Category Archives: Iloilo

Bangus Dumangas

The Bangus, or milkfish, is loved by Filipinos everywhere. Filipinos learned to cook it in so many different and delicious ways.

I even heard of a place where they cook it “adobo” style.

My Aunt have dates highlighted when sea level would increase. When the tides rises, she would instruct her “cabulig” (helpers) to open a small flood gate that allows fresh sea water to enter.

The gushing fresh salt water would then call the attention of the Bangus. They would all rush into this flood gate and go against the incoming sea water. These drives them nuts. Some of them would even jump up and land near where we stand. Its truly quite a sight to see.

I finally was able to send pictures to my aunt in Dumangas taken during my recent visit. She’s been asking for it for some time.

I’m a procastinator – one of the worst!

Now my aunt is not really into technology, so I’m unsure how to send the videos I recently took. She have television but rarely watch. No cable, no dvd player.

I always tease her that she’s better off living in a cave!

Her favorite companion is her “transistor radio”. A good looking Japanese made compact radio. She sleeps with it and takes it around the farm. She’s a big fan of radio drama.  She’s perhaps one of the few people I know (the other one is a Lola in Cavite) that monitors time using radio.

I also noticed that she likes reading with a cup of  tea and sweets. I asked her if it was something that Dumangas locals are into back in the days, she said laugh and said, “I got the habit while I was working in London as a nurse… I like coffee but tea is better”.

Well, that explains so much about her.


Save Ker and Co.

A friend blogger posted in his site the apparent threat to the one of the oldest building in the Iloilo, the Ker and Co. in the downtown area. The city government plans to convert it to a parking area. I hope they reconsider this course of action. Iloilo local government have had a good record, so far, in conserving heritage buildings. Tearing this century old building would be a step on the wrong direction.

I took this picture last year. Not far from this building is Muelle Loney where a statue of his can be found. According to a local historian, Michelle Tayoba, "the architectural development is straight-forward and functional, devoid of any decorative treatment, typical of humble domestic architecture of the early Spanish period. The adaptation of the wooden second floor base of strong stone walls works very well with Philippine conditions. This system of construction resists earthquake and safeguards deterioration of the wooden parts by pests, like termites and also water soaking on the ground. The wooden structure is safely elevated on a stone base free of the effects from the ground-borne infestations. These characteristics imbue the architectural development with Filipino identity and European extraction." Plenty of lessons we can learn from these heritage structures - we must not tear them down!

Ker and Co. was built by the British in 1850’s. It once employed Nicolas Loney before he was made British vice consul. The company had offices in Manila and Singapore and is credited for bringing sugar cane cuttings to Iloilo from their straits colonies. The company is headed by William Ker who held office in Escolta.

Loney is credited for improving the sugar industry of Iloilo by bringing machinery (imported by his former employer Ker & cia) that aided mass sugar production. The Ilongos honor his contribution to their economy by naming their port, Muelle Loney, after him. The British would have not been able to do much business in Iloilo if it were not for this Spanish speaking businessman.

The simple looking building of classic Filipino style architecture (stone first floor, wooden upper space) is a testament to how it all started for the noble city. How Iloilo became one of the richest province in the 19th century had a lot to do with the business activities associated with this old building.

To Iloilo City officials: tearing Ker & Cia down is a big, big, mistake. Please spare it for the future generation of Ilongos.


Mga Antigong Larawan: Post War Iloilo Photos

The parade of Paquito Bolero with other artistas (that includes Dolphy according to GGR). The motorcycle with sidecar are policemen while the trailing bikes are members of Panay Motorcycle Club (similar to todays widespread motorcycle groups). The street is now J.M. Basa, previously it was Casa Real, considered the city’s version of Escolta where one can find both foreign and local “bazar”. The banner hanging on top, ” I was a shoplifter” is a Hollywood movie (about to be shown in the nearby Eagle theater), so don’t worry, its not shaming a local caught shoplifting! Most of the building here are still existing today, this main road and its surrounding remains to be the busiest in the whole Panay island.

Last Saturday, I visited my friend Sr. Gomez at his home. He showed me some old photos of his and I volunteered to scan them so he can save a digital copy somewhere in his computer. Our humid weather accelerates the deterioration of such old materials, its best to scan them for safe keeping. Eveytime he’ll pull out a photograph, he would tell a dozen story about it and its just amazing how an old faded photograph can trigger great memories – and for someone like me, deeper appreciation of our past traditions and our heritage.

When he handed me an envelope-full of photographs, I just realized the gigantic task at hand – but I’m happy that he entrusted them to me, anything for the ol’ man, who not only happen to be a great friend but also a distant lolo!

