daunting tagline, Vigan Hotel wasn’t glammed up like the other hotels and B&Bs in Vigan. The rooms were pretty basic and the hallways didn’t look like a hotel. I liked it better since the ambiance was quite homey.
I forgot to take a picture of my room unfortunately. It was pretty spacious for a single room. Had a fan and tv. They had common bathrooms at Vigan Hotel.
I guess P350 isn’t so bad, especially coz they offered free WIFI.
Update: Found out much later after the trip that there’s a “Socio Pastoral Center” located beside the Archbishop’s Palace. They offer aircon / non-aircon dormitory style beds (with common TB) for budget travelers. Not sure how much it costs though.
Went out to Calle Crisologo at around 3PM. Calle Crisolo is the famous street lined from end-to-end with Spanish-colonial houses. Most of these old houses have been turned into hotels and shops catering to the tourist flock.
Calle Crisologo was so beautiful. Experiencing it in real life doesn’t compare to just seeing it in photos.
I knew I just had to spend another night in Vigan so I could take photos of Calle Crisolog at different times of the day.
In the mid afternoon light, the shadow of the buildings on one side have already crossed over to the other side of the narrow street. Wasn’t satisfied with the resulting photos so I decided to visit nearby structures and return to Calle Crisologo during sunset / dusk.
The Vigan Cathedral caught the sunset light magnificently. The present structure was finished in 1800 and follows a Baroque architectural design. The small spires and separately built bell tower remind me of the Laoag Cathedral in Ilocos Norte and the Jaro Cathedral in Iloilo.
Vigan Cathedral (Saint Paul Metropolitan Cathedral)
Passing calesa in front of the Vigan Cathedral
Plaza Salcedo is the main plaza of Vigan. Following the typical Spanish-colonial urban planning, it is surrounded by the centers of Government and Roman Catholic Church. There was supposed to be a lagoon at Plaza Salcedo but it was drained during my visit :(
Plaza Salcedo Monument with the Vigan Cathedral
Facing the Ilocos Sur Provincial Capitol
Miniature sculptures of the world’s famous landmarks … items on my bucket list when I save enough money to go backpacking outside South East Asia.
Statue of former President Elpidio Quirino, a native of Caoayan, Ilocos Sur
Archbishop’s Palace of Nueva Segovia.
Bantay Church Bell Tower
The town of Bantay is just a couple of minutes away from Vigan City Center. Hopped on a tricycle to get there from Plaza Salcedo for P30. Found out on my way back that it was very near Vigan Hotel. The fare should just be P10.
Facade of the Bantay Church
Bantay is well visited because of the Bantay Bellfry, built on a hill a couple of meters from the church. The imposing structure doubles as a watchtower defense during the Spanish-colonial times.
Today, it doubles as an excellent view deck of the surrounding landscapes. Bantay was a beautiful place to visit in the late afternoon.
Bantay Belfry built on top of a hill
Old Structures near the Bantay Church
Bantay Municipal Hall
Shortly after taking this photo, a police guy started walking towards me.
I noticed him from the distance because he blatantly looked startled seeing me taking shots of the Bantay Municipal Hall. It was hard to miss his comical tough guy police walk.
My attention has been called a few times before by police people. Apparently, they get concerned seeing people with big SLRs take photos of the municipio, which incidentally also houses the PNP headquarters.
Maybe the police guy thought that I was a snooping media reporter or something. I was surprised, nonetheless, to get this treatment at a very popular tourist destination.
I told him that I was a tourist and had noticed the charming municipal hall building after visiting the Bantay Belfry. Unsatisfied with my answer, he insisted to see my ID.
Such an inconvenience to be delayed like that when I was hurry to get to Calle Crisologo before the golden sunset glow died down.
Statue of Filipina poet Leona Florentino. She is celebrated as the Mother of Philippine Women’s Literature
Calle Crisologo Sunset
Calle Crisologo looks even better during the sunset. Its romantic old world charm really does start to come out during the late afternoons.
Unfortunately, it was also hard to capture a flawless photo because of the tourist fanfare.
Calle Crisologo at Dusk
I waited at the roadside until the sky cooled down to a dim blue. It was beautiful to witness the street lights slowly illuminate the textured facade of the buildings.
Each passing hour seemed to take the feel of Calle Crisologo in different dimensions.
Calle Crisologo at Night
As the night crept in, so did the crowd start to empty Calle Crisologo. Not so great taking photos with the pitch black sky and scarce lighting.
The best part of Calle Crisologo at night was the feeling of being transported back to the past. To a time when Vigan was still a sleepy colonial town.
Just when I thought my night couldn’t get any better, it rained lightly for a few minutes. I loved the orange tinted reflections on the damp cobblestone street.
Ate dinner at one of the street dining restaurants called “Los Majitos.” Ordered Pinakbet w/ Bagnet with rice and iced tea for P205. Kinda pricey especially since the food tasted so average.
By 8 to 9pm, most of the shops have already closed down. There were only a handful of other people in Calle Crisologo. The street was silent save for the echoing sounds of the occasional passing Calesas.
This scene was totally what I hoped to experience in Vigan!