An Afternoon Ilocos Sur Roadtrip
A clan reunion prompted me and my family to come together to visit my dad’s northern hometown. You see… traveling to Tagudin is not a yearly affair for us although I did have plans of visiting and rediscovering this quaint town in Ilocos Sur (which I was eventually able to do months after). The plan was always pushed back until we were made to promise our attendance in the first ever clan reunion.
I will not deny that I did my research on my dad’s hometown with the hope of being able to go around and explore what it has to offer. But a change in the afternoon plans gave the trip a different perspective.
Having no plans laid out for everybody after the evening event, my brother’s family and mine decided to head on an afternoon roadtrip to Vigan. We had no idea how far the city was from Tagudin and, as we asked around, we were told that it will take us about an hour or two to get there. Not bad for a quick trip to the city.
The drive to Vigan was a relaxing one. The greens from the vast fields and rugged landscape against the backdrop of the afternoon Ilocos sun made the trip a refreshing treat. I was fascinated with the bucolic view and the sight of old churches that we passed along the way. Too bad though that I was not with a group that share my fascination for history as I was not able to stop and admire these old churches. Well, I guess I would need to map out an itinerary for an Ilocos roadtrip soon.
Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion Church (Sta. Maria Church), Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur
Sitting atop a hill that overlooks the town of Sta. Maria is an old church included in the UNESCO Heritage List. This was to be our first roadstop – the Sta. Maria Church.
Built in 1810, the Nuestra de la Asuncion Church has a similar design to that of Paoay Church, a church with large buttresses on the side to be able to withstand earthquakes. It is one of the four Baroque Churches in the country. It sits on top of a hill, surrounded by defense walls, which is a deviation from the usual Spanish settlements where the church is found in the center of the community. The construction of the convent parallel to the church also made this church unique.
The Sta. Maria Bell Tower stands a few meters adjacent to the church.
The church stands majestically and the view of the staircase leading up to the Bell Tower and the church adds to its inherent beauty. Its location, one that overlooks the town, gives the impression that the church is looking over the town, standing guard over its domain. The church is façade is simple and void of any intricate carvings.
The interior of the church is also simple. The gold and blue adorned altar is highlighted by the image of the Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion as its centrepiece. The interiors depict the simple way of life of the town.
The Sta. Maria Bell Tower stands a few meters from the church. The creation of the bell tower a few meters from the church is said to be a characteristic of Philippine-Spanish ingenuity and is also said to be done as a preventive measure should an earthquake damage the tower or the church. The Bell Tower is a beauty on its own as it juts out of the town’s skyline. Its age can be seen as weeds and moss have taken its roots on its edges.
Saint Augustine Church, Bantay, Ilocos Sur
The Saint Augustine Church is one of the oldest churches in Ilocos Sur. This church, along the peripherals of Vigan, is not only religiously significant but is also a witness to historical events of Ilocanos. It is on these hallowed grounds where Diego Silang led people to an uprising against Spanish rule in 1763.
Damaged in World War 2, the red and white brick façade of the church was a reconstruction from its original neo-gothic design. The serenity that the place offers because of the greens surrounding the church will always impress visitors of the place.
The high ceiling and interiors of the church gives visitors the impression of space inside the church. The simple gold-adorned pulpit, highlighted by the image of “Our Lady of Charity”, is hard to miss as you enter the church. The church was declared its shrine in 1956.
Bantay Bell Tower
It is considered to be the people’s watchtower as it served as a lookout for the city’s defense. The tower was built in 1591 and offers an awesome view of Vigan and its surrounding municipalities. The tower stands majestically atop the hill and allows visitors to have an up close encounter by allowing visitors to go up the bell tower and view its bells and enjoy the view that its vantage point can cover.
The Vigan Cathedral is also a mute witness to the religiosity and history of Vigan. First established in 1574by Juan de Salcedo, the church was later elevated to Cathedral status and has since become the seat of Catholic faith in the region. The current structure was completed in 1800 with a mix of Neo-Gothic, Roman, and Chinese in its architecture.
The Vigan Belfry stands a few meters from the church.
Heritage City of Vigan
Vigan City is a World Heritage Site and is one of the few towns left with its old Hispanic structures intact. And by intact, I mean walking along cobblestone streets with old houses lined up on both sides. Some of these houses are still in use until today. Talk about walking along the path that our ancestors have walked.
The City of Vigan was a major trading post even before the Spaniard arrived in the Philippines. Interestingly, the city was once an island separated by the Abra River, Mestizo River, and the Govantes River. However, the heavy silting of the Mestizo River connected the city to the mainland. The once trading post later evolved to become one of the dynamic cities in the province which made it the center for governance and commerce of Ilocos Sur.
I have been to Vigan before and one of its major attractions is Calle Crisologo, a street lined with ancestral houses that date back to the Spanish times. The architecture of these houses was a mix of Hispanic, Mexican, and Chinese influences. It was an exhilarating experience to walk down the cobblestone street and it was like history becoming alive. Although there was great joy walking along this famed street, I would strongly suggest that you take that kalesa ride to complete your VIgan experience.
It was not my first time in Vigan and, in both case, I still feel that I was not able to really explore Vigan. I wish I had more time to explore Vigan and not just Calle Crisologo. The afternoon roadtrip was just a taste of a future trip that I would have to take soon.
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Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.