I would be sharing more old photos from here on out. Since they are just in a box in the house – I’ll try to scan them and put them here for everyone to see. I have amassed a considerable collection since I normally buy some in antique shops whenever I find one. I usually get family and personal portraits of unknown people. My imagination would just take over – who are these people, what were they like, what are their occupation, what was their language – questions that arise from just looking at these tattered photos. How these picture end up in a shop’s buckets to be sold cheap, I have no clue. The only reason I can think of why I pick them up is that I don’t want to deal with the guilt of not saving them from being discarded.

If I recall what GGR said about this one correct is that this was hishometown’s (Dingle) theater during the post war years. The movie ad, “Prisipe Don Juan”, is a movie that starred Efren Reyes Sr.’s, a popular actor during his time. The movie made and shown in 1950. He was well known for his epic movies. Reyes’ is the grandson of Lola Basiang, the king of Sarsuela – Severino Reyes. Interesting is that the people seem to gather outside, was this after the movie or were they just hanging around. Striking a pose for the photographer maybe?

Sra. Conchita of Roxas City. A photo of an elegant Filipina in terno. This was sent to GGR as a keepsake. Back in the days, people use to send studio photos to friends and relatives. They would dress in traditional customes and of course give out their best smile! Some of the best photographs I’ve seen are portraits like this. They are gems, truly precious and rare.

This I believe is a relative of GGR’s. Another post war photograph in his collection. Observe how the passing on looker is dressed. Before and after the war, you’ll rarely see a Filipino in the streets wearing sleepers, shirts and sandos. Almost everyone are formally dressed (this would be the case up until the 60’s). We use to have a sense of decorum and discipline in the streets. 

All photo rights belongs to the site author. Do not use without permission.


Barotac Nuevo: The Football Town

The recent success of the Philippine football team brought to mind the image of the little quaint town of Barotac Nuevo, a municipality not far from Dumangas. Barotac is called the footbal capital of the country, and rightly so, as there was once a time when our national team was mostly composed of players from the town. To this day, some of the best players in our national pool are from this peaceful municipality.

The footbal crazy town is perfect breeding ground for soccer players because the sport is the only game in town! Here the “Beautiful Game” is King.

The exploits of the legendary Paulino Alcantara should be enough to convince us that we can achieve great things in this fine game. By the way, Alcantara hails from Iloilo City, the son of a Spanish military man and an Ilonga mother. He and all the football loving Ilongos has kept the game alive in a country where basketball seem to be the only sport. Isn’t it ironic that we love playing hoops, a game where height is a definite advantage? Those damn Yankees! They should’ve taught their Little Brown Brothers soccer instead of basketball! Well, USenses find soccer boring, they prefer their version of football  – the Beuatiful Game never really caught up with them.

Along the road, I noticed people in makeshift small huts selling “pantat” (hito, mudfish). The area is surrounded by rice fields where this fish abounds. I asked my relatives how it is prepared – they said the simplest is by grilling, “pantat inasal”. Turns out my Dumangasanon relatives doesn’t find mudfish and all the other freshwater fish apetizing. Maybe because our ancestors has always live along the coast and prefers the taste of salt water fish (A great grandfather, a fisherman, actually died in the high seas in the early 1900’s). I grew up here in Manila but I never develop a liking to the “isdang tabang”. I find it, well, matabang, it lacks the taste I look for. Most Visayan  prefers the fish caught in the sea, to them its far tastier and enjoyable.

I remember the only visit I made to Barotac. We went shopping at the busy Barotac fish market. No pantat for us, we were looking for some big fish to make tinola. We found our guy but I forgot what it was called. I marveled at the rich harvest from the sea displayed on the roadside, of course, they were cheap – if you have little money you’ll never go hungry here. I never really went around town well enough. One of these days I should – maybe pick up the sport of football. Who best to teach it other than the locals of the “Football Capital” of the country, right?

photo from simpliving.blogspot.com


Dumangas: San Agustin and Other Stories

When I told them that I went around San Agustin Church and spent the whole morning there, my relatives exclaimed, “Ah ang simbahan sa cachila” (yes, my aunts pronounced it with the “che” sound!) Then I suddenly recalled that one of the founders of Aglipay here was a grandfather, in fact my mother was baptized as Aglipayan. This explains why they were a bit surprised (I later explained that I am Catholic and so is my Mother). There are still quite a few Aglipay in the family. These two religions are almost identical in all characteristics but separated by “political” ideology. And since the times has changed and the “fight” against the mother church no longer exist I wonder if there was ever a time when reunification has been discussed between these two.

San Agustin Church

San Agustin, the present one, in Dumangas is  the second stone church in the whole of Panay. The first stone church is still in Dumangas – its ruins can be found in Barrio Ermita, the first site of the town’s center before it was moved to its present location. Dumangas (formerly araut) was made a parish in 1569, yes, older than the capital and the colonial state. It truly is  a wellspring of Panayeño history.

