Vigan Travel Information

ABOUT VIGAN CITY

The City of Vigan is a 3rd class city in the province of Ilocos Sur, Philippines. It is the capital city of Ilocos Sur. The city, 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 the most intact example of a Spanish colonial town in Asia, and is well-known for its cobblestone streets and a unique architecture that fuses Asian building design and construction with European colonial architecture and planning.

According to the 2000 census, it has a population of 45,143 people in 9,193 households.
Elpidio Quirino, the 6th president of the Philippines, resided in Vigan.

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HISTORY

Vigan is an island, which used to be detached from the mainland by three rivers - the great Abra River, the Mestizo River and the Govantes River. It is unique among the Philippine towns because it is the country’s most extensive and only surviving historic city that dates back to the 15th century Spanish colonial period.

Vigan was an important coastal trading post in pre-colonial times. Long before the Spanish galleons, Chinese junks sailing from the South China Sea came to Isla de Bigan through the Mestizo River that surrounded the island. On board were sea-faring merchants that came to barter exotic goods from Asian kingdoms in exchange for gold, beeswax and other mountain products brought down by natives from the Cordilleras. Immigrants, mostly Chinese, settled in Vigan, intermarried with the natives and started the multi-cultural bloodline of the Bigueños.

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

Thus, after the successful expedition and exploration of the North, Don Juan de Salcedo founded “Villa Fernandina de Vigan” in honor of King Philip II’s son, Prince Ferdinand who died at the tender 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, Salcedo was awarded the old province of Ylocos which then composed of the Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, La Union and some part of Mountain Province as his Encomienda and was accorded the title as Justicia Mayor de esta Provincia de Ylocos.

In January 1574, Salcedo returned to the capital of his Encomienda, Vigan, bringing with him some Augustian Missionaries to pioneer the evangelization of Ylocos and established a Spanish city, for the purpose of controlling the neighboring country.
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Governor General Gomez Perez Darmarinas, in his Account of Encomienda dated in Manila on May 31, 1591 states: “The town of Vigan called Villa Fernandina has five or six Spanish citizens with one priest, a Justice, one Alcalde Mayor (Governor) and a Deputy. The King collects 800 tributes (equivalent to 3,200 subjects). During this period, the old Vigan was composed of 19 barrios.

In 1645-1660, Vigan was already divided into 21 Cavezas de Barangay as mentioned in the “Libro de Casamiento”, the oldest records of the parish house of Vigan found in its Archives. Separated from the naturales, the Chinese have their own place of settlement called pariancillo, “Los Sangleyes del parian” and the Spaniards were residents in a villa called “Los Españoles de la Villa”.

ORIGIN OF THE CITY'S NAME

During the conquest days of the Spanish, The conquistador Juan de Salcedo headed up north to the Ilocos to establish a military base in present-day Vigan. When he first arrived in the place, at the place of present-day Barangay "Pagpartian" (Ilocano, "butchering place"--because it is the location of the city abattoir) through the Mestizo River, he noticed the lush, green plants growing along the riverbanks. He asked a local about the name of the place. The local, not understanding Spanish, thought he was asking the name of the plant, told him that they were biga'a. So Juan Salcedo derived the city's name, "Vigan," from the plant.

Its full name at the time of its founding was Villa Fernandina, in honor of the first born son of King Philip II of Spain. As the city grew, and the seat of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia transferred to the place, it was later named Ciudad Fernandina de Vigan, in honor of the reigning Spanish king.

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