May 11, 2012

0201 PHILIPPINES (Ilocos Region) - Historic Town of Vigan (UNESCO WHS)

The City of Vigan is located in the delta of the Abra River, off the coastal plain of the South China Sea, close to the north-east tip of the large island of Luzon. Before the arrival of the Spanish, Isla de Vigan (Island of Vigan) was a small coastal trading post, consists of wooden or bamboo houses on stilts. In 1572 the conquistador Juan de Salcedo founded a new town on this site, which he named Villa Fernandina de Vigan (in honor of King Philip II’s son, Prince Ferdinand, who died at the age of four) and made it his capital when he was appointed "Justicia Mayor de esta Provincia de Ylocos" (Province Mayor of Ilocos). In 1576, Salcedo returned to the capital, bringing with him some soldiers, and Augustinian missionaries to Christianize the region.

Between 1645 and 1660, Vigan was divided into 21 Cavezas de Barrios (Town Mayors). The Chinese migrants were residents in a neighbourhood called pariancillo, Los Sangleyes del parian (The Sangleyes of Parian), and the Spanish settlers were residents in Los Españoles de la Villa (The Town of the Spaniards). During this period, a new form of architecture evolved in Vigan, which combined the traditional construction with the techniques of building in stone and wood introduced by the Spanish. In 1778, as a result of the expansion of the settlement, it was renamed Ciudad Ferdinandina.

Vigan made trade directly with China and Europe, being a stage in the Manila-Acapulco galleon route. The Mestizo river was central to the development of the town in the 16th-19th centuries: large sea-going vessels could berth in the delta and small craft communicated with the interior. However, now it's no longer navigable, and the town is no longer an island.

Because "Vigan represents a unique fusion of Asian building design and construction with European colonial architecture and planning", and it is exceptionally well preserved, in 1999 was included among UNESCO World Heritage Sites, under the name Historic Town of Vigan. The Historic Core Zone is defined on two sides by the Govantes and Mestizo rivers, and the urban plan closely respected the Renaissance grid plan specified in the Ley de las Indias for all 149 new towns in the Spanish Empire, even if the Latin tradition is tempered by strong Chinese and local influences. These multi-cultural influences are especially visible to houses, but can be identified also in public buildings such as the Archbishop's Palace, St Paul's College, the Catholic Cemetery Chapel or the Cathedral of St Paul (which is seen in the background of the picture).

The seat of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia was transferred in Vigan in 1758, making it the centre of religious activity in the region. The church as it stands now was completed in 1800. The original structure (rather a chapel) was built in 1574, being replaced in 1641 by a real church, more extended in 1786, in a style now known as earthquake Baroque. In the face of the cathedral, above the main opening,.visitors are greeted by the statue of St. Paul.

In the foreground is a "spanished inspired horse-driven calesa dressed-up during an annual calesa festival". Probably it comes about the Viva Vigan Festival of Arts, which takes place every first week of May (since 1993). The Calesa Parade serves as the main attraction of this festival, which has both religious and secular importance. It features 100 calesas decorated with different indigenous materials depending on the theme of the celebration.

About the stamps
The first stamp, depicting Branded Vexillum (4p), is part of a huge set of definitive stamps about which I wrote here. The second stamp is also part of a large definitive series, named Philippine Birds. All pictures was taken from the book A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines by Robert S. Kennedy, Pedro C. Gonzales, Edward C. Dickinson, Hector C. Miranda, Jr., and Timothy H. Fisher. Reprinted on August 10, 2009, it shows Crested Serpent Eagle (9p).

Sender: Maria / Krissa (direct swap)
Sent from Manila (Philippines), on 10.03.2012
Photo and design: M. Kutrowski

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