Monday, August 28, 2006


Inang Baket always have problems with her stomach. She will have two operations and it would be the cause of her death. It started just after the big war when her stomach suddenly started bulging and she became sickly. Nobody can cure her in the entire province of Nueva Vizcaya. Amang Lakay heard of a famed doctor from Ilocos Sur who might help and immediately prepared for the trip. The crops are not yet harvested and they have no money but relatives, neighbors and fellow Sabadistas contributed to so they can at least have fare money. Amang Lakay asked a neighbor to sell his carabao and instructed him to send the money to them in Ilocos Sur. The house and the younger children were entrusted to Auntie Ibang and relatives. It was the spirit of the amuyo.

They found Dr. Godofredo Reyes in Vigan, Ilocos Sur but they have no money to pay for the operation. Amang Lakay pleaded for the doctor to operate on Inang Baket. He promised to pay upon receiving the money from the sale of his carabao. Dr. Reyes agreed but there are no available anesthesia. Inang Baket had to endure every slice of the scalpel on her skin, and she passed out in pain when the knife began scrapping a tumor from her stomach which caused it to bulge. When she regained consciousness, the pain came back and stayed for weeks. She is lucky to survive. Dr. Reyes' five other patients with a similar case died after being operated. The good doctor will later serve as Ilocos Sur Governor.

They stayed for three months in Vigan while Inang Baket recuperates from the operation. They finally came home hitching a ride on a logging truck. The trip almost killed Inang Baket. She looked like death --- frighteningly thin, her mournful but soothing eyes dull with pain. But she would live for a long, long time.

Vigan is one of the oldest pueblos in the Philippines having been established by the occupation forces of Juan de Salcedo. The first parochial building is a chapel built by Augustinian priests in 1574 in the present site of the Cathedral of San Pablo. Vigan was then called Villa Fernandina after the King of Spain. The present church (i.e. the Cathedral) was built in 1641 and razed by fire in 1739. It was probably rebuilt and afterwards handed over to the Dominicans who transferred the Diocese of Nueva Segovia from Lallo, Cagayan to Vigan.

I always make a stop in Vigan whenever I have the chance. It is my way of saying thank you to the miracle and kindness of Doctor Reyes, and for another moment of basking in the well-preserved Ilocano heritage city. I took Bulan in my last trip to the Ilocos and told him the story of the miracle while walking around Vigan’s heritage district so he will not forget. We had a photo in the statue of the great Ilocana poet Leona Florentino.

Vigan is along a loop that includes the towns of San Vicente, Santa Catalina, and Caoayan. These 3 other towns are part of Metro Vigan and their magnificent colonial churches --- perhaps built by the Domincans --- is worth a brief visita iglesia.

Pedro Bucaneg's Mountain

The town of Bantay, which means guardian and/or mountain in Ilocano, stands like a sentinel in the entrance to Vigan. Another miracle happened in the town before Inang Baket’s time. One day at around 1580, a baby was thrown in the river and was saved by a Spanish priest. The baby survived but grew up blind. Despite this handicap, he eventually served as a teacher of the Ilocano language to Fr. Francisco Lopez (OSA) who translated the catechism of Cardinal Bellarmine that later became the first Ilocano book to be printed. He also translated the Doctrina Cristiana into his native tongue, co-authored the Arte dela Lengua Ilocana, and wrote the great Ilocano epic Biag ni Lam-ang. His name is Pedro Bucaneg. I will meet him in my childhood through a favorite poetry joust in the radio named in his honor --- the Oras ti Bukanegan.
Bantay was accepted by the Augustinians as a mission in 1591. Its church (dedicated to San Agustin) was also said to be the recipient of miracles through the intercession of the enshrined image of the Our Lady of Charity: during Malong’s Revolt in 1661 and Silang’s Revolt from 1761 to 1763 when the parochial building s were spared from a fiery destruction. During the Silang Revolt, the convent was used in imprisoning Bishop Ustariz and some priests until they were released after Diego Silang’s assassination by Miguel Vicos. The present church might have been the one that Fr. Eduardo Navarro had initiated to rebuild in 1870. Some years later in 1928, the ivory parts of the image of Our Lady of Charity were stolen and never recovered.

PHOTOS (top to bottom): (1) The Vigan metropolitan cathedral; (2) Tatay and Bulan at the Leona Florentino monument; (3) San Vicente Church; (4) Sta. Catalina Church; (5) Caoayan Church; and (6) Bantay Church.

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