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.
Before the arrival of the Spanish, there was a small indigenous settlement on what was at that time an island, consisting wooden or bamboo houses on stilts. In 1572 the conquistador Juan de Salcedo founded a new town, which he named Villa Ferdinandina, on this site, and made it his capital when he was appointed Lieutenant Governor (Encomendero) of the entire Ilocos region. Intended as a trading centre rather than a fortress, it was the northernmost city established in the Philippines by the Spanish.
At the end of the 17th century a new form of architecture evolved, which combined the traditional construction with the techniques of building in stone and wood introduced by the Spanish. Brick was introduced by the Augustinian friars for their churches and other buildings.
The seat of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia was transferred there in 1758, making it the centre of religious activity in the region. In 1778, as a result of its expansion, it was renamed Ciudad Ferdinandina.
The Mestizo river was central to the development of the town in the 16th-19th centuries: large sea-going vessels could berth in the delta and small craft communicated with the interior. However, it is now no longer navigable owing to silting, as a result of which the town is no longer an island.
As the major commercial centre for the region, Vigan traded directly with China. As a stage in the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade that lasted throughout the Spanish colonial period, it supplied goods that were shipped across the Pacific to Mexico, and thence onwards across the Atlantic to Europe. These trading links resulted in constant exchanges of peoples and cultures between the Ilocanos, Filipinos, Chinese, Spanish, and (in the 20th century) North Americans.
Source: http://whc.unesco. org/en/list/502
Feature image: kickerdaily. com