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Bantay Belfry
 

A ten-minute ride away from Vigan is the historic Bantay Belfry, which sits on a hill. This towering structure is one of the sights that should be visited by travelers not only because of its historical and cultural significance but also because of its commanding view of Vigan from the highest portion of it that can be climbed. Some may even claim that they can see most of Ilocos Sur from this bell tower.

It is called the Bantay Belfry because it is located in the Bantay district of Vigan along the national highway. It was said to be the people’s watchtower, part of the city’s defense that helps in alerting it against possible enemies. It was built in 1591.

To enjoy the panoramic view of the land set upon a background of white and blue skies, visitors must climb flights of stairs that can be accessed from the entrance in the tower’s base. It is guarded by a small gate which the caretakers lock when there are no visitors that request for a tour of it. During such times, birds take advantage of the absence of people to rest in the nooks and crannies of the belfry.

The Bantay Belfry is popular among local tourists because scenes of the well-known Filipino film Panday were shot within and around the belfry. To ensure that you can enter the belfry, it is best to register at the Tourist Center along Calle Crisologo and ask for a tour of the belfry from there.

At the end of the climb of the tower, visitors are greeted by a huge, old bell. Beside it, one can stop and endlessly gaze upon the city, surrounding towns and mountains that reach Abra.

After a few meters’ walk from the belfry, visitors can enter the St. Augustine Church which was built in 1590. The Church has a deep brown, neo-gothic façade. Like the Saint Paul Cathedral, one can see that it also incorporates the distinctively Vigan earthquake baroque in its architecture to save the structure from the destructive force of earthquakes that visit the land.

It is amongst the oldest surviving churches in Ilocos Sur and is under the care of the Augustine Order, first of who was Father Montoya Osa. Visitors will also see within St. Augustine Church the statue of Our Lady of Charity, who is Nueva Segovia’s patroness. From the church, she is said to have watched over the city over many generations.

The church suffered damages from World War II and so it underwent reconstruction in 1950.
The surroundings of the church and belfry are quite historic as well. Visitors will walk upon the same grounds where Diego Silang and his troops were said to have fought with the Spaniards in 1763.