Ilocos Sur

Bong Magana

Ilocos Sur is a province located in the Ilocos Region in Luzon. Vigan City, located on the mouth of the Mestizo River, is the provincial capital. Ilocos Sur is bordered by Ilocos Norte and Abra to the north, Mountain Province to the east, La Union and Benguet to the south. Vigan is usually an island, which used to be detached from the mainland by three different rivers. Due to the silting of the Mestizo River, Vigan City is no longer separated from the region, therefore any longer an island. The town is so distinct among the Philippine because of its famous Heritage Village; its history dates back 16th centuries ago during the Filipino-Spanish colonial era. 

Our last stop is Vigan!



Typically, Vigan is the "main event" of any Ilocos journey. It's an ideal place to rest, the grand finale of your trip. Because of its proximity to Manila, the grandeur it offered, and so many activities it provides, it will entice you to stay. 

This province is generously blessed with historical wonders and tourist spots too numerous to mention. Vigan is popularly known as one of the oldest living 16th-century towns in the country.  



When you hear Vigan, the first thing that comes to your mind is the famous street, Calle Crisologo, or Mena Crisologo Street. The famous Calle Crisologo is a part of The Heritage Village, a recognized World Heritage Site. It is one of the oldest streets in Ilocos, a once place for high ranking persons during the Spanish era. UNESCO now recognizes it as a World Heritage Site; that's why it is also one of the most popular tourist spots in the Philippine. It was named after Marcelino "Mena" Pecson Crisologo (November 11, 1844 – July 5, 1927), a famous Iloko poet, writer, and dramatist. He was known for being one of the representatives for Ilocos Sur in the Malolos Congress and being one of the signatories of the Malolos Constitution. 

Walking down along the street of Calle Crisologo will take you back from the memories of Spanish colonial time and give you a flashback of what's life during the Spanish era. An entire street is lined with old Spanish houses. The house design is really inspired by those of the old times, and some are still in their original form. It's a nostalgic experience during this modern time, having a glimpse of the ancient state-of-the-art architectures. 

The famous street is full of Spanish-styled houses, mainly the "Bahay na Bato"; embellished with the 'antique' backdrop from the past days that reflects the affluent lifestyle of the early settlers. From cobblestone streets, houses made of thick stone walls, massive wooden doors, wooden stairs, high ceilings, sliding windows made of capiz shells, and lovely terraces. The beautiful intricate craftsmanship employed in the grill and wood crafts on the walls. You can also hear the sounds of the horse's hooves drawing carriage striding along the cobblestone street since this kind of transport only is allowed inside Calle Crisologo. 

The best to visit here is during night time, where the yellow lamp-lit adds more romantic mood to the Spanish era atmosphere along the street, perfect for couples. Just walking on the roads will sentimentally make you reminisce of the depiction of rustic and quaint of the past.

Vigan has changed a lot compared to the time I first visited it. It improved so much in terms of commercialism; there are many restaurants, shops, and cafes around. At six pm, restaurants occupy the street itself, placing tables and chairs inviting visitors; from laid-back, it became lively. The ancient image it has depicted before is now beginning to diminish because of modern renovations. You can sense the creeping modernization around due to commercialization. Big commercial names like KFC and Jollibee begin to emerge around affecting the image of the Heritage Village known for its historical landmark.

 I hope they could come up with any solutions and accomplish a better plan for this tourist spot before it becomes progressively worse. My suggestion is to place and regulate modern commercial establishments away from this site. They should monitor and must meet specific building standards that would conform to the image of Vigan as heritage so as not to blemish the concept of the name "World Heritage" given by UNESCO. Maybe they should also apply some attractive images to the workers on Calle Crisologo to require them to wear Spanish era Filipino costumes. It would play a significant role in terms of marketing as an additional attraction. It would give the tourist a reason to come back.



If you love nostalgic and historic churches, this bell tower should not be missed. One of Ilocos' notable historic belfry is the Bantay Bell Tower, constructed on top of a hill in 1591, overlooking Vigan City and the towns of Bantay. It situated in the town of Bantay, Ilocos Sur (along the highway) around 5 minutes from the city of Vigan.

