Calle Crisologo de Vigan comes to life as the “kutcheros” return

THEY ARE BACK In this photo taken in June 2019, a “kutchero” (driver) transports tourists down historic Calle Crisologo in Vigan City. Kutcheros, one of the city’s many tourism workers displaced by the pandemic, was allowed to return to the streets of Vigan on November 20. – PHOTO WITH THE AUTHORIZATION OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE CITY OF VIGAN

LAOAG CITY – Famous “kutcheros,” or horse-drawn carriage drivers, in Vigan City have been allowed to resume operations after nearly two years of shutdown by the COVID-19 pandemic, provincial officials said on Sunday. Ilocos Sur.

Kutcheros welcomed the news, as travel restrictions that were imposed to curb the spread of the virus at the height of the health crisis last year displaced at least 176 of them who were forced to find more sources of income.

Some of the kutcheros had to work for construction companies or in the utility industry to make ends meet, according to the Ilocos Sur tourism board.

On November 20, the city government of Vigan finally acceded to the Kutcheros’ request to return to the streets, especially the cobbled Crisologo Street, one of the popular landmarks in the province, with the Ilocos region now being below Alert Level 2 (low risk) and its number of COVID-19 cases continued to decline.

Money for training

“We are very happy that our kutcheros are returning to the streets, albeit slowly. They were the last of the tourism workers to return to work, ”Ilocos Sur tourism manager Michael Ryan Astom said in a television interview on Sunday.

Before the pandemic, kutcheros earned between 3,500 and 5,000 pesos per day for an hourly rate of 50 to 250 pesos per capita. In the absence of tourists, the provincial tourist office organized cash training. program for kutcheros who have learned additional skills, such as basic guiding, while waiting for tourism to resume.

“They were paid to attend the day but it only lasted 25 days,” Astom said, adding that some kutcheros were offered employment opportunities by the city government.

Ilocos Sur gradually reopened to visitors on November 5 after more than a month of closing its doors to tourists amid an increase in COVID-19 cases following severe tropical storm “Maring” (international name: Kompasu) in October. But even with the gradual reopening over the previous months, the kutcheros said they were still struggling to recover as they could only win “by appointment”.

Fernando Amano Jr., president of the kutcheros association in Vigan, said their group members were delighted with the local government’s decision to allow them to fully resume their activities and hoped that the number of visitors would return to pre-pandemic levels. .

In 2019, at least 1.4 million tourists visited Vigan, which suffered some 1 billion pesos in losses caused by the pandemic, according to data from the tourist office.

Vigan was declared one of the “Seven New Wonder Cities of the World” in 2015 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, and local tourism has been a key driver of the economy. the province, supporting at least 8,000 workers, according to local officials. INQ

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