One of the northernmost provinces in the Philippines, Ilocos Sur provides an enthralling excursion into history, through its remarkably well-preserved old-world structures, ancestral homes, and museums that showcase the region’s proud heritage. The capital of Ilocos Sur, the city of Vigan, is included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO for its distinction of being the best-preserved example of a Spanish colonial town in all of Asia .
Stepping into Vigan in the early morning, before any vestiges of modern living make their presence known, one can’t help but admire the vintage architecture and the cobblestone pavings that marked the height of the Spanish occupation.
Vigan vibrates with cultural heritage
Today, the lower floors of many houses of the town have given way to souvenir shops and other fixtures of tourism, but Vigan has managed to maintain its unique cultural identity. This is attributable to the strict building standards that the city imposes, to keep things uniform. For instance, the McDonald’s in Vigan’s city center is built to resemble an oversized chapel with its own belfry.
Though Vigan city is abundant with culture, there are several museums around the area that provide different perspectives of the region’s rich history. These include the Crisologo Museum, once the ancestral home of one of the more powerful political dynasties in the area, showcasing a bloody history that intertwines with that of the province.
Padre Burgos Museum
There is also the Padre Burgos National Museum, the former residence of a priest who was martyred in 1872 for treason, and whose death by garrotte fanned the flames for many Filipino revolutionaries. The museum contains a coffin with human remains and several paintings depicting violent and gruesome scenes.
After enduring these disturbing but fascinating images, it would be good to visit Barangay Camangaan, home to weavers who are famous for their wonderful crafts, which include shawls, placemats, blankets, and gowns, all at bargain prices. It is also worth it to see the weavers perform their ancient art.
If pottery is your preference, the location also houses some fine examples of earthen jars, which were used for the fermentation of sugarcane wine. Ilocos Sur is also a site with numerous churches and church ruins, built hundreds of years ago and still standing majestically today, a testament to the potency of the Catholic religion’s influence during the time of the Spanish occupation.
Go during the fiesta season
You will certainly exhaust your available camera data space capturing the splendor of these edifices, no two of which are exactly alike.
If you’re planning a trip to Ilocos Sur, it would be good for you to schedule it during the fiesta season, where celebrations and activities keep the location bustling. Going up during the summer months is also a good bet if you want to take photographs where the skies are a brilliant blue, as obscuring smog is something that, fortunately, has not quite overtaken the Vigan atmosphere.
You would do well also to pick up a selection of Vigan longganiza sausages, which are full of garlic and have a sour bite that is most delicious. Chase them down with some Tinubong; a dessert lodged inside a piece of hollow bamboo or some other rice-based delicacy.
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