Ilocos Series: Philippine National Museum - Vigan, Ilocos Sur

December 29, 2015


The province of Ilocos is truly rich in history and a home to many national heroes.  This fact is already known to many, but was made even more evident by the number of museums that existed in Ilocandia.  The city of Vigan alone has five popular museums namely the Syquia Mansion, Crisologo Museum, Museo Nueva Segovia, Padre Burgos Museum, and an old provincial jail that was recently converted into an art center.

Among all the above mentioned museums that can be found in Ilocos Sur, I must say that the latter was my most favorite.  Not because I was amazed with the historically relevant collections it houses, but for the simple and shallow reason that it's air conditioned -- which can become a really BIG deal especially during the summer season.

Honestly, we didn't have this attraction listed in our itinerary.  It just so happened that the Burgos National Museum, which we were supposed to visit, was closed because of its ongoing renovation and the security guard told us to see Ilocos Sur's newest art center instead, which was merely a few steps away from the priest patriot's ancestral house.

Burgos National Museum, Vigan
Fr. Jose Burgos' (aka Padre Burgos) birthplace and ancestral home in Vigan, Ilocos Sur.  Operating hours are from Mondays-Fridays / 9:00 am - 4:00 pm; and Saturdays-Sundays and holidays by appointment.  

Old Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail, Vigan
The old provincial jail turned art center is located behind the Ilocos Sur Provincial Capitol and beside the Burgos National Museum.  This newest attraction, also managed by the National Museum, is open to the public for FREE!

Old Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail, Vigan
My brother and his girlfriend outside the newly renovated provincial jail.  The attraction certainly stood out with its Spanish colonial design -- plain white walls, red orange brick roof, arched windows, and cobblestone passageways.  

This centuries-old building was first built in 1657 to house the municipal jail, which was subsequently made into a provincial jail when Ilocos Sur officially became a province in 1818.  Since then, this place had made history for having detained several prominent personalities like Mena Crisologo, Estanislao Reyes, and Enrique Quema.  

In 1890, this provincial jail served another important role in Vigan's history -- for being the cradle of the Philippines' 6th President, Elpidio Quirino.  It was said that during those times, Mariano Quirino, the former president's father, worked as a warden at this provincial jail when his wife gave birth to Elpidio in a room located on the second level of the building.

In honor of President Quirino's mother, this provincial jail was converted into a library in 1948 and was renamed Gregoria M. Rivera Memorial Library.  Eventually, it had to undergo another renovation in 2013 to become Ilocos Sur's newest art center that would showcase Ilocandia's rich history and culture.

Aside from the memorabilia of the late President Elpidio Quirino, the museum also featured an exhibit of the classic Ilocano liquor made of fermented sugarcane juice, "Basi" and several paintings of Esteban Pichay Villanueva of the 1807 Basi Revolt.


Old Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail, Vigan
"Basi" is a traditional Ilocano liquor which is said to have caused the region-wide uprising of the Ilocanos against the Spaniards when the latter decided to monopolize its production and sale.

Old Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail, Vigan
"Burnays" or stoneware jars made of clay and sand are used by the locals to store 'basi,' rice, fish sauce, water, etc. These, along with other antique things showcasing the Ilocano life and culture, were also highlighted in the new art museum.

Old Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail, Vigan
Cameras are allowed inside the museum, but the use of flash is not.  Apparently, light causes the colors in the paintings to fade.  So in order to preserve and protect these centuries old masterpieces, guests are strongly advised not to use flash photography.  

Old Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail, Vigan
On the background is the historical mural of the Basi Revolt, one of the main attractions in the museum.

This little kiddo makes it really challenging for us to get a decent group/ family photo because he keeps on turning his face away from the camera.  I don't actually understand the logic behind his weird behavior, but it just feels frustrating sometimes to be spending several minutes posing before the camera only to get a shot like the one below.  

Old Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail, Vigan
One last group picture before we leave the old provincial jail -- and there goes my son again!  Hay, terrible twos!!!

This old provincial jail is definitely my ultimate favorite of all the museums that we went to see in Vigan.  Aside from the fact that it's air-conditioned and admission is free, I must also say that I really loved its simple yet classy ambience -- the building's plain white walls looked clean and fresh, the entire place is well maintained and ventilated, and there are also several benches available where visitors can simply sit and relax.  Obviously, this museum is an absolute winner in terms of guests' comfort!

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