Historic City of Vigan

Province of Ilocos Sur
N17 34 30 E120 23 15
Date of Inscription: 1999
Criteria: (ii)(iv)
Property : 17.25 ha
Ref: 502rev
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Established in the 16th century, Vigan is the best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia. Its architecture reflects the coming together of cultural elements from elsewhere in the Philippines, from China and from Europe, resulting in a culture and townscape that have no parallel anywhere in East and South-East Asia.

Vigan is the most intact example in Asia of a planned Spanish colonial town, established in the 16th century. Its architecture reflects the coming together of cultural elements from elsewhere in the Philippines and from China with those of Europe and Mexico to create a unique culture and townscape without parallels anywhere in East and South-East Asia. An important trading post before the colonial era, Vigan is located at the river delta of Abra River, along the northwestern coastline of the main island of Luzon, in the Province of Ilocos Sur, Philippine Archipelago. The total area of the inscribed property is 17.25 hectares. The traditional Hispanic checkerboard street plan opens up into two adjacent plazas. The Plaza Salcedo is the longer arm of an L-shaped open space, with the Plaza Burgos as the shorter. The two plazas are dominated by the St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Archbishop’s Palace, the City Hall and the Provincial Capitol Building . The urban plan of the town closely conforms with the Renaissance grid plan specified in the Ley de la Indias for all new towns in the Spanish Empire. There is, however, a noticeable difference between Vigan and contemporary Spanish colonial towns in Latin America in the Historic Core (known as the Mestizo district), where the Latin tradition is tempered by strong Chinese, Ilocano, and Filipino influences. As its name implies, this district was settled by affluent families of mixed Chinese-Ilocano origin. The area contains the historic footprint of the entire town and consists of a total of 233historic buildings tightly strung along a grid of 25 streets.

The two storey structures are built of brick and wood, with a steeply pitched roof reminiscent of traditional Chinese architecture. The exterior walls of the upper storey are enclosed by window panels of kapis shells framed in wood which can be slid back for better ventilation. Most of the existing buildings were probably built in the mid 18th to late 19th centuries. Due to the economic decline of Vigan as an economic center after the World War II, only a few of the historic buildings had internal reorganization for alternative use. The Chinese merchants and traders conducted their business from shops, offices and storerooms on the ground floors of their houses, with the living quarters above. In addition to the domestic and commercial architecture, Vigan possesses a number of significant public buildings, which also show multi-cultural influences.

Vigan is unique for having preserved much of its Hispanic colonial character, particularly its grid street pattern and historic urban lay out. Its significance also lies on how the different architectural influences are blended to create a homogenous townscape.

Criterion (ii): Vigan represents a unique fusion of Asian building design and construction with European colonial architecture and planning.

Criterion (iv): Vigan is an exceptionally intact and well-preserved example of a European trading town in East and South-East Asia.

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1 reply »

  1. The best way to enjoy the scenery is to take a stroll, and marvel at the fine architecture and how it survived earthquakes, typhoons, and World War II.


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