Viva Vigan Festival of the Arts
The Viva Vigan Festival of Arts is celebrated during the first week of the month of May. It was started in 1993 by the Save Vigan Ancestral Homes Association, Inc. (SVAHAI) to promote awareness of the value of the historic town, which was hoped to strengthen resolve to preserve and protect this heritage site. For the past sixteen years, the festival of arts has been successful in drumming up attention for Vigan’s ancestral houses. With the help of national and local agencies, as well as media, arts and non-governmental supporters, the festival has also succeeded in promoting other aspects of Vigan. Its popularity has even benefited the whole tourism industry of the northern region, bringing in tens of thousands of local and foreign tourists curious to explore and have a “northern experience.”
Viva Vigan’s week-long festivities have both religious and secular importance. It starts on the 1st of May, when the whole country celebrates Labor Day and Vigan remembers its own Isabelo de los Reyes, who founded the country’s first federation of labor. The catholic faithful also remembers on this day St. Joseph, patron saint of workers. The first-day commemoration is followed by the Binatbatan Festival celebrations, which includes a street dancing competition. Binatbatan dancing is connected to Vigan’s abel Iloco craft. The dance depicts how cotton pods are beaten with bamboo sticks to release the cotton fluff called batbat from its seed. This festival was started in 2002 to showcase this traditional weaving craft that is said to predate the arrival of the Spaniards.
On the 3rd of May, the Feast of Apo Sto. Cristo Milagroso is observed with a mass at the Simbaan a Basiit. This is a most significant religious celebration in Vigan due to the many instances that the city was said to be saved by the Apo. Another significant festival within the Viva Vigan festival is the Karbo Festival, which was began in 2005. It’s aimed at giving importance to the people behind Vigan’s agricultural industry and their contribution. The name of the festival was taken from the words carabao, the Philippine water buffalo used for farming, and bokel or seeds. During this day, gaily painted carabaos are paraded and children show their artistic creations that make use of seeds.
Visitors are also encourage to squeeze into their six-day Viva Vigan experience the watching of the calesa parade, ramada or traditional games, comedia or stage drama, Santa Cruzan parade, abel fashion show and house decoration, singing contests and beauty pageants and other exciting events like the Amazing Heritage Race. They can also participate in religious rituals or visit exhibits, garden shows, as well as trade and food fairs.