WHERE: Plaza Salcedo and Calle Crisologo, Vigan, Ilocos Sur
DATE OF TRAVEL: September 21 & 23, 2007
WHY YOU SHOULD GO:
1. The old houses built in cobblestones you see in pictures of Vigan is actually just in one street called CALLE CRISOLOGO. You can say that is IS the epitome of Vigan!
2. Plaza Salcedo is the largest plaza in town surrounded by Vigan Cathedral, the City Hall and the Provincial Capitol. This plaza is a perfect example of how the Spaniards set up their towns during their colonization in the Philippines. Right on this plaza is Jose Rizal's statue and a large relief of the Philippines on water.
FEES: Free (Calle Crisologo is home to antique shops, souvenir stores, inns, food kiosks and several restos so make sure to bring cash)
NOTE: Calle Crisologo does not allow modern vehicles. Only kalesas are allowed to roam along this long road.
Calle Crisologo (Calle is the Spanish term for Kalye which is the Filipino word for street so Calle Crisologo simply means Crisologo Street) is the most famous street of Vigan. It is a long stretch of cobblestone (about half a kilometer) that displays 18th century Filipino-Spanish houses. As our friend slash mentor Professor Felipe de Leon Jr. would say, it is wrong to call the houses in Vigan "Spanish" houses. "Go to Spain and see if the houses are like the ones we have!", he would say, and true enough, they are way different. Undoubtedly, there is a Spanish influence as seen in the lower levels where the houses are built with stone. It is the Spaniards after all, who taught Filipinos to use stone in building structures. However, a lot of the designs are very Filipino most especially seen in the upper levels where there are big windows to make up for the humid weather and the use of capiz shells for design (Capiz Shells were then only found in the Philippines and not in Spain).
Today, Calle Crisologo still has that old, rustic charm but with a modern twist. While the houses are relatively preserved, most of them double as souvenir and antique shops, pension houses, inns, cafes, etc. According to one local we talked to, the outer parts of the houses are preserved because there is a law that prohibits house owners to destroy the structure of their houses. However, there is no law that protects the interior of the houses thus a lot of the interiors have been destroyed and sold to collectors/ sellers. There is also word that the cobblestones of this street are no longer original because a powerful politician sold the original ones long ago.
Moreover, to our dismay, a branch of a local food chain called Max's Restaurant is already here, too. From what we know, food chains and anything very "commercial" are not supposed to be built on this street hence the non-existence of Mcdonald's and Jollibee.
The other thing one should watch out for are the "tourist" prices. Since the influx of tourists are fairly high, the prices of items on sale have gone up, too. Antique collectors should also watch out for replicas that are passed as authentic antiques or antique items with ridiculous price tags. Make sure to haggle and ask for a discount. If you like antiques, make sure to do a lot of research on antiques before buying here.
Plaza Salcedo is the largest plaza in town and is surrounded by the main Cathedral which is the Vigan Cathedral (built in 1541) and the City Hall. Back then and until today for most provinces, the plaza IS the most important place in the city or town. A plaza, a structure built by Spaniards, is always composed of the most important structures of the town -- Church and City Hall. Today, banks, parks, concert halls, statues, etc are also found in the plaza. This is also where the most prominent people of the town lived and built their houses and today, this is where their descendants live. Plaza Salcedo takes pride in its relief map of the Philippines near Jose Rizal's structure. Around the plaza are several restaurants - both commercial and local as well as stores, museums and numerous kalesas.
HOW WE GOT THERE:
By private bus: From Manila, we joined a field trip and headed up north via a hired bus.
On our second trip, we traveled from Baguio to Vigan and got there in 4 hours via a private vehicle. Partas Bus Lines also ply the Baguio-Vigan route for about P230 per head.
Once in Vigan, just hail a tricycle and ask the driver to take you to Plaza Salcedo or Calle Crisologo. You can walk from Plaza Salcedo to Calle Crisologo or vice versa.
Airconditioned Buses leave from Manila to Vigan daily. The trip takes about 8-9 hours. For a list of buses, click this.
You can also fly for an hour from Manila to Laoag City via Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines or Zest Airways. From Laoag, you can take a bus to Vigan City. The trip takes about 1.5-2 hours.