Filipinos have a tradition of first paying respect in the church of the place they are visiting for the first time to ensure a safe stay and travel back home. In Vigan’s case, visitors may visit the Saint Paul’s Cathedral. Having fulfilled this local tradition, one may now go down to the business of playing tourist just right after literally stepping out of this ancient place of worship.
Right in front of the Saint Paul Cathedral is the Plaza Salcedo, named after the Spanish conqueror, Juan de Salcedo who subdued the early native settlement in Vigan and established upon it Villa Fernandina for the monarchs of Spain in 1572. With this, Juan de Salcedo founded the third of many Hispanic settlements in the Philippines.
To honor this Spanish conquistador, a monument was erected in the city square, surrounded by all the important edifices of the town. From Plaza Salcedo, one can see and walk leisurely to not only the Saint Paul Cathedral but the Arzobispado or Archbishop’s Palace, the Vigan City Hall and the Ilocos Sur Capitol as well. All were seats of power over life and death in the olden times, and now places of tourist interest, too. In Salcedo Plaza, visitors will find the Salcedo Obelisk which was placed in the elevated plaza during the 17th century as the plaza’s centerpiece. It is literally the focal point of the city’s Spanish urban design.
Visitors will also find in Plaza Salcedo a garden where one will see a diorama of the world’s man-made wonders like London’s Big Ben, Moscow’s St. Basil Basilica and Paris’ Eiffel Tower. A miniature of Vigan’s heritage site was also included by Governor Deogracias Savellano in the world diorama to stress upon the viewers the importance of the Heritage Village and its valuable contribution to the cultural heritage of the world.
Salcedo Plaza is best visited early morning or late afternoon to avoid the hot sun at its strongest and to fully enjoy the quieter atmosphere of this elliptical plaza with its cooling fountain display. The plaza’s lagoon was added in the seventies to store water. The city saw this as a creative solution to the need for water during times when fire occurs in the city. Vigan has suffered destructive fires many times in its history.
It is also important to note that Plaza Salcedo was the site of the execution of Gabriela Silang in September of 1763. The first woman leader of the Philippine revolution was publicly hanged there to serve as a warning to the restive populace.