Family funeral and death beliefs

We have observed a lot of customs that they themselves could not explain.

But as they say, you will lose nothing in observing traditions.


Lolo Fidel's funeral 1972, Narvacan, Ilocos Sur

Death Beliefs

White headbands (Ilokano: baridbed) – traditionally, the white headbands are worn to suppress headache caused by excessive crying. Now, even though the members of the family don’t cry enough, they were the headbands as an identification. They are worn throughout the wake until the funeral.

Black bar pins – they are also worn by the immediate family and close relatives to signify mourning. They are worn until the 40th day of death even after the funeral ceremony.

Food offering (Ilokano: atang) – the family pretend that the person is still alive and separate a portion of whatever is served to the visitors and place it in front of the photo.

Here are some that I have never seen before.
 Chicken offering – the chickens (hen and rooster) are beheaded before the coffin is taken out of the house. The reason behind, these chickens will go ahead and crow to announce the arrival of the dead in the life beyond (tapno agtaraok ket mariing ni San Pedro).

Diram-os (washing of face) – after the funeral rites, family members and relatives go through diram- os using the water from boiled guava leaves. This is to ward off the presence of evil spirits that may have got into the individuals while in the cemetery. After that, each got a handful of steamed glutinous rice to eat (that was not explained to me, but I did not perform any of these anyway).

Other customs include:

Not sweeping the floor because another family member might follow the dead.

Not taking a bath on the duration of the wake lest another death may occur in the family.

This is followed by golgol (shampooing) after the burial to wash any power of evil spirit.

Family "gogol" after the funeral 1972

Mongo on Fridays!


Family meals were always a big occasion, feeding a family of 11 is no joke. The family shared typical Ilocano meals which means simple and healthy. Dinendeng, Pakbet, Dinuyduy, Pancit Musico, Lomo lomo, poki poki, longaniza and bagnet. The family had guisadong monggo every Friday and putchero during their Sunday lunch. Lolo Fidel or Apo Lakay, as the household help would call him would always ask for dulce, or sweet desert after each meal. Manang Menang the family cook would give him sweetend bananas or fresh fruits of the season.


Manang Meldit fondly recalls, Ensemada with chokolate E for breakfast ; Pippian nga pigeon was a special occasion dish; Pochero – with slices of Saba with the skin on, and utong cut up and bundled, quarters of repolyo and beef shanks with marrow- that was a Sunday lunch at Lolo’s dish…. I could never forget Lolo’s everyday dessert – he would put a sweet banana on a plate, peel it with a fork and knife, then he would cut it in round slices, then pick up each slice and eat it with a fork!

You know you are a Villanueva if……

100% Villanueva

  • You wake up late, preferably before noon on weekends and day offs
  • You are often LATE to arrive in events and gatherings
  • You sleep around midnight
  • You are a coffee drinker anytime of the day
  • You enjoy long after dinner talks with the family over coffee
  • You enjoy beer drinking sessions with your cousins
  • You are used to having disco parties as a family event
  • You or one of your sibling is tall, fair skinned and has chinky eyes
  • You believe in Santa Claus
  • You can’t cook!
  • You consider bagoong and kamatis as you main condiment
  • You are a hoarder of anything on SALE
  • You speak Ilocoano as a second language
  • You eat green mangoes, watermelon, guava, sinkamas etc with Ilocano Vinegar or sukang iloco
  • You say “magan tayon”
  • You love pinakbet
  • You have a relative who is a flight attendant
  • You prefer COKE over Pepsi
  • You call your parents Papang / Mamang or Papa / Mama
  • You collect something…
  • You are kuripot … or your friends say so.
  • You brag about having triplets in the family
  • You can talk with your family until wee hours in the morning about anything and everything that only your family can understand.
  • You attended a “box social” in Narvacan
  • You take soupy dishes for breakfast
  • You fail to pray before meals
  • You say “ay sos” or “ay apo”
  • You call your aunts NANA and uncles, TATA
  • You have close family ties
  • You grew up with your cousins
  • You are “nagaget” (hardworking)
  • You know that the Ilocano dinuguan is dry and eaten with okilas (chicharon)

….. you are free to add if I missed out on something 🙂

Mylene Live Signature

Our Family Reunion Heritage Meals in Ilocos

Apart for the numerous gatherings we had in the week long reunions food was always an important aspect. While in Ilocos, we were all there to trace our ancestral roots, we visited our family ancestral houses in Ilocos, we shared meals that were old time favourites and meals also shared by our grandparents. As we savour these dishes a lot of childhood memories we also recalled. Let me share you some of these dishes

   Heritage Breakfast


Poqui Poqui     

Eggplants are grilled, peeled and mashed and sautéed with onions, garlic and tomatoes and a beaten egg.

In Hawaii, the word Poki means cut up or sometimes means to mash. This is where it got it’s name since at lot of Ilocanos migrated to Hawaii in the 80’s to plant pineapples.

