My interest was reignited when a fun run, which coincided with the Binatbatan Festival, was posted at the Takbo.ph site. More so, when I learned that some running friends were Vigan-bound to also join the run. Since I already pre-registered for another run that weekend, the 16KM RUNew slot I gave up, and decided to run in Vigan instead. Initially, I thought, “I would be traveling a good number of hours and run in less than two hours. Crazy me.” But the real come-on was the chance to run around the city and see more of its famous heritage site through a race.
Just days before the race, a friend who’s supposed to join me backed out for some urgent matters that she needed to prioritize. More so, there were other Takbo.ph runners who were keen in joining but they, too, couldn’t because of conflict in their schedules.
Taking the Trip to Ilocos Sur
That left me traveling on my own last Friday night. I was scheduled to take the 9PM bus but wasn’t able to due to a heavy trafic caused by a downpour earlier that evening. Getting a ride going to the bus terminal was just too difficult. When I finally reached the bus station, there were already a number of passengers waiting in line to purchase their tickets. The only schedule available was the bus leaving at 11PM for Vigan. I had to wait for two hours. From time to time bus dispatchers announced over PA system either to give instructions or inform passengers of changes in schedules. There were not too many buses at the terminal. Most of them, we later learned, got stuck in the traffic caused by the newly opened SM Department Store in Tarlac. Those leaving for Abra had to wait until 1AM for their bus ride.
Good thing our bus reached Pasay terminal earlier than expected. When it was time to go, I set my Timex watch to chrono so that I would know the number of hours we would be traveling—from Pasay to Vigan City. I hardly slept at all when traveling. Most of the passengers, however, were already fast asleep even if it was too cold in the bus. Oh, good for them! As for me, I looked at the highway or places we passed by to ward off my mind from feeling the cold. I didn’t like being in a cold area for long. The ten or fifteen-minute stop was dedicated to allow passengers for kidney break, to freshen up or take something to eat. I kept on glancing at my watch. Few hours more and I would be in Vigan soon.
Travel time took ten hours. I arrived in Vigan at around 8:51AM. One thing I’ve noticed though, Vigan is as quaint as ever from the time I saw it five years ago. The next hours after my arrival were spent meeting my hosts, Betty and her family, fellow runners like Sir Rene aka Jazzrunner, and Mel and his family. I hurriedly ate breakfast and requested to catch up on sleep first. I was supposed to accompany them for an after lunch swim in the beach but begged off at the last minute, too tired and sleepy. I woke up at past 1PM to have lunch. Then went back to sleep again.
Carbo Loading, Meet & Greet, Festival Exhibits
Later in the afternoon, just before 6PM, we walked at the famous cobble stone, dropped by at some handicraft stores, took some pictures every now and then, and went to the carbo loading venue. Along the way, we saw exhibits, art displays and water buffalos or carabaos with art designs painted on their bodies. Other works of art, using different kinds of beans as its medium, were also displayed at the activity area.
Carbo foods include lomi and some local delicacies. It was nice to finally meet the fun run organizer, Dr. Jun Kagaoan. To my surprise, I was asked by Dr. Jun to sing the national anthem. I thought, “OMG! This would be another impromptu performance again.” I accepted the request thinking that singing the hymn would mean ‘to be part of Vigan’s history’. There were familiar faces at the table. One of them told me that he ran a half marathon in my pace group during the 1st QCIM last year. Like me, they also took a bus trip from Manila to run in Vigan.
Meeting Dr. Jun Kagaoan (on my left wearing white shirt), race organizer, and some participants of the fun run
Again, I asked Dr. Jun what he did to prepare the locals for the run. During our discussion, I cited an experience in San Pablo, Laguna, where most of the residents, unfamiliar with the ways of running or racing, said comments like, “babae o, tumatakbo”, “ang taba”, “ang bilis”, “hala naglakad”, “nakakapagod silang tingnan”, etc. Dr. Jun replied, “I, together with the runners here, ran the route again and again and told the locals that a fun run would be staged on a Sunday, please support it.” I asked, “What about the water station?” He said, “Each Barangay would provide a water station.”
Since there were few women runners in the 15K category, all of us were already in the top ten. It was just a matter of who would be Number 1, 2, 3 … on race day.
