Preserving Ilocano culture via the World Heritage Cities Solidarity Fest in Vigan City

VIGAN CITY — Preserving the Ilocano culture is preserving the World Heritage City of Vigan.

To preserve the heritage of the city, the city government established an event where all of its residents called Biguenos come out of their ancestral or modern-age houses to join other residents of Ilocos Sur to once more relish the Ilocano culture and the history of Vigan through songs, dances, stage plays, literature, street drama complete with floats, said Mayor Juan Carlo S. Medina.

This is the World Heritage Cities Solidarity Day celebration on September 8.  This is one moment where Vigan City joins in the world-wide celebration to focus on heritage issues and express its solidarity with other World Heritage cities.

On this day Biguenos gather at the Saint Paul Cathedral for the Solidarity Mass, and to renew their Pledge to Heritage Conservation. After this they unite in a breakfast at the city hall. And in the afternoon, the history of Vigan comes alive via a parade of floats showing the different periods starting from the entry of Chinese merchants to the coming of Spaniards, the Japanese, the Americans, the indepence of the country, until the city was listed as a World Heritage City and one of the New Seven Wonders Cities of the World.

A one-day celebration is not enough to showcase the heritage of the city, so the city government under then Mayor Eva Marie S. Medina made the whole month of September as World Heritage Cities Solidarity Cultural Festival.

It is the city’s way to help preserve the union of the UNESCO-listed World Heritage Cities called the Organization of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) established on September 8, 1993.

This year Ilocano culture will be celebrated through competitions among the youth and elderlies in vocal chorus, vocal solo, photography called fotografias y recuerdos, stage play called zarzuela Ilocana, spoken poetry called dallot, singing with a guitar called kinnantaran, letras y figuras, on-the-spot painting, speech choir in Filipino called sabayang pagbigkas, poetry called daniw, story telling, cultural quiz bowl, folk dance, local debate called bukanegan, and solidarity games. And the exhibit of local products and food.

Preserving the Ilocano culture includes bringing to life the history of the city. This will be done through a stage play on the life of a Philippine hero born in Vigan City, Father Jose Burgos; review of Vigan history called repazzo de Vigan parade of floats; retelling the city’s history to the youth by elderly Biguenos called historia oral, said Edred Piamonte, the city events officer.

He added that this year the bucanegan is included, the repazzo de Vigan is a float parade, and most of the events is held at the Vgan Convention Center and Vigan Culture and Trade Center on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays of September.

Celebrating the culture of Asian and other countries is also part of uniting with other World Heritage Cities. Since 2016 the festival has included the International Students Solidarity Day (September 27), Indian Community Solidarity Day (September 28), and Chinese Community Solidarity Day (September 24 to 30).

In the Philippines, Vigan is the only World Heritage City, although UNESCO listed three natural sites such as Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park; and three cultural sites that include Vigan City; the four Baroque Churches in Manila, Santa Maria, Paoay, and Miag-ao; and the Rice Terraces of the Cordilleras.

In December 1999, Vigan City was listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List of Sites and Monuments as the city, established in the 16th century, is the “best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia. Its architecture reflects the coming together of cultural elements from elsewhere in the Philippines, from China and from Europe, resulting in a culture and townscape that have no parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.”

Vigan was awarded the World Heritage Centre’s highest award for Best Practice in Sustainable Conservation and Management of World Heritage Properties during the closing program of the 40th Anniversary of the World Heritage Convention in Kyoto, Japan on November8, 2012.  

Vigan’s Heritage Conservation Program was the best of the 28 submissions of best practices worldwide because of its good management practice achieved with relatively limited resources which makes it adaptable by other world heritage site managers,  its strong local community participation in the conservation and management of the site, and the development of unique multi-faceted conservation scheme of the site.

In 2014, the city was named as one of the New Seven Wonders-Cities of the World and was officially inaugurated as such on May 7, 2015.