The class act that is Vigan
ROSES AND THORNS - Pia Roces Morato (The Philippine Star) - March 15, 2019 - 12:00am

Luckily, or shall we say, serendipitously, I have had the chance to visit the city of Vigan as often as I could because of my shared interest with former Mayor Eva Singson Medina on culture and heritage.

My love for history and culture is no secret as I always say which explains why I keep coming back to this beautiful city. But there is one more very important component that I purposely combine with this love for history and culture and that is the element of progress.

We all know that Vigan is a UNESCO Heritage site which is why every year thousands of tourists venture into this city to experience what it’s like to have walked the streets during the Spanish era.

The one very catchy detail about this beautiful city however is the fact that it played a very significant role in the area of trade. Vigan was an important trading post in pre-colonial times long before the Spanish galleons.

Goods from China sailing from the South China Sea came to Isla de Bigan through the Mestizo River that surrounded the island.

From Asian kingdoms, seafaring merchants came to barter goods in exchange for gold and mountain products brought down by the natives in the Cordilleras resulting into a multi-cultural bloodline of Bigueños which emerged when Chinese immigrants began to settle in the area.

In 1572, Captain Juan de Salcedo saw that Vigan City was indeed a thriving trading settlement which led him to establish the Villa Fernandina de Vigan as capital of Ilocos, making it the third Spanish settlement in the Philippines during the Spanish era.

The Manila-Acapulco galleon trade in the 18th century was undertaken by Vigan Chinese mestizo traders who exported local products such as basi, tobacco and abel to Europe and other parts of Asia. This trade brought about so much wealth which enabled them to build big brick masonry and wooden houses through the help of local carpenters and masons.

In the mid 19th century, when the Manila-Acapulco trade was abolished, the local economy became weak and the City of Vigan reversed into a municipality.

In 2001, however, by invoking the 1758 Spanish decree, and because the city was the capital, Vigan was once again elevated as a ciudad becoming the first integral city of the province of Ilocos Sur. Vigan City has a master plan and its leaders are very well educated about the past and how it affects the future of their city especially with regard to their local economy.

When one goes to Vigan, you will witness the dignity and discipline of the people who are all a part of city building. People in Vigan, or Ilocos Sur for that matter, fully understand what needs to be done to keep their city intact. Their past has enabled them to determine what needs to be pursued as well as rejected.

Vigan leadership is firm. There is no room for setbacks for a city that seeks to pass on its heritage to the succeeding generations.

At the end of the day, we all love to talk about the beauty of Vigan, but beautiful as it may be, the most important part I’ve learned when it comes to my trips to this  glorious city is the fact that it’s current leadership together with its people are determined to keep it strong.

The masterplan involves the participation of Vigan’s constituents and this is evident especially from every public servant you see under their local government. A clear inclusion of the past with the progressive needs of the present is the combination that motivates this city.

The masterplan links culture and heritage with economic and development projects through long term and sustainable programs.

And like they always say, you can’t move forward if you don’t know where you came from.

Heritage plus innovation is what makes Vigan City a class act through and through.

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