The province of Ilocos Sur is where the Ilocos Region’s myriad of cultures and histories converge to become a living museum of a spirited past. A national shrine, a national landmark, a national museum, heritage museums, ancestral houses, period houses, cobble-stoned streets – they all share space in the timeless land of Ilocos Sur.
Found in the province is the historic town of Vigan, which was inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List in November 1999. 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 and from China with those from Europe to create a unique culture and townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia. It’s Kamestizoan District is replete with ancestral houses with ancient tiled roofs, massive hardwood floorings, ballustrades and azoteas in varying Spanish-Mexican-Chinese architectural styles.
Centuries-old Sta. Maria Church, declared a National Landmark, was used as a fortress during the Philippine Revolution of 1896. Tirad Pass, declared a National Shrine, had been the last stand of the Filipino Revolutionary Forces under General Emilio Aguinaldo during the same period. Bessang Pass served as the backdoor to General Yamashita’s last ditch defense during the last stage of World War II.
Ilocos Sur is located along the western coast of Northern Luzon. It is bounded by Ilocos Norte on the north, Abra on the northeast, Mt. Province on the east, Benguet on the southeast, La Union on the south, and the China Sea on the west. Its area of 2,579.58 square kilometers occupies about 20.11 % of the total land area of Region 1.
The topography of Ilocos Sur is undulating to rolling with elevations ranging from 10 to 1,700 meters above sea level.
Ilocos Sur has 34 municipalities which are subdivided into 764 barangays. They are Alilem, Banayoyo, Bantay, Burgos, Cabugao, Candon, Caoayan, Cervantes, Galimuyod, Gregorio del Pilar, Lidlidda, Magsingal, Nagbukel, Narvacan, Quirino, Salcedo, San Emilio, San Esteban, San Ildefonso, San Juan, San Vicente, Santa, Santiago, Sta. Catalina, Sta. Cruz, Sta. Lucia, Sta. Maria, Sto. Domingo, Sigay, Sinait, Sugpon, Suyo, Tagudin, and Vigan.
The climate is generally dry as defined by the Hernandez type of climate. Classification is characterized by more dry months usually from October to May. However, the southernmost portion (part of Cervantes) is observed to be humid and rain is evenly distributed throughout the year while the eastern part of Sugpon is dry with rain not sufficiently distributed. August has the most rainfall while January and February have the least. The mean temperature in the province is 27 degrees C. January is the coldest.
In the 2000 census, the population of Ilocos Sur was 594,206. Vigan City, the capital of Ilocos Sur, has a population of 45,143. The population in the province for year 2000 increased by 1.85% relative to the 1995 census.
Language / Dialect
Filipino and English are the basic tools of instruction in schools while Ilocano is the principal dialect. Kankanaey and Itneg are spoken in cultural communities.
The people are engaged in farming, producing food crops, mostly rice, corn, vegetables, root crops, and fruits. Non-food crops include tobacco, cotton, and tiger grass. Cottage industries include loom weaving, furniture making, jewelry making, ceramics, blacksmithing, and food processing.
Ilocos Sur History…
Before the advent of the Spanish Regime, settlements already existed along the coves or “looc” in the northern part of Luzon. These settlements called the “Ylocos” which extended from Bangui in the north to Namacpacan in the south were discovered during the expedition led by Juan de Salcedo in 1572.
Juan de Salcedo decided to establish his headquarters in a settlement along the Mestizo River, then named “Kabigaan” because of the “gabi”-like plants abundantly growing by the bank of the river. Vigan also became the seat of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia and was called “Ciudad Fernandina” in honor of King Ferdinand. Vigan remains to be the capital town of Ilocos Sur.
On February 2, 1818, the Ylocos was divided into two provinces: Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte. At that time, Ilocos Sur encompassed what are now the northern towns of La Union up to Luna and Abra. Also annexed were Lepanto and Amburayan in Mt. Province. Act 2683 passed on March 1917 by the Philippine Legislature defined the present geographical boundaries of Ilocos Sur.
Ilocos Sur Is Famous For…
- 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.
- Sta. Maria Church – A National Landmark, this centuries-old church nestled atop a hill at the townproper of Sta. Maria was used as a fortress during the 1986 Revolution.
- Ancestral Houses
- Kamestizoan District in Vigan is replete with ancestral houses with ancient tile roofs, massive hardwood floorings, ballustrades and azoteas in varying Spanish-Mexican-Chinese architectural styles.
- 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.
- Vigan Heritage Village – The historic town of Vigan was inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List in November 1999 because of its outstanding development in architecture, urban planning, and landscape design. Established in the 16th Century, Vigan serves as a testimony to a cultural tradition that has disappeared.
Things to Do and see in Ilocos Sur…
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. The Battle of Tirad Pass was led by the youngest Filipino General, Gregorio del Pilar.
A monument stands on this strategic gap, 5,250 feet above sea level traversed by Highway 4, west of Cervantes, which served as the backdoor to General Yamashita’s last ditch defense during the last stage of World War II. The Battle of Bessang Pass was won by the USAFIP, NL on June 14, 1945.
Sta. Maria Church
A National Landmark, this centuries-old church nestled atop a hill at the townproper of Sta. Maria was used as a fortress during the 1986 Revolution.
Northern Luzon Heroes Hill National Park
The park in Santa was the stronghold of Gabriela Silang, who continued the struggle for freedom from the Spaniards started by her slain husband, Diego Silang. A historical marker in her honor stands nearby.
