The Ilocos Sur capital, Vigan City, first got its name from the Chinese settlers who originally called the area Bee Gan which means “Beautiful Shore.” When the Spanish came they spelled the Hokkien Chinese name, exchanging B for V, and wrote Bee Gan as Vigan, which is still the name used to this day.
The influence of both Spanish and Chinese can also be appreciated in the architectural fusion of old buildings that have been preserved and have also earned it a place in the UNESCO World Heritage Site List.
Crisologo St., in the Mestizo District, houses the finest surviving examples of a Spanish Colonial town — cobblestone streets, two strorey buildings made of stone on the ground floor and wood with capiz-shell windows on the first floor. Explore closely by either walking the length of the busy street or hiring a horse-drawn carriage, called a calesa, to take you directly to the must-sees which are spread in the grid of streets between Plaza de Burgos and Liberation Boulevard. Some of the buildings are now hotels, shops, restaurants, musuems and private residences.
Aside from the old part of town, Vigan has a little-known surf scene. Head down to the area around Playa de Oro and Choco Surf Point if you are looking to catch some waves and prefer some place a little less crowded than the more popular surf spots in the Philippines. You will most likely be surfing by yourself here in some pretty good waves.
Where to eat in Vigan?
As Vigan is a popular destination among tourists and most of its sights are concentrated in a small area, one must be cautious of tourist traps. At the time of writing, McDonalds was listed as the 5th best restaurant on Trip Advisor, which made us wonder. The popular Cafe Leona is an easy choice and if you can ignore the rushed, impersonal service and limited dessert selections, it may be worth a quick bite. Here you can treat yourself to the traditional Ilocos longganisa and bagnet, as well as an extremely wide variety of foreign cuisines, such as Japanese and Italian.
Unfortunately, the lack of good service and quality of food should not come as a surprise in many of the recommended places catering to the tourist masses, but seeing tempura, bento boxes, pasta and pizza next to the more traditional options, makes one wonder what the real specialty is.
Our pick for a better meal, quieter atmosphere and more personal and pleasant service would definitely have to be St. Marthas Cafe, located in the Ciudad Fernandina Vigan Hotel.
Coffee Break Vigan is also worth checking out to cool off and satisfy your sweet tooth while stroling around Crisologo St.
If architecture is your thing and you have bagnet and / or longganisa cravings then Vigan is definitely worth the trip!