Ilocos Sur

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Ilocos Sur

Ilocos Sur: Province of Heritage

Ilocos Sur Capitol 

Ilocos Sur is a province of the Philippines located in the Ilocos Region in Luzon. Vigan City, located on the mouth of the Mestizo River is the provincial capital. Ilocos Sur is bordered by Ilocos Norte and Abra to the north, Mountain Province to the east, La Union and Benguet to the south, and the South China Sea to the west.

Heritage Village of the Philippines (Vigan)

The historic city of Vigan, which was inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List in November 1999, is found in this province. Established in the 16th century, Vigan is the best preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia. Its architecture combines cultural elements from elsewhere in the Philippines and from China with those from Europe to create a unique culture and townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia. Its Kamestizoan District has examples of typical houses with tiled roofs, hardwood floors, balustrades and azoteas in varying Spanish-Mexican-Chinese architectural styles.

The centuries-old Santa Maria Church, declared a National Landmark, was used as a fortress during the Philippine Revolution of 1896. Tirad Pass, declared a National Shrine, held the last stand of the Filipino Revolutionary Forces under General Emilio Aguinaldo of that same period. Bessang Pass served as the backdoor to General Yamashita’s last-ditch defense during the last stages of World War II.

Brief History

Before the coming of the Spaniards, the coastal plains in northwestern Luzon, stretching from Bangui (Ilocos Norte) in the north to Namacpacan (Luna, La Union) in the south, were a region called the Ylokos. This region lies in between the China Sea in the west and Northern Cordilleras on the east. The inhabitants built their villages near the small bays on coves called “looc” in the dialect. These coastal inhabitants were referred to as “Ylocos” which literally meant “from the lowlands”. The entire region was then called by the ancient name “Samtoy” from “sao ditoy” which in Ilokano mean “our dialect”. The region was later called by the Spaniards as “Ylocos” or “Ilocos” and its people “Ilocanos”.

The Ilocos Region was already a thriving, fairly advanced cluster of towns and settlements familiar to Chinese, Japanese and Malay traders when the Spaniard explorer Don Juan de Salcedo and members of his expedition arrived in Vigan on June 13, 1572. Forthwith, they made Cabigbigaan (Bigan), the heart of the Ylokos settlement their headquarters which Salcedo called “Villa Fernandina” and which eventually gained fame as the “Intramuros of Ilocandia”. Salcedo declared the whole Northern Luzon as an "encomienda", or a land grant. Subsequently, he became the encomendero of Vigan and Lieutenant Governor of the Ylokos until his death in July 1574.

Augustinian missionaries came to conquer the region through evangelization. They established parishes and built churches that still stand today. Three centuries later, Vigan became the seat of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia.

A royal decree of February 2, 1818 separated Ilocos Norte from Ilocos Sur, the latter to include the northern part of La Union (as far as Namacpacan, now Luna) and all of what is now the province of Abra. The sub-province of Lepanto and Amburayan in Mt. Province were annexed to Ilocos Sur.

The passage of Act 2683 by the Philippine Legislature in March 1917 defined the present geographical boundary of the province.

There have been many writers and statesmen throughout the history of the Philippines from the province. Pedro Bukaneg is the father of Iluko Literature. Isabelo de los Reyes will always be remembered as the Father of the Filipino Labor Movement. His mother, Leona Florentino was the most outstanding Filipino woman writer of the Spanish era. Vicente Singson Encarnacion, an exemplary statesman, was also a noted authority on business and industry.

From the ranks of the barrio schoolteachers, Elpidio Quirino rose to become President of the Republic of the Philippines which is the town's most illustrious and native son of Caoayan, Ilocos Sur. Col. Salvador F. Reyes, a graduate of the Westpoint Military Academy, USA, led an untarnished and brilliant military career.

The Ilocos Sur Story

Ilocos Sur's history reflects that of the Philippine history in its entirety. In Vigan, the Villa Fernandina founded in 1574 by Juan de Salcedo, grandson of the Adelantado Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, markers and inscriptions can be found throughout the city.

Following the exploration and conquest of the Ilocos by the Castillan sword, the evangelization of the inhabitants was pursued with the characteristic zeal of the Augustinian missionaries. The stone churches built over the centuries reflect the Spanish power that held sway in union with the Church. It is thus interesting to read the marker found near the door of the Vigan Cathedral, placed there by the Philippine Historical Committee.