The first missions here, composed of Agustinians and a handful of soldiers, was said to have been sent (by Legazpi) to forage for food. The Friars then decided to stay and form a community and the rest is history. For many Catholics in Dumangas, their town being the first to be christianized in the whole of Panay, gives them a sense of pride and uniqueness.

The church that we see today was built in 1887 by the masterful Agustinian builder Fernando Llorente. The Gothic Byzantine church is made of red bricks and quarried sea coral stones. Dubbed as the “most artful” in all of Panay, It was gutted by fire (initiated by retreating revolutionaries) during the revolution and survived numerous bombing raids during the pacific wars.

Recently, NHI made some restoration work together with the local government.  This deserves to be lauded for it involved meticulous planning and execution and it came out alright. It was declared a national landmark in 1983. Testament to its historical significance as not only the cradle of Christianity in Panay but also a noble monument of Dumangasanon perseverance.

In the book “History of Panay” it is mentioned that “well armed” Dumangasanon’s together with the Church and civil authorities warred with the Moro pirates in countless occasions. As part of defense, “the church was surrounded by stone walls, at four corners of which they erected watchtowers”. Outside these walls are “where many battles against the Muslims took place”.

The Agustinian mission were set back by the natives fear of forced labor (not understanding its purpose) and tributes. These are alien concepts to them. Fear and apprehension was promoted by the Babaylanes warning the Panayenos, “of great calamaties” brought by the missionaries. A notable uprising was that of the mundos (literally bananas, an essential part of their diet). Led by a certain Tapar, they were rallied to fight against the Spaniards for fear of having their lands “settled away”. The Augustinian’s successfully convinced these groups without incident to go back to their homes.

The increase in taxation in 1600’s can be attributed to the Dutch-Hispano-Filipino wars. The demand for labor and materials were high and so is the tax in Dumangas and the neighboring towns. What is referred to in history books as the Eighty Years’ War has had a tremendous effect on the colonial state. It was a war where we  played a key role. The Dutch were routed by the Spanish and Filipino forces in the years 1610, 1617 and 1624 in what is known today as Battle of Playa Honda. But the Battles of La Naval de Manila would had the greatest impact culturally (and economically during that period). It is commemorated as a victory not only for the Spaniards but for all the people who love their land and their religion.

My mother studied here for a year before heading back to Negros

Undoubtedly the greatest hero of Dumangas is Quintin Salas. One could see an old portrait of him hanging on Dumangas’ town hall. He is credited for leading the most successful battles during the revolution in the whole of Panay. He took Jaro from the Spaniards when it was at that time a Spanish center. He was consistent in his belief that the Filipinos must be free from all foreign powers – after the Spaniards left he fought the Americans. He was noted for his daring and cunning tactics.  Salas fought the Americans with more tenacity and determination but soon he realized that the conditions of the war was not going his way. He surrendered his forces fearing annihilation. His capture w made it to the broad sheets in the US. He retired a farmer.

Rumors of asuang was once popular in town. Perhaps, this can be attributed to its proximity with Duenas, the alleged home of the asuang character, Tenente Gimo. I wonder if the American’s had employed the use of asuang as a counter-insurgency method here like the one they did in Capiz. You only  need to imagine the scope of their operation back when the Huks were popular in the countryside. If they used the myth of the poor asuangs as means of deterring their enemies, it doesn’t take much to imagine what other propaganda they used to gain advantage. Lansdale, who wrote the book “In the midst of wars”, admitting that it was indeed used to counter the rebels, was also instrumental in installing Magsaysay in Malacanan.

Here an old house of a relative use to stand. This is where my mother spent her childhood days in Dumangas.

The Diazes has been residing in this part of Iloilo for centuries.  There’s still a sizable number of them left in Dumangas but slowly decreasing due to migration. According to some relatives, there was once an American man who dropped by claiming that his father was a Diaz from Dumangas and that he came to look for his relatives. But because the Diaz of Iloilo and Negros is a huge clan, old names are often lost in the family history tree. We often have to settle with the comfort of knowing that it was here, in this coastal town, that our ancestors started their wonderful journey to life.

The municipality has been developed in recent decades. Although I noticed there are still dirt roads around (especially the one headed to the port). The port of Dumangas has been buzzing with activity since its construction. The San Miguel beer that is being produced in Negros is shipped through the port. Supplying beer to the greater part of Iloilo and neighboring provinces  for the good times.

For more historical reading about Iloilo:

History of Panay, Iloilo: La Muy Noble Ciudad, Conquest and Pestilence: In the Early Spanish Philippines, Remnants of the Great Ilongo Nation


Tigbauan: SEAFDC and its Churriquesque Church

My Tia informed me that she would be visiting the place where they buy Bangus fingerlings in Tigbauan. Since she know that I’m ignorant about so many things about country living she tagged me along.

The Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center is a 40 hectare research complex. This is where all the bangus in her Dumangas farm came from.  She does not mind traveling far. “They have the best stock”, she said.

