Viva Vigan Festival Philippines

Viva Vigan Festival Philippines

The Viva Vigan Festival of the Arts is a grand celebration of the town’s cultural heritage that takes place in the first week of May. This festival includes street dancing, a fashion show, a kalesa parade, and various cultural activities that showcase the local arts and traditions of Vigan City, Ilocos Sur.

The festival originated in 1993 as a way to promote awareness of the historical value of Vigan’s ancestral homes and to preserve and protect this heritage site. It has been successful in drawing attention to Vigan’s tribal houses and has contributed to promoting different aspects of the city, benefiting the tourism industry in the northern region.

The festival has both religious and secular significance, starting on May 1st, which is Labor Day in the Philippines, and coincides with the celebration of St. Joseph, the patron saint of workers. The Binatbatan Festival, which is part of the celebrations, features street dancing that highlights the traditional weaving process called “Abel Iloco.”

This festival is a tribute to a miracle that saved residents in 1882 during an epidemic, leading to the establishment of a thanksgiving day on May 3rd known as Tres de Mayo. The festival has become an integral part of Vigan’s cultural identity and attracts both local and foreign tourists who come to experience the rich heritage and vibrant arts scene of Vigan City

Key Takeaways

  • The Viva Vigan Festival is a vibrant celebration of Filipino history, culture, and craftsmanship.
  • Visitors can experience a blend of traditional and modern festivities, including street parades and culinary delights.
  • The festival is set in the UNESCO World Heritage city of Vigan, known for its well-preserved Spanish colonial architecture.
  • Local crafts, cuisine, and historical attractions offer a deep dive into the rich heritage and traditions of the Philippines.

Viva Vigan Festival Philippines At A Glance

FactsBrief Explanation
Name of the FestivalViva Vigan Festival
Type of FestivalCultural and Historical
City of OriginVigan City, Ilocos Sur
Festival EtymologyThe name “Viva Vigan” comes from the phrase that means “Long Live Vigan,” celebrating the city’s rich cultural heritage and historical significance.
Date when it was celebrated firstMay 1, 1993
Dates when this festival is celebrated every yearFirst week of May
Founder of the FestivalThen Mayor Eva Marie S. Medina
Brief History of the FestivalThe Viva Vigan Festival of the Arts was initiated to celebrate and preserve the rich cultural and historical heritage of Vigan. It reflects the city’s efforts to preserve its Spanish colonial and Asian architectural heritage, with events that include traditional dances, parades, and arts and crafts exhibitions.
Brief History of the CityVigan, established in the 16th century, is one of the oldest cities in the Philippines. It is best known for its preserved Spanish colonial and Asian architecture. The city’s history is a mix of cultures from its indigenous groups, Spanish colonization, and Asian trade influences, making it a unique historical site.
Ethnic Information of the City and RegionThe majority of Vigan’s population are Ilocanos, a group known for their rich cultural traditions, deep family ties, and culinary expertise. The city also has a mix of Chinese and Spanish influences due to its history as a trading port.
Location of the city in the CountryVigan City is located on the western coast of the island of Luzon, in the province of Ilocos Sur, Philippines. It is situated near the northern part of the country, making it a significant historical landmark in the Ilocos Region.
How to Reach the City– By Air: Fly to Laoag International Airport, then take a bus or hire a car to Vigan (approx. 80 km).
– By Land: Direct buses from Manila to Vigan are available, taking about 8-9 hours.
Nearby and Surrounding Cities or Towns– Santa Maria (34 km)
– Bantay (3 km)
– San Vicente (6 km)
– Caoayan (7 km)
– Santo Domingo (9 km)
Google Map Link to the City LocationVigan City on Google Maps
Main Events and Activities– Binatbatan Street Dancing
– Carabao Painting Contest
– Traditional Games
– Abel Iloko fashion show
– Karbo Festival
– Calesa Parade
– Antiques and Arts Fair
Famous Tourist Attractions and Landmarks– Calle Crisologo: Preserved cobblestone streets lined with Spanish-era houses. – Syquia Mansion: A museum showcasing the lifestyle of a prominent Filipino-Chinese family.
– Bantay Bell Tower: A historic watchtower offering panoramic views of Vigan.
– St. Paul’s Metropolitan Cathedral: An iconic church known for its Earthquake Baroque architecture.**
Famous Food Dishes of the City– Empanada: A savory pastry filled with vegetables, egg, and longganisa.
– Vigan Longganisa: A local garlic-flavored sausage.
– Bagnet: Crispy fried pork belly.**
Related Festivals in the Region– Longganisa Festival (January)
– Kannawidan Ylocos Festival (January)
– Binatbatan Festival of the Arts (May, part of Viva Vigan)

