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I thought I already know a lot about its history and culture but I realized that the more I discover new things, the more questions leave me hanging.
"I thought I already know a lot about its history and culture but I realized that the more I discover new things, the more questions leave me hanging."

[VIGAN, ILOCOS SUR, PHILIPPINES] ► The city of Vigan has a significant Chinese heritage and this heritage manifests to both intangible and tangible things. In fact, Vigan has a big community of Chinese Bigueños concentrated in the poblacion barangays. Many of the ancestral houses of Vigan are also owned by the Chinese Bigueños so you cannot take away the fact that Vigan is partly influenced by the Chinese people who sailed from China and settled in Vigan (yes, they crossed the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea). (Erratum: I erred when I put the watermarks on my photos. It should be "Lion Dance" not "Dragon Dance." Please disregard the watermark.)

[VIGAN]  HELLO! WELCOME TO VIGAN!

First Time to Watch a Lion Dance

#VIGAN


ON VIGAN'S TRES DE MAYO (REFERS TO the festive 3rd day of May), I discovered something. In fact, I've never encountered an event like this all my life in person. I know it exists because I watched it on television but it's my first time to watch this in person.

As a resident of Vigan since birth who is utterly passionate in studying the culture and heritage of this beautiful little city, it's so emotional to learn and discover something new that is related to my identity as a legit Bigueño. Well, what I discovered is actually more of the Chinese cultural heritage but this is not all about the Chinese per se. This is about my hometown Vigan and us Bigueños, her people. The mixture of culture in Vigan makes my city unique in Asia. UNESCO has spoken. Our culture and townscape are distinct that it cannot be paralleled anywhere else in Asia!

So what's this? It's a lion dance. Don't think this is something ridiculous because I know lion dance can be seen everywhere, BUT... This is not about a lion dance done for entertainment or for the Chinese New Year. This is about Vigan's culture and heritage.

Vigan's Chinese roots shouldn't be set aside. So every Tres de Mayo, a lion dance team performs the dance ritual in the properties of Bigueños who have Chinese roots.

[VIGAN]  THE LION WITH AN OPEN MOUTH.

[VIGAN]  THE LION WITH CLOSED MOUTH.


While driving my bike, I passed by the Ruby Pottery in Brgy Pagburnayan. I heard percussion sounds and there's a crowd build-up. I got curious so I joined the crowd and saw a lion dance ritual.

At first, I got confused because I didn't know this has something to do with our cultural heritage. I just watched it and observed the dance ritual with thoughts in my mind that this is a private event with nothing to do in our Bigueño culture.

The lion dance happened inside the property of Fidel Go, a Philippine National Folk Artist. Fidel Go is a burnay maker, a skill he learned from his grandfather who came from China. He owns the Ruby pottery in Brgy Pagburnayan, one of the few remaining jar factories in the city.

Actually, there are two lions inside his property. One is red. The other one is golden. I only saw the golden lion doing the dance ritual. I observed their move.

There were two people clang together to execute the lion dance. One is the base who holds the lower half of the lion costume. The other one sits on the shoulder of the base and hold the head and the upper half of the lion costume.

[VIGAN] ► THIS GOLDEN LION IS COMPOSED OF TWO PERFORMERS CLANG TOGETHER AS ONE.

Lion Dance in Pagburnayan
It was in Brgy Pagburnayan where I first witnessed this lion dance for the Tres de Mayo. As I said above, I saw this inside Fidel Go's property, a folk artist who has Chinese roots.

The sound of the percussion instruments caught my attention that I really had to stop and be a curious onlooker. I saw the sons and daughters of Fidel Go watching the dance ritual but mostly, the crowd was composed of curious tourists and locals.

Those who are hitting the percussion instruments were at the back. The two dance ritual performers were fronting the entrance of the property.

At first, I thought this was a private event exclusive in Paburnayan's Chinese potters with Chinese heritage.

The Lion Dance Execution
THERE ARE TWO WOODEN BENCHES ON THEIR dance site. I wasn't able to watch the start of the rite so what I only documented was the last part of the dance. I actually captured in photo the execution of the last parts of the dance rites.

[VIGAN] ► (1) THE PERFORMERS ARE GETTING READY TO STEP ON THE BENCH.

