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Calle Crisologo Vigan Ilocos Sur » Sojourn to the Past

This little place in Ilocos Sur seems to be on every tourists’ list of must-visit Ilocos tour agenda but we put it on the last part of our Ilocandia two-day itinerary – and we didn’t regret saving the best for last. Definitely, a sojourn to Ilocandia is incomplete without a nostalgic walk down the cobblestone streets of Calle Crisologo and the neat rows of ancestral houses in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, aptly called the “heritage village.”

The setting sun was already painting the sky with striking hues of orange and blue when we reached the heritage village, adding an antiquated aura to the place. For me walking on a street carpeted by cobblestones is a kind of time travel, hence I immediately set foot to the villages’ cobblestone street, which reminded me of the stone patios of Intramuros in Manila –  but this one seems older and always freshly raped by constant tourists’ excited feet.

Calle Crisologo is a major destination in Ilocos Sur and is always crowded with visitors. You can hear them chatting, laughing, camwhoring and bargaining - moving left and right in perpetual motion.  I instantly wish I could walk on these streets alone, but I know it is impossible. So it would be nice to just lose myself on these crowd of tourists that always seemed to be there.

Most of the mansions have this old wooden bench outside
I just let myself float mentally, imagining myself having nice hot cup of kapeng barako, sitting somewhere quiet. Anonymous, alone.

Why Vigan is famous

Vigan, a town established in the 16th century, and was named after a giant plant bigaa, growing abundantly on the banks of Mestizo River, is the no. 4 tourist destination in the Philippines, followed by Palawan, Cebu and Bohol, according to the Department of Tourism.

Calle Crisologo cobblestone street (Photo Credit: Bar Surco Mobile phone)
Built in varying Spanish, Mexican, and Chinese architectural styles, thick brick walls, tile roofs, and red clay, the Vigan mansions stand side by side each other as if frozen in time. According to UNESCO, Vigan’s architecture reflects the coming together of cultural elements from elsewhere in the Philippines, from China and from Europe, resulting in a culture and townscape that have no parallel anywhere in East and South-East Asia.

All Vigan houses have similar proportions (height, massing and roof shape). They share related architectural detailing, and are built of terracotta, wood, shells, stone and lime, all obtained from the surrounding area.

Since it was inscribed on the World Heritage List as the "Historic Town of Vigan," the government has realized the universal value of its heritage. Legislation such as the “No vehicle inside the town” policy was being enforced to preserve that heritage which is appreciated by tourists. 

Heritage Village (Calle Crisologo) night scene
Recently, Vigan LGU belies the controversial comment of Harry Thomas, the new U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, saying 40 percent of male tourists visit the country for sex. They reiterated that tourists flock the former Ciudad Fernandina, hailed as “Living Museum”, not because of the sex industry, but for the Vigan Heritage Village, included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO.

Calle Crisologo: Time-travel street

Calle Crisologo, a street named after Mena Crisologo – popular writer and politician, also known as the Ilocano Shakespeare – is the most famous street in the heritage village.

I really enjoyed our back-in-time walk on this cobblestone street while marveling at the Spanish-era buildings and houses on both sides. All structures are old but still pretty much intact and preserved. Walking down this street made me think I were thrown back in time, back to the Spanish era.

Yodi at Calle Crisologo
It’s a good thing the street is closed to modern traffic. Only a kalesa or caritela (horse-drawn carriages) are allowed to pass through this brick-paved thoroughfare. 

This is the only place in the Philippines where there is a Calesa parking.  

Disappointing shops

Souvenir shops at Calle Crisologo selling Vigan’s products (antiques, abel woven products, bags, basi wine, burnay and dimili products, chicharon, jewelry, sweets, Vigan vinegar and woodcrafts)
No, I’m not disappointed because I didn’t get the souvenir item I want but because of too many souvenir stores along Calle Crisologo making the street look like an organized Divisoria. Almost all the ancestral houses have turned their ground floors into antique and souvenir stores. 

Max's Restaurant at the back of Leona Florentino (Ilocano poetess and playwright) monument

Mang Inasal fastfood in Vigan
There are also fastfood chains, such as the Mang Inasal and Max’s along Calle Crisologo and not far are the ever-present McDo and Jollibee. Commercialization really beats historical preservation.

It would be nice if they just made these ancestral houses into museums, cultural stops or something like that. We must be very thankful that it has survived the wrath and destruction of the Second World War but it seems that it cannot survive the destructive effect of consumerism.

A real blast from the past

Eastgate backpackers souvenir photo (Aldan, Bern, Anjho, Abby, Gara and Bar)
The past is always with us and it’s a good thing we still live among its remains. For most of us who are fascinated by the concept of time, we strive to understand it, and because time-travel is not yet an option what we do is to travel and visit old places.

A quick visit to Vigan is truly a blast from the past, aside of course from other exciting things and places it can offer.  Vigan, with its centuries-old edifices, is truly a breathing reminder of what was once a royal city.

Truly a place worth visiting! Byahe na!

UNESCO Heritage Village of Vigan in Philippines

More of our Ilocandia Time Travel :

References and Citations: 
» Historic Town of Vigan. UNESCO World Heritage List.
» UNESCO News: World Heritage Committee Inscribes 48 New Sites on Heritage List Thursday, December 2, 1999
» U.S. News Las Vegas: “Vigan Heritage Village, attraction for legitimate tourists, not for sex tourism” By Ben P. Pacris, PIA and U.S. News Agency / Asian
» Wikitravel Article: Vigan Travel Guide  – Quick travel information and guide to Vigan
» A glimpse of Ilocos in four days By VIC ALBORNOZ LACTAOEN
» Pride of Place - Vigan-a Unesco World Heritage Site By Augusto Villalon Philippine Daily Inquirer
» Calle Crisologo - Mena Crisologo Street.
» Mena Pecson Crisologo. Ilocano Writer and Politician. National Historical Institute 

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