From century to century, the more than 500-meter long Crisologo Street visited by tourists today was established even before the time of the Galleon Trade or even the before the coming of Spanish explorers to the country in the 15th century. This major attraction of Vigan in its mestizo district is a fusion of Asian construction and European architecture that evoke a bygone era when its people lived prosperously.
The houses are uncomplicated with their roofs of red tiles, thick walls, huge doors and stair cases leading to rooms of high ceilings and sliding capiz shell windows. You can admire closely the architecture and intricate craftsmanship employed in the grill and wood works of these antique houses.Having survived the many natural and man-made calamities throughout the centuries, the families who own these treasures have endeavored to maintain them.
A walk through the light and shadows along the cobble stone lined street is enchanted at night. The 18th century ambiance of the lamp-lit street that local and foreign visitors love comes alive. You can take advantage of this romantic atmosphere by having dinner in one of the old houses that has been converted to a restaurant before or after a walk.
Place of the Chinese
Upon the discovery of Vigan by Juan de Salcedo in 1572, the attractive street was called Calle Escolta de Vigan and served as the commercial hub in the entire Northern Luzon. The Mestizo Distrct was also called “Kasanglayan” or “place of the Chinese,” which was the business center of the migratory traders not only Chinese but also Spanish, Mexican, Japanese and other European businessmen, says Bigueño historian Mel Andino. “Before the coming of the Spaniards, the Galleon Trade already found its way to this street as it served as the drop point of all goods brought by the traders from the western and mid-eastern countries,” Andino said.
However, Andino said that when American rule was in the country in the late 1890s, the Calle de Escolta De Vigan was renamed to Washington Street. “According to my ancestors, one of the most popular businesses in the street during the American time was the “Washington Soup Factory” owned by the ancestry of Steve King – now the owner of the Standard Lumber and Hardware in Vigan,” says Andino. The Americans had established a civil government in Ilocos Sur on September 1, 1901 with Don Mena Crisologo, a delegate to the Malolos Congress, as the first provincial governor.
After retiring from government service, Gov. Crisologo, highly revered by Ilocanos as a writer and politician, died on July 5, 1927 at the age of 82. Following his death, Washington Street was renamed again to Mena Crisologo Street in honor to the late governor. “However, I’m not sure when the exact date that the former Washington Street was changed to Mena Crisologo Street,” Andino says.
Through the years, Calle De Crisologo or Mena Crisologo Street became famous as it served as the center of well-preserved Vigan houses. “Few decades after the World War II or during the 1970’s when then President Ferdinand E. Marcos declared the Vigan heritage village as national treasure to protect and preserve its existence,” recalls Andino.
(Some excerpts are from Freddie G. Lazaro)