Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ilocos Sur: Viva Vigan! Binatbatan Festival, Tres de Mayo and more Vigan festivities

Vigan, Ilocos Sur is one of the grandest showcases of Philippine architectural heritage. And we what made it extra special was that Vigan was celebrating Tres de Mayo, an annual festival of thanksgiving, plus the Viva Vigan! Binatbatan Festival of the Arts.

We made our way down to Vigan from Pagudpud. But stopped over at Saramsam Cafe in Laoag for more Ilocano pizza. We were delayed a bit because of a minor road mishap. But we arrived in Vigan just in time for the street dance parade that was making its way through this UNESCO World Heritage City.

The Viva Vigan! Binatbatan Festival of the Arts is a cultural showcase of the city that was first organized in 1993 to coincide with the Tres de Mayo festivities. The centuries-old structures along Crisologo Street were all decorated with abel iloko cloth or inabel to mark the celebrations. The binatbatan street dancing started in 2002, with dancing mimicking the traditional Ilocano way of beating the cotton pods with two bamboo sticks, the first process in making inabel. This beating was done to separate the seeds from the fluff.

Anyway, the parade went on until evening after which we proceed to an old house for dinner. I'll tell you more about dinner in another posts dedicated to the food we feasted on in Vigan.

The next day was Tres de Mayo, a centuries-old fiesta of Vigan citizens to honor the Santo Cristo Milagroso or Apo Lakay. There is actually an early morning Mass at the Simbaan a Bassit or Vigan's Cemetery Chapel to open Tres de Mayo.

We walked around Vigan in the morning and got to appreciate the decorations along Crisologo Street. Lunch was at Hidden Garden and just like dinner, I'll talk about it in another post.

Before proceeding back to the poblacion, we stopped by the pagburnayan or the pottery area of Vigan. We were lucky because it was Fidel Antiporda Go, named a National Folk Artist by the NCCA in 1990, who did a demonstration for us.


The burnay was actually introduced to Vigan by early Chinese traders even before the arrival of the Spanish colonizers. In fact, Go still speaks fluent Hokkien. It served as an all-weather container for local products for shipment ot China and other areas. It's also used for the fermentation of fish sauce, vinegar and basi wine.

Back in the heritage district, we visited the Syquia Mansion, the home of Pres. Elpidio Quirino's wife and repository of a good number of his memorabilia. It's declared by the National Historical Institute as a Heritage House.

While our group was in the house, I walked around to check out the ramadas or makeshift canopies decorated with produce that were constructed around the city as part of Tres de Mayo. The ramadas become focal points for each neighborhood during the afternoon since traditional Filipino games are organized for kids and kids at heart under these canopies.

Vigan's Chinese roots became evident in Crisologo Street as a lion dance troupe made its way around the various shops owned by Chinese-Filipinos. But there were no fire crackers though which always accompanies this practice.

Late in the afternoon, a calesa parade made its way around the city. Each calesa was decorated with everything Vigan and is one event of the festival you should not miss. What was lacking though was a marching band. And San Miguel, being the sponsor of this parade, should have made sure there was a marching band to make the parade even more festive. Were they cutting on costs like most corporates do when they beg organizers for exposure during these festivals? Oh well!

Before we left for Manila, we made one last stopover at Abuelita's Restaurant for a taste of traditional Vigan street food. There was a santacruzan and procession later in the afternoon but we had to rush back home. That was one long drive!
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