Vigan prominently established itself as the center of the Hispanic presence in the north and this is pretty much evident with the fine fusion of European and Asian architecture in the city, best exemplified in the houses with their airy balconies, wide-opened windows and an unmistakable Iberian, Chinese, and Mexican air permeating the cobble-stone streets of Calle Crisologo in the Mestizo District also known as the Kasanglayan (literally “where the Sangleys/Chinese live”).
Vigan is well-known for its history. One of the two most popular museums (the other being the Crisologo Museum) is the Padre Burgos National Museum (built in 1788). It was the former residence of the renowned priest Padre Jose Apolonio Burgos, a Filipino criollo, one of the three martyr priests that were executed by the Spaniards in 1872 for treason and fomenting the Cavite Mutiny. The execution of the three priests by garrote inflamed Filipino revolutionists’ passions, among them the Philippine National Hero, Jose Rizal who dedicated his novel El Filibusterismo to their memory.
Ilocos Sur is also known for Tinubong, sticky rice dessert snack stuck inside hollow bamboo – and you have to literally smash the bamboo to open it.
Tithing collections: St. Augustine Parish Church (also known as Bantay Church) in the nearby town of Bantay. This baroque-gothic style church is one of the oldest in Ilocos Sur (built in 1590) and features a separate belfry on top of a small hill a few meters away- which affords a superb view of the mountains in the neighboring province of Abra on one side and with the South China Sea on the opposite side. The church was damaged during World War II and was reconstructed in 1950 with the restored façade now with a neo-gothic design with touches of Romanesque elements. The belfry, which also served as a lookout for approaching enemies (thus the word Bantay means “to guard”), along with the church was constructed using forced labor.
While present day Ilocos is serene and peaceful, the past tells of a different story especially in the lives of its political families.
On display are the glass-encased bloodied pants of long-time Congressman Floro Crisologo, the same ones he wore during his assassination in 1970, right in the front pews of the St. Paul’s Metropolitan Cathedral. Years before that, his wife, then-Governor Carmeling Crisologo was also a victim of an ambush in 1961 – the same Chevrolet which she rode is also on display in the museum. Likewise, newspaper reports of the infamous arson committed by Floro’s son Bingbong (Yes, a lot of Filipinos have doorbell names) who was eventually sent to jail in Muntinlupa are on display. Bingbong, was released ultimately because of good behavior, notwithstanding the double life imprisonment meted out to him for the misdeeds and went on to become a Bible-preacher and then recently, following in the footsteps of his parents, a congressman himself.
Vigan, unlike its sister cities of Manila and Cebu, survived the massive bombing campaigns of the advancing Americans during the second World War which left it relatively well-preserved and intact. It went on to become the only Philippine city to become recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage City- the best example of a surviving European colonial town in Asia.