I couldn’t sleep the night before race day. This was always my problem, especially, when sleeping in a new place. May be I dozed off for an hour or two. I woke up at around 3AM. Tried to sleep back but was awakened by someone knocking at the door of my room. I opened the door to let them know that I was up already. I headed back to bed and lay down for a few minutes. I silently told myself, “You came all the way from Manila to Vigan not to sleep but to run.” I forced myself to get up and hummed some tunes. I had misgivings about the singing of the anthem. It was my first time to sing it as a solo performer. Plus, I couldn’t vocalize early in the morning. Had I done it, I would have disturbed the neighborhood. I told myself, “No worries, go out there and nail it, and don’t forget the lyrics”.
L~R: Sir Helio, Running Diva, Mel (BDM102 Finisher), Betty, and Sir Rene
We were at the starting line minutes before 5AM. There were not too many runners yet. As I roamed my eyes, I saw a good number of runners in the 5K and 10K categories and only a few in the 3K and 15K categories. I also noticed familiar faces of runners from Baguio City. I remembered their faces since I had the chance to run with them during the Botak Paa-bilisan in Baguio last month. There were also runners who came from as far as Abra and Laoag.
The event started with an invocation, followed by the singing of the national anthem, and dancing aerobics steps. 3K runners took off first, followed by 10K, then the 15K, and finally the 5K. My goals in in this run were to beat my Power Run 15K time and run the streets of Vigan.
Start/finish was in front of the City Hall. The road was a combination of asphalt and cement pavement passing through the main street, to residential areas, up to Baluarte, which I didn’t even notice, and the cobbled street of the heritage site. The last four-kilometer stretch was a gradual uphill run and followed by two-kilometer flat road.
There were a good number of marshals. Some of them were on motorbikes. They controlled traffic flow efficiently. Most of the locals were also outside to watch us running in their turf. Some just stared at us. Some smiled. Some spoke Iluko or Ilocano language but I couldn’t understand a single word. Every time I stopped at a water station I could only say, “Thank you.”
As I was on my way toward the last turnaround point, a guy, may be in his late forties, said, “I love you, Ma’am.” I retorted, “Yeah, I love you, too.” Some folks could be funny in some ways. Not seeing the fire truck on my left, though a bit surprised, couldn’t help but smile when I heard the onlookers’ laughter. They enjoyed watching the runners getting wet by the shower aimed by some guys. The sun was up then. Indeed it was a treat.
I didn’t beat my Power Run time. But the bonus was I ranked 4th in Women’s Top Ten 15K category. I took home a commemorative coffee mug and a little cash.
Awarding Ceremony (Photo courtesy of Dr. Jun)
Congratulations also to Betty Rosario for placing 5th in Women’s Top Ten 15K category.
The 1st Viva Vigan Heritage Run participants
Overall, the race was conducted pretty well. No problem with water, accurate race distance, provision of distance markers, and awarding ceremony immediately followed.
Best Features of the Race
1.Affordable registration fees—15K (P80), 10K & 5K (P50), 3K (Free!)
3.Unique awards—commemorative coffee mugs and vases—as trophies
4.Race route which includes running the famous cobbled street of Vigan
5.Involvement of the local government as well as the support of the townspeople
I take my hats off to the Local Government of Vigan, to Dr. Jun Kagaoan as race organizer, Tarayem (Metro Vigan Running Club), the Barangay Officials, the sponsors, Spectrum, the Bigueños, and the runners for a job well done!
Vigan and Binatbatan Festival
The City of Vigan was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 due mostly to the fact that the place has been carefully preserved to show the fusion of old Asian and Spanish architecture. At present, the famous cobblestoned street of Calle Crisologo is conserved by the local government by prohibiting any motor vehicle to travel along the road. Vigan is one of the top 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The festival got its name from the Iluko term batbatin, or separating cotton balls from the seeds of the local fruit tree kapas sanglay. The cotton balls are then spun and used in weaving the abel, which Chinese merchants then residing in Ciudad Fernandina, the Vigan of old, exported and which was among the local products shipped during the galleon trade from the 15th to the 18th century. (Source: WikiPilipinas)
Post Race Swim and Thank YOUs
Another treat after the race was swimming in one of the best beaches in Ilocos. I’d like to thank Ral and Betty Rosario, and family, for a very comfortable and enjoyable visit in Vigan. The food was superb, too! Again, super duper thanks!
It was great to have met Mel (BDM102 Finisher) and his family and, of course, Ral Rosario, considered one of the Great Filipino Athletes in the field of swimming. Ral took home the gold medal during the Asian Games in 1978 and became a two-time Olympian.
Thanks also to Sir Rene aka Jazzrunner for the photos. To Tarayem Running Club and Dr. Jun for the warm welcome extended to us.