The name Bantay means to watch during the Spanish era. In essence, the tower is used as a lookout for the towns of Vigan and Bantay. Because of its strategic location, it helps in alerting the community against possible invading enemy forces during Spanish times and World War II. The tower, later on, was converted to belfry.

The bell tower is monumental witnesses to various historical battles and natural disasters throughout the centuries. Locals say this place is a favorite dating spot of both local heroes Diego and Gabriela Silang during the 17th century. 

The entrance to the tower requires you to register and give a voluntary donation for the maintenance of the tower. It was designed on a grandiose Spanish architecture made of red bricks materials. This edifice is standing on a nicely landscaped area, making it stand out, and the place has been well taken care of. Be prepared to climb upstairs up to the observation area; you'll be greeted by a massive ancient bell and be amazed by a beautifully serene, breathtaking 360-degree view of the city. The best time to visit it is during sunrise or sunset. 

Adjoining the Bell Tower is Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, popularly known as the "Bantay" Church. It was built in 1590, and one of the oldest churches of Ilocos Sur. Its former name is St. Augustine Parish Church. On January 12, 1956, it was changed to Shrine of Our Lady of Charity during the crowning of the image of Our Lady as the patroness of Ilocandia by Monsignor Vagnozzi, the Papal Nuncio to the Philippines.

During World War II, the church was heavily damaged but was rebuilt in 1950. The restored facade was designed in neo-gothic blended with an essential feature of pseudo-Romanesque elements.

The site of the church became standing witnesses to famous and historical events to the scene of battle in one uprising led by national hero Diego Silang in 1763.



Ancient places can be found all over the Philippines. Visiting such sites can be an unforgettable experience, especially to those who appreciate history.

Vigan definitely possessed some of them, the home of ancient cultural history and the best-preserved old places that have withstood the test of time. The bygone era stays entrenched in this city. No visit to Vigan is complete without checking out the plethora of historical sites that run throughout the city. 

Among the busy places of Vigan, lies a hidden witness of the olden days: the Syquia Mansion. The Syquia Mansion is the former residence of the late President Elipidio Quirino and his family. This home-turned-into-museum is owned initially and given as a dowry to the late President by his wife, Dona Alicia Syquía. It is a common practice on those days that women are the ones who give dowry to men when getting married. Syquia was a descendant of the Chinese family Sy Kia, who made their fortune in the booming trading in Vigan and changed their surname to Syquia, it's Spanish sound.

The Mansion is brimming with extensive memorabilia dedicated to the life of the late President Quirino. During President Quirino's administration, the Mansion served as his residence and labeled as the original Malacañang of the North. Many historical gatherings have taken place here, the former President also held some essential meetings here. 

The Mansion is like the usual type ancestral Bahay na Bato you see in Vigan City; massive stone walls on the ground level, decorative wood on the second. As you approach the ground floor, you will be welcomed by a gorgeous antique carriage, which also serves as the garage and storage of goods.

But the real wealth of the Mansion lies above. On the second level, several priceless antiques and a lot of paintings will greet you, including a replica of the Spoliarium by Juan Luna. Inside, you'll find priceless antique furniture, relics, and paintings. You will be marvelled at the enormous rooms filled with invaluable stuff all over the world—a large dining area and kitchen with a showcase of impeccable antique chinaware. Anyone can sense how ostentatious this Mansion is and bear some of the modern touches during that time—for instance, the enormous central courtyard found outside of the second-floor area. The Mansion is a true testament of grandness and a state-of-the-art architecture in those days, filled with a gallery of precious things embedded everywhere.

The entrance fee is 20 pesos for adults and 10 pesos for children below 13 years of age. The museum is open daily from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm and from 1:30 pm to 5:00 pm in the afternoon. You can also visit the place by appointment every Tuesday. If you wish to see more awesome grandeur of this property, visit Syquia Mansion and see for yourself.