The SEAFDC is an intergovernmental group dedicated to the promotion of sustainable fish farming. Established in Thailand in 1967 their technical facilities are: Training Development (Thailand), Marine Fisheries (Singapore), Aquaculture (Philippines) and Marine Fishery Development and Management (Malaysia).

For 10 bucks one could get a tour of “Fishworld”, a virtual museum of aquatic specimens. Its a great place to visit.

But what really got my attention was the area where they keep and breed Bangus. It was an impressive facility with several large tanks. They also breed other variety of fishes but the biggest containers are dedicated to the national fish.

Those in charge are graduates from state universities. Like this kind young lady supervising the milkfish breeding section, she recently graduated from Mindanao State of University. She took up Fisheries, a four year course specializing in breeding and research. She toured us around. Showed us the various stages of how Bangus are bred. The work that goes behind the scenes was no easy task.

Seeing the giant Bangus, the size of an adult tuna (or maybe even bigger), was an awesome sight. I didn’t know that they could grow that big. These giant breeders produce eggs. Later, once the eggs hatch and become pygmy milkfishes, they are sold as fingerlings to fish farmers for a peso. They were much cheaper before according to my Tia.

From sabalu’s to the tiny fry’s – To see these small creatures, a stick with a circular white plastic attached to it must be submerged in the water. The miniature almost invisible bangus would then be visible when they swim on top or near the white board.

On our way to SEAFDC we pass by the church of Tigbauan (San Juan Sahagun). One of the most interesting church in the island. We never got inside. It was close. I have to be contented seeing the outside.

Heritage people talks about its churriquesque designs. Deeply inspired by the Spanish baroque style named after the Catalan sculptor, José Benito de Churriguera. The style is rare and not widespread. Making Tigbauan church one of the only few churriquesque that made it outside Spain and Latin America.

The church is a treasure chest of Tigbauan history. The carvings on the church had incorporated various indigenous themes. Indigenization took place not only in customs but in architecture as well – and this is true all over the country.

The town’s shore was also the site where the US and Filipino forces from Lingayen landed. This was part of MacArthur’s liberation plan for Panay. I’m not sure if there’s a memorial or anything of that sort where the forces landed but there’s an NHI marker about a kilometer away from the church dedicated to the “Liberation” of Panay.

I should drop by again, one of these days.

San Juan Sahagun Parish An ecomienda given to Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa, Tigbauan became a visita of Oton on 3 March 1575. Although it had become an independent parish in 1578, no permanent priest was assigned to Tigbauan until 1580, when Fr. Luis de Montoya was assigned as prior. Originally under the advocacy of Our Lady of Grace it was later renamed Juan de Sahagun, after an Augustinian saint. In 1593, the parish was handed over to the secular clergy because the friar, Fr. Garcia de Quiroga, was appointed secretary of the province and had to leave the Visayas. The seculars held the parish until 1617 when they were assigned to Antique (Hamtic) in exchange for Tigbauan. Fr. Fernando Camporredondo may have built the Tigbauan church described in a report of 1848 as made of yellow limestone and which survived the earthquake of 13 July 1787 despite its considerable height. Fr. Fernando Martin is credited with building the present church, though Augustinian historian Pedro Galende, opines that he may have reconstructed a previous church, since the description of his work corresponds to the one previously mentioned. Only the church façade, bell tower and a few pillars of the convento remain. The same earthquake that brought Oton to the ground damaged the interior in 1948, apparently. The interior is greatly renovated and has been decorated with mosaics in 1994. (source: Panublion)

Perhaps the most important contribution of the town and this wonderful church was providing space for the first Jesuit school (exclusively for the boys) by Pedro Chirino SJ. The year was 1592.


Pavia

The Pavia church is an Italian inspired church that was completed in 1895 by the Augustinian fathers. The construction commenced on the feast of its patron saint, Santa Monica,  on May 4, 1887.

Pavia was named after the rich agricultural Italian town where Saint Augustine was buried (Basilica San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro). Most likely the explanation why the town was named “Pavia”. Local historians credits the name from the Spanish corruption of the word “biya-biya” . Like its namesake, the once arabal of Jaro was also a prosperous farming locale.

Their festival is held during the summer month of May. It is a double celebration dedicated to their patron saint and to the carabao. The town is also popular for its delicacy, “baye-baye”, a delicious grounded rice cake. It is similar to the Tagalog’s “espasol” but without the powder. They pack it in thin sheets of paper and sold along the road.

Pavia is the smallest municipality in Iloilo (approx. 6000 families). They are also perhaps the only town in the country that have an official “halloween” celebration. The festival of the dead is called “Tigkaralag” or “Pista Minatay”. Held every October 30, all barrios compete in costume and dance competition. I was told that its one of the biggest street events in Iloilo – I’ll have to see it one day.

