Journey through the Rich Heritage of the Spanish Philippines
Must-Visit Destinations of Spanish Heritage in the Philippines
The Spanish Influence
The Spanish influence can’t be denied in the Philippines. From Spanish-sounding surnames and the widespread Roman Catholic faith to Spanish loan words and culinary delights, there’s a trace of Spain in almost every corner of the country.
As the seat of government of the Spanish East Indies of old, it’s really not surprising that many of the Philippines’ historical tourist spots and landmarks bear remnants of this storied past.
Travel back to the past—from the 16th to the 19th centuries—when you visit these travel spots.
Calle Crisologo, Vigan, Ilocos Sur
More often than not, tourists who visit Ilocos also visit this historic street in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur. Covering about five blocks, the cobblestoned CalleCrisologo is home to several heritage houses that belonged to Chinese Filipino traders in the past. These houses feature what’s known as the “bahaynabato” architecture, with thick stone walls, tiled roofs, capiz shell sliding windows, and a wooden upper story with intricate balustrades.
Today, CalleCrisologo is a thriving commercial spot that caters mostly to tourists who visit the area. If you’re a shutterbug, it’s best to visit in the evenings when the street transforms into a sepia-toned wonder.
Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, Bagac, Bataan
Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar or simply “Las Casas” is a 400-hectare heritage resort located in Bagac, Bataan Province. Once you step into the property, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to 18th century Philippines.
It features a total of 30 heritage houses from all over the country, which were faithfully reassembled and restored piece by piece. There’s also a recreation of the majestic Hotel de Oriente, a first-class hotel in the 1800s located in Escolta, Manila.
San Sebastian Cathedral, Bacolod
The seat of the Roman Catholic faith in Bacolod, Negros Occidental, the San Sebastian Cathedral was first constructed in 1825 using wood and iron. Spearheaded by Fr. Julian Gonzaga, the church construction continued for years until 1885, when twin bell towers were erected. A rectory was added in 1891 and completed in 1894.
Despite its long history, the church was only declared a cathedral in 1933 at the same time when Bacolod became a diocese. Two of the original church bells, donated by Frs. Mauricio Ferrero Mariano de Avila, are on display in a special belfry.
Like many churches during the Spanish times, it’s located near a central plaza. Tourists will also find it convenient to visit the church since it’s also close to various budget hotels, like Ong Bun Pension House Bacolod.
Taal Heritage Town, Batangas
Taal used to be the capital of Batangas and was particularly prosperous during the Spanish era. Despite this, however, Taal produced many heroes of the Filipinos’ revolution against the Spaniards.
These include the diplomat Don Felipe Agoncillo and his wife Doña Marcela (who may be familiar to many as the principal seamstress who sewed the first Philippine flag) and General Ananias Diokno, who led a military expedition to the Visayas. Their well-preserved ancestral houses are among the many draws of this heritage town.
Other tourist spots and attractions in Taal include the Minor Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours (Taal Basilica), the Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay, and Escuela Pia.
Exploring Taal town proper offers a captivating experience, particularly when you encounter its heritage houses. These architectural gems transport visitors back in time, showcasing their exceptional beauty and preserving a piece of the past for today’s generation to admire.
Several of these heritage houses have been repurposed into museums, art galleries, and charming gift shops. Together, they stand as tangible evidence of the enduring cultural legacy passed down through generations.
The Heritage Village provides a window into the vibrant history and way of life that Taaleños cherished in days gone by.
Image Credit – Ramon F Velasquez – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26868193
Fort San Pedro, Cebu
Fort San Pedro is the oldest and smallest fort in the Philippines.. Built by the Spaniards to repel sieges by hostile natives and pirates, the fort was deemed finished in 1738, some 200 years after it started construction.
The fort began as a single triangular bastion made of logs and mud in 1565, with Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi breaking ground for the structure, naming it for his flagship on which he sailed the Pacific Ocean in that same year. It served as the nucleus of the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines.
Fuerte de San Pedro or Fort San Pedro is a military defense structure, located in what is now called Plaza Independencia. The fort was built under the command of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, the first governor general of the Philippines. It was originally made of wood, but was quickly converted into a stone fort to provide better defense against Muslim marauders.
In the 19th century, it was seized by the members of the revolution and established it as a stronghold. A section of the fort is now a museum that displays various Spanish artifacts like sculptures and paintings. There are also statues of Legazpi and Antonio Pigafetta, the Italian scholar who served as Ferdinand Magellan’s assistant.
A historic tour of the Philippines would not be complete without visiting Intramuros. It officially became the Walled City in 1574, when the walls were first erected in response to an attack by Chinese pirates.
The walled city of Intramuros is a bastioned fort, a style of military fortification that developed during the late 15th century in Europe, as a response to the discovery of gunpowder and the use of cannons in the battlefield. The towers and medieval fortresses that preceded the bastioned fort tended to be vulnerable to damage by cannon fire as their curved shape created a zone that the defenders could not protect against. The major difference between the bastion, or baluarte, and its predecessors is that the former is a straight, polygonal structure that protrudes from the curtain wall.
Apart from the walls themselves, the stone streets, and the eight arched gates, there are also various structures in Intramuros that keep the Spanish East Indies alive. These include Fort Santiago, Baluarte San Diego, and San Agustin Church, the oldest church in the Philippines.
The Spanish colonial period is one of the longest, most vivid parts of Philippine history and undoubtedly has the biggest impact. Visiting these places can surely help one appreciate how big of an effect Spain has on almost every facet of Filipino culture.
Essential Travel Guides
Journey Through the Rich Heritage
of the Spanish Philippines
in these Must-Visit Destinations
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