Some of us may remember the Crisologo Clan of Vigan. The Crisologos is one of the most influential political clans in Ilocos Sur. They dominated Ilocos politics and business in the past century; unfortunately, it ends up in the assassination of one of its prominent politician Congressman Floro S. Crisologo, during the '70s. If you want to know more about the Crisologo family, see Crisologo Museum!

The Crisologo Museum is a century-old mansion and ancestral home of the famous Crisologo clan. It was converted into a private museum by his family to commemorate the life and death of Congressman Floro S. Crisologo. Like the typical type of Bahay-na-Bato mansions found in Vigan, the two-story house also consists of thick stone walls covered with bricks. You will notice massive wooden doors, wooden stairs, secured iron windows, and steel grills on some part of the Mansion. 

It houses the library, numerous news clippings, and the bloodied clothing of the late congressman. The highlight of the museum focuses on the patriarch's 1970 assassination, including the unwashed pants and shoes that Crisologo had been wearing when he was shot, with his bloodstains still visible. You will also find the old Chevy car used by the wife of the congressman, where she survived an assassination attempt.

The upper portion floor mostly is made of hardwood, presently reinforced with concrete. An open-air grand dining room awaits you with a display of old china wares everywhere, perhaps reserved for guests and distinguished visitors. You can also see the bedrooms and the private possessions of the Crisologo family. 

The museum still houses the same furniture the Crisologo used decades before; it is still well kept. It demonstrates a perception of how wealthy and influential they are and some intriguing glimpses of the politics in the province. Admission is free, but you are encouraged to donate. It is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Mondays to Saturdays.

Crisologo Museum is an excellent place to visit, but ideally, it is more for an educational tour. Compared to the grandness of the Syquia Mansion, the Crisologo Ancestral house is quite more humble when it comes to furnishing and quality. If you're interested in visiting a more grandeur and exquisite taste of Museum in Ilocos, check out the Syquia Mansion and Juan Luna.



While doing my research and ocular about Vigan City, I'm beginning to understand the significance of Vigan City into our history; it comprises many local historical figures. 

Vigan city once became the hotbed of social unrest against colonial abuses related to Catholicism and discrimination of the Spanish Friars against the Filipinos. Among those notable local figures who led the cause for patriotism is Fr. Jose Burgos. He was imprisoned and executed along with Father Mariano Gómez and Father Jacinto Zamora, known as the GOMBURZA martyrs, on February 17, 1872, in Bagumbayan, by Spanish colonial authorities on charges of subversion.

Today, Padre Burgos' childhood home is a museum in Vigan. Because of his significant contributions toward the struggle for Philippine independence, the Biguenos commemorated his noble deeds and kept his memories alive. I will always have the utmost respect for the Ilocanos, for their tremendous effort on preserving and restoring these historical relics. They gave us numerous amounts of information about the cultures, traditions, intrinsic value, and respect for their locals who lived in the old world at different times and different societies.  

It is a two-story structure located near the Provincial Capitol and close to St. Paul's Metropolitan Cathedral, renovated by the Filipinas Foundation, Inc. and inaugurated on May 3, 1975. This museum highlights some of the accomplishments of Padre Burgos. It houses the memorabilia of Fr. Burgos, photographs, family antics, and jewelry. Includes also Father Burgos' quarters, a mini library containing his student copy of Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere, which the teacher received as a gift and some charming antics and crafts retrieved from Ilocos Sur. Visitors will also be able to view dioramas depicting the old Ilocano way of life and Vigan history.

The ancestral home is well-managed and charged only a minimal fee. It is open to the public from Tuesdays up to Saturdays, closing for around two hours during lunchtime. Tour groups may also schedule viewing during weekends and holidays.

Vigan has so many prominent historical places and figures to emulate. Make a visit to these ancient sites. Have an idea of how Ilocanos were able to rise and shine during those periods of trials. If you're interested in visiting a more grandeur and exquisite taste of Museum in Ilocos, check out the Syquia Mansion, Juan Luna, and Crisologo Museum.



