Vigan, A Walk Back in Time

Posted by

During our last visit to the Philippines, we spent some time in the Ilocos region. More specifically we stayed for a few days in Vigan, Ilocos Sur.


Vigan is a quaint historic town that features old architecture and culture. My wife spent some of her formative years in this town, so for her coming to this place is more than just a tour or a visit. It is homecoming.

First of all, we stayed in an old Spanish house that was made into a hotel, which was aptly named Grandpa’s Inn. According to the owners, it was their grandparent’s ancestral home.

front lobby
the inn overlooking the street
spacious hallway upstairs
inviting sitting area
the kalesa room where we stayed

True to its motto: “a home away from home,” we felt right at home in this comfortable inn.


There are many ways to tour the town. The most classic is to ride on one of the many kalesa (horse-drawn carriage), while the kutsero (driver) gives you the insider’s history of places you will pass through. The other way is to walk around with somebody who grew-up there (like my wife), and hear the history of this town in their personal perspective. The last one is just to run around (preferably in the morning, when there’s not much traffic and people yet) on your own, and get both your cardio exercise while touring the place at the same time. Well, I did all of that.

The most well-known part of Vigan is the Heritage Village. This is a preserved tourist attraction, with cobblestone street lined with houses and buildings that retained their relic-like appearance.

Walking in this village is like walking back in time.
Heritage village in the early morning, when it appears deserted.
Heritage during bustling hour.
colorful merchandise
even the brooms looks festive
hotels and inns at Heritage
This old building in Heritage village was transformed into a movie set in Fernando Poe Jr.’s “Ang Panday.”

In the middle of the town is Plaza Burgos, built to remember the martyrdom of Father Jose P. Burgos who died in the hands of Spanish colonizers.


Part of the nostalgia of Vigan are its old historic churches.

St. Paul’s Cathedral; kalesa line in the gate, waiting for the parishioners
St. Augustine Church with Bantay Bell Tower
Bantay Bell Tower
stairway to the top of the Bell tower
the bells
View from the east face of the bell tower; the cemetery with the rising sun and the Cordilleras in the backdrop.

Everywhere you look in Vigan are old houses and buildings. Some are well maintained.

Father Burgos house which is now a National Museum

Some houses are needing repair.


Some old houses were renovated and look like new.


But sadly to say, just like everywhere else, some old buildings are being eaten by progress and commercialism.


I also wandered with my wife, places that she used to go way back when. This includes the public market.

public market
my wife walking under the canopy of Bougainvillea in front of the city market
looking for something to eat
vendors readying their goods
For more authentic feel, we even sample the sinanglao from this vendor.

Just like a homecoming, you would not miss to walk again in the streets where you grew up. So my wife and I walked through old neighborhoods that are dear to her heart.

My wife said she learned to ride a bike in this street.
House where my wife and her family lived and rented sometime in her childhood’s past.

Vigan. A wonderful place. A city indeed rich in heritage, both in our national history and personal memories.

I hope to visit this place again, in the future. Someday. Soon.

me lounging at Heritage village


  1. i suddenly miss calle crisologo while reading this post, doc.
    buti pa kayo, nakauwi sa pinas; kami baka end of this 2013 pa, hopefully.
    my family and i love vigan too and it has been years since we last visited.
    akalain mong may jollibee at max’s na pala din doon (wala kasi nyan dito sa penang).

    doc, wala po bang mumu sa kalesa bed nyo? *just asking*

  2. Dito po pinanganak ang father ko. Kaya lang bata pa nang bumisita sa lugar na ‘to. 😦 Sana magkaroon din ng pagkakataon makabalik at maikot ang Vigan. Namiss dito ang paggawa nila ng paso (pottery), ang maglamas at maghulma ng putik, pati na rin ang longganisa at cornik nila. πŸ™‚

    1. Did not have the chance to visit the pottery place. But sure brought a lot of cornik back to Iowa. Isn’t it ironic we brought a load of cornik (from Vigan) to a place already overflowing with corn (Iowa)? Maybe I should start a cornik business here in Iowa.

  3. I have always wondered about the Ilocos region. Vigan especially, because I’ve had some friends visit and they said it was great. Quite a drive though. We have a painting of “Vigan Houses” given to us from more than 20 years ago. The scenes do look like some of the photos you took. Looks like you had fun.

  4. we had the same chance to sleep on the same calesa beds years ago in the very same hotel! we are hoping to take another northern road trip soon. anyway, i pray that your memories of home will keep your heart warm and cozy. have a great day, po πŸ™‚ APRIL

  5. hello, dok… this is a wonderful post. we also did an Ilocos trip way back and our pics of the place do not look half as good as yours – why is that? hehehe… πŸ˜‰

    we ate lunch at Grandpa’s Inn on our last day, though and had a tour of the compound. btw, did you get to taste Vigan’s pinakbet pizza? ahaha, it’s an acquired taste… btw, we stayed at an old, spruced up Mansion, almost a hotel already but retained it’s archaic look – nice service and delicious breakfast… i like the azoteas of the old houses – seems like the old rich of Ilocos really lived life, haha…

    i like Vigan as a city – an old, rich civilization – different from the other old cities in the Phils. it looks privileged, well-kept and snotty, ahaha. kainaman na… ^^

    btw, your wifey always look simple in the pics. πŸ™‚ it must be something for her – coming back home after all these years… thanks for coming over the site, regards on coming back to Iowa… πŸ™‚

  6. We just returned from a trip to Vigan and surrounds and were as delighted as you. I could feel history oozing from the buildings, particularly the churches. St. Augustine Parish Church and belfry were particularly moving.

    One thing, I forgot to get an outside photo of St. Augustine church, and yours is fantastic. Would you mind if I take a copy purely for my own personal records?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s