To all Pavianon – happy Halloween in advance!


Tatoy’s of Arevalo

Sunday. My tía decided to treat us in Tatoy’s Manokan and Seafoods. Tatoy’s is perhaps the most popular and biggest restaurant in Iloílo. It is located in Villa de Arévalo, along Baluarte-Calumpang-Villa-Oton Boulevard near the John Lacson Maritime University campus. My aunt could still recall how the restaurant used to look like, huts of bamboos and nipas, before it became a hit. President Macapagal Arroyo, who married an Ilongo, dines in Tatoy’s when she’s in town.

The main attraction is  their lechón manóc. They only cook native chickens, marinated in a secret mixture. Darág (or labuyò in Tagalog) are served with their heads intact. They also dish up binacól, again, native small chicken, cooked in coconut juice.  Native chicken is tastier but a bit tougher compared to the market variety. In the Visayas, the demand for darág grows every year as people have started to discover its distinctive taste.

 

The party of five. Just getting started at Tatoy's.

 

There are beach huts near the shore, facing Guimarás, that are available for dining. The main restaurant is not paved; they retained the beach brown sand as flooring. This offers customers the old dining experience of Tatoy’s. There are air-conditioned rooms that are provided for no additional cost. Aside from being a manocan (spelled with an “o”), Tatoy’s serves great seafood — I saw people with plate full of talabá and freshly grilled bañgús and maya-maya. The kinilaw (white fish meat with vinegar, mango, and sili), lucon-lucon, scallop, pasayan (sigáng) and valenciana are some of the other dishes that were served that day. Tatoy’s true appeal is its original Ilongo cooking – people wanting to experience genuine Ilongo food go here.

October 2010


From Dumangas: Food for the Soul and Memory

I consider myself fortunate to have Visayan roots. My father’s mother is a Cebuana from Barili. His father is pure Negrense who spoke Hiligaynón, Bisayà, and Spanish. My mother is an Ilonga, and she prides herself for being one. Her mother was from San Carlos, Negros where she was raised. Her father, a Díaz, was a Dumangasanon original of Iloílo. She reminds us boys that her Ilongo parents had greatly influenced her cooking. If it is true that you are what you eat, then I’m not really Tagalog but Ilongo.

The food served here brought back great childhood memories to my mother. Ilongo cuisine, she said, is known for its “mildness”, something that distinguishes itself from the rest and what some confuse with as bland cooking. This can be observed in the Ilongo’s dish called laswâ — the taste and method of cooking is far from the rest of the local mixed vegetable dishes like, say, the Ilocanos, who prefer the bitterness and saltiness of their dinengdéng and pacbét. Even pacsíw, a meal which I learned to enjoy strongly soured, has a milder taste in Iloílo.

The late writer Doreen Gamboa, who hails from Silay, Negros, wrote: “For them (Ilongos), no large dominant flavor, but layers and nuances, prized over the predominance of flavor”. The people prefer the mild cuisine, but definitely sweet for the cookies and pastries especially since Iloílo was once a sugar land. A visit at a Biscocho haus will tell you this.

In the fish farm, live bañgús (milkfish) are caught and made into sinugbá. Cooking is done in a  fogón  and without any artificial seasoning. This traditional process gives the food a very distinctive flavor. The family together with the farm helpers rest and eat in a big open house built on top of a pond.Its made of bamboo and nipa but its foundation is concrete. A tasty tinola, a broth consisting of fish tail and head was served boiling hot. The other catch that day consisted of large lucón (shrimp), awà (bañgús look alike made into pacsíw) and small dark tilapias. The cabulig (helper) told me that there other fish that can be found in the pond: bulan-bulan, bulgan, alikumo (hairy crabs), calampay (smoother crabs) and bunog (seawater mudfish).

Our mornings were greeted with deliciously steamed root crops:  camote  (colored  ube  or cassava),  ibus (local suman) and puto tactác. A rare root crop called tam-ís was also served. My mother recalled that this wild crop grows along the Dumangas river. Finding it has become rare as times goes by. My mom and tía also spoke about a long forgotten root crop called the limá-limá. This particular root crop is not commercially cultivated but grows in the wild. Hardened cocoa’s were also boiled and poured straight into tea cups. It was strong and aromatic. These cocoas are bought in a dried leaf wrap called it tableya. Strange is their preference for brown sugar but here I discover that this variety is better for the hot beverages.

Merienda were delightfully – heavy (mabigat sa tiyan!). Guinát-án is served in thick gatâ, smelling wonderfully because of the fragrant pandán leaves – tied in a knot and soaked in the boiling gatâ. One of the cabulig referred to it as biló-biló, which surprised me because it’s a term I heard Bulaqueños use. It turns out that her husband is Bulaqueño. The following day, the merienda was more familiar: sweet spaghetti with slices of hotdogs. It was cooked in a huge caserola and was emptied in minutes.

