At the mention of Vigan, one can easily imagine himself riding on a calesa, passing along a cobblestone street lined with perfectly preserved ancestral homes. Vigan is a lot of things, but at the heart of it is Calle Mena Crisologo, a half-kilometer long street designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Mena Crisologo, the man
He was the very first governor of Ilocos Sur and a famous Ilocano poet and dramatist. As a politician, he was one of the signatories of the Malolos consitution. As a writer, he wrote zarzuelas in his dialect.
Mena Crisologo, the street
It is said that Vigan had miraculously escaped destruction during the Japanese occupation — all because of love. The Japanese armies occupying the country were ordered to burn the places before retreating. The head of the army in Vigan, Takahashi Fujiro, had a Filipina wife and a daughter. Before leaving, he entrusted his wife and child to the parish priest. The priest agreed, only after asking that the Japanese spare Vigan from burning. Takahashi agreed and his army left the city quietly.
That’s what we heard on the river cruise More about this cruise in a later entry.
I wonder what happened to Takahashi’s family after the Japanese were defeated…
In 1999, Vigan was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site mostly because of the old European and Asian feel of the city. Most of us think that the houses are of Spanish influence, but the architecture of the buildings is actually a mix of Chinese, Filipino and Mexican influences.
Some movies were shot on location on Vigan (and on Calle Crisologo) because of its old world charm. A very popular one is Marilou Diaz Abaya’s Jose Rizal (which I want to watch again).
Aside from a few private homes, the buildings in Calle Crisologo house mostly commercial establishments selling antiques, souvenirs, foodstuff and whatnot. There is also a tourist office, a bank, an inn (we only saw Cordillera Inn) and restaurants. When we were there, there was also this newly opened club — a club, can you believe that? That time, they even had popular DJ Manolet Dario as a guest. It’s so out of place in the old ‘calle’, but I don’t even remember its name.
Motorized vehicles are not allowed to pass on this calle. If you’re tired of walking, hail a calesa
How’s this for a trivia…
According to tour expert Ivan Man Dy of Old Manila Walks, the streets of Vigan were not originally cobbled…some people just decided to pave the streets with cobblestones much later and turned places like Calle Crisologo into the romanticized ‘heritage sites’ we know from travel catalogues.
Aww. That just ruined my Maria Clara fantasies.
Aside from shopping and ogling…
Calle Crisologo is also a great place to chow down the best Vigan fare!
Cafe Leona – Named after popular Ilocano poet Leona Florentino, this is arguably Vigan’s best restaurant. With a wide assortment of dishes, Cafe Leona attracts tourists of various nationalities. We ordered their bagnet, crunchy cholesterol with KBL on the side. Ate Jen said KBL stands for “kamatis, bagoong at lasona” (lasona is native onion). Of course, it is also a popular acronym for something else
The only thing I didn’t like about this place is they allow smoking inside. Ick. We do have a law that prohibits smoking in an enclosed public space…obviously, ignoring this law enables them to attract more diners — those of the nicotine-addicted kind.
Max’s – The house that fried chicken built brings its most loved fried chicken to Vigan and more — they also serve their own bagnet. We didn’t try theirs anymore. Maybe next time.
The calesa stops next at…ok, I think I’m going to rest for a while and write a review on Gordion Hotel That one coming up in…That one WILL come up.