LAST May 22, 2017, the Pilgrim City of Naga and the Heritage City of Vigan, through their respective city mayors, Honorable John G. Bongat and Honorable Juan Carlos S. Medina, along with their vice-mayors, Nelson S. Legacion and Lourdes DG. Baquiran, signed the City Sisterhood Agreement at Vigan Convention Center after a joint session between the city councils of the two cities. It was a historic moment as both cities, one from the extreme northern region of Luzon and the other from South Luzon, were among the four Royal Cities created by a Papal Bull on August 14, 1595, which also established the Cities of Manila and Cebu.
The Sisterhood Agreement brought the two cities closer as they each pledged to maximize their respective efforts towards promoting peace and understanding, through people-to-people interaction in the areas of culture, education, new technology, commerce, trade, agriculture, ecology, and local governance.
Following is the sponsorship speech of City Councilor Jose ‘Sonny’ Ranola, M.D. expressing the significance of the city twinning agreement:
Mayors Juan Carlos S. Medina and John G. Bongat of the Cities of Vigan and Naga, respectively;
Vice-Mayors Lourdes DG. Baquiran and Nelson S. Legacion of the said two cities;
Our fellow members of the Sangguniang Panglunsod of the two cities;
My fellow workers in government;
Guests, ladies and gentlemen:
MARHAY na aga po saindo gabos! Naimbag a bigat!
We are deeply honored and pleased for the warm embrace you have extended in welcoming us to the beautiful and alluring City of Vigan!
Truly, we have become instant sister cities since the time that your local officials, headed by Mayor Medina, came to our city for a brief visit and interaction that resulted to a fruitful exchange of ideas and experiences in our common desire to find ways and discover opportunities in serving better our fellow constituents.
Principally, our coming here is to formalize our infatuation with each other as sisters and would like to sign a formal agreement to further foster our friendship and understanding so as to promote and improve trade, commerce and investment, education, expert and sectoral exchange programs, cross visits, tourism and other major concerns that uplift good governance and community development and participation between our two cities.
Historically, we are twins whose umbilical cords can be traced to the Papal Bull, entitled “super specula militantes ecclesia” issued by Pope Clement VIII on August 14, 1595, that established the Spanish colonial cities of Nueva Caceres and Nueva Segovia, making our respective territories the first four Royal Cities in the Philippines that include Manila, and Cebu.
As we all know, Nueva Segovia is the name of the archdiocese now located in the venerable and historic town of Vigan here in Ilocos Sur. The town of Vigan was founded by Juan de Salcedo, a grandson of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi who founded the city of Manila. Salcedo went to the Ilocos in northern Luzon to put up a military settlement in Vigan in 1572. In 1574 he established a Spanish residence in the poblacion in honor of Prince Ferdinand, the first born son of King Philip II of Spain, and named it Villa Fernandina.
Because of distance and the need for a site at the center of the diocese, the See of Nueva Segovia was transferred to Vigan in 1758 at the request of Bishop Juan de la Fuente Yepes, during the pontificate of Benedict XIV. The city of Nueva Segovia was slowly being washed away by the river. Vigan, on the other hand, was rising as a center of Spanish culture, politics and economy. The bishops therefore preferred to stay in Vigan. The villa then became Ciudad Fernandina de Vigan in honor of the reigning king of Spain.
Nueva Caceres, on the other hand, is the name of the archdiocese based in Naga.
The Archdiocese of Cáceres is a Metropolitan See that comprises the Bicol region, while directly overseeing the third, fourth, and fifth congressional districts of Camarines Sur. The Archdiocese , having been founded in 1595 in Nueva Cáceres (now Naga City), is also considered as one of the oldest dioceses in the Philippines with Cebu, Segovia and Manila. Nueva Caceres then had jurisdiction that stretched from Samar in the south and Isabela Province in the north.
The Archdiocese is also home to the Our Lady of Peñafrancia, the Patroness of Bicolandia, and is considered to be one of the largest Marian Pilgrimages in Asia.
With their common historical heritage, it is no wonder that both the Ilocanos and the Bicolanos are a deeply religious people. In fact, many Ilocano devotees and transient merchants, as well, go to Naga for the Penafrancia fiesta every September.
While Nueva Caceres was settled along a tributary of the winding Bicol River, Nueva Segovia, too, was built near the mouth of Ibanag River. Vigan itself, we are told, is virtually an island, which used to be detached from the mainland by three rivers – the great Abra River, the Mestizo River, and the Govantes River.
We learned further that Vigan derived its name from “Bigaa,” a giant taro plant belonging to the gabi family that thrives on the banks of the river. Incidentally, one of Bicol’s famous dishes, “Laeng”, or “Gulay na Natong” is mainly made of gabi leaves. Our pinangat, too, has gabi leaves as principal ingredient soaked in coconut milk.
We are amazed by preservation of your Spanish colonial history that makes Vigan a UNESCO Heritage Site. The distinguished title is mainly anchored on the Spanish colonial structures that have remained intact, its cobbled stone streets and unique architecture that is a fusion of Oriental and Spanish colonial design and engineering.
In May 2015, Vigan was officially recognized as one of the new 7 Wonder Cities, along with the cities of Beirut, Doha, Durban, Havana, Kuala Lumpur, and La Paz.
Until World War II, Naga, too, was proud of its Spanish colonial structures, until many of them were razed to the ground due to massive bombings by American war planes to liberate the city from the Japanese forces who were believed holed in these old colonial government buildings. What remained to this date are the restored or renovated Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, The Holy Rosary Seminary, the Universidad de Sta Isabel, and very few surviving heritage houses in their Spanish and early American colonial designs.
Vigan is proud to have produced a president of the Republic, the late President Elpidio Quirino, while Naga City has so far produced a vice president in the person of Honorable Leni Robredo, the wife of our former City Mayor, the late Jesse M. Robredo.
Now, under our representation, together with our respective Mayors and Vice Mayors, the City of Vigan and the City of Naga will jointly sign a City Sisterhood Agreement on this historic day.
This document will serve as a sincere expression of our people’s desire to maximize our respective efforts towards the promotion of peace and understanding, and people-to-people interaction in the areas of culture, education, new technology, commerce, trade, agriculture, ecology, and local governance.
Our common objectives as aforementioned deserve the highest attention and priority on the principle that the quest for peace and understanding can better be attained through the personal level of awareness of the people of our two cities.
While territorially we are poles apart, with Vigan in the Ilocos Region which is on northernmost part of Luzon while Naga in Bicol is situated in the southernmost part of Luzon, this Sisterhood Agreement provides for us the shortest and closest way to forge our camaraderie and friendship and enrich further the similarities of our cultural heritage and noble purpose for the betterment of our fellow citizens.
Through this Sisterhood Agreement, the cities of Vigan and Naga pledge to continue to transform ourselves into pockets of peace and prosperity, efficient management of city affairs, and good governance.
At this point, I am proud to announce that the City of Naga, through a Resolution passed by the Sangguniang Panlungsod, as approved by our City Mayor, a street in Barangay Pequena, one of the biggest barangays in Naga City, has been christened Vigan Street, in honor of your beloved city.
Dios mabalos po! Agyamanak!