For those in search of what the Philippines looked like in Spanish colonial times, Vigan is the place to go. No site in Southeast Asia encapsulates the European colonial experience as purely as Vigan.
Vigan is on the UNESCO World Heritage list for two reasons: first because it represents a unique fusion of Asian building design and construction with European colonial architecture and planning; and secondly because Vigan is a very well-preserved Spanish colonial town, complete with cobblestone streets and a design sensibility that fuses European colonial architecture with Asian designs appropriate to the climate.
One of the oldest towns in the Philippines, Vigan lies on the western bank of the Mestizo River and in Spanish times was an important political, military, cultural and religious centre called Nueva Segovia. Being the only surviving colonial town in the entire Philippines, Vigan is being developed as a primary tourist destination in the northern region of the Philippines.
It is the capital city of Ilocos Sur located on the west coast of northern Luzon. The name Vigan was derived from "Biga", a giant taro plant that grows abundantly along the banks of the Mestizo River. The city of Vigan has become a bit of a cliché to describe it as a living museum, but the town does really justify the description.
Vigan is about 400 kilometers from Manila via North Luzon Expressway. It is a seven-hour bus ride away from Manila, but the long haul trip is worth it if you're a fan of Old World European architecture. Buses ply the Ilocos Highway north to Vigan from Manila and back. The town can also be reached via flights that land in the nearby city of Laoag. There are plenty of local airline that fly to Laoag, this includes Zestair and South East Asian Airlines (SEAir).
There are plenty of places to visit in Vigan like the Old Vigan Colonial Houses. It is the ancestral houses and was built mostly by rich Chinese traders. These great big houses are made of thick brick walls and plastering with red clay. Tile roofs are made to survive earthquakes. The Mestizo district were more than a hundred houses line side by side.
You can also visit the St. Paul’s Cathedral, where you can find he bell tower is octagonal and is located 10 meters south of the cathedral. It is a place not to be missed when visiting Vigan. The Cathedral was built in 1790-1800 by the Augustinians, this impressive Baroque cathedral has most of its interior walls well preserved.
A good time to visit Vigan is during the town fiesta. This fiesta is celebrated for one entire week, concluding on January 25 to celebrate the conversion of the apostle, St. Paul. The fiesta is marked by street parades and parties, beauty pageant and variety shows on the town plaza.