October is reaping time, and there were several young men helping out with the hard farm work. They showed me the process of “trayser”; this separates the ipá from the grain. My relatives feed these workers three times a day and pay them before sending them home. I was informed that most of these people are distant relatives.

There seems to be no shortage in food. My relatives make use of all available lands wisely. They plant string beans, cangcóng, camoteng cahoy and alugbati for household use. Vegetables cultivated for selling are calabaza and mongo. Wild saluyot grows along the rice fields. The ingredients of an Ilongo staple, laswâ, is picked fresh. Rain is gathered and filtered for drinking and water. For washing, there’s the old reliable balón.

On our way back to Manila, we shortly dropped by a small stall along the highway in Santa Bárbara. We bought baye-baye, a delicacy similar to espasól minus the powder. The food reminded me, especially my mother, of a culture that helped shape the way we eat and live. Although we try to recreate the Ilongo way of cooking back home, there is the difference in ingredients. Batuán, for example (a crucial souring ingredient in Ilongo cooking) is almost impossible to find. But still we try, because it is our tradition kept alive in our cocinas.

October 2010


Iloilo City Heritage: La Muy Leal y Noble Ciudad (Part II)

Jaro

Jaro Cathedral

A trip to the old district of Ciudad de Iloílo became a pilgrimage of sorts to the spiritual legacies of the colonial period – an epoch where the most imposing and richly decorated edifices are churches which the missions and the community constructed. Everyday Filipino life back then revolved around it. And this faith, culture has influenced the people’s way of life and the Filipino’s social atmosphere.

I tried to travel to as many places as I could during my four-day visit to Iloílo. On my third day, Jaro (hispanized word for Saro) was next on my list. It is one of the oldest districts of Iloílo that was believed to have been the hub of trade in Isla de Panay long before the Spaniards came. Its position is most ideal as it is located between two navigable rivers. Both Spanish and native use water channels primarily as passageway – this tradition was lost to us when the Americans started constructing roads to push forward their concept of “modernizing” Filipino infrastructure, i.e., commercializing it. Trading and traveling using water passageways also had a positive effect on the rivers as man cleans and removes obstructions that might cause delays. Because people largely benefit from smooth-flowing river and canals, they understood why there is a need to take care of it, while other Asian nations (such as Thailand) have kept this tradition we lost ours.

The Jaro Cathedral (Catedral de Santa Isabel de Hungaria) is a simple yet graceful church with gothic features. I have not researched much on its structural history yet. But judging on its appearance, it appears to have been renovated countless times over the years. It has retained its charm and sense of history. Observing the people coming in and out of the church, it’s obvious that the people of Jaro still hold dear the value of their modest cathedral being the center of faith and the town’s local history. It faces the iconic campanario de Jaro, a soaring bell tower that had served as a sentinel against pirate assaults during the Spanish era. On a clear day, this tower can be seen from as far as downtown. From where I stayed (del Pilar which is near San Agustín), I could see this brick tower. The Jaro Church is among a very few that has a detached bell tower, reminiscent of the churches that can be found in Ilocandia.

The soaring bell tower of Jaro

An interesting event took place in 1613 when the Dutch buccaneers succeeded in penetrating Jaro, wreaking havoc and destruction. So devastated was Jaro from this vicious raid that it was later ordered to be reduced from a major township to a mere visita. The effect on the people and existing buildings had been terribly overwhelming. However, this was resisted by the religious and the community. The history of Dutch against Spain was a lopsided affair here in our country. Although the Dutch had succeeded in disturbing peace and causing damage, they had been defeated several times by the Filipinos and the Spaniards. Funny that I was reminded of these events when Spain defeated Netherlands in last month’s World Cup. Of course it’s a stupid comparison to make. It’s odd but this is how history works inside me.

Due to repeated slave raids, the church was moved from its original site in La Paz. Transferring a church to another place as a result of piratical attacks was a common problem among the established Christian communities in the islands during those times. This cruel practice against Christianized towns only served to strengthen the determination and devotion of the converted to defend their newly found faith. Defenses like the bantayan towers (such as those in Guimbál), cannons, and fortresses were built and militias were created to fend off these sadistic attacks.

The feast day of the venerated image of Nuestra Señora de la Candelariais commemorated every 2nd day of February. It is one of Iloílo’s most popular celebrations. The carnivals and expos for the fiesta begin around Christmas time. The unmatched pageantry of its long and colorful parades, including a festive sabong (cockfighting) marathon with record bets, are among its attractions. The emblematic image of the Lady of the Candles is the only icon in the country to have been personally crowned by a Pope (in 1980s). No other Filipino Catholic icon shares this distinction.

