Vigan Spanish Period
Through a papal bull by Pope Clement VIII, a diocese called Nueva Segovia in Cagayan’s city of Lallo was recognized as the religious center of the North of Luzon. However, the conditions in Lallo subjected the bishops to being flooded during the wet season and in danger of catching malaria. Cagayan’s Rio Grande was also slowly encroaching upon the land where the diocese was. So, the bishops began to set their sights on transferring the diocese to Vigan which was the favored domicile of the church leaders anyway, beginning in 1595. It is not hard to understand why the bishops of Nueva Segovia have chosen to stay in Vigan.
It had been all through the years the North’s center of economy and, because of its wealth, a political center as well. Its growth had not waned over the years, it only got stronger. Bringing the religious center there will not only bring them at the center of influence in the North, it will also bring them much closer to Manila, the country’s ultimate center of influence. Bishop Juan de la Fuentes de Yepes made the request for the transfer to the king in 1755. In presenting his request, he gathered the support of alcalde mayores and the members of the Dominican and Augustinian orders. The alcalde mayores of Cagayan, Pangasinan and Vigan gave testimonies of support, while endorsements were given by Fray Bernardo Ustaris and Fray Manuel Carillo.
Pope Benedict XIV and King Fernando VI approved the transfer of the archdiocese of Nueva Segovia to Vigan in September 1758. Through the approving royal decree, Vigan was also elevated to city status with the name Ciudad Fernandina de Vigan. The local inhabitants of Vigan continued with their agricultural livelihood, while the mestizos or citizens of mixed Filipino-Chinese descent prospered in their trade and industries. This business class’ wealth enabled them to influence the history of Vigan from the latter part of the Spanish period onwards.
The backing of the native populace and the resources of the mestizos helped the revolutionaries who sought to release the whole country from Spanish rule. They supported the Malong Revolt in 1661, the Silang Revolt in 1762, the Tobacco Revolt in 1788 and the Basi Revolt in 1807. Their support allowed the revolutionaries under the leadership of General Emilio Aguinaldo to defeat the Spaniards in Vigan in 1896. The general set up his revolutionary headquarters for the region at the archbishop’s palace, where the Philippine flag was raised for the first time, after nearly 400 years of Spanish subjugation.