News Feature: How Viva Vigan was born into the Ilocano culture

VIGAN CITY, Ilocos Sur, May 7 (PIA) — The Viva Vigan Binatbatan Festival of the Arts was born into the culture of residents and the Ilocanos through the Feast Day of the Natives of Vigan, which started on May 3, 1883.

On April 28 until May 6 this year Biguenos once more paid homage to the miraculous Santo Cristo who saved their city from an epidemic which killed 934 in a month in 1882.

According to the writings of Damaso King, well-known Vigan historian, the epidemic started November 12 and ended December 15, 1882. This happened 30 years after a chapel was built in 1852 in the cemetery of Vigan.

The huge number of death in so short a period alarmed the ‘naturales’ or native inhabitants and ‘mestizos’ or residents with Spanish blood. So much that they asked the parish priest, Fr. Evaristo Abaya, to request for the visit to Vigan of Sinait town’s Santo Cristo Milagroso.

It is said that the Santo Cristo Milagroso came to Sinait in 1620. With it was a large wooden box with the image of Virgen Maria, two candles and bass voile.

Fishermen from Sinait and its neighboring town Badoc took the box ashore. However, the Sinait fishermen could not carry the Virgen Maria, but easily lifted the Santo Cristo. The Badoc fishermen could not lift the Santo Cristo but easily brought out the Virgen Maria. So, the Santo Cristo went to Sinait, and the Virgen Maria to Badoc.

Once in Vigan the Santo Cristo Milagroso was venerated by the people, particularly with a nine-day novena. As the novena went on for days the number of deaths decreased. And as the novena ended the epidemic ceased.

The people glorified God for this. They kept on thanking Him for the miracle. And almost all the people of Vigan attended the mass held in honor of Santo Cristo.

Since the return of Santo Cristo to Sinait the Biguenos have never forgotten their devotion for Him.

In gratitude, the naturals of Vigan chose the third day of May as thanksgiving day for Santo Cristo whom they respectfully call ‘Apo Lakay’. This day is th feast day of the Holy Cross, and of the Santo Cristo Milagroso of Sinait.

Every Friday and third day of May since then, the people have been going to the cemetery chapel (Simbaan a Bassit) to hear the Holy Mass, and to pursue their devotion to Apo Santo Cristo.

According to the late Antonio Florentino,then the private secretary to City Mayor Eva Marie S Medina, and a descendant of Leona Florentino, (the first poetess of the Philippines, and mother of labor union founder Isabelo de los Reyes) in 1993 Biguenos staying in Metro Manila grouped into KAIVIGAN which celebrated tres de mayo for two to three days.

The longer days reunited to their hometown, and promoted Vigan as an interesting tourist place in the country. This was the birth of Viva Vigan Festival which became a celebration of the arts, culture, agriculture, food and trade when today’s City Mayor Medina began her reign as the town’s first lady mayor in 1995.

Since 2002, however, the festival joined with Binatbatan Festival of the Arts, a tribute to one of the oldest industries of the city – pangabel (hand loom weaving). (ANL/ICR-PIA 1 Ilocos Sur)

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