[VIGAN] ► (2) THE DANCE PERFORMERS ARE ABOUT TO STEP ON THE BENCH.

[VIGAN] ► (3) THE PERSON HANDLING THE HEAD OF THE LION IS ABOUT TO LAND ON THE BENCH.

[VIGAN] ► (4) STEPPING ON THE BENCH, THE BASE WILL FOLLOW SUIT.

[VIGAN] ► BOTH ARE NOW ON THE BENCH.

[VIGAN] ► THE HEAD REACHES THE RED FLAG HANGING ABOVE.

[VIGAN] ► THE RED FLAG IS ALREADY GONE.


The golden lion tandem performers have this end goal of getting and/or touching the red flag hanging over the bench. This is based on what I observed. Take note that I am not an expert on this certain tradition in Vigan so what I only can do is to observe keenly and document for future reference.

The tandem performers attempted to step on the benches for a few times. After a few attempts, they both finally elevated themselves on the bench.

When the head reached the red flag, the dance ritual was over. The execution was not easy. It actually requires expertise and experience to execute the steps. I noticed that the man sitting on the shoulder of base eventually stood up and stepped on the shoulder of the base. That was an act that requires thorough practice so that you can maintain a balance with a costume covering you.

Take note that they attempted to do this stunt a few times until they succeeded. There are support people watching over to make sure that the two performers would not fall. Upon the stepping of the base on the benches, someone held his waste to prevent him from falling. Also, there's a team holding the benches so that they would not move.

The performance was over when the lion reached/touched the red flag hovering above. After the performance, I noticed the red flag is no longer there.

[VIGAN] ► THE TWO LIONS AFTER THEIR PERFORMANCES

Stalking the Lion Dancers
AFTER THE PERFORMANCE, THEY LEFT FIDEL GO'S pagburnayan (jar factory). I was really curious why they were doing this. This point of time, I still had no idea that this is related to the Tres de Mayo fiesta in Vigan that honors our cultural heritage whether it's an Ilocano or Chinese in origin.

The performers were all wearing a yellow shirt with Chinese character prints. When I took Rizal Street, I saw the group walking with all their props so I decided to talk to at least one of them. Since the road is very busy, I can't find a place to park my bike so I just followed them. When they were about to turn left to Alcantara Street going to the Vigan Public Market, I stopped in front of the gate of the former Adora Clinic and Hospital back of the former Lyric Cinema. I parked my bike in front of the gate.

I crossed the busy street rushing. I saw one of the performers (the one who held the head of the lion costume). I talked to him while he's walking and he was a bit surprised with my ambush interview.

I introduced myself, what I do in life and explained to him the reason why I am doing this. I asked if he and his companions are Bigueños. He told me they aren't. They came from Manila. So I asked him why they are doing that lion dance and he answered me that they came to Vigan to perform the lion dance for the Vigan fiesta (Tres de Mayo). From there, I learned that their performance was related to the fiesta of Vigan and not exclusive in Pagburnayan but I'm still confused why they are doing this. On my follow-up question, he answered me that the performance they did in Fidel Go's property is just one of the performances they will be doing this day.

"Where else are you going to perform?" I asked. He answered me that they will perform to some more properties/houses owned by Bigueños with Chinese lineage. Since we're now getting far, I opted to cut the conversation because I'm planning to get back my bike and follow where they're going.  I told him I have to go and get my bike. When I was already with my bike, I rushed to the place where we last talked but sad to say, they were no longer there. The group is gone. However, I have high hopes that I'll be talking to them again next year.

I wasn't satisfied yet with the things I learned because I still have questions in mind. This would mean that I'm not going to stop my search and research.

This is Vigan. I thought I already know a lot about its history and culture but I realized that the more I discover new things, the more questions leave me hanging. The search for answers will continue. I'm pretty sure there are a lot of articles online discussing deeply the essence and significance of lion dance but what I want to do is to learn it by myself, obtain first-hand information and hear answers from real Bigueños who directly take part in this tradition. The internet may provide the answer but I want answers based on the perspective of a true and authentic Chinese who has embraced our traditions and proud himself to claim that he is from Vigan and that he is a proud Bigueño. At this point, the search isn't over.| end |
_________________________________________________

More posts related to Tres de Mayo ► [1]

[VIGAN] ► Ramada: Thanksgiving Culture and Traditional Games


TEASER ▬ The ramada traditional games happen every Tres de Mayo. Tres de Mayo is a feast day honoring Apo Lakay or the Sto Cristo Milagroso de Vigan who is believed to have saved Vigan from a plague in 1882.

| [2]

[VIGAN] ▬ The Holy Mass for Sto Cristo Milagroso de Vigan


TEASER ▬ This time, it's a team. The image of Sto Cristo Milagroso de Vigan was placed above the middle of a temporary altar that was especially set up for today's use. The altar was on a platform accentuated by ornamental plants.



