The cathedral was built in 1541 upon Juan Salcedo’s directives. It is said that the young Spanish captain personally picked the location where the church was to be built. In front of it is a wide plaza with fountains and benches. In the mornings and afternoons, people from all walks of life flocks around the plaza just like in the older times.
If your standing in front of the church, facing it, to your left is the archbishops palace, to the right was where the old seminary used to stand (which are now rented out to fast food chains). The buildings are all made to resemble the Vigan houses. The original buildings were destroyed by fire in the 60’s.
UNESCO’s declaration of Vigan as the “best preserved Spanish colonial town” is a bit confusing, if not actually wrong. Yes, it was influenced by hispanic design but hardly can it be considered solely “Spanish”. A bahay na bato exist nowhere in the world except here. Add to this is that the people who built and resided in these houses were almost all locals with the exception of the missionaries. Perhaps, the town’s layout is what is being referred to as “Spanish”. The more accurate description should include “Filipino” because this better defines the marrying of the influences between local and hispanic.
The cream colored church is classified as baroque. I’m tempted to elaborately define its stylistic form but I’m no expert in classical architecture. What I can say is that its one of the prettiest church I’ve ever been in and that it ties everything together. You really can’t go wrong with a creamy theme!
What makes this church unique, along with those of Laoag and Paoay, is that the church bells are separated from the main church. The builders wanted to secure the church from the bell towers, which are normally the first to collapse during massive earthquakes. Even then, Filipinos learned to deal with such calamities and find a way to overcome them.
Yes, we are a hardy bunch, we Filipinos.
Ilocos Sur’s violent political wars reached its peak when Floro Crisologo (whose greatest contribution was the passage of our social security sytem) was shot dead inside the cathedral while waiting to receive his communion. He’s kin to Mena Crisologo (first Ilocos Sur governor and Malolos Congress representative). The Ilocano congressman died instantly. The murder remains unsolved to this day.
I first learned about this story from the movie “Bingbong” which I saw together with a brother when I was 11 (we used to sneak in and watch these movies in Makati’s Plaza Fair). The real Bingbong, now a QC congressman, has been an active religious leader since Marcos pardoned him in the 80’s. He was convicted for burning two villages in Bantay. The movie highlighted his spiritual transformation. Last time I heard about Bingbong was when he almost came to blows with MMDA operatives. The latter was attempting to demolish some shanties in his constituency, the congressman, the tough guy that he is, preventing the demolition taking place.
The Crisologo’s are among the biggest families in Vigan. In Vigan, everybody seem to be related by blood and share more or less the same apellidos but blood nor having same last names prevented political feuding. Even Bingbong’s mother, Governor Carmeling Crisologo, was not spared. She survived an attempt on her life during her term. Their rival and relatives, the Singsons, also had numerous assassinations attempts. Everybody was trying to get rid of everybody else – gangster style!
Thank Heavens Vigan today has surpassed these ugly political warring. The city has been largely peaceful and is held out as a tourism model in the country. Now, that’s an admirable transformation. I sure hope it stays this way.
The Crisologo museum in Vigan is open for public viewing throughout the week. Its free and is very well maintained. The bloodied clothes of the congressman and the car where his wife almost lost her life are preserved and is on exhibit.
A stone throw away from the cathedral is Plaza Burgos where the empanadaan was built so tourist can sample the town’s famous empanada. During the two days that I stayed in Vigan, I would go to this place to eat this healthy dish – its cheap and filling. Their version is closer to the Mexican taco than to the empanada we usually get in Manila (bread fried with chicken and potato filling). The main ingredients of the Vigan empanada are carrots, mungo, unripe papaya, egg, cabbage and meat (sometimes substituted by their version of longaniza).