The Historic Town of Vigan: Ilocos Sur, Philippines

Vigan is no doubt a perfect example of Spanish colonial town. Established in the 16th century, Vigan showcases a unique fusion of Asian building design and construction with European architecture and planning.  A fusion that is incomparable anywhere in East and South-East Asia. Vigan is excellently intact and best preserved model of European architectural influences and trading town in East and South-east Asia.

Calle Crisologo Vigan Ilocos Sur
Calle Crisologo
Photo credit: Israel Formales

It was in 1572 when conquistador Juan de Salcedo founded Vigan as a new town and named as Villa Ferdinandina. At that time, the town was a small island village where houses were made of wood or bamboo on stilts.  However, at the end of 17th century when new architecture evolved, combining traditional construction with the techniques of building in stones as introduced by the Spaniards, Villa Ferdinandina was later changed to Ciudad Ferdinandina. Vigan was intended to be a trading center rather than a fortress, trading directly to China and a service to Manila-Acapulco galleon trade too. Because of this trade, it resulted to constant exchanges of people and cultures between Filipinos, Chinese, Spanish and later (20th century) with North Americans.

Vigan Ilocos Sur
Along Calle Crisologo

Along the streets of Vigan, the influences of Spanish culture in infrastructures are clear. Like, the traditional Spanish chequerboard street plan opens up into a main plaza. The urban plan of the town closely matches to the Renaissance grid plan specified in the Ley de las Indias for all 149 new towns in the Spanish Empire. But, because of the trade and the presence of other cultures, there is, however an undeniable difference between Vigan and contemporary Spanish colonial towns in Latin America in the Historic Core (known as the Mestizo district), where the Latin tradition is modified by strong Chinese, Ilocano and Filipino influences.

St. Paul's Cathedral Belfry Vigan Ilocos Sur
St. Paul’s Cathedral Belfry
Photo credit: Israel Formales

With all the cultures and architectural influences reflected in the buildings around Vigan, no wonder Vigan is on the list of UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Sites. Walking along the streets of Vigan, especially along Calle Crisologo will give you a glimpse of Spanish era in the Philippines and an idea how was commerce back in the days. The historic town of Vigan is a place where exchanges of cultures happened.

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Con mucho amor,




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