Vigan Heritage Site

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City of Vigan
Province of Ilocos Sur
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Taken on October 2014

Taken on December 2006

17.573005°N 120.389173°E

The City of Vigan is a 5th class city in the province of Ilocos Sur, Philippines. It is the capital of the Province of Ilocos Sur. The city is located on the western coast of the large island of Luzon, facing the South China Sea.

It is a World Heritage Site in that it is one of the few Hispanic towns left in the Philippines, and is well known for its cobblestone streets, and a unique architecture that fuses Philippine and Oriental building designs and construction, with colonial European architecture.

Former Philippine president Elpidio Quirino, the sixth president of the Philippines, was born in Vigan, at the current location of the Provincial Jail (his father was a warden); and resided in the Syquia Mansion.

The area of Vigan was originally a settlement of traders coming from the Fujian Province, China. At the time of Spanish colonisation, the Chinese settlers, whose language was Southern Fujianese (Min Nan, often referred to as “Hokkien” by most Filipinos), referred to the area as “Bee Gan” (Chinese: 美岸; pinyin: Měi’àn), which means “Beautiful Shore.” Since the Castillian and Basque Spanish conquistadors interchanged V and the B to refer to the B sound, they spelled the Hokkien Chinese name “Bee Gan” as “Vigan”, which is the name used to this day.

Vigan’s Chinese heritage is still evident from the numerous elite Chinese creole families who come from the area, many of whom adopted Hispanic family names. Others, such as the Sy-Quia family, have retained Chinese-derived surnames, though most, if not all, of the Christian Chinese creole families fully Hispanicised themselves culturally.

The most commonly known source of the city’s name is from the Biga’a plant, which once grew abundantly along the banks of the Meztiso River, from which captain Juan de Salcedo derived the city’s name (after a misunderstanding with the locals, thinking he was asking the name of the plants).

Vigan is an island which is separated from the mainland by three bodies of water:[citation needed] the Abra River, the Mestizo River, and the Govantes River. The city is unique in the Philippines because it is one of many extensive surviving Philippine historic cities, dating back to the 16th century.

Vigan was a coastal trading post long before the Spaniards arrived; Chinese traders sailing from the South China Sea came to Isla de Vigan (Island of Vigan) via the Mestizo River that surrounded the island. On board their ships were seafaring merchants that came to trade goods from other Asian kingdoms in exchange for gold, beeswax, and other mountain products brought by the indigenous peoples from the Cordilleras region.

In the book The Philippine Island (Vol. III, p. 276, Blair and Robertson) two letters from Governor General Guido de Lavezaris to King Philip II of Spain mention: “It seemed best to send Captain Juan de Salcedo with 70 or 80 soldiers to explore the coast of Los Ilocano on the shores of the river called Bigan.” The Spaniards marched north from Manila on May 20, 1572 and arrived in Vigan on June 12, 1572.

Thus, after the successful expedition and the exploration of the North, Juan de Salcedo founded “Villa Fernandina de Vigan” in honor of King Philip II’s son, Prince Ferdinand, who died at the age of four. From Vigan, Salcedo rounded the tip of Luzon and proceeded to pacify Camarines, Albay, and Catanduanes.

As a reward for his services to the King of Spain, Salcedo was awarded the old province of Ilocos which consisted of the modern provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, La Union and part of Mountain Province as his hacienda (estate), and was accorded the title of “Justicia Mayor de esta Provincia de Ylocos” (Province Mayor of Ilocos).

In 1576, Salcedo returned to the capital of his encomienda (trusteeship), Vigan, bringing with him his soldiers, and some Augustinian missionaries to pioneer the evangelization of the Ilocos region. He established a Spanish city for the purpose of controlling the neighboring country.

Governor General Gómez Pérez Dasmariñas, in his Account of encomienda dated in Manila on May 31, 1591 states: “The town of Vigan called Villa Fernandina consisted of Spanish settlers; a priest; a Justice Alcalde Mayor (Governor); and a Deputy. The King collects 800 tributes (equivalent to 3,200 subjects).” During this period, Vigan was composed of 19 barrios (districts).

Between 1645 to 1660, Vigan was divided into 21 Cavezas de Barrios (Town Mayors) as mentioned in the Libro de Casamiento (Book of Marriage); from the records of the parish house of Vigan found in its Archives. Separated from the indigenous population; the Chinese migrants were residents in a neighborhood called pariancillo, Los Sangleyes del parian (The Sangleyes of Parian); and the Spanish settlers were residents in a town called Los Españoles de la Villa (The Town of the Spaniards).

During the Philippine Revolution of 1896 to 1898, Philippine Revolutionary forces, supported by the Ilocano rebels, attacked and defeated the Spanish Colonial forces and captured the city in the Siege of Vigan. Starting from the Philippine-American War from 1899 to 1901, American Colonial troops occupied the city. Forces led by Col. James Parker occupied the Cathedral.

During World War II, Japanese Imperial Army planes bombed Vigan on December 1941 and Japanese troops occupied the town in 1942. In 1945, combined U.S. and Philippine Commonwealth ground troops, aided by Ilocano resistance fighters, defeated the Japanese Imperial forces and liberated Vigan.

The Movie by Bonda Fajardo “ILIW”, 2010 : Colonel Takahashi & Fr. Joseph Klecamf protected “VIGAN” neither to be burned by Japanese Army nor attacked by US Army.

2007 Vigan City was listed by UNESCO as the best preserved example of Spanish colonial towns in Asia. Its architecture is the conglomeration of cultural elements from the Philippines, China, and Spain, making it unique to the rest of the world. –


Posted: November 7, 2014

Author: pamana360

Category: Heritage Houses, UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Tags: , , ,

+1 Comment
  1. Paulo says:

    i commend the one who made this panorama tour. indeed i am very proud of my city and that he showcased the beautiful surroundings of Vigan. Saludos!

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