If you're idea of a relaxing vacation is exploring the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines, then visiting Vigan is the right place for you. This fifth-class city in the northern region allows tourists to travel back in time with its unique antiquity and idyllic atmosphere. Dubbed as "Heritage City of the North," Vigan is described by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as the "best preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia."
Vigan, which is roughly a nine-hour bus ride from Manila, is being groomed as the primary tourism destination in northern Philippines. To attract more local and foreign visitors, the government has been launching promotional activities such as various festivals and events over the past years. Hotels and vacation houses were also built in the city as part of projects aimed at improving the local hospitality industry.
Tourists will never get bored in Vigan. There are lots of tourist attractions to choose from in the city aside from the dozens of proudly standing ancestral houses. Here are some of them.
Vigan is best known for Calle Crisologo, a 500-meter long street made from cobblestone. Its design is a mixture of 18th century Filipino and Spanish architecture. Feel the thrill of living during the Spanish era by riding a kalesa, or a horse-driven carriage. Calle Crisologo, where a number of movies and television shows depicting the Spanish times were shot, is also home to hotels, pension houses, restaurants, and souvenir shops.
Another must-visit place in Vigan is Baluarte. Covering an area of 80 hectares, this zoological park provides shelter to various animal species such as pythons, tigers, snakes, birds, ponies, and many more. Baluarte, which is owned by Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson, also has a garden where different butterfly species are roaming around freely. Cameras are allowed inside Baluarte. And the best thing is admission is free.
St. Paul Metropolitan Cathedral
St. Paul Metropolitan Cathedral is an imposing structure situated at the heart of Vigan. Built by the Augustinians between 1790 and 1800, the church is famous for its unique "Earthquake Baroque" architecture. The cathedral, which is the site of various Catholic activities in Vigan, is frequented by pilgrims across the Philippines.
If you are fond of various memorabilia, then you must enter the Crisologo Museum. This two-storey building located at the end of the Crisologo Street houses history exhibits, antique furniture, and literary collection. The car in which former Gov. Carmeling Crisologo was ambushed in 1961 is also displayed at the museum.
One of the much-awaited events in Vigan is the Longanisa Festival. This annual event seeks to promote the local longanisa (native sausage) industry. The festival, which is celebrated on the third week of January, features street dancing, trade and food fairs, and various cultural exhibits. Longanisa is often served with fried rice and egg.
Vigan also has its share of fine beaches. One of them is Apatot Beach, a popular recreation site of local residents. This body of water is rich in historic past. At the end of World War II, the United States used Apatot Beach to unload armaments for American soldiers serving in the area.
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Allan Leandro Merin has been writing for a living since 2008. After leaving a career at a daily electronic newspaper, he joined a web development outsourcing company and linked up with Local Philippines, the most comprehensive online directory of Philippine destinations, events, and attractions.