Big On Vigan
I didn’t have qualms about posing in front of the photo-op corner along the city’s famous Calle Crisologo that says “I Love Vigan” because I AM “big” on Vigan. Although I spent only a couple of days touring its attractions, it was enough for me to realize that this is one city in the country that certainly stands out. It has a lot of character, a lot of history. I like its old world charm and the way the city government goes out of its way to preserve the “period” look of everything in it, making this capital city of Ilocos Sur look like one big museum.
So, why do I love Vigan? Let me count the ways. Mayor Eva Marie Medina herself rolled out the red carpet for my team and me, and took time off from her official chores just to chat with us about the city’s tourism boom and the latest infrastructure development. She also presented me several books on the city and its heritage preservation. Now, who wouldn’t be mesmerized by a nice gesture like that?
I also like that fact that the entire city, not just a part of it, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every nook and cranny we went to showcased old, well-preserved houses, streets and landmarks. I felt like I was transported into the early Spanish era and imagined myself as an Ilustrado, walking around the streets in my Americana with coattails, a top hat and a cane. But then, the 36-degree heat and 90 percent humidity snapped me out of Fantasyland and brought me back to reality, grateful to whoever invented the T-shirt, walking shorts and sandals – my ultra-comfortable outfit that day.
At the city’s center, I had this nagging thought. Is our National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) interested only in controversies that give them maximum media mileage? They showed how upset they are about that “national photobomber” behind Rizal’s statue in Luneta, but, nary a “beep” I heard from them about the monument for Leona Florentino at the front portion of historic Calle Crisologo in Vigan. She is the “Mother of Filipino Women’s Literature” and is regarded as a heroine of sorts in the province. Seven meters directly behind her monument is the big sign of a local fast food chicken restaurant. At first, I thought it was a statue of its founder. Only when I read the tablet on the pedestal did I realize the historical value of the monument. I had a hard time positioning my camera, while taking the photo on this page, so that the restaurant’s sign would not show. So, NCCA, why are you so quiet on this? It’s the same problem as what we have in Luneta. Isn’t this transgression of your rules not “high-profile” enough?
At the plaza downtown is a big concrete marker proclaiming Vigan as one of the Seven Wonder Cities of the World, announced by New 7 Wonders Foundation president Bernard Weber. Text and online voting by supporters from around the globe made it possible for this Heritage City to join the prestigious list which includes Beirut, Doha, Durban, Havana, Kuala Lumpur, and La Paz.
Another reason why my heart beats, nay, pumps for this city, much to the consternation of my doctor, are the many calories the dining tables offer. There’s the Vigan empanada, bagnet, longganisa, the whole array of Marsha’s delicacies, and many, many more. Just by looking at them, I gained 10 pounds… and because I had to try them all, “just to please my hosts” (wink, wink), I must have gained 20 pounds more! Now, how will I explain this to my daughter who keeps on nagging me to go on a diet?
But what makes Vigan really very special to me? Its people. I couldn’t have found the nicest people in this archipelago. I know that we, Cebuanos, are known to be very friendly and hospitable, too, but the people of this “Wonder City” have taken these traits several notches higher. They go out of their way to REALLY please guests. I thought it was only the mayor who showed exceptional congeniality but everybody I came in contact with leveled up in this aspect. I was thoroughly impressed.
Could it be the city’s heritage ambience that has made everybody über friendly and courteous? Or could it be the “X-rated” culinary delights they feast on, like the puki-puki (tortang talong), utong (sitaw), kabatiti (patola) and the warek-warek (sisig)? Hmmm. Or, are they just following the lead of their “favorite son,” the honorable former president Elpidio Quirino? He went out of his way to bring the government closer to his people through his “fireside chats,” in which he shared with the citizenry, through radio broadcasts from Malacañang, the activities of the Republic.
Whichever it is, I love the city and its people. It probably would be nice to live in such an environment where the past is very much a part of the present, where life is much simpler, slower and less stressful. I can almost imagine myself setting up residence in that “period” setting, interacting with genial, neighborly individuals who are proper and well-mannered. But then again, in such slow-paced and tranquil surroundings, can I still… Twerk It Like Miley?
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YOUR MONDAY CHUCKLE:
A 20-year-old blonde calls her mom excitedly, “Mom, mom! I’m a genius!” The mother replied calmly: “Really dear? How’s that possible?” “I finished a puzzle I’ve been working on for one year and on the box it said, “For 2-5 Years.”