San Esteban and Sulvec Watchtowers
These rotund structures were built as look-out points for impending pirates.
National Museum – Padre Burgos House
The Burgos residence in Vigan houses the memorabilia of the martyr-priest Jose Burgos as well as Ilocano artifacts and ethnic arts of the Tinggians. The museum is open from Monday to Friday and by appointment on weekends and holidays. Museum hours are 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. then 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Admission fee is P10.00 for adult and P5.00 for 12 years old and below.
Located along delos Reyes Street in Vigan, the museum houses the memorabilia of the Crisologos and original furnishings of a typical Vigan ancestral house. The museum is open from Monday to Sunday and managed by the Crisologo family.
A repository of Ilocano heritage featuring collections of pottery and porcelain artifacts. The museum is open from Monday to Friday and by appointment on weekends and holidays.
Kamestizoan District in Vigan is replete with ancestral houses with ancient tile roofs, massive hardwood floorings, ballustrades and azoteas in varying Spanish-Mexican-Chinese architectural styles.
The palace features sliding capiz windows and cut-out decorations with floral motiffs. Completed in 1793 after a span of 7 years, the palace has a collection of priceless ecclesiastical artifacts and relics from other Ilocos churches. Visits can be arranged from Monday to Friday.
The church features earthquake baroque and Gothic-influenced architecture. Its belfry located a few meters away was used as a lookout point for approaching enemies.
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.
A stretch of golden sand beach in Santiago with amenities for picnics and water sports.
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 FALLS in Bantay, GAMBANG FALLS in Cervantes, AWASEN FALLS in Sigay and BARASIBIS in Sinait.
Resthouses and picnic sheds are found in this nearly white sand beach in Cabugao.
The rocky shore of Sulvec, Narvacan is a favorite stop of commuters and the locals. Nearby is the Narvacan Tourism Lodge.
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.
The beach features amenities and facilities for visitors.
St. Paul’s Metropolitan Cathedral (Vigan)
The massive structure was built by the Augustinians in the distinctive Ilocano earthquake-baroque architecture. The cathedral is the setting of many religious festivities attended by devotees from outside the province.
Sta. Lucia Church
The object of devotees who flock the church is the dark Virgin of Sta. Lucia, said to be miraculous. Barely 3 feet tall, the 18th century image is venerated all over the Ilocos.
Enshrined in this century-old church is the 17th century image of the Black Nazarene found floating in a sealed casket along the coast of Sinait. Believed to have caused a miracle by aborting a plague that hit Vigan during the 18th century, the shrine is flocked by many to celebrate the feast of the Black Nazarene every 3rd day of May.
Located in front of the Tagudin Municipal Hall, this sundial is one of the existing and still in use sundials built by the Spaniards in 1848.
Located west of St. Paul’s Metropolitan Cathedral is this elevated elliptical plaza highlighting the Salcedo Monument, known to be the oldest in the North.
Another plaza in Vigan named in honor of the Ilocano-martyr priest Father Jose Burgos. Nearby are food stalls selling native delicacies such as the “empanada.”
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.
The Municipality of Cervantes, home to Bessang Pass, offers a special trail and beautiful sceneries for trekking. A dozen and more waterfalls flow through its verdant mountains. Its terrain is predominantly hilly traversed by brooks and streams. One passes through pine forests, Japanese foxholes/dugouts, alpine grassland through highland meadows, and a variety of flora.
How to Get There
An extensive road network links Region I to the other parts of Luzon. Sea transport facilities are concentrated in the Port of San Fernando and Currimao. MV Ivatan Princess, the first passenger line in Northern Luzon, leave Currimao seaport every Wednesday & Sunday to Batanes. The Salomague Port in Cabugao has facilities as a containerized transhipment port. These are primarily for the movement of goods. Air transportation is provided by the Air Philippines, Chemtrad Aviation with available flights from Manila to Laoag. The Laoag International Airport cater to international flights from Taiwan, Hongkong and Guangzhou. The San Fernando Airport, now under the administration of the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) has been expanded to be ready to take in bigger planes.
Ilocos Sur Emergency Services…
GABRIELA SILANG GENERAL HOSPITAL
Quirino Blvd., Tamag, Vigan
LAHOZ CLINIC & HOSPITAL
Vigan (077) 722-2772
CENTRAL ILOCOS SUR DISTRICT HOSPITAL
Narvacan (077) 732-5756
ST. MARTIN DE PORRES CLINIC & HOSPITAL
Candon (077) 742-6464
CANDON GENERAL HOSPITAL
Candon (077) 742-6112
STA. LUCIA DISTRICT HOSPITAL
SOUTHERN ILOCOS SUR DISTRICT HOSPITAL
SALCEDO MEDICARE AND COMMUNITY HOSPITAL
MAGSINGAL DISTRICT HOSPITAL
PIRA CLINIC & HOSPITAL
Cabugao (077) 728-5105
SINAIT DISTRICT HOSPITAL
Sinait (077) 728-5394
REYES CLINIC & HOSPITAL
Sta. Maria (077) 732-5511
ANCHETA CLINIC AND HOSPITAL
ADORA CLINIC & HOSPITAL
Vigan (077) 722-2248
BESSANG PASS MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE
Office of the Provincial Director, Camp Quirino, Bulag, Bantay
PNP Stations are located in all municipalities.
Police Stations and Outposts are located in all towns.