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Chasing Time | Museums in Vigan

Vigan is the biggest live museum in the Philippines. There is always a piece of Spanish colonial story tucked somewhere on its buildings, cobblestone walkways and parks. But within its historic townscape are the homes of prominent Filipinos who have made significant marks in shaping the socio-cultural and political developments of Ilocos Sur. The descendant families have opened the doors of their homes to the public to showcase the details of Vigan’s opulent past.

Curved balayong kapiya owned by Floro S. Crisologo  
 
I am a serious fan of museums not only for its objet d’art but because it is culturally necessary. In my tour of these museums, I overheard most of the uninitiated tourists referring to the artifacts as homogenously Spanish. Actually, the breadth of Vigan’s collections is eclectic. The various exhibits span hundreds of years of Philippine memorabilia from pre-historic to the late 1970s. It covers rich pieces of antiquity with remarkable influences from diverse cultures in different social and cultural milieus.
 
Padre Burgos House, designed in geometric bahay-na-bato.
PADRE BURGOS HOUSE
The Padre Burgos House is the ancestral home and birthplace of Father Jose Burgos, a Filipino martyr priest who fought against Spanish abuses during colonial times. It is designed in 19th century geometric bahay-na-bato and currently houses collections of important Iloko-Kankanay material culture, the 1807 Basi Revolt painting of Don Esteban Villanueva and the heirlooms of the Burgos family.
 
High-relief sculpture of Padre Burgos. The house also exhibits old photographs of Ilocano heroes and dioramas.
Currently, Padre Burgos House is under the administration of the National Museum under 50-year lease of governance from the Ilocos Sur Cultural and Historical Foundation, Inc. (Source: www.nationalmuseum.gov.ph)
 
4-poster beds are common among the aristocrat families during the Spanish colonial period.

Ochavado table flanked by chairs in mixed hardwood and woven rattan strips.
 
Unfortunately, it is sad to see that the National Museum left such precious piece of history in a disgraceful state.

 

  • Tourists are collected fees but are left to move around without provisions of any information about the place. Not even a welcome greeting.
  • Some of the pieces are left in dingy rooms, collecting dust and spider webs.
  • The labels on some exhibit items are untastefully done in cellophane-covered bondpaper text.
  • The photographs of local Ilocano heroes are sadly in cheap frames (and some in cardboards), disrespectful of their contributions to Philippine history.
  • One of the guys in the museum sneaked in a plastic of what appeared to be a burger from the Bee.

 

 


 

 

Built 1830. Another classic example of a geometric bahay-na-bato.

 

 
THE SYQUIA MANSION
 
The Syquia Mansion was the residence of Elpidio Quirino, the 6th President of the Philippines and the most loved son of Vigan. He was a native of Caoayan, Ilocos but married to Dona Alicia Syquia of Vigan who came from a wealthy migrant Chinese family. Today, this Spanish principalia mansion is under the care of the descendants of the Quirinos and by far, the most well-kept, poetically beautiful museum in Vigan.
 
Art deco furniture fills the Presidential caida (sala/lobby), accentuated by European beveled mirrors and sculptures.
The lady in the painting is Presidential daughter and First Lady. Qurino was a widower when he became President. The alley serves as walkway of the aliping saguiguilid or serfs. Servants inside the house were called aliping namamahay.
The comedor or dining hall. The aparador or cabinet contains expensive china and dulceras (sugar containers).
The 4-poster bed of President Qurino done in elaborate carvings, flanked by a beautiful comoda (cabinet armoir).
Homes of wealthy Filipinos during the Spanish colonial times had azotea or a garden terrace.
Its historical narratives are told through its finest China, exquisite art deco furniture and European decors in a lavish bahay-na-bato spatial arrangement. The house speaks of exquisite grandeur befitting a privileged Chinese Creole family and the President of a nation.
Crisologo Museum along Liberation Boulevard.
CRISOLOGO MUSEUM
This family museum is dedicated to Floro S. Crisologo the grand patriarch of the Crisologos and author of national legislations enjoyed by many Filipinos today. His assassination in 1970 led to the creation of this museum to preserve the memories of one of Ilocos Sur’s strongest men and a reminder of a murder story that remains unsolved ‘til this day.
It is a centennial house filled with memorabilia of the Crisologo family. Its collection varies from late 19th century until 1970s.
 
The ambushed Crisologo car in 1961 carrying then the pregnant Carmeling Crisologo who survived the incident.
Typical homes had escaleras or stairways. Built intentionally steep so its visitors had to bow to owners of the house.
Shutters were made of kapis shells since stained glass were not yet the style design of this century.
The museums in Vigan are always a blockbuster. Tourists come in endless waves. Visitors crisscross, they go up and down, in and out. But everyone who comes (including me) is just left to go home without being asked how the tour has enriched his museum experience. On top of that, its uncontrollable traffic creates footprints on faster structural decay.

 

Vigan is such a huge historical gem and I do not want to think of it as just an archival domain of our changing world. With high hopes of sustainable tourism, there is still a big opportunity for its museums to provide a better experience beyond just showing the material past.
 

 

 
 

 

 

Note: Another interesting museum are the Arzobispado de Nueva Segovia and San Pablo Museum which house reliquaries gathered from various heritage churches in Ilocos Sur. However, they will have a separate story soon.


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