Festival Origins and Traditions

The Viva Vigan Festival, an emblematic celebration, was originally established to honor and perpetuate the rich and multifaceted history of Vigan, a city distinguished by its unique amalgamation of Spanish colonial and Asian architectural heritage.

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The origins and evolution of the festival reflect a deep-rooted desire to keep the city’s ancestral traditions alive, weaving a fabric of cultural continuity and communal identity. Traditional rituals play a pivotal role in this festive occasion, serving as a bridge that connects the present with the past.

These rituals, steeped in history and cultural significance, not only commemorate the enduring spirit of Vigan’s ancestors but also make sure that such practices are cherished and handed down through generations, preserving the city’s legacy for future generations to appreciate and uphold.

Cultural Highlights

Delving into the cultural highlights of the Viva Vigan Festival exposes a vibrant fabric of traditions that celebrate the rich heritage and communal spirit of the Filipino people.

Central to these celebrations are the traditional performances, where dance, music, and theatre converge to tell the stories of Vigan’s past and present. These performances are not only a spectacle of grace and agility but also a living certification of the region’s folklore and history. Equally compelling are the artistic exhibitions that pepper the festival.

Here, local artisans and craftspeople display their skills, from intricate weaving techniques that have been passed down through generations to pottery and woodcraft that echo the Spanish colonial influence. Each piece is a confirmation of the enduring craftsmanship and artistic legacy of Vigan.

Activities and Entertainment Of Viva Vigan Festival

The Viva Vigan Binatbatan Festival of the Arts, commonly known as the Viva Vigan Festival, is a vibrant celebration held annually in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Philippines, usually in the first week of May. This festival celebrates the rich cultural heritage and history of Vigan, showcasing a blend of Spanish, Mexican, and indigenous Filipino cultures. It features a variety of activities and entertainment options that cater to both locals and tourists. Here are some of the highlights of the Viva Vigan Festival:

Street Dancing Parade

One of the festival’s highlights is the street dancing parade, where participants dressed in colorful costumes perform traditional dances to the rhythm of Ilocano music. This event showcases the rich cultural traditions of the region and is a feast for the senses.

Binatbatan Street Dancing

Named after the traditional process of beating cotton pods to separate the seeds (binatbatan), this competition involves dancers performing while using wooden sticks to mimic the action of beating cotton. It’s a unique cultural presentation that pays homage to Vigan’s textile industry.

Calesa Parade

A parade of beautifully decorated calesas (horse-drawn carriages) showcases Vigan’s colonial past. The calesas, an iconic symbol of Vigan, are adorned with flowers and local crafts, making for a picturesque procession through the city’s historic streets.

Karbo Festival

This event celebrates the carabao (water buffalo), an animal integral to Philippine agriculture. Activities include carabao races, carabao painting, and a parade featuring carabaos decorated with colorful costumes.

Food Fair

A food fair that features Ilocano cuisine offers visitors the chance to taste local delicacies such as empanada, longganisa, bagnet, and more. It’s a great opportunity to explore the culinary delights of Vigan and the Ilocos region.

Abel Iloco Fair

Highlighting the traditional Ilocano woven fabric called Abel Iloco, this fair showcases products like blankets, towels, and clothing made from indigenous textiles. It’s a celebration of Vigan’sweaving heritage and offers a chance to purchase unique, handcrafted items.

Antiques and Barter Trade Fair

A nod to Vigan’s history as a trading post during the colonial period, this fair features antiques, vintage items, and local crafts. Visitors can browse through a wide selection of goods, some of which date back to the Spanish era.

