Ilocos Express (Part 1) : Vigan

"Ilocos empanada!"

That's what I kept yapping about during the long drive to the Ilocos Region for our family trip last March.  The region, of course, is more than their famous food.  I've long wanted to go on a road trip to Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte but since it would entail at least four days of long drive for you to be able to visit all the must-see places, it took me a while before I finally did.

So in this "Ilocos Express" series, I'll try to do justice in showcasing the cultural gems of the north.

Our first stop: the town of Vigan.

"Vigan is so special, UNESCO deemed it a World Heritage Site and noted, “Vigan is an exceptionally intact and well-preserved example of a European trading town in East and Southeast Asia. The architecture is truly reflective of its roots in both materials and design, in its fusion of Asian building design and construction with European colonial architecture and planning.”" (Read more here.)  

Calle Crisologo

Vigan is one of the few Hispanic towns left in the Philippines and its famous landmark is Calle Crislogo.

Stepping into Calle Crisologo is like entering the 16th century Spanish colonial period in the Philippines.  It's  as though the rest of the world has moved on while this street remained in a time capsule.

"The major attraction of Vigan is its mestizo district which is filled with Spanish-style houses that evoke a bygone era when its people lived prosperously because of the Manila-Acapulco maritime trade." (Read more here.)

You can explore Calle Crisologo (and the nearby landmarks) either by foot or by kalesa, a horse-drawn carriage.

Walk the stretch of Calle Crisologo and you might find yourself filling up your shopping basket with local trinkets, fine fabric, local ingredients, and Vigan's famous snacks.

At night, the plaza is filled with people having their fill of Ilocos dishes partnered with bottles of beer.

But the best time to take a really good photo of Calle Crisologo is during the break of dawn when the absence of the crowd gives it eerie feel.

Vigan's burnay factory

"Vigan is known for burnay, a traditional jar. Crafted from locally sourced clay, burnays were originally used to ferment basi (sugarcane wine) and bagoong, although today they are mostly used for decoration." (Read more here.)

The sun was already setting and we were all tired with all the driving and walking around but I just had to visit Vigan's famous pottery nook.  And we were just in time to see a potter finishing up his masterpiece.

Then I had this great idea of getting my hands dirty and giving pottery a shot.  And this is what I ended up with:

Fail.  So I guess I won't be including pottery in my list of fallback careers hahaha.

St. Augustine Parish Church

Set against the blue sky and highlighted by the setting sun, the St. Augustine Church becomes an even more beautiful piece of cultural structure during the magic hour.

Even the interiors of the church gives a warm glow as slivers of light from the afternoon sun seep through.

Bantay Belfry

"This towering structure is one of the sights that should be visited by travelers not only because of its historical and cultural significance but also because of its commanding view of Vigan from the highest portion of it that can be climbed.  
It is called the Bantay Belfry because it is located in the Bantay district of Vigan along the national highway. It was said to be the people’s watchtower, part of the city’s defense that helps in alerting it against possible enemies. It was built in 1591." (Read more here.)
Bantay Belfry is best visited during sunset when the sun's last rays cast a golden glow on both the tower and the town.

Ilocos empanada

You cannot, absolutely cannot, go to the Ilocos Region and not try their famous empanada (a Spanish version of a turnover).

There are actually restaurants in Manila that serve Ilocos empanada but, of course, nothing beats the freshly-cooked original straight from the place where it originated from.

The makings of great empanada.

So there.  With this post alone, it would be safe to surmise that the Ilocos region is both a feast to the eyes and to the tummy.

Watch for the next leg of the "Ilocos Express" as I try to capture more of the region's highlights ;)



By land
From Manila or the nearby provinces in the Ilocos region, buses, jeeps and mini-vans all pass through Vigan.

Once in Vigan, the best mode of transportation is by kalesa. If you don’t have time, you can hire a tricycle.They run on a color-coded system so it’s very easy to go around.

By plane
Laoag in Ilocos Norte will be your flight’s entry point.

It’s a one-hour plane ride from Taiwan, or  a 45-minute flight from Manila.


  1. I won't get tired of saying this mother. You take the best photos talaga!

    Anyway, T and I want to go to Vigan together (I've been there before but he hasn't). We've been talking about it di lang matuloy tuloy kasi pag land trips. No airfare ticket na maeexpire kaya no pressure. Hehe.

    But I'll show this post to him. Waiting for the next ones! :)

    1. Thanks, mother! You and T should go. 'Yun nga lang, long drive talaga. Best would be to stay overnight per destination so you're not too haggard. But it's something you have to alot 4-5 days for :)

  2. breathtaking pictures! thanks for taking us on this beautiful trip...loved it! sunshines+warm hugs from Holland:-)
    PS: which are the next trips planned for this year? did you see the underwater pics from Sardinia, the place I recommended to you in stead of Ireland?:-)

    1. Thanks, Jana! It's one of the culturally beautiful regions of our country :)

      I haven't yet! Been so busy the past few weeks I haven't been able to go bloghopping. But will check them soon :)

  3. Always enjoy your photos and stories. Hope your weather gets better soon and thank you for visting my blog.

  4. you do such a wonderful job sharing these beautiful locations, in words and images! and i learn so much in the process! you should be writing travel books, and help make a little money to support your travel addiction. ;)

  5. As I see and read your new post series will be very interestig illustrated with usual nice photos.
    I will follow all parts definitely :) Thanks for sharing and have a great day from sunny Hungary.

    ps used lens in post about Mercedes-Benz oldtimers: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L. I very very like this lens! Hope this can help you :)

  6. me again:-)thanks for the cute comments+tons of questions...its was our plane to Sardinia, which takes around 2h...more (of answering) on my blog!

  7. Oh mine naman Koryn!!!!!!!! this post is so timely. A friend of mine invited me to come for their team building sa Ilocos Region at sobrang na eexcite na ako at ang tummy ko..

  8. Absolutely amazing, Koryn, thanks for this beautiful and informative post! I never knew about Vigan till now despite traveling to Philippines since 1996. I remember some photos in a travelers' books on Philippines but I think they didn't emphasize the historical significance. I guess also because we (my wife is a Pinay) usually travel in the Visayan-speaking areas. I am amazed to see this entire Spanish town (rather than just one or two old Spanish houses like in a lot of the cities in the Philippines, and so well-preserved. And to see the use of bricks in the Philippines is very unusual - the St. Augustine Church and the Banay Belfry are amazing! I really want to go to Ilocos now.

    Please feel free to stop by my blog sometime, I have a lot of photos from our family visits to the Philippines (just returned a few weeks ago from our Philippines trip).

    1. Hi! Thanks for dropping by my blog :)

      Yes, it's really one of the well-preserved towns in the archipelago despite the increasing volume of tourists pouring in. And I hope it stays that way.

      I love the Visayab region too! But I do hope you and your wife get to visit llocos soon.

      Vigan is just one f the many fascinating places there. Will be blogging about the rest soon should you come across my blog again :)

  9. This made me miss Ilocos. The last time we were here, we were counting shooting stars. We've seen a lot, enough to utter our wishes in this lifetime. The stars are bigger in this place.:)

  10. my brother has gone there with his family. didn't know it was this beautiful.

  11. Vigan's still on my travel list. Hoping to cross it off soon. =)

  12. Your blog is so nice to see..... wonderful pictures and stories,
    it's always nice to visit you blog.

    wish you a very nice sunday,

    Greetings, Joop

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