Viganís inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List
is due to the preservation of around 187 residential,
institutional, commercial and religious structures that
transport visitors to the past. Whatís amazing about
these structures is that they continue to be used by
current locals as they were used by former owners who
lived in the 18th century. Their structural endurance
and relevance to every-day use until this modern day is
testament to the genius and high-level of craftsmanship
in the creation of these architectural treasures.
Vigan houses before the colonization of Spain were made
from light-weight materials such as bamboo, nipa and
cogon. These were called bahay-kubo and are airy and
easy to clean, but were of no match to the typhoons that
visit the land during the wet season, or even the
When the Spaniards came together with their Mexican
subjects, the locals learned from them how to quarry,
prepare the stones and make bricks. They also learned
how to make these into fire-resistant building materials
by applying lime mortar. Though the structures they
constructed using these materials fared better in
withstanding typhoons and fires, the structures were
still easy casualties of earthquakes.
Even though there were some houses whose first and
second floors are built in pure masonry that survived
the elements, Biguenos still endeavored to find better
ways of building. What they did was to mix their
indigenous construction methods with that of the
Europeansí. They retained the bahay-kuboís interlocking
wooden post and beam system. The mortared bricks and
stones were used for the walls of the first floor, while
the second floors were made largely of timber. This kind
of construction proved to weather earthquakes and storms
better and can be seen in the preserved houses of Vigan.
Vigan houses are also noteworthy because they are a bit
bigger than the usual Asian houses.
This is because they
not only serve as residences but as shops and storage as
well, like those in other
trading centers. These storage
and shop areas are in the ground floor together with the
A big staircase leads to the living areas
in the upper floors consisting of living room, dining
area and kitchen, bedrooms and a toilet.
Light and air flow freely. There is usually an open
terrace connected to the dining area or kitchen.
windows made of wood and capiz shells surround the house
with balustered sliding panels in the lower part that
allows one to view the streets while sitting on the
floor. Roofs and eaves are extended to ward off harsh
sunlight and rain.
The Biguenos also made use of terracotta and decorative
friezes and partitions to show their artistry and add
beauty to each function of the houseís architectural
This mixing of technology of the east and west, function
and beauty, has given Vigan houses its unique style of