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Wow Pinas! Vigan City

   Local and foreign experts describe Vigan as a "place like no other". Its uniqueness lies in its historic townscape, which is an architectural blend of Asian, European and Latin American influences. Being the only surviving colonial town in the country, Vigan has more strung along the narrow streets of the old Mestizo District,
populary known in the olden days as Kasanglayan (Chinese Quarters).
   Located in the Northern part of the Philippines, Vigan is 408 kilometers northwest of Manila and includes area of the China Sea as a buffer zone on the western side of the town.
    Vigan brings images of antiquated houses, cobbled narrow streets, calesas and friendly faces peering out of large windows; a place where "time stood still". Yet, despitr all the romantic images this place provokes, much is still unfamiliar about Vigan.
    The name came from the Ilocano word "kabiga-an" pertaining to the plant "biga" abounds. Biga is a tuberous plant (alocadia indica) that once grew along the banks.
   The climate is generally dry as defined by the Hernandez type of climate. Classification is characterized by more dry months usually from October to May. However, the southernmost portion (part of Cervantes) is observed to be humid and rain is evenly distributed throughout the year while the eastern part of Sugpon is dry with rain not sufficiently distributed. August has the most rainfall while January and February have the least. The mean temperature in the province is 27 degrees C. January is the coldest.
    Filipino and English are the basic tools of instruction in schools while Ilocano is the principal dialect. Kankanaey and Itneg are spoken in cultural communities
    Vigan is a relatively small city with two hearts: the recreational and shopping area around the adjacent Plaza Salcedo and Plaza Burgos in the north, and the commercial centre around the public market in the south. The mestizo district is focused along Plaridel and Mena Crisologo Streets, running south from Plaza Burgos towards the cemetery.
   There is a helpful and friendly provincial tourist information office south west of Plaza Burgos (next to Cafe Leona) that can dispense information on Vigan and the rest of Ilocos Sur. Banks with ATMs accepting foreign credit cards are dotted about the city, as are internet cafes with access from P20 per hour.
    By bus or car
     It's seven hours drive along the scenic Ilocos Highway from Manila to Vigan. Partas Bus Co., Dominion and the Philippine Rabbit Bus Line have regular buses along this route.
    By plane
    The nearest airport is in nearby Laoag (1.5 hours by car), the Laoag International Airport. Philippine Airlines fly to from Laoag three times a week from Manila.
Get around
    A fun throwback to colonial days are the calesa horse-drawn carriages that still clip-clop through Vigan's streets. Rates for calesa rides should be the same as those for the many tricycles (P6 within the city limits) that you will undoubtedly by vying for your custom.
     The mestizo district offers a wonderful glimpse into the Philippines' colonial past. The ancestral houses were mostly built by Chinese traders using a mixture of local, Asian and Spanish architectural styles.
    St.Paul's Metropolitan Cathedral (admission free) was built by Augustinians around 1790 and features a unique design intended to minimize earthquake damage; a style that came to be known as "earthquake baroque". Look out for the brass communion handrails forged in China. The eight-sided bell tower is just south of the cathedral.
    Plaza Salcedo west of the cathedral features a 17th Century monument to Juan de Salcedo, and was also the site of resistance leader Gabriela Silang's public hanging in 1763.
    Plaza Burgos and its snack stands are a favourite hang out for locals. It is also used for staging major public events.
     The Ayala Museum used to be the home of Father Jose Burgos but now houses Ilocano artifacts, weapons, kitchen utensils, basketry, costumes, jewellery and Burgos Memorabilia. There are also some dioramas showing important events in the history of Ilocos Sur, and a mini library. Beside the museum is like the Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail, where the Philippines first Ilocano president, the late Pres. Elpidio Quirino, was born.
    Take a swim at the nearby Mindoro Beach Resort.
     There are dozens of antique and souvenir shops dotted about the city, particularly on Crisologo and Plaridel Streets in the mestizo district. Although most of the antiques are fakes, you'll still enjoy browsing the odd items of religious paraphernalia (look out for the toddles Jeseus figurines).
    Popular snack stands along Plaza Burgos serve up a variety of local treats such as sinanglao, arroz caldo, miki, empanada and okoy. There is also a string of fast-food outlets nearby.

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