It took a 9-hour long overnight drive in a cramped mid-size SUV to escape the busy streets of Manila and reach the beautiful coastal city of Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Philippines. At the heart of Vigan is a street called Calle Crisologo, a UNESCO Heritage Site that offers a flashback to 18th century Spanish colonialism.
Our walk down this historical cobblestone street provided a glimpse of Vigan’s rich cultural heritage. The quaint ancestral structure that lined the street, and were once home to aristocratic families, served as testament to more than 300 years of Spanish colonization. Back in its early days, Calle Crisologo was an established business hub. Today, it is an iconic street and a “must-see” for travel enthusiasts who want to experience Vigan’s old town charm.
There were plenty of antique and souvenir shops along the length of Calle Crisologo, selling everything from woven purses, to souvenir t-shirts, to odd knickknacks – as well as many of Vigan’s very own delicacies like “chicharon” (puffed pork skin), “empanada” (deep-fried pastry stuffed with meat), and “bagnet” (deep fried pork belly). The best part of the shopping experience is learning to haggle, an art that I have yet to master.
Large wooden antique doors and other furniture “muebles” leaned against the dilapidated walls of storefronts, reviving pieces of rich history right in front of our eyes. Many of these antiques were once a part of the great Spanish colonial architecture that Calle Crisologo is well-known for today.
However, nothing brought the old town of Vigan back to life more than riding a “kalesa” (a wooden horse-drawn carriage) and listening to its clicking and clacking against the cobblestone street of Calle Crisologo. The kalesas were available for hire at 150 pesos an hour, the standard rate implemented by the local government. Each kalesa held room for four occupants, including the “kutsero” (coachman). The tour was about 2.5 hour long, which included a hop-on and hop-off visits to several attractions around Vigan.
Yes, we had Manong Kutchero (Mr. Coachman) take us around Vigan on his Ferrari. Not bad for 700 pesos!
A short day trip in Vigan is enough to see the city’s attractions and taste of some of its best dishes like Vigan style “longganisa” (Vigan’s own take of the traditional Filipino sausage). However, I like many others, would strongly suggest to stay overnight and experience Calle Crisologo when the incandescent street lights are lit up, adding to its overall rustic Spanish ambiance.
Have you ever been to Vigan? Tell me about your experience, leave a comment below.