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  • Getting There One of the major cultural hubs of the Philippines, the genteel Old World charm and opulent history of Ilocos Sur reflects the hundreds and hundreds of years of being at the crossroads of European and Asian trade and commerce- a trip to Ilocos Sur is definitely a step back in time.

    Eventually the region became an important player and stop on the maritime silk route.

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    Salcedo eventually declared Vigan as the capital and the headquarters of the Spanish settlement in the North and called it Villa Fernandina de Bigan and right after, the entire Northern Luzon as an encomienda and himself as the encomendero of Vigan and the Lieutenant Governor of Ylocos until his death in July of The Mestizo District has the highest number of ancestral houses and colonial era architecture which was mostly built by the Chinese merchants who settled, intermarried and became the local elite of the 19th century.

    The houses were the result of a continuing evolution of the traditional Igorot nipa hut of the highlands with a distinct combination of Mexican and Chinese styles and Filipino touches like sliding capiz shell windows.

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    A walk through the Kasanglayan felt like being thrown back into the past, an amazingly beautiful experience. Sometimes, referred to as the Intramuros of the North, the Kasanglayan has a different vibe altogether β€” it is quieter, and more laidback than its counterpart in Manila, but no less important nonetheless. Vigan, unlike its sister cities of Manila and Cebu, survived the massive bombing campaigns of the advancing Americans during the second World War which left it relatively well-preserved and intact, went on to become the only Philippine city to become recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage City- the best example of a surviving European colonial town in Asia.

    Being the most popular destination in the Ilocos Region, it was quite a surprise not to find a lot of foreigners traveling in this area. We saw creeping commercialization in the area though, with souvenir shops occupying a significant lot of the ground floors of houses, however, this has not diminished its obvious charm as commerce has more or less successfully blended quite well with the area- with Vigan walking the fine line between outright commercialization and preserving its identity. Horse-drawn carriages or calesas are de rigeur transportation for most tourists within Vigan and neighboring towns with the side of St.

    If you have enough time to burn or if you are staying in Vigan longer, a calesa ride is actually an excellent way to enjoy this beautiful city. However, if you are in Vigan for a quick stopover, the best way is to go around in one of those tiny tricycles β€” motorbikes with side cars.

    Usually, a tour with the tricycles would set you back about PhPPhP for about an hour. Make sure you haggle and you get change. I would highly advise you to secure a map of Vigan and other Ilocos Sur sites at the Tourism Office near the Plaza Burgos they are open even on weekends and the staff are ACTUALLY very helpful, friendly and knowledgeable and then decide which places you want to head out to.

    As the same with anywhere else in the Philippines, the Spaniards conquered the region by the sword and by the cross: Augustinian missionaries evangelized the region and established parishes and built beautiful churches that still stand today.

    The Arzobispado de Nueva Segovia which is the only surviving 18th century arzobispado and the official residence of the Archbishop of Nueva Segovia and the former headquarters of the first Philippine President General Emilio Aguinaldo in still stands today across the equally historic Plaza Salcedo.

    The Arzobispado charges PhP20 per person as entrance fees. Plaza Salcedo features the the 17th century Juan de Salcedo monument, the oldest of its kind in the entire Northern Luzon. Plaza Salcedo was also the site where the first Filipina to lead a revolt in the Philippines, Gabriela Silang, who was executed by hanging. Gabriela Silang was the wife of another famous revolutionary, Diego Silang who was the appointed as the Governor of Ilocos during the brief British Occupation of the Philippines until he was shot in the back by Miguel Vicos β€” a close friend who sold him out to the Spaniards.

    As for foreigners undeservedly complaining about the lack of culture in the Philippines β€” Vigan spits culture in every street corner- its rich and colorful history screaming in many of its museums most if not all, allow camera use inside the museums β€” the most famous of which are the Crisologo Museum and the Burgos Museum.

    The Crisologos are one of the most prominent political dynasties in Ilocos Sur and their ancestral house which is now converted into some sort of a family shrine recounts its bloody history which in turn mirrors the relatively recent history of the province.

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    On display are the glass-encased bloodied pants of long-time Congressman Floro Crisologo, the same ones he wore during his assassination inright in the front pews of the St. Years before that, his wife, then-Governor Carmeling Crisologo was also a victim of an ambush in β€” the same Chevrolet which she rode is also on display in the museum.

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    Bingbong, was released ultimately because of good behavior, notwithstanding the double life imprisonment meted out to him for the misdeeds and went on to become a Bible-preacher and then recently, following the footsteps of his parents, a congressman himself. The Padre Burgos National Museum built in was a different story but no less controversial by itself. It was the former residence of the renowned priest Padre Jose Apolonio Burgos, a Filipino criollo, one of the three martyr priests that were executed by the Spaniards in for treason and fomenting the Cavite Mutiny.

