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For over 300 years, the Philippines was under Spanish rule. Due to this long era of occupation, the culture of the Spaniards influenced Filipinos and still does to this day.

This influence is felt in almost every aspect of life within the Philippines, from religion to people’s names to food, but perhaps the most concrete examples of Spanish influence can be seen through architecture. There are still surviving structures from the Spanish era in the Philippines, and most of them have become tourist attractions.

Vigan, Ilocos Sur

In the Northern part of Luzon lies the province of Ilocos Sur. The province itself was founded in 1572 by a Spaniard, the conquistador Juan de Salcedo.

The Calle Crisologo in Vigan, Ilocos Sur
The Calle Crisologo in Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Its capital, Vigan, is included in the World Heritage List by UNESCO. The area’s layout and structural designs are reminiscent of the Spanish colonial era. Several churches can also be found, one of which is St. Paul’s Cathedral. The original cathedral was built in 1641, and has undergone renovations and reconstructions due to natural disasters and manmade destruction centering around various wars and fires.

Vigan has been featured in numerous films and TV shows due to its rustic beauty. Recently, it was a spot for one leg of the current season of The Amazing Race Asia.

Intramuros, Manila

Visiting Intramuros is among the ‘must-do’ activities when you’re in Manila. When the Americans fought the Spaniards, which led to the demise of the latter, Intramuros was among the last places to fall. This was due to the heavily protected forts and high walls which made it very difficult for attackers to invade the area.

Intramuros is the oldest district and historic core of Manila, Philippines
Intramuros is the oldest district and historic core of Manila, Philippines

If you fancy travelling the old way, you may ride a ‘kalesa’ or horse-drawn carriage which was the main means of transportation during the Spanish period. Though the best way to explore the attractions is by foot. You may even walk over sections of the old walls.

Airport tips

Ninoy Aquino International Airport is the main entry point for the country. It’s located in Manila, which is a densely populated area. The high population has resulted in congestion in many of the city’s facilities and streets, much like other major cities in the world such as New York and London. But unlike London, which alleviated foot and vehicle congestion in its airports by deploying upgraded security systems, expanding carparks and adding parking options aside from the usual short and long stay parking, Manila hasn’t employed the same infrastructure, thus it can be quite a pain for tourists when navigating the traffic. So be patience, especially if your arrival date falls during local rush hours.

There’s an alternative airport in Pampanga, a province North of Manila. Clark International Airport may be used if you’re planning to go straight to Vigan to cut the trip short, but that still depends on your carrier. Only selected international airlines use this air hub, so check first when you’re booking your tickets.