VIGAN CITY: Colors, music, and pride dominated the streets of this historic city as it marks its formal declaration as one of the world’s New7Wonders Cities.
Vigan, which was officially proclaimed on Thursday as among the New7Wonders Cities, started its celebration with a show of gratitude through a thanksgiving mass at the Conversion of St. Paul Cathedral. It was followed by the blessing of the NSCC Vigan Hotel and Central Office.
On Wednesday, 118 decorated “kalesas” or horse drawn carriages paraded the streets of Vigan to show the artistry and ingenuity of Bigueños which also reflect their culture and tradition.
The kalesas were bedecked with different materials from agricultural products such as corn, mango, rice, and coconut, to crafts like hats, abaniko fans, and other rattan products. It is a manifestation that Vigan, with 2,886 hectares of land area, is still an agricultural city with 45 percent of its land being tilted.
But the kalesa that stood out among others is the one decorated with miniature historical edifices like the St. Paul’s Cathedral, a major religious landmark built in late 1790s. It also has paintings attached at the back.
Efren Sotelo, who created the winning kalesa, said he has been joining the annual competition since 2005 and it is his fifth to win the title. He received P20,000 as the grand prize winner, while the second and third placers received P15, 000 and P10, 000, respectively.
“We wanted to show to the people what are the structures that make Vigan historic, so we created a miniature ver- sion of Spanish-period ancestral houses,” Sotelo told The Manila Times.
The world-famous Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra made Wednesday night a musical affair with the ensemble playing their finest pieces to celebrate the success of the city.
The dancing fountain at Plaza Salcedo swayed as the orchestra played in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
“It was a feast in the eyes and ears,” said Concepcion Santiago, a spectator from the neighboring municipality of Santa in Ilocos Sur.
The local government staged several exhibits showcasing the artworks of Vigan native David Pichay at the VCTC and the portrait paintings of The Castillo Brothers at Museum San Pablo. There is also a set-up of Abel House Décor which is known for its unique tradition of Abel Iloko weaving.
Bringing Back Pride
During the inauguration, New7Wonders Foundation formally proclaimed Vigan as one of its wonder cities. Bernard Weber, its president and founder, took the lead in the inauguration attended by local officials, residents, and tourists.
Mayor Eva Marie S. Medina, who received the specially-commissioned bronze commemorative plaque from Weber, said with all the awards the historic city received in the past years, it all aimed to bring back the pride of Bigueños to their homeland.
Medina, in an interview with journalists, said there was a time in Vigan when its residents left their homes and businessmen pull out their investments due to political rivalry of its former leaders that caused the deterioration of several ancestral houses and resulted in low investments.
“We worked so hard to take out the stigma of being a warlord [province],” Medina said. “Pride on their own city: that’s the very first thing that we redeemed for the people.”
She said that while they may lack some natural resources that could persuade tourists to visit their places, the conservation of their culture is their best asset.
“We don’t have the beautiful beaches of Boracay. We don’t have the rolling terrains of the Mountain Province but we have a rich culture. That’s where we invest,” the local chief executive said.
She said that the award, which has helped improve the city’s tourism industry since its initial proclamation in December 2014, was a result of the collective effort of the past and present government, its people, and civil society groups.
She noted that it was the city’s founding fathers who first made efforts to conserve its heritage, and it is now their duty to preserve it.
It is the reason why during the inaugural ceremony, Medina handed over the plaque to seven children whom she said represent the future generation “who will reap the positive effects” of the New7Wonders Cities proclamation.
To further support the conservation, the local government had also inaugurated on Thursday the Vigan Conservation Complex located at San Julian Sur. Medina said aside from letting people know the rich history and heritage of Vigan, the conservation complex also sell parts of ancestral houses for lower prices which homeowners could avail in order preserve the structures of their homes.
“Our tool for development is our conservation of heritage. That’s where we invest,” she added.