As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Vigan teases the imagination of visitors with the grand images of balls and an aristocratic time past. The cobblestone roads and narrow streets whisper the sense of social class as one strolls through the cafes and small shops that now occupy the spaces. Once grand manors are now bed & breakfast venues for visitors but still relish in the grandeur that they once held.
For the modern day visitor, Vigan reflects a very European feel that makes one forget that they are in the northern Luzon region of the Philippines. It is also easy for one to over look the significant modern history that the area played at the turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries. First ventured to by Chinese traders sailing from the South China Sea, long before the Spaniard Explorers, the Isla de Vigan offered them a chance to trade with the indigenous people from the surrounding Cordillera region. Trading beeswax and other mountain products, the heritage of trade is still prevalent today through the small shops and boutiques that occupy the store fronts.
As you wonder to the central point of the city, it is hard to not notice the idle fountains as they seem to lay silent during the day. Quiet and thought provoking, I wondered if they were out of service or if maybe some local politician had rendered it cost effective to leave them idle for months on end. That very evening I found the truth and witnessed the magic of those fountains. Every evening the municipality has a laser and fountain show choreographed to various sets of music. The sights and sounds where a spectacle that anyone or any family would want to witness time and again. Words will never explain what I saw. The perfection of light, movement and sound all balanced into art. A must see for any visitor and worth the travel in itself.
Night life in Vigan City is relegated to café sidewalk style dining and trendy or swanky restaurants. This is a place where the McDonalds resides in a building that has architecture that is reminiscent of the Spanish influences of the area. One of the oldest cafes in the town is Café Leona. A small and indiscriminant place during the day, but vibrant and upbeat as they place the café style tables along the long closed road for the evening dinning crowd. Here only the pedestrians and the single Spanish pony drawn carts are allowed to travel. While sitting and dining the sounds of the pony’s shod hooves clapping against the cobble stone adds to the ambiance and mysticism of the surroundings.
Other things to venture to include the original town watch tower and mission church built in the latter 16th century. As well as the main St. Paul’s cathedral near the center of town and numerous museums boasting artifacts and stories of old. The history of the region is rich and forged in the cultural clash as well as the cultural development that has made the Philippines the wonderful country it is today.
So many forget how the Philippine Rebellion of 1889 it was here that Philippine forces landed a decisive victory after laying siege to the City only to lose their hold in the region to Lt. Col. James Parker in November 1899, where American forces would keep a strong hold of the region until the occupation of Japanese forces during WWII starting in December of 1941. It was in 1945 the US and Philippine Commonwealth forces liberated the region with the help of Ilocano resistance fighters from the region. The city was spared major damage due to aerial bombing or major conflict and stands mainly in its original form.
Preservation has been a key focus in the city. Even today major restoration projects funded through joint international interests and managed by the Philippine Government as well as UNESCO have turned the city into a major vacation destination for many. Considered as one of the best preserved examples of Spanish architecture in the Asian region, it was listed as a new 7 wonders of the world destination in December of 2014.
Easily accessible by air through the regional airport as well as by major bus lines, it is a cost effective travel destination that is not known to many outsiders. A destination that will stimulate your senses and challenge your curiosity, Vigan has all the hidden treasures to offer. From regal Spanish mansions that cater to tourists to the seaside beach resorts so known to populate the Philippine coast. Vigan will have it for you.