A Nakpil treasure in the heart of Ilonggo land

A walk around the plaza (Graciano López-Jaena Park, named after a famous son of Iloílo who is one of the most recognizable bayani in Filipino history) reveals one of its forgotten treasures. The Palacio del Arzobispo (Arzobispado de Jaro), built during the time of Archbishop Cuenco (first Filipino archbishop of Jaro), was designed by the celebrated Filipino architect Juan Nákpil; thus the man who had it made was actually not a native of Iloílo. José María Cuenco was born into a Cebuano political family. He was set to become a lawyer, had already studied in the US, until he contracted typhoid fever. After his recovery, he decided to become a priest. He was ordained in Cebú in 1914. He founded El Boletín Católico and Veritas (then an English and Spanish daily).

Another historical figure from Jaro is Fernando López, Elpidio Quirino’s pick for the vice presidency in 1949. He was elected twice as vice president. After disagreements between their family and Marcos (supposedly on issues over business interests), he resigned in 1971 and became an opposition. Of course, we know what happened to their business empire when Marcos became dictator. López is a product of Dominican education and was considered a political protégé of President Sergio Osmeña (he appointed López as Mayor of Iloílo without experience).

The Art Deco police station. I was prohibited from taking this shot but I still took one anyway, which should explain the bad angle!

To reiterate, another López, the aforementioned Graciano, also hails from this prosperous town. Unfortunately, we are separated from his genius because our generation no longer speaks his other language: Spanish. He is erroneously referred to by Wikipilipinas as “Prinsipe ng Mananalumpating Tagalog” because he is not Tagalog in the first place, nor did he speak that language well, if he ever knew it at all. Aside from Spanish, the only other language he spoke magnificently is his beloved Hiligaynón, the main language of Iloílo. Although he was from a poor family, he had well-off relatives (the propertied branch of the family) to whom he owed his schooling. Interestingly, among his first educators were the friars that he would later attack in his writings. He sought refuge in España fearing retribution from the victims of his critical expose. He was the pioneer editor of La Solidaridad. The master orator died a pauper during the year of the revolution. He was buried in a public cemetery (up to now, no effort has ever been made to recover his remains). While Marcelo H. del Pilar and Juan Luna all made it home even after thorny setbacks their relatives encountered, our Ilongo hero who had a reputation of being untidy at times, never made it home. López Jaena deserves to be laid to rest in Jaro.

A visit to Jaro is never complete without seeing its great mansions. Within these amazing houses are some of the wealthiest families of Iloílo. The town was even once considered as the “richest” in the entire colony. From the López’s Nelly Garden to the Lizares Mansion – all of these palatial mansions showcase the cultural, spiritual, and historical elements of a society that has demonstrated the uppermost sophistication of the “true” Filipino imagination. I have not made an effort in entering these magnificent mansions as they are still private residences but I did notice several mansions that have been abandoned. I would want to comeback and gain access to these houses one day. The trouble is that sometimes asking for permission takes too much time.

Molo

 

Molo's historic gem

 

 

Pablo Araneta's Marker in the convent of Molo

 

The Parián (original Chinatown) of Ciudad de Iloílo, one of the six districts of Iloílo, is home to the famous Saint Anne Church, referred to as the “feminist church” because of the lady saints standing on an elevated base attached on the Corinthian columns its interior foundations. An old diary written by a certain Ms. M.M George (1801) referred to Molo as “a town of half castes”. Intermarriage was relatively common between the Chinese and the natives. Later on, because of the Chinese-Filipinos’ remarkable commercial, agricultural, and industrial business success, they had increased their social and political importance. One thing that’s noticeable about the Chinese-Filipinos who converted to Christianity was their devotion and dedication to the Christian religion. Once they had been won over, they had been known to contribute greatly to their new religion.

The case of Mother Rosario Arroyo de la Visitación (born Mª Beatriz del Rosario Arroyo) is an example of such devotion. A grandmother of former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, Mother Rosario founded the Beaterio de Molo and Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary using her inheritance. Her parents were the wealthy couple Don Ignacio Arroyo and Doña María Pidal in Molo town (Pidal, I’m sure, rings a bell with Arroyo critics).

There are several remarkable historical personalities who originated from Molo, it being a rich and important district where many affluent Ilongo families once lived. It earned the title “Athens of the Philippines” because it is the home of four major Spanish educational institutions: Instituto Enseñanza Libre de Molo, Colegio de Santa Ana, Centro Escolar de Molo, and the Escuela Pública (the Englishman Bowring praised the people of Molo by saying, “I found nowhere among the natives a people so industrious, so persevering, so economical, so prosperous”). Don Gregorio Araneta y Soriano, who was secretary of Justice during the Aguinaldo government, was married to an influential Roxas clan in Manila. He would later defect to the other side and would be appointed Attorney General under the American regime. He was a well-known Federalista. Another Molo native, Ángel Magahum Sr., became known for writing the first modern novel in Hiligaynón. He created more than 100 zarzuelas, poems and essays, and religious songs of which some were in Spanish. He was a product of seminarian schooling and was known as an eloquent speaker of the Spanish language.