Poqui Poqui

Poqui Poqui

Vigan Longaniza

This local sausage is famous for its rich garlic flavor. Being it a province which has garlic as its main agricultural product the Vigan Longaniza makes use of the pungent ingredient mixed in the ground pork with the local sugar cane vinegar.

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Lomo Lomo

A morning breakfast fare for an Ilocano includes this pork broth served piping hot. Pork meat and liver, kidney and blood cubes are cut up in small slices and is sauteed in garlic and then water is added for the broth, simmered in a low fire until meat is tender. Add fish sauce to taste. Chives are thrown in the pot just before serving.

This is best eaten with fried rice in ilocano we call it kinirog.


Pinapaitan ti Agsapa

Pait means bitter and the traditional papaitan is goat cooked in its bile. Beef is commonly used in Vigan along with its innards cut into small pieces and is simmered until soft. Onions and ginger are sautéed in oil, to which the simmered beef, bile, water, vinegar and chilies are added. This dish is usually served for breakfast.



Sinuman ken Patopat

Native rice cake made out of sticky rice cooked with sugar and wrapped in banana leaf. Sinuman are long ones while Patopat are the triangle ones. They taste the same, sometimes it just differs in the color because of the type of sugar used. When brown sugar is used, the rice cake tends to be on the brownish side while light color in appearance if white sugar is used.

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Vigan Bibingka (upper left on the photo)

This is not your usual ”puffy” bibingka, like the one at Ferino’s. Instead, the Ilocos Royal Bibingka is a “sticky rice-cake,” closer to fresh “tikoy” in texture. It uses milk and butter to achieve that tasty sticky rice cake.

Miki (upper right on the photo)

A chicken noodle soup with strips of chicken, miki noodles and achuete. This dish is often served by the food vendors for breakfast or afternoon snack. We had ours if you remember, one can add additional toppings of chicharon and hard boiled egg and garnish it with chives.


Pipian (lower left on the photo)

This dish is dinstinct only to Vigan and I may say is an acquired taste due to the herb which is added called pasotes which is endemic only in Ilocos Sur. This is the local version of Kare-kare minus the peanut butter and kamias is added to give it that sour taste to balance the flavor from pasotes. Instead the Ilocanos use chicken and add posotes to make its distinct flavor.

It is believed that a Mexican sailor brought the seeds of a pasotes plant in his journey and has planted it in Vigan upon reaching its shores. He showed the local household help how the dish is cooked just the way his mother had cooked it.



Vigan Empanada (lower right on the photo)

Don’t leave Vigan with out eating empanada as they say. Our empanada is a take on the Mexican taco most likely from our colonizers. Instead of using corn flour like the Mexican taco, we use rice flour. The Vigan empanada is filled with grated green papaya or cabbage which is sautéed, some adds blanched mongo sprouts. Egg and longaniza (optional) is mixed in. 2 heaping spoonfuls of this mixture is added in the center of the crust that has been thinly rolled, seal and fried. It is best eaten with vinegar with native onions or shallots.


Ilocanos were always known to be frugal and this is clearly seen in their way of life and cuisine. Simplicity can be see in those ancestral house which the rich families has built to stand sturdily for the next generations. These are the same houses which we enjoy to see up to this day. Functionality over aesthetics is vivid in every Ilocano home. In their cuisine, it is also evident, simple but tasty.

At lot of Ilocano homes has their own vegetable garden or plant their own malungay tree in their backyard. Maluggay is also a staple food in the Ilocano cuisine. Ilocano’s are known to be stingy and this may be the effect of the harsh hot climate and very limited resources available to them. Thus, they make use of everything that can be cooked as a tasty meal, so nothing goes to waste in an Ilocano kitchen.

Having been in Ilocos means you must have eaten the other Ilocano staples such as Bagnet, Pinakbet and Sinanglao just to name a few.

Ipon is another endemic in the Ilocano cuisine. This is a seasonal fish that comes out 14 days after the full moon. I remember my mom would always want to have a catholic calendar every start of the year, not only to monitor the catholic events but also to see when the full moon appears (which is shown in Catholic calendars). She would then know that “ipon” will soon be available in the Vigan Market, and she would order several kilos like it’s the end of the world just because we were residing in Manila. I remember that whenever ipon is available, everyone in Vigan and nearby towns has this dish for lunch and dinner just cooked in different ways, kilawin, torta, Sauteed in tomatoes and onions, boiled with tomatoes and tamales.  The price per kilo is another story, it’s like the stock market I should say, the first batch that comes to the market are the most expensive ones, some would wait until the next batch arrives and maybe sold at a cheaper price, so people wait for the price to go down, and it does go down if the supply is overwhelming, but if the catch is just a few tons, then the price tends to go up. This is just the way it is when it’s ipon season.

