Revolts and Social unrest
Being the nucleus of religious, economic, political, social, commercial and cultural activities in the north for more than three centuries, Vigan became a hotbed of social unrest. The social inequity of caciquism and landlordism, the imposition of unfair tributes and other taxes on the natives, the abuses of foreign friars and civil administrators, the demand for free labor in the construction of civil and religious infrastructure, monopolies in some local industries, and the continued infringement on the rights of the citizens provoked the natives to revolt against established authorities.
In 1762, Diego Silang, the first Filipino emancipator led the famous Ilocano Revolt against the collection of exorbitant tributes and the imposition of monopoly on provincial commerce by the Alcalde Mayor and the “babaknangs” of Vigan. The revolt coincided with the short-lived British occupation of Manila. After Diego Silang was assassinated on May 28, 1763, his wife, Gabriela Silang, took over as leader of the uprising until she was captured and hanged publicly in Vigan four months later. She was later extolled as the Filipino Joan of Arc and the first woman to lead a revolt in the Islands.
In 1817, the civil government imposed a monopoly forbidding the Ilocanos to brew “basi” the sugarcane wine compelling them to buy the product from government controlled stores. On September of that year, Ambaristo led a popular uprising until they were caught and summarily executed along the banks of the Bantaoay River in the neighboring town of San Vicente, Ilocos Sur.
To warn the restless natives against any future attempts to overthrow the colonial government, a series of paintings was commissioned. In 1821, fourteen oil paintings measuring 91.44 by 91.44 centimeters each were produced by a Vigan-born painter named Esteban Pichay Villanueva (1797-1878).
Retelling the Basi Revolt from the Spanish colonial viewpoint, the fourteen paintings echo the via cruces or way of the cross paintings in churches. According to art historian Santiago Pilar, the paintings, in sequence show the following scenes: (1) Alcalde Mayor Juan Ybanez and local troops at vigil; (2) Ybanez calls the chiefs of Bantay, San Vicente, and Santa Catalina; (3) Chiefs of Candon and Santiago are reprimanded for tardiness; (4) Rebels of Ilocos Norte march to Ilocos Sur; (5) Troops sent to confront the revels; (6) An arrested rebel dies of lashing; (7) Vigan troops are sent to repel the enemies; (8) Natives flee to Bantay Church; (9) Bloody battle is wage at Bantaoay; (10) Dead rebels are buried; (11) Victory comes on September 7, 1807; (12) Convicts are brought to the gallows; (13) Revel leaders are hanged; (14) The condemned are decapitated.
Villanueva’s style is naïve. The figures appear two-dimensional, and follow the hierarchical perspective (the government officials are larger than the farmers on the same plane). According to Pilar, Villanueva did not take formal lessons in an established artistic tradition. He derived artistic devices in his environment. He stylized clouds in the manner of carved santo images.
The Basi Revolt paintings are important, not only because they chronicle, albeit rather prejudicially, a milestone in the Filipino struggle for freedom. The fourteen panels are important also because they are some of the finest examples of a particular stage in the development of paintings in the Philippines. Before the time of Villanueva, subjects for paintings were predominantly religious in nature. It was only in the 19th century that non-religious subjects became popular.
Today, the Basi Revolt paintings are on display at the Vigan branch of the National Museum, inside the ancestral house of Father Jose Burgos.
The Edict of Governor General Narciso Claveria in 1847 required all inhabitants of the Philippines to adopt surnames to facilitate the collection of taxes. Being the capital town, the “naturales” or natives in Vigan were required to adopt surnames beginning with the letter “A” while the mestizos with the letter “F”. In the case of the De Leon, Dela Cruz, Prudencio, Donato and Del Rosario families, each added another surname beginning with the letter “F”. Thus, Faz de Leon, Filar dela Cruz, but later dropping the dela Cruz and added the “T” to Filart, Foz Prudencio, Ferre Donato, and Fino del Rosario. It was also during this period that the influential Mariano family changed their surname to Formoso.
As early as in 1890, the prominent families of Vigan were quick to support the revolutionary movement of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo against the Spaniards. Aguinaldo finally captured Vigan in 1896 making the Archbishop’s palace as the province’s revolutionary headquarters during the first phase of the Philippine revolution. General Tinio arrived in Vigan in 1898 to drive away all Spaniards out of Ilocos. Finally, on August 13, 1898, the Filipino flag was raised on top of the Archbishop’s palace for the first time in 325 years. Vigan and the rest of the Ilocos region were left completely in Filipino hands.
But on the same year, the Dewey squadron sank the entire Spanish fleet in Manila Bay. The Spanish-American War ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which ceded the Philippines to the victorious Americans. This precipitated the Philippine-American War, which was announced in Vigan with the ringing of the bells. The Ilocos under the leadership of Gen. Tinio, the brothers Blas and Juan Villamor, and Bishop Gregorio Aglipay became the last bastion of defense against the incoming American forces until the US 45th Infantry under Col. James Parker captured Vigan in December 4, 1899.
In the fight against the Americans, the Katipunan movement was very much alive in Vigan. According to William Henry Scott – Ilocano Responses to American Aggression, 1900-1901, “ The Calvo family was associated with the family of Estanislao delos Reyes in a supply network which served Filipino forces from his mother’s house for more than a year before it was discovered and broken-up. Five feisty females operated it: Eleuteria Florentino, Salome Reyes, Lucia del Rosario, Conching Calvo and Carmen delos Reyes. They were arrested for “communicating with and giving aid and comfort to the insurgents and shipped to Fort Santiago in Manila on 18 February 1901. Eleuteria was Estanislao’s widowed mother whom “Dangadang” (Struggle) called “Capitana Teriang”. At the time of her death 30 years later, she was compared to Balintawak’s Tandang Sora. This family alliance, whose members occupy so much space in Vigan’s list of “names of natives connected with the insurgent government”, was based on the marriage of two Reyes brothers with two Florentino sisters and illustrates the sort of family solidarity which supported men in the field”.
The revolutionist finally surrendered to the Americans on February 1901. The Americans established a civil government in September 1, 1901, with Mena Crisologo as the first provincial governor. Ironically, Mena Crisologo was the husband of Felipa Florentino, Eleuteria’s elder sister.