The town of Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur, possessed one of the four remaining beautiful churches inscribed by UNESCO as World Heritage under the category of "Baroque Churches in the Philippines." The Santa Maria Church, also known as The Church of Our Lady of Assumption, is six years ahead of Vigan under this class. The other three classified as world Heritage are Paoay Church, San Agustin in Intramuros, and Miag-Ao Church in Iloilo. It is also home to the image of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion, a statue found from Spanish wreckage during colonial times. 

Santa Maria church is resting on top of a hill surrounded by an elevated fortress, overlooking the whole town of Santa Maria. It was built first as a chapel in 1769 by the Augustinian friars for the village of Narvacan. 

Santa Maria Church boasts a Spanish architectural influence facade, embellished with stone bricks attached to colossal cylindrical towers at the corner and a massive wooden door at the center, adding grandeur to the façade. The sidewall is supported by massive buttresses that serve as an attached foundation to withstand destructible earthquakes. The interior, formed by a self-supporting arched ceiling painted in white and black chandeliers hanging above. The center of attention is the baroque style altar with blue, white, and gold motif finish accentuated by its elegant design flooring. Typical church stained glass design emphasized the windows on the side.

The hexagonal belfry was added forty years later, beside the church as a home for missionaries.



We're always excited when we see amazing or widely discussed locations in social media. How about adding on your list some of these unknown places in Ilocos? Maybe you have already visited the famous Bantay Bell Tower in Vigan and Sinking Bell Tower of Laoag? Doesn't mean you're gonna miss this Bacarra Domeless Tower found in Bacarra, Ilocos Norte.

The town is famous for its century-old, the belfry known as Torre ti Bacarra, which is a part of the St. Andrew Church. Bacarra is just next town from Laoag (10 km), an unknown site to many tourists, and probably haven't heard. 

The Bacarra Domeless Tower was built in 1830, standing for some 50 meters. Periodic earthquakes from 1931 to 1971 caused the dome to start leaning. However, on August 17, 1983, another 7.8 intensity earthquake almost completely wrecked that caused it to collapse some part of it and reduced to 2 stories, remaining debris still lying at its foot. It became known as "The Domeless Dignified Bell Tower of Asia." This is why bell towers before are always detached from the main church itself.

Currently, the Domeless Tower is now being restored to its former glory, which started on June 10, 2019. Locals are very thankful for the development as the distinguished domeless bell tower is often seldom noticed and appreciated.

  • Parish Church - The famous old church of St. Andrew Parish is located just 100 meters away from the Domeless Belfry. The church was destroyed by two intense magnitude earthquakes in 1983. Still, it was restored and completed in 1984 at the cost of ?3 million. Indigenous materials were used in the reconstruction of the building. The rebuilding of the church took almost 6 years.

The church's facade was original of Baroque architecture, and the beautiful tiles are still the original tiles since it was built. Unknown to many, the old church of Saint Andrew the Apostle, along with the bell tower and convent, are among the surviving landmarks of the Augustinian Friars that marked a historical and cultural milestone of Bacarra. It was established by Spanish Augustinian Friars in 1593 in memory of St. Andrew. The local people of Bacarra celebrate the feast of Saint Andrew during November 27-30.

Under Presidential Decree No. 260, then President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared the Bacarra Church a National Cultural Treasure on Aug.1, 1973. Bacarra Church should also be included in your itinerary.

  • Museo de Bacarra- Near the tower, you can find Museo de Bacarra. The two-story restored convent features numerous artifacts portraying the culture and history of the Ilocanos, dates back to the Spanish colonial era. Old photographs, antique furniture, religious art, some nicely displayed local costumes, and some ecclesiastical history of the Catholic Church; mostly contributed by the people of Bacarra.

There's an entrance inside the secret garden to a mysterious underground staircase leading to three tunnels that were made as an escape route during the war, believed to be connected to the Bacarra River, the church tower, and the altar.

Visit the museum to appreciate and understand local Ilocano culture.


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