From protecting against pirates; to serving tourists on a local, national, and global basis.
Another Spanish colonial landmark in the Philippines worth visiting is the Bantay Watchtower. Built in 1591, it once served as a tower to watch out for invading pirates back in the Spanish colonial era…
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 TravelThroughParadise.com made about it. We hope you enjoy your own experience at the Bantay Tower as well.