Cultural Shows and Exhibits

The festival includes a variety of cultural shows, musical performances, and art exhibits that highlight the history and talents of the Ilocano people. These events provide insight into the rich cultural tapestry of Vigan.

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Religious and Historical Tours

Guided tours of Vigan’s historic sites, including churches, museums, and ancestral houses, are available during the festival. These tours offer a deeper understanding of the city’s heritage and architectural beauty.

The Viva Vigan Festival is a celebration of culture, history, and art that transforms the city into a vibrant spectacle of festivities. It’s an excellent time for visitors to experience the unique charm and rich traditions of Vigan.

Historical Sites and Museums In Vigan City Philippines

Vigan, located in the province of Ilocos Sur, Philippines, is renowned for its preserved Spanish colonial and Asian architecture. This city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, offers a rich history and cultural experience, with numerous historical sites and museums that attract visitors from around the world. Here are some of the key attractions:

  1. Calle Crisologo: The most famous street in Vigan, known for its cobblestone streets and well-preserved houses from the Spanish colonial period. Walking along Calle Crisologo feels like stepping back in time, especially at night when the street lamps cast a warm glow over the vintage buildings.
  2. Syquia Mansion Museum: This museum was the residence of the sixth President of the Philippines, Elpidio Quirino. It houses a collection of the president’s memorabilia and antique furniture, showcasing the lifestyle of the Filipino elite during the Spanish colonial era.
  3. Crisologo Museum: Dedicated to the Crisologo family, this museum displays the history of one of Vigan’s most prominent families. It includes memorabilia, antique furniture, and personal items of the family, providing insight into their significant role in the local history.
  4. Padre Burgos House (National Museum): A historical landmark, this museum was the birthplace of Father Jose Burgos, one of the three martyr priests known as Gomburza who were executed in 1872. The museum displays items related to the history of Ilocos Sur and the Philippine revolution against Spanish colonial rule.
  5. St. Paul’s Metropolitan Cathedral: Although not a museum, this cathedral is a significant historical site. It’s known for its distinct “Earthquake Baroque” architecture and serves as the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia. It’s a must-visit for its architectural and historical significance.
  6. Bantay Church and Bell Tower: Located just a few kilometers from the center of Vigan, this historical church and its bell tower offer panoramic views of Vigan and the surrounding areas. The bell tower, known for its beautiful architecture, has been a lookout point against pirate attacks during the Spanish colonial period.
  7. Burgos Museum: Located near the cathedral, this museum is dedicated to another of the Gomburza priests, Father Jose Burgos. It features exhibits on Ilocano culture and the history of the Philippine struggle for independence.

These sites offer a glimpse into the rich history and culture of Vigan and the Philippines. Visiting Vigan is like traveling through time, providing a unique experience that blends Filipino, Chinese, and Spanish influences. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or architecture, Vigan has something to offer.

Vigan City Local Delicacies and Crafts

Vigan, Philippines, is not only famous for its historical sites but also for its unique local delicacies and crafts that reflect its rich cultural heritage. The city offers a variety of traditional foods and handmade items that showcase the creativity and culinary expertise of its people. Here are some of the must-try local delicacies and crafts in Vigan:

Local Delicacies

  1. Empanada: A must-try street food in Vigan, the Vigan empanada is a crispy, orange-coloured pastry filled with grated green papaya, mung beans, egg, and Vigan longganisa (local sausage). It’s cooked to order and served hot with vinegar.
  2. Vigan Longganisa: This local sausage is distinctively garlicky and slightly sour, different from other Philippine longganisas. It’s commonly served for breakfast with garlic rice and fried egg.
  3. Bagnet: A deep-fried crispy pork belly dish that’s similar to lechon kawali. Bagnet is well-loved for its crunchy skin and tender meat, often accompanied by a side of liver sauce or vinegar with garlic and chili.
  4. Sinanglao: A flavorful beef soup that’s a staple in Vigan. It’s made with beef innards and tenderloin, seasoned with local spices, and often enjoyed as a breakfast dish.
  5. Bibingka: A type of rice cake that’s especially popular during the Christmas season. Vigan’s version is made from glutinous rice, coconut milk, and sugar, cooked in a clay pot lined with banana leaves for a distinctive flavor.

