When one mentions Vigan Church, people immediately associate the term with the squat St. Paul Cathedral sitting near the town plaza. But the city has another beautiful church on its ground, albeit a smaller one. Located at the edge of an old cemetery, Vigan’s Simbaan a Bassit sits proudly with its beautiful facade amidst the chaos of electric wires and silent tombstones.
It’s name, Simbaan a Bassit, is an Ilocano term which literally translates to Small Church. And the church is indeed petite. It can maybe seat only a hundred; it is more of a capilla or a chapel, really.
I have witnessed it being used for burial rites before, but I’ve also seen it used for regular Sunday masses.
Its symmetrical facade kinda reminds me of the churches in Batanes, probably due to the curling flourishes embellishing the sides of the church. An inscription reveals the church to be built in 1852, almost 300 years after the first iteration of Vigan Cathedral was made.
Vigan’s Simbaan a Bassit is notable for being the only church in the region with bells hanging from its espadaña or gable.
The church is dedicated to the Santo Cristo or Apo Lakay (Elder), which is set at the domed central retablo of the chapel. It is believed that the image of the Black Nazarene, rescued from a Spanish Galleon that sunk west of the city, saved the people of Vigan twice from a plague that spread during 1756 and 1882.
There are tales that this particular chapel was built because of Apo Lakay. After being found from the wreck, it was said that it was taken to the exact area where the church is now. The locals then tried to transfer the religious statue to the cathedral, but weren’t able to make it budge from where it was laying. It was decided to build a chapel around the image.
This last visit, our group was unable to enter the chapel. Its arched, wooden double-door were closed at the time and we were unable to find any side-entrances. We did find a curious set of Sto. Nino and Virgin Mary statuettes off the side of the church though, which to be honest, gave me the heebie-jeebies.
During my first few visits to Vigan, the Simbaan a Bassit was painted in blinding white. This time around, I found that they’ve redone its color, choosing yellow as its current palette. Although I still prefer its all white appearance punctuated by a very red door, its current color is not too bad either.
Simbaan a Bassit
Address: Liberation Blvd., Vigan City, Ilocos Sur
GPS Coordinates Map: 17°34'14.7"N 120°23'08.5"E