Somewhere in time

Walking down the cobblestone Calle Crisologo in Vigan is like walking back to the past. The houses you pass by are bahay-na-bato (stone houses) built during the Spanish colonial era. No, you did not wander into a movie set. These houses are for real. And people live in them even now.

No wonder UNESCO has named the city a World Heritage Site. It has also been named as one of the New7Wonders Cities of the world.

Colonial-era stone houses are two-story affairs where the ground floor serves as garage, store and warehouse, and where the upper floor is the family’s living quarters. Sometimes, the kitchen and the toilet are separate structures connected to the upper floor.

The houses, which, for some reason no one can really put their finger on, have withstood the test of time, seem to remind us that the wisdom of vernacular architecture may even beat the vagaries of global warming. Go to Vigan and find out why.

  • From Manila, take a bus directly to Vigan. Or get a van rental.
  • In Vigan, go local on tricycles and the kalesa, or horse-drawn carriage.
  • Paying guests can spend the night in some of the stone houses.
  • Visit the Pagburnayan, or pottery house, where you can make your own burnay (pottery).
  • Try the famous empanadas — meaty or vegetarian, up to you, but with runny sunny-side-ups, please.Take the river cruise at the Mestizo River. Before the Spaniards came, this was a trading route for Chinese merchants and the indigenous communities. The cruise comes with a recorded narration and dioramas at pertinent landmarks, telling the story of the city from a riverine point of view.
  • Have a bowlful (and more!) of the sinanglaw, the local beef broth teeming with beef innards and spices.
  • Partake of local delicacies at Café Leona.
  • Calle Crisologo and the old district meandering from this street.
  • Plaza Burgos, named after one of the three martyr priests executed by the Spanish colonial government. Their deaths stoked the fires of the Philippine Revolution.
  • The house of Padre Burgos.
  • Syquia Mansion.
  • Vigan Longganisa, the city’s signature meat dish
  • Bagnet, crispy deep-fried chunks of pork belly
  • Royal bibingka
  • Basi, the local sugarcane wine
  • Handwoven fabrics, especially the abel cloth blanket


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