Heritage Town: Piddig, Ilocos Norte
Geographically located at the center of Ilocos Norte, Piddig has a very colorful history to tell. The heart of the province was a cradle of Filipino resistance to the attacks, abuses, atrocities of three different colonial powers: the Spaniards, the Americans, and the Japanese. Time and again, the Piddigeños rose to the occasion in vehemently defending their long cherished freedom, culture, and heritage.
Piddig came to prominence when, on September 16, 1807, Pedro Mateo launched a revolt against the Spaniards’ attempt to monopolize the production, sale and distribution of their favorite wine basi. Hence, it was called the Piddig Basi Revolt. But like any other revolts, he, together with another leader Tingguian Salarogo Ambaristo and other Ilocanos, was bound to fail as their futile attempts to overthrow the more advanced conquerors were met with superior battle strategies and weapons. Thirteen days later, the revolutionaries were publicly executed in Vigan.
In September 2012, the Municipality of Piddig inaugurated the Basi Revolt Shrine as a tribute to the gallant efforts of Pedro Mateo, Salarogo Ambaristo, and other revolutionaries.
A liquor fermented from the sugarcane juice, basi was an integral part of the Ilocano natives’ custom of birth and death, love and marriage, planting and harvest, victory and defeat. The abolition of basi making meant to the people of the Ilocos the suppression of their way of life and the loss of their livelihood.
A staple agricultural product of Ilocos Norte, sugarcane is best produced in the hilly town of Piddig. That’s why to this day, they produce the best basi. Pressed by the pagdadapilan diligently driven by a carabao, sugarcane juice is pulped and is ready to be fermented.
Aside from Pedro Mateo, Piddig has another proud son in Claro Caluya. Considered as the foremost vernacular poet and dramatist in Ilocos Norte, he wrote many plays and poems in Ilocano including a translation of Dr. José P. Rizal’s Mi Ultimo Adios, the most lyrical Ilocano version. Born on June 22, 1868 to Rafael Caluya and Norberta Pasion, Claro was a cabeza de barangay at age 22 then a capitan municipal from 1893-1896. He joined the revolutionary forces from 1896 to 1897 but distinguished himself in the Filipino-American War. As a municipal president from 1903 to 1905, the first public market was built and several primary schools were opened. He also founded civic and cultural organizations. He died at a young age of 46 on December 14, 1914. The Philippine Historical Committee recognized his legacy by installing a marker in front of the capitol hill in 1958.
Sitting on another hill is the Church of St. Anne which was a venue of hostilities during the Filipino-American War and the World War II. The Filipino revolutionaries occupied the church against the charging American forces. During the Second World War, the church was burned down by the Japanese invaders. The facade and interiors of this Baroque church was restored in 1965.
In front of the church is the USAFIP-NL 15th Infantry Regiment Memorial Square. During the Second World War, Piddig became one of the bastions of guerilla resistance and movements. The 15th Infantry Regiment was responsible in freeing Ilocos Norte and was later sent to participate in the Battle of Bessang Pass. This memorial is an apt reminder of their heroism, valor and courage.
A few steps from the Memorial is the Governor Antonio Raquiza Monument, a tribute to the late lawyer, guerilla officer, legislator and patriot. Born of February 29, 1908 to Canuto Raquiza and Benilda Valentin, he defended the rights of Filipinos who were imprisoned by the Japanese whose cases were referred to civil courts. As a guerilla officer, he fought well in protecting lives, property and honor during those darkest periods. He was elected as a congressman for five consecutive terms in 1949, in 1953, 1957, 1961, and 1965; as a governor in 1955; as an assembly of the Interim Batasan Pambansa in 1978. He died at the ripe age of 91 on December 24, 1999 and was laid to rest in Libingan ng mga Bayani.
Yet the proudest son of Piddig is the first Filipino athlete to win an Olympic medal and the only multiple Filipino medalist in the biggest multi-sport quadrennial event: Teofilo Yldefonso. Born on November 5, 1902, the Ilocano Shark won the bronze medals in the 200-meter breaststroke during the 1928 Los Angeles and 1932 Amsterdam Olympic Games. Sergeant Teofilo Yldefonso fought in Bataan Peninsula, captured and participated in the Bataan Death March and eventually died in Camp O’Donnell in Capas Tarlac on June 19, 1942.
So, the next time you go to Ilocos Norte, consider adding Piddig in your itinerary as it can offer you a great educational and historical trip down the memory lane.