Ipon sauteed in tomatoes

Ipon sauteed in tomatoes

This are fine tiny fishes smaller than dulong to the tagalogs and not as salty. Fish vendors would sell in by the kilo in baskets and price per kilo will be depended on supply and demand.

Scientific name is Goby or gobies form the family Gobiidae.

Here are some recipes that you can do at home for those times you miss your hometown:


  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 inch ginger cut into strips
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • 1 whole chicken, cut into serving pieces
  • 1 cup roasted rice, pounded or grounded
  • 2 tablespoons annatto seeds (achuete), mixed with ½ cup water to extract color
  • 6 cups water
  • 20 pieces kamias or juice from 10 pieces calamansi
  • 20 pieces posotes leaves
  • fish sauce (patis) to taste
  1. In a deep pan, pour in the oil. Saute ginger then garlic
  2. Stir in the chicken pieces and cook until slightly brown. Remove the chicken from the pan.
  3. Place the ground roasted rice into the pan. Add the achuete water. Stir. Remove the scum. Add the 6 cups of water.
  4. Put back the browned chicken. Boil and then simmer until chicken is tender.
  5. Add the kamias or the juice from the calmansi. Boil again.
  6. Add patis to taste.


  • 1 kilo pork belly, whole slab
  • 3 tablespoon garlic, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 liters cooking oil
  1. Place all the ingredients in a stockpot and fill with enough water to cover pork. Boil until meat is tender, skimming off the scum. Remove pork from liquid ( reserve stock for future use) and allow to dry out under the sun or inside oven set to warm for 2 to 3 hours.
  2. Heat oil and deep fry pork slab, making sure it is completely submerged in oil. Adjust heat to low and fry slowly for 20 to 30 minutes on each side. Drain out the oil and allow meat to cool to room temperature. At the stage, the fried bagnet is now ready to be fried or kept in the freezer for future use.
  3. To refry bagnet, cut into ¾ inch slies and deep fry in piping hot oil for 5 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle a little salt in the bagnet to make it cripier. Fish out with a stainer and place on a platter lined with a paper towel.
  4. Server with KBL ( kamatis, bagoong and lasona (shalots).

Note: some say to sprinkle water on the skin to created the blister and crunchiness of the skin in the cooking process.


Ingredients for dough:

  • Rice flour
  • Water
  • Oil

Mix rice flour with water until it forms a soft dough.

Add oil as the dough as it is rolled.

Ingredients for filling:

  • Grated green papaya, blanched and squeezed with salt to extract the bitter taste.
  • Parboiled mongo sprouts
  • Salt and ground pepper to taste
  • Egg and longanisa (optional)


  1. Using the basic piecrust preparation technique, prepare the rice-flour wrapper
  2. For the filling, saute garlic in small amount of oil.
  3. Add grated papaya, cooked and shelled mongo, salt, pepper.
  4. Cook until done. Set aside.
  5. Spoon out 2-3 tablespoon filling and add a piece of fresh egg or longganisa into prepared rice flour wrappers.
  6. Seal the sides. Deep fry in a preheated frying pan with oil for 10-15 minutes.

Serve hot with vinegar dip.




  • 1 kilo ground pork pigue or ham
  • 1/4 cup garlic, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. onions, chopped
  • 2 & 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper, ground
  • 1 clove medium size Ilocos garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 & 1/4 Tbsp. Ilocos vinegar
  • 2 yds sausage casing
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp. cooking oil

   How to cook vigan longanisa:

In a bowl, mix thoroughly the first seven ingredients until well blended. Stuff the mixture into casing and tie every 2 inches long with a string. Hang under direct sunlight for about 4 hours to allow fat and liquid to drip and dry.

Heat a carajay and pour 1/2 cup water and 1-2 tablespoons cooking oil. Put in the longanisa. Cover and cook over low heat until all of the water evaporates. Prick each with a fork. When all liquid has evaporated, pan fry until brown. Serve hot with fried rice, tomatoes and sliced salted eggs. Serves 8




  • eggplants
  • ampalaya
  • okra
  • ¼ kilo tomatoes
  • 1 inch ginger peeled and sliced
  • 4-6 tablespoons of bagoong strained
  • ¼ kilo bagnet chopped

Slice ingredients to about 1 ½ inch to 2 inches. Ilocano vegetables for

Pakbet are small in size, miniture sizes as I would describe it.


Using a tall stockpot, place the bagnet at the bottom as its first layer, tomatoes, ginger. Add the other vegetables layer by layer, eggplants, ampalya and okra as last since it is the easiest to cook.

Pour bagoong and cover the pot and make sure that it is completely sealed. Turn the heat on high and let it steam for about 10 minutes.

It is advised not to stir the pinakbet vegetables in the pot. The vegetables are steamed in their own juices and thus the pot is physically shaken twice instead to mix the vegetables and its flavors.

Do not overcook the vegetables.

Magan Tayon!

