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Exploring Bantay Watchtower: A Historic Jewel in Vigan, Ilocos Sur

From pirates to panoramas: Discover Bantay Watchtower, Vigan's historic landmark and tourist gem in Ilocos Sur.

Explore the historic Bantay Watchtower in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, a must-see Spanish colonial gem. Established in 1591, this iconic tower offers a glimpse into the past, guarding against pirates during the Spanish era...

the bantay watchtower in vigan city ilocos sur philippines aerial view shot by drone

Bantay Watchtower as a Lookout for Invading Pirates

The Bantay Watchtower, or Bantay Belfry, is located in a little town called Bantay 10 minutes from Vigan City. Built in 1591, it once served as a watchtower for the Spanish colonists as a defense against the potential risk of invading pirates. The word 'bantay' means 'guard' in Tagalog; and even though the Bantay Watchtower was turned into a bell tower by the nearby church in 1857, it still was used as a watchtower during the two World Wars due to its strategic location.

bantay belfry watchtower in vigan city ilocos sur philippines

Nowadays though it mostly serves as a tourist spot. It sits on a hilltop 60 meters from the Bantay Church and overlooks Vigan City as well as the Province of Abra. This way the Bantay Belfry provides a pleasant view for it's daily visitors; and some even say that, apart from being able to admire the Belfry's big old bell, they can see most of Ilocos Sur as well while being in the top part of the tower.

bantay belfry watchtower in vigan city ilocos sur philippines by drone with graveyard on background

The Bantay Tower is also quite popular among the local tourists. This is because a famous Filipino movie 'Ang Panday' was shot around the bell tower.

The Nearby Bantay Church

The Bantay Church itself was established just a year before the Bantay Belfry (1590), making it one of the oldest churches in the Ilocos Region. The church is also known as the St. Augustine Parish; it was named after St. Augustine, the patron saint by the Augustinian friars.

bantay watchtower and church in vigan city ilocos sur philippines

The church has an 'Earthquake Baroque' architecture to save the structure from the destruction some earthquakes in the Philippines might cause. Thick walls, buttressed stability, and lighter materials used in the upper structures, help the church maintain it's charm and dominant presence within this little town of Bantay.

bantay belfry watchtower and church in vigan city ilocos sur philippine shot by drone photo from air
Here you can clearly see both the Bantay Watchtower as well as the Church on the right.

The Bantay Church is also home to an image (in statue form) of the 'miraculous' Nuestra Señora de La Caridad, or 'Our Lady of Charity'. The Lady is often visited by pilgrims, that are praying or asking for their wishes to be granted.

Legend has it that the image was once found by some local fishermen, and that it was floating in a wooden box on the Bantagay River. The image could only be carried by residents of Bantay according to the legend, and people from other villages were unable to move the object.

bantay belfry watchtower in vigan city ilocos sur philippines

Vigan City Logistics

You can take a kalesa ride (Spanish style horse carriage) from Vigan City for about 10 to 15 minutes (about 15 PHP), but it's also within walking distance or you could take a tricycle. You can register for a tour at the Tourist Center alongside Calle Crisologo in Vigan. You can also just go to the Bantay Church and sign the guestbook there at the entrance; you can make a donation of any amount of your choosing. After 6 pm no more guests are allowed upon the hill anymore, so time right if you want to enjoy an amazing sunset. If you want to see a short video of the the Bantay Tower experience (and Calle Crisologo), we suggest you watch the vlog the founder of made about it. We hope you enjoy your own experience at the Bantay Tower as well.

bantay belfry watchtower in vigan city ilocos sur philippines
bantay belfry watchtower in vigan city ilocos sur philippines
bantay belfry watchtower in vigan city ilocos sur philippines

Click here for more things to do in Vigan City.