Vigan Antique Furniture Makers
Vigan crafts, including woodcraft, might have eventually disappeared if not for the huge demand that was generated by the patronage of the Marcos family during former President Ferdinand Marcos’ regime. During his long presidency, Ferdinand Marcos espoused cultural revival aimed at developing the Filipinos’ pride in their cultural heritage and history. Being from the North, he was exposed to the richness of Vigan culture. President Marcos supported the adoption of the kind of Spanish-period architecture that was preserved in Vigan by the sheer fortune of being hardly touched by bombings during World War II. Government-funded buildings were mostly constructed in Vigan-style under his administration.
The interest in things from Vigan did not stop there. Then First Lady Imelda Marcos began collecting antique furniture and religious statues which her retinue, called the Blue Ladies, subsequently copied. They were the hooked customers of antique dealers who sell Vigan antiques. They wanted to have the same things that the First Lady admired, and enjoy the prestige of owning these rarities. Some even went as far as to claim the priced pieces as being part of their family’s heritage, even though their being nouveau riche is popular knowledge.
To meet the demand of the seemingly insatiable market, whose base also was getting broader, antique dealers not only bought from and persuaded owners of old estates to part with their family heirlooms. They also sought to secure religious relics from churches even by illicit means. Religious statues were stolen from churches or were bought off from priests. The Saint Paul Cathedral was not spared from theft, which resulted to the death of a policeman who responded to the call for help. More and more antique dealers were being brought to court. So, some resorted to the making of fake antiques which they passed off as real. The trade in these items resulted in the invigoration of wood craft in Vigan, where replicas of antique religious statues, decors and furniture were made. They supplied antique stores in Manila and the needs of interior designers.
Nowadays, the reproductions produced by Vigan craftsmen are recognized for their skillful make and are no longer passed off as real antiques. Though no longer quite as frenzied, interest in Vigan crafts still continues and has succeeded in impressing upon the locals, pride and value in it. Biguenos reproduce them to continue and develop their rich heritage and craft. Visitors to Vigan who would like to view the craftsmanship of real antiques and antique reproductions can visit the shops which specialize in them that are found along Calle Crisollogo and Plaridel Street. Both are within the UNESCO Heritage Village. Bringing home an antique will surely be a one-of-a-kind buy.