(some photos were take from the lafamiliavillanueva 2014 reunion posts in the internet)

Eating our way through this heritage journey

It’s good to know where our ancestors came from, where they lived, the houses that they lived in and the traditions they kept. In this family reunion, we shall trace all these things as well share meals that our ancestors used to share. Food is an essential part of our heritage. You are what you eat. Your social status dictates what you eat. Although coming from the Ilocos region, people are used having meals that are most available in their area or whatever they harvest from their farms, so most likely the landlord and the farmer would have the same meals.

In our journey back to Ilocos to trace our roots, our cousin Yapaz, who runs a successful catering business in the region has prepared for us traditional Ilocano breakfast for our first meal. It’s the same meals our grandparents and parents were having for breakfast. Longaniza Vigan, Lomolomo, Poqui Poqui, Papaitan are some of the family favourites.

Heritage Breakfast

Poqui poqui is a dish made out of mashed broiled eggplant, sautéed in garlic, tomatoes, onions and seasoned with fish sauce or patis, add and mix scrambled egg to the eggplant mixture. Once everything is nicely mixed, serve.

Papaitan is a slightly bitter dish of beef tenderloin and beef innards cooked with it’s bile for the bitter taste and vinegar is added. Served hot.

Lomo Lomo – is pork loin mixed with pork innards sautéed with garlic and fish sauce. Garnished with chopped green onion leaves. This is a soupy dish enjoy hot for breakfast.

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This is a t-shirt print in Vigan where it features the funny names of the food and vegetables we have in Ilocos.

The Family Heritage Tour: Travel back to your roots, Part 2

Part 2 : Vigan

The next day we continued our family heritage tour to the Heritage City of  Vigan.  The city is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1999. It is said to be a town like no other, possessing a well preserved Spanish Colonial city in Asia. This is the hometown of our grandmother, Lola Pacita. This is also the place where a lot of the Villanueva grandchildren grew up. So we walked and explored the city where our parents used to live.


Isabelo delos Reyes

Isabelo delos Reyes

1572 when Spanish Conquistador Juan de Salcedo arrived and established a settlement called Villa Fernandina. It was already a significant trading post.

1758, the seat of the Catholic Diocese of Nueva Segovia was transferred to Vigan by virtue of a Spanish Royal Decree elevating her into a city named Ciudad Fernandina de Bigan. For more than a century, Vigan was the center of political, religious, social and cultural activities in the entire Northern Philippines.

When the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade came to an end in the middle part of the 19th century, the importance of Vigan as center of trade and industry declined. Indigo was the main cash crop in Vigan as well as cotton for the sails of the Galleon ships.

1946 – after the Pacific war wealthy residents moved to Manila in droves for economic reasons. The land was no longer enough to support the household so they seek for greener pastures elsewhere. Homes were left to the caretakers, re-used as warehouses and for other inappropriate purposes, which caused their rapid degradation.

The old historic district virtually became a ghost town. Traditional industries that fueled Vigan’s economy during the colonial period were threatened with extinction.

 1950’s, Virginia Tobacco was introduced as a new cash crop to spur the economy

1960’s -1970’s the political instability in the province and the resulting deterioration of peace and order triggered an out-migration of local businessmen and owners of ancestral houses. A second wave of exodus. Most were left to caretakers, re-used as warehouses and for other inappropriate purposes, which caused their rapid degradation. The old historic district virtually became a ghost town. Traditional industries that fueled Vigan’s economy during the colonial period were threatened with extinction.

1972 – Congress enacted the Agrarian Reform Law. This law severly affected the economic status of old families who lived from the fruits of their lands. Lands were distributed to the tenants, the payments put on hold indefinitely. This was the last straw that impoverished many land owners.

1980’s, peace and order improved but the local economy did not.

1994, Worse, the public market was destroyed by fire, dealing the business sector an enormous setback.

This in a nutshell what was the situation in Vigan: a moribund municipality brought about by historical forces beyond her control. But unknown to the people then, a treasure of limitless potentials, our rich cultural heritage, lay unnoticed, unused and untapped.

1995, to improve on this seemingly hopeless situation, the local administration under Mayor Eva Marie Singson- Medina collaborated with all stakeholders in the formulation of a vision and an action plan that would transform Vigan into a vibrant thriving community, using the conservation of our heritage as the major tool for development.

December 2, 1999 -After eliciting community involvement and putting in place local protective measures, the town of Vigan was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

“ A unique example of a 19th century landscsape”

It is a War Crime to bomb declared heritage sites like Vigan, making it one of the safest cities in the world.

 (Reference : UNESCO, Vigan Album, E. Gatbonton, Speech of Mayor Medina at the Penang International Conference on Sustainable Cultural Development 2009)


Archbishop’s Palace

The Arzobispado, the official residence of the Archbishop of Nueva Segovia, was completed in 1783. Being the only surviving eighteenth century Archbishop Palace in the country, it served as the headquarters of the Revolutionary Government of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in 1898 and the American forces of Col. James Parker in 1899.