Vigan City Crafts

  1. Burnay: These are traditional Ilocano earthenware jars made from clay. Used historically for storing water, vinegar, and local wine called basi, these jars are made using pre-colonial techniques and are a significant part of Vigan’s pottery industry.
  2. Inabel: A traditional Ilocano woven fabric known for its durability and intricate designs. Inabel is used in various products such as blankets, towels, clothing, and accessories. The weaving techniques have been passed down through generations, making each piece a work of art.
  3. Wooden Furniture and Carvings: Vigan is also known for its woodcraft industry. Artisans here create beautifully carved furniture, religious icons, and decorative items using hardwood. The meticulous craftsmanship reflects the Spanish colonial influence and Filipino creativity.
  4. Kalesa Making: Although not a craft you can take home, the traditional horse-drawn carriages called kalesas are an iconic part of Vigan’s culture. The craftsmanship involved in making and maintaining these carriages is a unique aspect of the local heritage.
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Visiting Vigan offers a sensory experience that extends beyond its visual beauty. The city’s culinary delights and handmade crafts provide a deeper understanding of its cultural identity and traditions. Whether you’re savoring the flavors of its local cuisine or admiring the craftsmanship of its artisans, Vigan promises a rich and memorable experience.

Less Known Facts About Viva Vigan Festival Philippines

Here are 10 not-so-well-known, surprising, and interesting facts about the Viva Vigan Festival:

  • 🏛 The Viva Vigan Festival is held in the first week of May, celebrating the rich cultural and historical heritage of Vigan, one of the few remaining Hispanic towns in the Philippines.
  • 🎨 The festival’s highlight is the “Binatbatan” street dancing, where participants, dressed in traditional Ilocano clothing, perform dances while beating cotton pods to release the seeds, mimicking the traditional way of cotton preparation.
  • 🍲 “Karbo Festival” is a part of the Viva Vigan Festival, celebrating the culinary heritage of Vigan, including the famous empanada, longganisa, and other local delicacies, highlighting the city’s unique flavors and cooking techniques.
  • 🐎 The “Kalesa Parade” features beautifully decorated horse-drawn carriages (kalesas), which were a primary mode of transportation during the Spanish colonial era, showcasing the elegance and history of these traditional vehicles.
  • 🎭 The “Abel Iloko” fashion show is another festival highlight, where local designers showcase modern clothing made from Abel Iloko, a traditional Ilocano woven fabric known for its intricate designs and durability.
  • 📚 A “Calesa Painting Contest” encourages artists to transform traditional kalesa into moving art pieces, promoting local artistry and the preservation of cultural heritage.
  • 🌱 The “Binatbatan Street Dancing” is not only a performance but also a competition, where groups from various schools and communities compete by showcasing their creativity and interpretation of the cotton beating process.
  • 🏡 “Open House” events are organized during the festival, where ancestral houses and historical buildings open their doors to the public, offering a glimpse into Vigan’s colonial past and architectural beauty.
  • 🎥 The festival also includes the “Cinema Vigan,” a showcase of local films and documentaries that highlight the stories, traditions, and cultural heritage of the Ilocos region.
  • 🏺 “Antiques and Arts Fair” is part of the festivities, where collectors and artists display and sell a variety of items ranging from vintage furniture to traditional crafts and artworks, celebrating the artistic heritage of Vigan.

How To Reach Vigan City in Ilocos Sur Philippines

Reaching Vigan City, located in the province of Ilocos Sur in the Philippines, is relatively straightforward whether you’re coming from within the Philippines or from international locations. Here are the primary ways to get to Vigan:

By Air

  1. From Manila to Laoag: Although Vigan does not have its commercial airport, the nearest major airport is Laoag International Airport in Ilocos Norte. Flights from Manila to Laoag are available, and from Laoag, Vigan is approximately a 2-hour drive south. Visitors can rent a car or take a bus to reach Vigan from Laoag.
  2. Chartered Flights: There are also smaller airports closer to Vigan that may accommodate chartered flights. This option can be more convenient but also more expensive.

