As immortalized by the heroic deeds of her great men and women, as inscribed on monuments and statues, on markers and memorials of stone and tablet so numerous that in Vigan, the hand of history is everywhere, the inscriptions etched upon them reading like excerpts of Philippine history.
The story of Ilocos Sur can be told in the same historical events and episodes which fill the pages of our country’s past. It is similar narrative of conquest, exploitation, persecution, revolution and emancipation as the Philippines. The great men and women of Ilocos Sur who sailed forth from her native bosom into the limelight of history wrote with their immortal deeds of bravery, courage, and heroism the records and chronicles of the times. Indeed, the Ilocos Sur story reads like excerpts of the Philippine history, chapters of the Filipino saga made unforgettable by the exploits and achievements of Ilocos Sur’s sons and daughters through the long march of our country and the progress of our people from the era of colonialism to the sunlight of liberty and freedom.
Today, history lives in Ilocos Sur. In Vigan, the famed Villa Fernandina founded in1574 by Juan de Salcedo, grandson of the Adelantado Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, the hand of history is everywhere, in the imposing monuments and statues standing as permanent tributes to the memory of illustrious dead, on the markers of stone and the memorial tablets upon the hollowed grounds where long ago a martyr was born, where a famous poetess lived, where a President taught as a humble barrio teacher. These markers and inscriptions are veritable readings a history, citing here and there “a chapel of wood and thatch erected on this site, 1574,” “an earthquake in 1619’,” “a fire in 1739”, recording the seizure by revolutionists under Col. Juan Villamor, and the detention by American forces as a political leader, Mena Crisologo 1899.
Of Ilocos Sur, history records that three years after the founding of the City of Manila, Legaspi dispatched the ‘conquistador’ Salcedo on a mission of exploration and conquest to the north in the island of Luzon. Salcedo established the Ciudad Fernandina in honor of King Ferdinand, the reigning ruler of Spain at the time, and for his reward was granted a rohyal “encomienda” and named Lieutenant-Governor for the whole Ilocos.
Thus, Villa Fernandina became the capital of the whole Ilocos which then embraced the present territories of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra, La Union, and portion of Mountain Province. The other important pueblos in this vast and area where the present towns of Laoag, in Ilocos Norte and Aringay, in La Union. The Ilocos was then the only area known and explored north of Manila as indicated in an early map of the Philippines.
Following the exploration and conquest of the Ilocos by the Castillan sword, the evangelization of the inhabitants was pursued in the characteristics zeal and devotion of the Augustinian missionaries. In time, the picturesque churches made of stones and mortar began to be built, undoubtedly thru free labor required of our forefathers, and these edifices of worship stood thru the centuries, mute but eloquent symbols of Spanish power that held sway in union with the Church. It is thus interesting to read the marker found near the door of the Vigan Cathedral, one of the most beautiful and imposing churches in the North, which was placed there by the Philippine Historical Committee.