It has a museum of Nueva Segovia that displays a throne room, portraits of bishops, ecclesiastical artifacts, archdiocesan archives, and other religious paraphernalia gathered from various colonial churches all over the country.


Don Fidel Villanueva commissioned ISABELO TAMPINCO (1850-1933) to sculpt the processional wooden statue of San Ladislao Rey. Tampico is one of the country’s great sculptors during his time. The saint named after Ladislao Donato his wife’s (Pacita Donato) father.


San Ladislao Rey

San Ladislao Rey


This wooden statue is now displayed at the Museo de Arzobispado in Vigan, Ilocos Sur as part of the religious treasures of Ilocos. Previously this statue was kept by the Donato Family.


Ladislao Donato, the father of siblings Maria Isabel, Filomena, Rupina, Rosario, Jose Abilo, Primitiva, Teodoro and Pacita, Mariano, Paquito and nuns Mother Rosalie and Sister Cecile (Adeling) He was born June 27, 1840 and died  October 27, 1910.


Caridad Villanueva married Jose Alcantara – May 15, 1958 at the chapel of the Archbishop’s Palace.

Arsobispado Carrie & Peping  Alcantara Wedding May 15 1958


Notice that the guests where wearing black dresses and black ribbons for the men, this occasion was made a month after Lola Pacita (the bride’s mother) died. They thought of postponing it, but decided to push thru.


St Paul Cathedral

Built by the Augustinians in 1790-1800 in a distinctive earthquake baroque architecture. It has three naves, twelve altar and a choir loft. Chinese influence is evident in it’s baptistry altar, brass communion hand rail, a pair of Fu Dogs and mouldings on the façade. Most of the original church interior features are still in place.

The octagon belfry is located 10 meters south of the cathedral.




It was in this cathedral where Antonio Villanueva married Teresita Florendo in January 6, 1963.

Cathderal Antonio Villanueva Wedding Vigan


The reception was held at the Vigan Ancestral House grounds.


St Paul College – Rosary College

Seven Paulinian sisters, headed by Sister Marthe de St. Paul, began the elementary, catechetical and musical instruction, as well as the teaching or arts and crafts to young girls. Intermediate instruction for young ladies began in 1912.

The school was first known as the Girl’s College of Our Lady of the Rosary, which then changed to the Rosary Academy.

The incorporation of tertiary education for women happened only in 1946, as it was delayed by World War II.

Rosary College became known as St. Paul College of Ilocos Sur (SPCIS) in 1971. A lot of the Villanueva grandchildren attended school here as well as the triplets.

Rosary College triplets

Triplets at Rosary College



Casa Donato (Grand Pa’s Inn)

Grand Pa's Inn

Grand Pa’s Inn



The house was a gift of the Donato sisters ( Filomena, Rufina and Rosario) to their half brother, Mariano upon his marriage to Carmen Rivero in 1923. It was the first house in Vigan that had a bidet and interal plumbing. The children from this marriage where  Philomena, Milagros, Salvador, Salud, Angeles, Socorro, Serafin, Raoul and Maricar.

Mariano Donato's Family

Mariano Donato’s Family



The family fortune was founded by an industrious Chinese “panadero” baker, Don Ah Toh, from where the present family surname DONATO was derived.


Villa Angela

This house is typical of those constructed in Vigan in the 1800s. Agapito B. Florendo, a gobernadorcillo, had it built in 1870.

The house itself is part of a 2,000 square meter property owned by the prominent Versoza family.


They named it after their matriarch, Angela(5th Gen) Villanueva (1878-1972) married to Pastor Versoza. She was the 4th of 8 children of Leonardo Villanueva and Juliana Florendo.


Villanueva Grand Family Reunion


The property was restored by descendants in the eighties. It has since then become a depository of the mementos acquired by the family from the earliest years onwards, which they proudly share with their visitors.



Leona Florentino House


A statue of Leona Florentino in a small park across this 1797 house. It was placed there to give recognition to the first Filipina poet who achieved international attention.

The house is indeed worth a visit if only to get to know who Leona Florentino was. She was a remarkable woman who came from a very distinguished family of patriots and produced a generation of new ones. She was the mother of the first champion of the labor movement in the Philippines and the Philippine Independent Church, Isabelo delos Reyes.


Her full name is Leona Villanueva-Florentino. She is the daughter of Esteban Villanueva (3rdGen) 1797-1898 of the Basi Revolt Paintings. Leona Villanueva  married Maeacio Florentino who died in 1867 and she remarried Elias delos Reyes the father of  Vigan’s local hero, Isabelo.

Isabelo also inherited from his mother her literary talents, for he also made his mark in Philippine literature.

Leona Florentino monument

Leona Florentino monument

On July 7, 1864, Isabelo de los Reyes also known as Don Belong, co-founder of the Aglipayan Church, often dubbed as the “Father of Filipino Socialism”, was born in Vigan, Ilocos Sur .  At the age six, the young Isabelo was committed by his father to the care of a rich relative, Don Mena Crisologo due to his parents’ troubled marriage.