By Land

  1. Bus from Manila: Numerous bus companies operate daily trips from Manila to Vigan. The journey can take approximately 8-10 hours, depending on traffic conditions. This is the most common and economical way to reach Vigan directly from Manila. Buses may offer different classes of service, from standard to deluxe services with amenities such as Wi-Fi and onboard restrooms.
  2. Driving: For those who prefer to drive, Vigan is accessible via the Manila North Road (also known as the National Highway or MacArthur Highway). The journey offers scenic views and the opportunity to pass through several provinces. The drive from Manila to Vigan typically takes around 6-8 hours, depending on traffic and driving speed.
  3. From Other Parts of Luzon: Vigan is also reachable from other parts of Luzon via bus or private vehicle. Key cities like Baguio, La Union, and other parts of the Ilocos Region have bus services going to Vigan.

By Sea

Although not the most common route for tourists, it’s possible to reach the Ilocos Region by sea. Some ferry services connect parts of the Philippine archipelago to the northern regions, but this would generally involve additional land travel to reach Vigan.

Tips for Travelers

  • Book in Advance: Especially during peak seasons (such as the summer months and holidays), it’s advisable to book your flights or bus tickets in advance.
  • Check Weather Conditions: Before traveling, check the weather conditions as the rainy season might affect travel plans, especially for long drives and ferry trips.
  • Local Transportation in Vigan: Once in Vigan, getting around is easy with various options such as tricycles, calesas (horse-drawn carriages), and rental vehicles for more extensive exploration.

Location Of Vigan City In The Philippines

Historical Personalities From Vigan Philippines

Vigan has been the birthplace or residence of several notable historical personalities who have played significant roles in Philippine history and culture. Here are a few of these distinguished individuals:

  1. Father José Burgos (1837–1872) – One of the notable figures in Philippine history, Father José Burgos was a Filipino priest and a prominent advocate for the secularization of Filipino priests. He was one of the Gomburza (a portmanteau of Gomez, Burgos, and Zamora), three Filipino priests who were executed by Spanish colonial authorities on charges of subversion arising from the 1872 Cavite mutiny. Burgos’ execution had a profound impact on many Filipinos, including the national hero José Rizal, inspiring movements for reform and independence from Spanish rule.
  2. Elpidio Quirino (1890–1956) – The sixth President of the Philippines, serving from 1948 to 1953. Born in Vigan, Quirino was a significant figure in Philippine politics, especially during the post-World War II era. His administration focused on economic rehabilitation, a general amnesty for wartime collaborators, and improving foreign relations. The Quirino Administration was instrumental in the reconstruction of the nation after the devastation of World War II.
  3. Leona Florentino (1849–1884) – Considered the “mother of Philippine women’s literature,” Leona Florentino was a Filipina poet who wrote both in Spanish and Ilocano. She is acclaimed for her literary works that have contributed significantly to Filipino literature. Her poems gained international recognition posthumously when they were exhibited at the Exposición General de Filipinas in Madrid in 1887 and at the International Exposition in Paris in 1889.
  4. Isabelo de los Reyes (1864–1938) – Often regarded as the “Father of Filipino Socialism” and the founder of the Aglipayan Church (Philippine Independent Church), Isabelo de los Reyes was a prominent Filipino writer, labor activist, and politician. He was a pioneering figure in the Philippine labor movement and played a significant role in the struggle for independence.
  5. Vicente Singson Encarnacion (1875–1933) – A notable figure in Philippine history, Encarnacion was a businessman and politician from Vigan. He served as a member of the Philippine Assembly and was known for his contributions to the economic development of the Ilocos Region.

These individuals, among others from Vigan, have left indelible marks on various aspects of Philippine society, including its struggle for independence, literature, and social movements. Their legacies continue to influence and inspire the Filipino people today.


To sum up, the Viva Vigan Festival stands as a significant cultural event that not only celebrates the rich history and traditions of Vigan but also promotes the preservation of its unique heritage.

Through its diverse array of activities, from street parades to traditional crafts, the festival provides an invaluable opportunity for visitors to immerse themselves in the historical and cultural milieu of the region. It underscores the importance of heritage conservation in fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Philippines’ cultural diversity.

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