A Brief History of Vigan
Vigan City


Bigan as the fourth Spanish settlement and the third oldest city in the Philippines tells the story of a portion of Ilocos or Samtoy during its golden past. It is 407 years old up to this writing(1981), having been established in 1574 by the “Hernando Cortes” of the Philippines .Most people, for sure, known already that Vigan was named after plants(biga in Ilocano) growing abundantly along the eastern and northern banks of “El Mestizo” during the olden times.


The history of Vigan opens with the arrival of Captain Juan de Salcedo, the famous grandson of the well-known governor general and the adelantado, Don Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, a lawyer, a man of tact, and a mariner at the same time. Salcedo arrived at Vigan from Caoayan trough the Mestizo River, a tributary of the Rio Grande de Abra on June 13, 1972.As the fleet anchored, the Spaniards had to attack the platoon of natives causing them to retreat and escape the successive charges cannons.


Salcedo and his men landed and entered the town of Vigan but he found no male inhabitants for they had already fled to Bantay and he and his men continued the voyage to the north. He approached Laoag via the Laoag River and found the natives unfriendly so he had to scare them with several charges of cannons. Marching inland, he and his men, proceeded to Currimao and later Barol (Present town of Badoc). A treaty of peace was conclude between the chieftains and Salcedo in this village.


While they were in Barol, Salcedo ordered Antonio Hurtado to go back to Vigan with soldiers in six small boats for the purpose of establishing a fort which would protect the natives from attacks of the neighboring Tingian tribes. The natives readily accepted and even helped construct a fort at Tamag Hills. He further advised Hurtado to treat the natives well.


Salcedo, after rounding Northern Luzon and subsequently arriving in Manila through Camarines and the Southern Tagalog region, returned to Vigan in January 1574.He took possession of Vigan, as well as the Ilocos, and named subordinate officials, passed a decree that a church, Casa real, and a fortification be constructed. This event, as most historians allege, marked birth of the town of Vigan. It has also been said that the Augustinians went with Salcedo in his coming to Foronda, the chapel was erected at the present site of the St. Paul’s Cathedral; the Casa Real (a building which housed the office of the alcalde mayor and other government officials) was located at the northern end of the site of the old Diocesan Seminary.


Vigan began to exist as a town then and its territorial limits were extensive that even included Tanoan (the town of San Vicente now) as a barrio. It was erected as a municipality in 1795 and a parish it used the name of its patron saint, San Vicente Ferrer.


The town of Vigan, likewise, included the barrios of Tuley (it became the municipality of Santa Catalina in 1576) and Caoayan (it was canonically erected as a parish in 1825).


In connection with the lands covered by the municipality of Vigan, Isabelo de los Reyes claimed that Santo Domingo belonged to the civil and parochial jurisdiction of Vigan due to absence of the parish priest.


Vigan was the oldest town in Northern Luzon created by the Spaniards but it was not made the seat of the Diocese at the beginning. Lal-loc, a town near the Caoayan River, became the seat of the Diocese by virtue of the papal brief of Pope Clement VII on August 14, 1595. The bishopric comprised the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, La Union, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Viscaya, Batanes, Montanosa, and five northern towns of Tarlac. It had a population of a million inhabitants.


Due to justifiable reasons, however, the seat of the Diocese was transferred to Vigan as per Royal Decree of September 7, 1758. By this decree, Villa Fernandina (named in honor of Prince Fernandina, son of Philip II, who died the age of four) automatically became a city (third oldest city in the Philippines) for being the seat of Diocese. The transfer was affected through the request of Bishop Juan de la Fuente Yepes during the pontificate of Benedict XIV and in the reign of Fernando IV, king of Spain.


Vigan (Ciudad Fernandina from 1758) was the center of the elitist population in the Ilocos which comprised the “Creoles” and “Mestizo”. Their strong brick residences were reminiscent of the Hispanic style of architecture in the Iberian Peninsula at the time. Most of these buildings were or are still located at the east of the Quezon Avenue. The “babaknangs” resided in the Mestizo District, while the “kaillanes” (natural-born Filipinos) lived in “Naturales”. At times, these two kinds of residents were not in good terms, as some historian put it- “inhabitants of the Mestizo District were Spaniards and Sangleys while the residents of “Naturales” were anti-Spanish.


Time came when Diego Silang fed the revolt against the Spaniards in 1762. He was ably aided by his wife Josefa Gabriela of Santa. The Ilocos revolt of 1762 synchronized with the British occupation of Manila and neighboring areas from 1762 to 1763. The British, taking advantage of the political and physical prowess of Silang, appointed him as the British Governor of Ilocos. The first thing that he did was to make Vigan the capital of Ilocos. He later proclaimed the independence of the “kaillanes” from Spanish domination.


The Spanish authorities were astonished at the growing power of Diego Silang. In order to liquidate him, the Spaniards employed a Mestizo, a close friend of Silang, by the name of Miguel Vicos, with the help of Pedro Becbec, also a friend of Silang, assassinate him on May 28,m1763. They succeeded in killing Silang.