He was elected senator of the first senatorial district which comprised the Ilocos provinces from 1922 to 1928.

Senate President Manuel L. Quezon more than once made him preside over the sessions of the Senate to the satisfaction and amusement of the members and the public because of his peculiar mannerisms.


Isabelo delos Reyes

Isabelo delos Reyes


After his term as senator, he devoted his time to religion and writing. As an honorary bishop of the Aglipayan Church, he wrote many sermons and other religious tracts. He was the author of most of the Aglipayan literature such as the Biblia Filipina, the Aglipayan Calendar and the Divine Office.



Stricken with paralysis, Don Belong became bedridden until his death on October 10, 1938.

The Isabelo de los Reyes Elementary School in Tondo, Manila was named after his honor.


Calle Crisologo

You will be guided through four blocks of cobblestone streets lined with heritage houses of the families of the Filipino-Chinese traders who rose to prominence during that time of vigorous trading in abel cloth, indigo, gold, tobacco and other goods that were transported to Vigan from all over the North.

Calle Crisologo

Calle Crisologo

The street is named after, Mena Pecson Crisologo is among the most-respected sons of the Ilokos region. He wrote Mining wenno Ayat ti Kararwa, which many compare to Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere; an Ilocano translation of Don Quixote entitled Don Calixtofaro de la Kota Caballero de la Luna; and a zarzuela entitled Codigo Municipal.

Calle Crisologo

Calle Crisologo

A miracle actually saved the town of Vigan during the last days of the Japanese occupation.  As part of their military strategy at the end of the war, the Japanese were ordered to burn and completely destroy occupied zones before withdrawal.  On the eve of their departure from Vigan, the Japanese Military Commander, Captain Fujiro Takahashi pleaded with the SVD procurator of the Vigan Seminary, Fr. Joseph Kleikamp, to take custody of the Japanese officer’s Filipino wife and their love child.  The priest agreed on the condition that Takahashi and his men would leave Vigan without burning the town to prevent the town folks from seeking revenge on his family.  (At that time, drums of gasoline was already strategically stored at the town plaza, ready to be used in burning the town).  Takahashi agreed and left with his troops during the night.

The following morning, the people of Vigan discovered that the Japanese had left peacefully.  They immediately spread an oversized American flag at the plaza forestalling the planned bombing by the Americans to flush out the Japanese forces. Thus, Vigan miraculously escaped total destruction, a misfortune that befell other colonial cities like Cebu and Intramuros in Manila were burned. (reference: Vigan Files)


Burgos Museum

Burgos MuseumIMG_1420Burgos



This is the ancestral house of Padre Jose Burgos. It is an excellent showcase of archeological and ethnographic treasures, antiques, dioramas of local and historical events and photographs of Ilocano heroes and achievers. A priceless collection of 14 Esteban Villanueva canvases depicting the 1807 Basi revolt.









Esteban Villanueva (3rd gen) is the son of Placido Villanueva (2nd Gen) and Justa Pichay. He was born on Sept 2, 1797 and died Jan 27,1898.

Esteban Villanueva (3rd Generation) 1797-1898 married Petrona Acosta 1798-1858, they had 7 children and one of then is Leona Villanueva 1828-1848 (Poetess) married Maeacio Florentino 1826-1867.

Burgos Esteban Villanueva



A photo of our grandfather, Fidel Villanueva is displayed in the Museum with other important personalities in the region.

Burgos Museum Fidel



Villanueva Ancestral Home



The house was built in the 1920’s as a gift of Lola Pacita’s parents, Ladislao and Januaria when she married Fidel Banez Villanueva. They knew her fondness for her hometown Vigan. It’s architecture is a cross between the Spanish Colonial period and early American period. The house was originally built in the Villanueva property in the Heritage Zone of Vigan. In 1975, his son Antonio, transferred the house to another property just in the border of Vigan and Bantay so his children can have a large garden to play


IMG_7240 Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 7.10.14 AM


The house was dismantled piece by piece, brick by brick and put together again like a puzzle where it stands today. Some of the children of Manoling Villanueva were born in this house. The children of Manoling and Delfin stayed in this house during school days. Antonio wanted to preserve this house, so his family can have a reminder of their childhood as well as his children and their children.


This tour had shown how rich and how colourful the Villanueva Heritage is.  They always, say you must understand your past to able to move on to the future.


The Villanueva Family Heritage Tour: Travel back to your roots

No Family story is complete without the journey.
This unique travel experience was done so that we would learn about our family history and ancestral homes in Ilocos. We connected with relatives, had meals with them as they prepared the same meals shared by our ancestors.

We were able to share our family’s rich history with our children and grandchildren.


Villanueva Ancestral House in Narvacan,Ilocos Sur.