03 MAY 2016: LION DANCE ON TRES DE MAYO FIESTA
A LION DANCE PERFORMANCE IN PAGBURNAYAN

TRES DE MAYO VIGAN

[VIGAN] ► HELLO! WELCOME TO TRES DE MAYO LION DANCE!


► FOOTNOTES, DISCLAIMERS, ACKNOWLEDGMENT, ETC

[1] This post is filed under the category "Customs and Traditions." This is a category here on my blog where I write my experiences, note down my insights and post photo essays about customs and traditions I've seen or experienced then I weave them into stories. There is a section below where you can see other related posts from this category.

[2] All maps I used on this post are the works of Eugene Alvin Villar and Mike Gonzalez published on Wikipedia. Source: 1 | 2


[3] All photos are mine.

[4] The insights, conditions and name of places or properties I mentioned here are based on the facts and situation on the day of my visit. Take note that you may have a different experience when you experience the Tres de Mayo in Vigan. Names of places and properties may also change by time.

More Stories from #Vigan

Map Showing the Location of #Vigan


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MORE POSTS FROM THIS CATEGORY: *CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS*

[VIGAN] ► The Holy Mass for Sto Cristo Milagroso de Vigan

_________________
TEASER ▬ This time, it's a team. The image of Sto Cristo Milagroso de Vigan was placed above the middle of a temporary altar that was especially set up for today's use.

[VIGAN] ► How Holy Week is Celebrated in Vigan? (What You Need to Know)

_________________
TEASER ▬ ...you can't take away the fact that Good Friday is Vigan's most crowded day and Vigan's religious culture is the phoenix. The minority creeps out in oblivion—its powerlessness revealed.

[VIGAN] ► Unveiling of Christmas Tree, an Annual Bigueño Tradition

_________________
TEASER ▬ Our Bigueño culture is so rich that it is not enough to express it in words—we need to express them in festivities and manifest it in our intangible good traditions for other people to understand.

[VIGAN] ► Domingo de Ramos (Palm Sunday) Scenes

_________________
TEASER ▬ This is Holy Week up north. This is Vigan, like any other places in the Philippines.

[VIGAN] ► Procession: Observing the Semana Santa in Vigan

_________________
TEASER ▬ I hope everyone shall change for the better. It should not just be a tTRADradition but it should be a goal to enrich our spiritual lives.

[VIGAN] ► Santa Cruzan in Vigan's Flores de Mayo

_________________
TEASER ▬ Bigueños love cultural events a lot because we also love our cultural heritage double fold.

[VIGAN] ► Ramada: Thanksgiving Culture and Traditional Games

_________________
TEASER ▬ The ramada traditional games happen every Tres de Mayo. Tres de Mayo is a feast day honoring Apo Lakay or the Sto Cristo Milagroso de Vigan who is believed to have saved Vigan from a plague in 1882.

[VIGAN] ► Rakit Race: Bamboos and Balance at Mestizo River

_________________
TEASER ▬ The historic Mestizo river is the place to see. For the very first time, I witnessed an event called rakit race.

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TANAY, RIZALBAGUIOKUALA LUMPURSEPANGBANTAY, ILOCOS SURPUERTO PRINCESA, PALAWANLUNA, LA UNIONSAN VICENTE - PALAWANSAN FERNANDO, LA UNION

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EDMAR GUQUIB, Travel Blogger
EDMARATION #TownExplorer


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EDMAR GUQUIB

Born and Raised in Vigan, Philippines. Hardcore Ilocano. Genuine Bigueño. Sucker of Long Land Trips. Loves the Highlands. Professional Nurse on Weekdays. Coffee Addict. Travel Blogger in Between. For sponsorship, advertising, event invites and collaborations email me at edmaration@gmail.com.

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