Watch the Biyahe ni Drew in Vigan.
Calle Crisologo, in the Heritage Village of Vigan, Ilocos Sur, is only 500 meters in length traversing five short blocks. But it has a history that rivals Intramuros in terms of richness and antiquity.
The street itself is of cobblestone, lined with heritage houses on either side. It speaks of muted opulence of a bygone age, of the galleon trade, of robust commerce in abel cloth, gold, tobacco, and other goods that to this day can still be found in souvenir shops there.
In the 16th century, when Spanish explorers first sailed down the West Philippine Sea and up the coast of what is now Ilocos Sur, a bustling commercial settlement was already in place.
The Spaniards named the coastal region Ylocos, and the town was called Villa Fernandina in honor of Prince Ferdinand, firstborn son of King Philip II of Spain.
The locals will tell you varying narratives of how Villa Fernandina became Vigan. All are perhaps embellished folktale, the truth possibly lost in the hazy mist of more than 400 years of history.
There are many points of interest in Vigan like Plaza Salcedo, Padre Burgos House, Syquia Mansion, and the remarkable hotels around the city, but Calle Crisologo is the most visited by tourists.
Calle Crisologo is named after Don Mena Pecson Crisologo, an illustrious Ilokano writer and politician. But during Spanish colonial times, the street was called Calle de Escolta de Vigan. At the time, only wealthy families lived there.
During the American occupation, Calle de Escolta De Vigan was renamed Washington Street.
The Americans established a civil government in Ilocos Sur in 1901, naming Mena Crisologo as its first provincial governor.
Following Governor Crisologo’s death in 1927, Washington Street was renamed Mena Crisologo Street in his honor.
But it was another Crisologo who brought Vigan to the attention of the rest of the country. On October 18, 1970, Congressman Floro Crisologo, head of the then powerful Crisologo political clan in Ilocos Sur, was assassinated while attending mass at the Vigan cathedral, shocking the entire nation and paving the way for other political families to flourish in the province.
A visit to historical Vigan is illuminating in itself, but a walk on Calle Crisologo amplifies the experience.
Vigan’s preservation of almost 200 ancient structures, many of them on Calle Crisologo, led to its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The street is closed to vehicular traffic. Only calesas are allowed, to preserve the old-style ambiance.
The houses on Calle Crisologo display a unique architecture that blends indigenous Filipino and colonial European design and construction.
A prominent wooden door on each stone house welcomes you into the past. And if you let your imagination run free, through the capiz windows above you might glimpse a bygone maiden in a Maria Clara dress, sliding a window open to greet you as you look up from the street below.
For a closer encounter, you could stay as guest in one of the heritage houses, as some of them have been converted into inns.
Other houses have been turned into museums, restaurants, and souvenir shops where you could purchase the best of Vigan’s products such as abel-woven bags and blankets, woodcraft, chichacorn, suka ng Iloko, basi wine, and antiques.
At the restaurants you could sample authentic Bigueno and Ilokano cuisine such as pinakbet with bagnet, Vigan longganisa, Vigan empanada, dinengdeng, poqui-poqui, and sinanglao.
Calle Crisologo is mesmerizing in the early morning hours and late at night, when selfie-addicted tourists are mercifully nowhere in sight.
At dawn’s golden hour, the street is empty and quiet. Sometimes it becomes hazy in early morning rain, and the ancient houses loom mistily to complete a portrait in gray, evocative of the street’s antiquity.
You could sit on one of the many beautifully crafted wooden benches that line Calle Crisologo and let time pass you by. An approaching calesa clip-clopping along the quiet street intensifies the poignancy.
At dusk, the streetlamps cast a golden glow on the cobblestones and the age-old houses, lending Calle Crisologo a dreamlike Victorian mood.
You could almost see Sherlock Holmes and his trusty friend Dr. Watson rushing out of a timeworn building to catch a horse-drawn cab, on their way to solve another mysterious crime that has stumped Scotland Yard.
For its unique beauty and significance, Calle Crisologo is not just for taking self-absorbed photographs.
It is for contemplation of the abundant and resonant history of the site.
It is for tranquil meditation and leisurely time travel.
It is for rumination on our colonial past and feudal politics.
It is for reflection on our saga as a nation of incongruent peoples.