Urban Planning in Vigan
When Juan de Salcedo founded Vigan in 1572, he decided that the best urban plan that should be followed is that of the Intramuros or walled city in Manila. There were not many to copy from as Vigan or Ciudad Fernandina, as it was earlier named, was amongst the earliest settlements built by the Spaniards in the country. The urban planners of the Spanish government also followed a basic pattern that can be observed in most old towns in the country, whose establishment dates back to the Spanish colonial period. This pattern is detailed in the Ley de las Indias or Law of the Indies put into force in the 18th century. Under the Law of the Indies streets were to follow a grid pattern, the center of which is a plaza or central park.
In Vigan, the central park is the Plaza Salcedo. Next to it are the administrative buildings, the Casa Real or provincial administrative office and the munisipio or municipal hall. A stone’s throw away are the religious buildings: the seminary of the archdiocese, the Arzobispado or archbishop’s palace, and the St. Paul’s Cathedral. Beside these religious structures is the church-run school, the Saint Paul’s College, which in the olden times was called the Colegio de Ninas.
A unique thing is the existence of another plaza, the Plaza Burgos, which is immediately beside the St. Paul’s Cathedral. After the first tier emanating from Plaza Salcedo are the houses of prominent residents that now make up the preserved heritage houses of Vigan. This urban plan remained relatively in tact despite wars and calamities that have been endured by Vigan since its foundation. The major changes to the original urban landscape were caused by fires. The Casa Real was replaced with a provincial capitol building during the American period when the original structure burned down.
The archdiocese seminary was also destroyed by fire in 1968. The residential areas were not spared. Some of the houses on Crisologo Street were casualties of fire during the Japanese period; several houses on Quezon Avenue were destroyed by fire as well in 1952; while in 1971, some houses near Plaza Burgos burned down as well. However, it is heartening to know that the houses along Crisologo Street that were burned were later reconstructed faithfully following the architecture of the former structures. Presently, there are other major areas of activities other than the two plazas, though these are still where most recreation and shopping are done. One may also go to the southern part of the city to reach the commercial area and public market.