The Villanueva Ancestral House in Narvacan, Ilocos Sur

The Villanueva Ancestral House in Narvacan, Ilocos Sur

The house was built in the 1800’s a typical Spanish Colonial architecture during its time. It is situated in the best location in town, between the church and the municipal hall, infront of the Public Market and town plaza. The town also embodies a typical colonial town planning during the Spanish period. Having a house near the important town structures like the church and town plaza is a sign of social prominence and financial standing in the community.


The town was razed by fire during the Japanese invasion in 1945. However miraculously the house was spared most of it’s neighbors were burned to the ground. This miracle was attributed to Mother Mary ( Immaculate Conception) whose image was placed in the center of the house, whom Lola Pacita was a dovoutee. She then decided to donate the said image to the Parish church where she particularly identified the right side of the church to be place where the image was to be mounted. She personally supervised the construction of the said area where she had the wall carved in for the image to be placed when the church was renovated, as Tita Pansy would fondly recall.


The Banez family (Felicitas Banez is the mother of our grandfather Fidel) were wealthy, they owned the vast estate in Casilagan and Poblacion in Narvacan. This is where she had built mansions for her children, Lolo Fidel inherited the main family house and he was made administrator of all the combined Banez-Villanueva estates.

Typical of colonial houses in built during it’s time, there were really no toilets in the bedrooms, the toilets were placed near the kitchen area, there was no plumbing system yet and so discharges from the toilet will go directly to the ground below where usually the family kept the pigs.

The 2nd floor is where you can find the entra suelo where guests are received, wait outside the living room. Having a big family means have a long dining table to fit all the children when they were spending their weekends here in Narvacan. There was a separate table for the children. Once you are asked to sit in the main dining table, it means that you are already of age and considered as an important member of the family.


Weekends here means visiting friends and relatives in town and playing in the town plaza which was just beside their huge ancestral home. The Villanueva boys were the ones who had the tennis and basketball courts in town constructed my dad would always tell me that. I remember the sound of the tennis courts rackets hitting the balls, still echoes in my mind when I look down from the window before. Sadly, now it houses a huge government building and obstructs the wonderful view of the town.

The ground floor was used to store sacks of rice and produce from the family farms across Narvacan. During summer months it can also be stacked with tobacco when Lola Pacita would invest in the trade as well as cotton looms for abel (weaving) a local industry which she promoted for women in the province.

Abel 1



Affluent families are dependent on the harvests that their land produces. This was their main income then, it is for the consumption of the family and whatever is not consumed can be sold or given to the poor.

Every first Friday of the week is a busy day in the household as beggars would line up the outside house. Rice would be distributed as alms. After receiving, they would profuse their gratitude and prayers, “Dios ti angnina”.

St. Lucy’s Parish Church

The church was built by the Agustinians in 1585, it was burned and destroyed by earthquake several times and reconstructed many times over. One of the destruction worse was the bombing in 1945. IMG_1886

The Villanueva family had a lot of influence in the church, the main altar which is the most important aspect of any church was donated by the family, a marking was prominently displayed in the middle of the altar until it was recently restored in 2013 to new look and but marking was transferred at the side of the altar maybe to give way for the altar design. The recent repainting was funded from contributions by the Villanueva Family.

Church Altar Old 1

After the restoration in 2013

After the restoration in 2013


Because of the great contributions for rebuilding the church and helping the community, Lola Pacita was awarded The Holy Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (for church and Pope) in October 22, 1950. This award is given for distinguished service to the church by lay people and clergy. It is the highest medal that can be awarded to the laity by the Pope.

Church Imposicion de la medalla Pacita Villanueva

The family also donated the Immaculate Conception Image of our Lady that said to have save their house during the war.

St Lucy Parish Church Praying


Family Weddings held in this Church

Fidel and Irene Paz Donato 1920
Fidel & Pacita Wedding Photo

Delfin and Cleopatra Cachola 1956
Church Tita Patty

Sofronio Bautista and Esperanza Villanueva Wedding- May 16,1960
Church Bautista wedding

From the proceeds that we has in our last reunion in 2006, we used the funds to rehabilitate the brick and cement steps and repainting of the bell tower.

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Church belltower


Pacita Educational Institute

Now called, NARVACAN CATHOLIC SCHOOL, the only private school that was administered by nuns from Reparatrix Sisters of Sacred Heart.


Before it was popularly known as Pacita Educational Institute (PEI) the only catholic school in Narvacan (located beside the church) was named after her when she died in 1958. It was known as Ilocos Junior College before it became PEI.
The land or the school itself was donated by the Villanueva Family and was once managed by Tita Marit.

The triplets attended part of their High School here



Be counted!

Be counted!



 It is a tradition during the Spanish times that  people would line up at the Archbishop’s Palace or Arzobispado in Vigan on Christmas day for the annual alms giving.  The church would distribute cash or goods to people. You can also witness people lining up in affluent families’ houses  in Vigan, most of them are the families’ farmhand or katalunan and their families bearing gifts like local produce or fruits from their backyard for their landlords.



