We are in Luzon, a Catholic stronghold in the Philippines.
As ten in the morning approaches, the heat of the dry season takes over the city. It leaves her in a kind of tropical lethargy.
The coaches slumber in their kalese, a kind of carriages inherited from the Spaniards, parked in a row along the side façade of the Cathedral of São Paulo.
After all, together, the weights of the trip and the tip, reveal financial relief that justifies the wait.
The Cathedral of the Conversion of St. Paul: the Sacred Catholic Temple Vigan
Some marriages are integrated in the homily. We enter the nave of the church in the middle of one of the ceremonies. Hundreds of believers, moved by her christian faith and a few curious outsiders.
A sign written in red asks temple attendees to dress appropriately for the celebrations. Unaware of the insult, a foreigner right next to her confronts her, dressed in sports shorts and a bright blue shirt with colorful fish drawn in a childish line.
The faithful burn candles and more candles and whisper the corresponding prayers
Until the last marriage is consummated. In classic good manner, the couple is attacked by rice, petals and by the flashes of a battalion of semi-professional and casual photographers.
We are told that some of the wealthiest families in Vigan are represented there, something which, given the sumptuousness of the suits and dresses, which are certainly in order for you, we are inclined to believe.
The couple takes refuge in a white limousine. In its wake, the people abandon the protection of the temple on foot or by kalesa and put an end to the anxiety of the more fortunate coachmen.
We join this general stampede and head towards Syquia Mansion, one of the historic homes flags of the city and the Philippines.
Tomas Quirino and the Syquia Mansion. Legacies of the History of Vigan and the Philippines
The servant opens the gate and announces us. Tomas Quirino gets us something sweaty despite his fresh clothes to bring home.
We are facing one of the sons of the sixth Philippine president. Quirinus Elpidium he led the Philippines in two terms, from 1948 to the end of 1953. He was credited with a remarkable post-war logistical and economic reconstruction, achieved with substantial support from the United States.
But they were also pointed out to the gaps in the basic social problems that had never been resolved and the widespread corruption of the administration, which also insisted on angering the population with its princely spending abroad.
Tomas was the only male descendant of Elpidio to survive the hardships of World War II. His mother Alicia Syquia and three of the brothers were killed in 2 as they fled their home during the terrible battle for Manila.
The host hides neither his resentment nor his sexual orientation. During a tour of the mansion, he shows us photographs and belongings of his father and, between expressions and effeminate gestures, tells us about the Sino-Hispanic origins of the family.
Recognition of the Spanish colony and resentment towards the Japanese
He praises both peoples and reproaches the Japanese: “the Quirinos were torn apart by them. My grandmother succumbed to a real massacre, but at a time when we took thousands of Japanese prisoners, my father and other leaders were able to forgive and sent them back to Japan.
Compassion is a very characteristic of Christians, but not all peoples know it. The Spaniards taught it to the Filipinos”.
We left the Syquia mansion. We continued to explore the mestizo district that the Filipinos called Kasanglayan (where the Chinese live).
World War II bombs saved an impressive concentration of ancestral and colonial houses there. Japanese troops had just fled the city. This stampede caused the American bombers to abort their mission at the last minute. Vigan's historic sumptuousness was thus spared.
Kasanglayan Neighborhood, Featured From The Incredible Colonial Vigan
Some houses were built by merchants from Fujian Province who settled in Vigan, married natives, and by the XNUMXth century became the city's elite.
Despite being, in a generic way, considered Spanish, the architecture de Kasanglayan actually consists of a combination of Mexican and Chinese styles to which Filipino developments such as sliding shell windows have been added.
In the late afternoon, we walk through what is considered the main street of Kasanglayan, Mena Crisólogo Street. This is what dozens of kalesas do in search of new passengers.
There are plenty of antique shops, bookshops and other home businesses run by small local clans with oriental features but Castilian and even Basque names and surnames, like those of the recently inscribed in chalk on the board of services we discovered at the funeral home Enrique Baquiran: Guzman, Pascual, Zamora, Urbano, Jimenez.
They are all a legacy of the long Hispanic colonization of the Philippines. That of Luzon, the largest island in this island nation, and that of Vigan, in particular.
Vigan and the Philippines' Colonial Past: the Hispanic and the Shortest American Good
That of Vigan was inaugurated when, in 1572, the conqueror Juan de Salcedo seized the city, then a convenient trading post on the Silk Road that linked Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
It ended on July 12, 1898, the date of the proclamation of the Philippines' independence but also the time when the United States began to replace the Spanish as its colonial power.
The Americans stayed until 1935. They returned ten years later to drive out the Japanese invaders. During this period, there were numerous cultural influences that passed to the Filipinos. We recognize them in the ease with which they speak English and in their passion for basketball.
The connection between the two nations and the low cost of living are the main reasons why so many Hollywood filmmakers chose and choose the Philippines to film their works, from “Apocalypse Now" to "born on the 4th of July".
Vigan's Unlikely Link to Mexico, in “Born on the 4th of July”
Unexpectedly, this latest success was linked to Vigan forever. At the time of shooting, relations between the US and the Vietnam they remained problematic. For that reason, Oliver Stone filmed the Vietnam War scenes in the jungle areas of the Philippines.
The film also includes excerpts from the Mexico. The travel of the entire team involved in the shooting to that country or to Europe would be too costly.
Instead, Stone moved to Vigan where the architectural heritage shared the traits the Spaniards adapted to their Mexican villages.
Villa Angela is another such heritage. He built it in 1870, Agapito B. Florendo um governor that concentrated total administrative and judicial powers. It would later be purchased by the prominent Verzosa family who named it in honor of matriarch Angela.
When we visit it, we come across features similar to those of the Syquia Mansion: grandiose rooms built on massive wooden planks, decorated with XNUMXth century furniture and ornaments that give it a strong sense of living.
The housekeeper proudly shows us her place of work. When we arrive at the room del señor, he calls our attention to a particular photograph. “As you can see, Tom Cruise stayed with us…”.
The photo shows the protagonist of “born on the 4th of July” in his early career, with the current owner of the mansion. As we are told, Willem Dafoe was also privileged to inhabit it.
And there was filmed part of “Jose Rizal”, the cinematographic tribute to the main Filipino patriot and independenceist, executed by the Spaniards 26 years after Villa Angela was completed.