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    The museum also has the 14 Esteban Pichay Villanueva paintings depicting the Basi revolt of including paintings about hangings, beatings and other curiously gruesome scenes. Right next to the museum, is the Provincial Jail which was built in and was the birthplace of former Philippine President Elpidio Quirino on 16 November Vigan weaving Photo by Ryan Buaron Being a fan of traditional Filipino weaving myself, I could not resist a trip to Barangay Camangaan about minutes away by tricycle from the Tourism Office near Plaza Burgoshome of the famous Vigan weavers which are known to produce abel, a local cotton fabric into shawls, hankies, placemats, blankets, gowns and even Barongs β€” the traditional Filipino shirt.

    We ended up having 2 Abel Iloco blankets at under PhP Although Abel Iloco products are sold in the shops of Kasanglayan, the prices in Barangay Camangaan are unbeatable plus you will be able to see local weavers in action.

    For pottery enthusiasts, the pagburnayan is a must-stop. Early Ilocanos used the burnay earthen jars for the fermentation of basi sugarcane wine and bagoong shrimp paste with some of the existing kilns dating back to Tigers and other animals like the sugar gliders, and pythons are in cages.

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    Baluarte also has a skeet shooting range how a shooting range ended up in a zoo was beyond reasonpony rides and animal shows we spied a very young orangutan quite disturbed by the loud music played during these animal shows.

    Entrance is free and the kids love it especially the huge replicas of dinosaurs that are close to the Hollywoodesque Baluarte sign. This baroque-gothic style church is one of the oldest in Ilocos Sur built in and features a separate belfry on top of a small hill a few meters away- which affords a superb view of the mountains in neighboring province of Abra on one side and with the South China Sea on the opposite side. This church was used as a fortress during the Philippine revolution.

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    If topiaries make you giddy, there is a mini version at the Flores Pots and Hidden Garden. Thick foliage, bamboo covered walks and a huge collection of plants some of which are for sale greet you. There is a restaurant and a souvenir shop that sells Vigan-style empanadas β€” ground meat and egg-with shredded vegetables fried inside thin pastry pockets as well as Basi wines.

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    So far one of the best toilets we ever had β€” the toilet bowl overlooks a mini-garden β€” great for a little meditation while doing your business. Like most Philippine cities and towns, Ilocos Sur is home to fiestas and celebrations. Precolonial history[ edit ] The Laguna Copperplate Inscription is the oldest historical record in the Philippines.

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    It has the first historical reference to Tondo and dates back to Saka c. Rajah Sulayman The earliest evidence of human life around present-day Manila is the nearby Angono Petroglyphsdated to around BC. Negritosthe aboriginal inhabitants of the Philippines, lived across the island of Luzonwhere Manila is located, before the Malayo-Polynesians migrated in and assimilated them.

    The Tondo district was the traditional capital of the empire, and its rulers were sovereign kings, not mere chieftains. It was then settled by the Indianized empire of Majapahitas recorded in the epic eulogy poem " Nagarakretagama ", which described the area's conquest by Maharaja Hayam Wuruk.

    The rajahnate was ruled under and gave yearly tribute to the Sultanate of Brunei as a satellite state.

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    He established a trading challenge to the already rich House of Lakan Dula in Tondo. Islam was further strengthened by the arrival of Muslim traders from the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The city then became the seat of the Spanish colonial government.

    Spanish period[ edit ] The newly rebuilt Manila Cathedral in before the earthquake of July 20,which knocked down the over-a-century old bell tower. The victorious Spaniards made Manila, the capital of the Spanish East Indies and of the Philippines, which their empire would control for the next three centuries. Silver that was mined in Mexico and Peru was exchanged for Chinese silkIndian gems and the spices of Southeast Asia.

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    An unknown number of Indian soldiers known as sepoyswho came with the British, deserted and settled in nearby Cainta, Rizalwhich explains the uniquely Indian features of generations of Cainta residents.

    The city's growing wealth and education attracted indigenous people, Chinese, Indians, Latinos, and Europeans from the surrounding provinces [38] and facilitated the rise of an ilustrado class that espoused liberal ideas: The First Philippine Republicbased in nearby Bulacanfought against the Americans for control of the city. Upon drafting a new charter for Manila in Junethe Americans made official what had long been tacit: The new charter proclaimed that Manila was composed of eleven municipal districts: Later, two more would be added: Balut and San Andres.

    The planned buildings included a government center occupying all of Wallace Field, which extends from Rizal Park to the present Taft Avenue. The Philippine Capitol was to rise at the Taft Avenue end of the field, facing toward the sea. Of Burnham's proposed government center, only three unitsβ€”the Legislative Building and the buildings of the Finance and Agricultural Departmentsβ€”were completed when World War II erupted. Japanese occupation and World War II[ edit ] The destruction brought about by the Battle of Manila in During the Japanese occupation of the PhilippinesAmerican soldiers were ordered to withdraw from Manila, and all military installations were removed on December 24, General Douglas MacArthur declared Manila an open city to prevent further death and destruction, but Japanese warplanes continued to bomb it.