Tourist Attractions

  • Heritage City of Vigan - inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List, because it houses the most intact example of a Spanish colonial town in Asia. Other spots include pottery making and other forms of cottage industries. It also has hotels built in the "bahay na bato" ("stone house") style. Also located in the city is the residence of Father Jose Burgos, which is open to the public; and the Syquia Mansion, which is the Vigan residence of former President Elpidio Quirino.
  • Beaches - the most notable Ilocos Sur beaches include those in Cabangtalan (in Sinait, also known as Imelda's Cove), Pug-os (in Cabugao); and the towns of Santa, Santa Maria, Santiago, San Esteban, and Candon.
  • Churches - most notable of these churches include the Vigan Cathedral (which is the seat of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia, and where the remains of the Ilocano poet Leona Florentino is interred), Santa Maria Church (which is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list), Candon Church (has a grand facade and is famous for its tall bell tower and the longest painting in the Philippines) and Sinait Church (which houses the miraculous Statue of the Black Nazarene).
  • Nature Spots - Scenic spots include the Banaoang River in Bantay (an extension of the Abra River), Pinsal Falls in Santa Maria, and Pikkang Falls in San Juan.
  • Tirad Pass - Declared as a National Shrine, the pass located in the municipality of Gregorio del Pilar was the last stand of the Filipino Revolutionary Forces under General Emilio Aguinaldo.
  • Bessang Pass - A monument stands on this strategic gap west of Cervantes, which served as the backdoor to General Yamashita's last-ditch defense during the last stage of World War II.
  • Pagburnayan (Jar) - The Ilocano jar called “burnay,” used for storing the local vinegar, local wine “basi,” and “bagoong” and as a decorative ware, is produced in factories using the pre-historic method in the southwestern end of Liberation Avenue in Vigan.
  • Loom Weaving - Among the Ilocanos’ main cottage industries, it produces quality towels, blankets, table runners, and clothing materials with ethnic Ilocano designs.
  • Santiago Cove - A stretch of golden sand beach in Santiago with amenities for picnics and water sports.
  • Pinsal Falls - A favorite setting of many local films, Pinsal Falls features Angalo’s footprint, the legendary Ilocano giant. The falls is a few kilometers of rough road from the highway. Located at Barangay Babalasiwan, Sta. Maria. Other waterfalls in Ilocos Sur are Caniaw in Bantay, Gambang in Cervantes, Awasen in Sigay and Barasibis in Sinait.
  • Pug-os Beach - Resthouses and picnic sheds are found in this nearly white sand beach in Cabugao.
  • Sulvec Beach - The rocky shore of Sulvec, Narvacan is a favorite stop of commuters and the locals. Nearby is the Narvacan Tourism Lodge.
  • Apatot Beach - This cove in San Esteban is frequented by picnic goers. During the last stage of World War II, US Submarines surfaced in the area to unload arms and supplies for the USAFIP, NL.
  • Candon Beach - The beach features amenities and facilities for visitors.


Vigan Calle Crisologo (Heritage Village)

Candon Church

Vigan Cathedral

Narvacan Church

Santa Lucia Church

Pinsal Falls

Pug-os Beach Resort

Sabangan Beach

San Esteban Beach

Sta Maria Church


  • Semana Santa

St. Paul’s Metropolitan Cathedral is the venue of religious rites during the Holy Week. The Good Friday procession features decorated carrozas bearing life-size statues of Spanish vintage. On Easter Sunday, the dawn celebration depicting the Resurrection of Christ, called “Sabet,” is a scene to behold.

  • Viva Vigan Arts and Industry Festival

Every first week of May, Vigan plays host to visitors for this festival featuring painting and product exhibits, a Calesa parade, and other cultural activities.

  • Tobacco Festival

Celebrated every last week of March in Candon City, as thanksgiving for the city's bountiful harvest of tobacco.

List of Accommodations

  • My Vigan Home - 14 Plaridel St. cor. Bonifacio St., Vigan, Ilocos Sur
  • Gordion Hotel - V. delos Reyes St. cor Salcedo St., Vigan, Ilocos Sur
  • Cordillera Inn - 29 Mena Crisologo St., Vigan, Ilocos Sur
  • Grandpa's Inn - Bonifacio St. cor. Quirino Blvd., Vigan, Ilocos Sur
  • My Vigan Home - 14 Plaridel St. cor. Bonifacio St., Vigan, Ilocos Sur
  • Vigan Plaza Hotel - Plaza Burgos, Mena Crisologo Street, Vigan, Ilocos Sur
  • Aniceto Mansion - Plaza Burgos, Mena Crisologo Street, Vigan, Ilocos Sur
  • Villa Angela Heritage House - #26 Quirino Boulevard, Vigan, Ilocos Sur
  • Vigan Heritage Mansion - Liberation Boulevard corner Crisologo St, Vigan, Ilocos Sur
  • Playa de Oro Resort Vigan City - Brgy. Mindoro, Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Getting there

There is an extensive road network that leads to the province from various parts of Luzon. There are several bus lines that ply the Manila-Vigan route. Among these are: The Philippine Rabbit us Line, Partas Co., and Dominion. The 405 km distance from Manila to Ilocos Sur is a comfortable and scenic seven hour ride.

Bus lines in Manila that ply route to Vigan - the gateway to Ilocos Sur:

  • Cubao, Quezon City
  • Pasay City