People lining up to wait for traditional alms giving (photo credit: Vigan Album, NCCA 2002)


 Our grandparents did the same during Christmas Day, it was a day for gift giving for the families of their farmers who are working in the family’s farmlands across the province.

To this date, every Christmas day is a huge gift giving event for the Triplets’ ( Fe, Esperanza and Caridad+) families.  They have continued this gift giving tradition initially for the farmhands’ families from way back since there is not much planting activity nowadays and the over the years word got around and the crowd just got bigger each passing year.


It has been over 35 years since they started this Gift Giving tradition in Laslasong West, Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur and now attracts about 1,000 children from all over the province.  It was an annual  Christmas Day event that my family would always attend and help out anyway we could.



The New Year’s Eve was another event, as a child, it was tradition that my family would host the Villanueva New Year’s Eve celebration in our residence in Quezon City. It was an event where I get to see all my 56 cousins from my father side, that is the reason we know all the names of my first cousins. It was also attended by our dear grandfather, Lolo Fidel.

 The highlight of the New Year’s day event was the appearance of Santa Claus. As a kid, I would also look forward to this occasion and get excited as we just try to figure out how did he get in the house!

The kids grew older, my grandfather passed away and my family transferred residence to Vigan in 1976 …. That was the last of the New Year’s Day Reunion.


Until when the triplets’ families decided to continue the gift giving activity with Santa Claus distributing gifts to the kids who were staying in the family estate.

It’s combing two family traditions in one big event!




Now I see how these children smile when they receive their loot bags of toys and goodies, sometimes so much that they can’t even handle with their 2 hands, you see their eyes light up and jump with joy as soon as Santa makes an appearance riding not in a sleigh but in a sled pulled by a carabao or sometimes an open truck bearing gifts for the children.  They waited in line for hours for this memorable event.



I am pretty sure that these kids are now the children of the kids who used to line up here every Christmas day.



This Christmas I had the opportunity to join my cousins for this event after 5 years of absence, I saw that the crowd was so much larger and have noticed that there were ambulant vendors inside the property selling street food and drinks, a sign that  this event must have a huge crowd, and they were busy all throughout the afternoon selling.



It warms our hearts to see that the family continued a very special family tradition that has been extended to anyone who wishes to join.  I salute my cousins that they are able to sustain this daunting task of preparation and spending for this activity.


May the good Lord bless them and return the blessings to them a hundred fold.


Villanueva since 1720

Villanueva since 1720

Because of our extensive research of our Villanueva family tree courtesy of our persistent and hard working relatives we have traced our roots as far as the 1720’s as descendants of Miguel Villanueva.

Family names were not common in the early days, people would adopt a name either from their parents or from a saint, the latter was more encouraged by the Spanish Friars. This resulted to a 300 year confusion that practically drove Spanish bureaucrats crazy, people without clear family lineages, legitimate births and inheritances were often hard to prove and the clergy worried that Filipinos might be marrying their own cousins or other family members. Which was the usual case when there were not so many people to choose from before.

In 1849, Governor General Narciso Claveria mandated the Filipinos to acquire a family name to begin a process of Civil Register of the entire population. Each head of the family was asked to choose a family name from the Catálogo alfabético de apellidos or the Alphabetical catalogue of surnames, which contained 60,662 surnames, both Spanish and indigenous, that had been collected by parish priests throughout the country. Each town was assigned family names alphabetically. The reason for this move was for efficiency in tax collection, better law enforcement and for church records where we did find the names of our ancestors.

In Ilocos Sur, it was organized in an orderly manner: capital Vigan had “A” surnames for the natives, the mestizos used “F”. Going south, Santa used “B”, Narvacan “C”, Sta. Maria “D”, San Esteban “E”, Santiago “F”, Candon “G”, and so on until Tagudin. Going back to the north: Bantay & San Ildefonso had “P”, Caoayan “Q”, Sta Catalina & San Vicente “R”, Sto. Domingo “T”, Magsingal “U”, Lapog/San Juan “V”, Cabugao “S”, Sinait “Y”. Many families from Sinait later changed “Y” to “I”, so as not to be last alphabetically.

Filipinos who already had surnames like our family name, Villanueva, could keep them for one of these reasons: (1) as long as they can prove that have been using this surname for at least 4 generations and as long as it is not in the list of banned surnames. (2) Others who were already given surnames when they were baptized as Catholics can also keep their family names, (3) the current surname is already included in the list and (4) If you come from a high status in the society and your name belongs to important  families.

I want to believe that our’s was the latter.

Therefore, our family name Villanueva was not acquired from the assigned family names Catálogo alfabético de Apellidos in 1849. Our family name, Villanueva has been used by our ancestors since 1720’s.

We are therefore true blue blooded Villanueva.

For further reading about the topic  click the link.


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