Josefa Gabriela Silang tried hard to avenge the murder of her husband, so she rallied her husband’s followers including Tingian volunteers. They attacked Vigan but were forced to retreat when the forces of the Bishop of Nueva Segovia fought back.


Josefa in order to escape immediate captivity, fled to the mountains of Abra through the Banaoang gap. She was overtaken by the Spanish forces under Manuel de Arza, the lieutenant governor of Cagayan who was in Vigan on September 20, 1763.


The death of Diego Silang and his wife brought temporary peace in the Ilocos. The Ilocano’s dream, therefore of early independence failed.


More is said about the nationalism of the Ilocanos in general-not in the fields of battle but in political and cultural arena as well. Many have heard about the military exploits of General Gregorio del Pilar which culminated at Tirad Pass on December 2, 1899. Likewise, Vigan recognizes the name Leona Florentino, the moat noted poetess in Spanish and Isabelo delos Reyes, a noted Iloko historian, founder of the Philippine Independent Church, and champion of Filipino Labor .The names of the following Bigenos have been immortalizes in the pages of the history-Dr. Jose A. Burgos, the champion of the secularization movement; Ventura delos Reyes, first Filipino representative in the Spanish Cortes; Vicente Singson Encanation, a delegate to the 1934 Constitutional Convention and one of the Seven Wise Men of the said convention; President Elpidio Quirino, the first Iloko President that the Ilocanos had produced; and many others. It is to be noted that the late president Quirino was born in Vigan (Warden’s Office, Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail) so that Vigan could rightfully claim that he was a native of Vigan by virtue of his place of birth.


The municipality of Vigan is proud to have been under the able guidance of municipal president/mayor from the time civil government was instituted on September 1,1901. They are as follows. Estanislao Reyes Itchon, Jose Tongson, Antonio Reyes, Perfecto, Monico Gutierrez, Gregorio Favis, Mariano Formoso, Lorenzo Formoso Sr. Lorenzo Formoso,Jr. Atilano Nolasco (Acting Mayor) Francisco Crisilogo Jose Singson, Pablo Arde, (Acting Mayor) and Evaristo “Titong” Singson, Priscilo Agdamag, Eva Marie S Medina and Ferdinand C. Medina.


The ABC President


ABC President

The Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) President John Patrick Singson is a soft spoken and approachable person but firm in all his decisions especially for the good of the community. His passion to serve led him to help a lot of people not only in his immediate barangay but mostly Bigueños. He is a dedicated public servant who will continue to perform his mandate of giving quality service to people especially those in need.


He started in politics by being consistently the number 1 barangay kagawad for consecutive terms in Barangay VI. After which he ran unopposed in his first attempt as Barangay Captain and consequently won as the ABC President unopposed. He envisions to unify all the barangays as a strong development partner of the City Government for a better and progressive Vigan City.


He is passionate to environmental sensitive issues, like for instance, when he led the Liga ng mga Barangay to pass a resolution opposing any mining or exploration in the coastal barangays of Vigan because exploring the magnetite sand will surely disturb the natural formation of the sand and the habitat of the marine species. They believed that the proposed offshore mining will result to faster erosion that could endanger lives and properties especially those living in our coastal barangays of Mindoro, San Pedro, and Pantay Laud.


Information Technology has been the economic and political structure of domestic institutions, of states, and the relations between states. Recognizing such development, ABC Pres. JP Singson led the barangays into the digital landscape by being the first and the only Liga ng mga Barangay in the country to put up its own website. The products, services and attractions in the barangays are highlighted in the website to fully realize the barangays’ economic potential. Exposure of the barangays of Vigan City to the internet would facilitate an open, speedy, and efficient online transmission of barangay reports, barangay citzen’s charter, downloadable forms and other information to every barangays and all government agencies.


Although Republic Act 9485 gives directive only to government agencies, departments, GOCCs, offices and bureaus to set up their respective service standards known as the Citizen's Charter, the Liga ng mga Barangay under Councilor Singson’s leadership developed and implemented the Citizen’s Charter at the grassroots level, the barangays. Now, the residents of the barangays of Vigan City are among the first in the country to have their own procedure to obtain a particular service promoting integrity, accountability and transparency in line with the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007.


Items to download:

  • Liga ng mga Barangay Legal Opinions (National)
  • Internal Rules and Procedure of Lnb Vigan City


Liga ng mga Barangay ng Vigan City
Liga ng mga Barangay
ABC Hall, Vigan City Hall
Vigan City, Ilocos Sur
Philippines 2700

Telephone: (+6377) 722-8771 to 8775 local 205
Email: lnbvigan[at]gmail.com and jpsingson[at]gmail.com

Federico R. Bitonio, CLGOO
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)
Vigan City Hall, Vigan City
Ilocos Sur 2700

DILG Staff: Cecil Ayco and Miriam Tabios

Graphical Arts used in this site are works of

Roxane Villanueva

of Vigan City Council.  All rights reserved.