Vigan: Echoes of a Colonial Colonial
At first we thought this too commercial for such a heritage site until we realized how expensive it is to maintain these structures given the ravages of tropical climate. Perhaps this is a way for owners to raise the needed maintenance funds. It is also reflective of the fact that during the economic heyday of this city, many of the entrepreneurs actually worked from their homes with the shops occupying the ground floor and their residences on the second storey.
There are other interesting sites in the city. Plaza Burgos, named after Father Jose Burgos is located close to Calle Crisologo and includes St. Paul’s Cathedral (sometimes known as the Vigan Cathedral), another impressive example of Baroque architecture. Like many church structures in the Ilocos region, the bell tower is placed apart from the main church building, a design meant to increase resistance to major earthquakes so common in this region.
At Plaza Burgos there is also a dining area where the famous Vigan empanada is served. This is one of the two versions of the Ilocos empanada; the other one is the Batac empanada named after the Ilocos Norte town from where it originated. The Vigan empanada is less brightly colored and has a thinner and crispier crust than its Batac counterpart but has basically the same ingredients – egg, vegetables (usually bean sprouts and grated green papaya and sometimes cabbage) and longanisa. Naturally the Vigan empanada is made with the equally famous Vigan longanisa. We’ve had the Vigan empanada several times now so next in line is the Batac version.
In Leo’s hometown of Pateros we looked with sadness over the last several years at how old, Spanish era houses were dismantled to make way for modern structures. This makes us all the more thankful for the farsighted Vigan folk who took pains to preserve one of the last few remaining vestiges of colonial architecture in our time.