The interior of Sta Ana de Molo. Noticeable are the Lady Saints.

The blessed Mother Rosario of Molo - kin to First Gent Arroyo

There was a recent demolition which took place near the Molo church. This time, the casualty was the Locsín house of Molo, one of the many old houses that was still looking good just two years ago. According to a blogger (habagatcentral), it was sold by the owner. It is a terrible thing to see, but some people just have no vision nor a sentiment of heritage at all (thus Calle San Pedro, where a good concentration of Antillean houses can be seen, will look incomplete without the Locsín house). The Locsín of Molo is probably the house of Senator José Locsín’s parents. The senador negrense who once served as Negros Occidental governor is best remembered for his “Filipino first” advocacy and his closeness to fellow Visayan leader Sergio Osmeña. He is considered as one of Siláy’s greatest political leaders. He was part of former president José Laurel’s economic team that realized the Laurel-Langley trade pact (replacing the pro-american Bell Trade Act). A Philippines Free Press article quoted him as warning the Filipinos of the “relentless demands of modern-day living”. Although it seemed that he was pertaining to the economic conditions of the 60s, he might as well have said it to warn future generations (including ours) of getting caught up with the destructive patterns of our quest for modernization.

The Molo Church Marker

According to Englishman Dr. Leone Levi in the 1864 edition of the “Annals of Legislation”, Ilongos, especially the rich families of Molo, had “invested in large tracts of fertile and well-situated lands on the coast of Negros”. This movement has something to do with the business prospects of Negros. The opening of ports in Negros was creating opportunities.

The center of the town is the church. This is of course typical of an old Filipino town which remains largely unchanged up to our time. The man who is credited for having built the first church of Santa Ana is Fray Locsín who, according to a friend, was a Chinese mestizo and a relative to the huge Locsín clan of Iloílo. Rizal, who once visited the church, praised its beauty and it was because during that time people were so involved in their church. Newstoday writer Nereo Lejan wrote that “the church of Molo symbolize the engineering genius of the Spanish friars”. But perhaps the grander design is that the mission created a sense of place and community. In our contemporary historical texts, this spiritual effort is not treated separately from all the other errors of the Spanish conquista. This gift that we now take for granted is the most potent of all elements which made us a nation. These missions get lost in the shuffle of how history is taught.

We’ve heard of the famous pancít molo and probably had the chance to savor this wonton Filipino adaptation. It has been the dish which the people of Molo have been very proud of because it is uniquely theirs. But it was strange that I have not found any place which sells this typical pancít. I’m sure there is pancít molo here somewhere, but I guess I didn’t look hard enough. My preparation was bad as i ran out of time because I only arrived in Molo at around three in the afternoon.

Arevalo

My Tia Basing toured me around this elegant house, the famous Casa Sinamay.

Iloílo was once considered the best producer of piña cloth. The sinamáy, a fabric made of pineapple fiber, was known for its incomparable quality and value. This humble product was once a source of local pride. The fine and remarkable fibers of piña, jusi, and cotton fabrics were already being produced in significant quantities in Iloílo and is being exported by sea to Manila and other Asian countries. At the height of its textile industry, Iloílo was considered the “textile center” of the country.

In Arévalo (originally La Villa Rica de Arévalo), the sinamáy house still stands as a reminder of the days when the much-sought fabric was in great demand. Raw silk was being ordered from China (mid 1800s) in great quantities. Silk was combined with the weaving process and this was said to have added a more luxurious finish. Because of its high quality and beauty, buying it was considered as an important “event”.

When the port was opened, fabric imported from England and China directly competed against the locally produced sinamáy. This would not last long, though. Shortly after the imported products flooded the market, the sinamáy industry started to dwindle. Some also pointed to the fact that the decline of Iloílo’s textile was because the province’s wealthy traders shifted to planting sugar, abandoning the textile business altogether. Without government regulation and protection from foreign imports, local produce are made to suffer from unfair and deceptive trade practices – and we haven’t learned our lessons as we continue to allow concessions to bigger countries in exchange for debt reduction and other future incentives.

Trite as it may seem, we should always learn from history.

July 2010

Click here for part 1


Cabatuan Church: “Iglesia Primera El Centro de Iloilo”

The giant red church of Cabatuan

I went outside the city to visit Cabatúan Church. A tía told me that it is where the father of Senador Manny Villar hails from. I was not sure what to make out of that information but I did hear some news about him funding roads on this part of the country – that fact must be the senator’s reason. Cabatúan is a 3rd-class municipality and is located 24 kilometers outside Iloílo City. It took me around 45 minutes to get there by jeepney. The airfield of the new Iloílo airport belongs to Cabatúan, but the airport can only be accessed through Santa Barbara town. Hopefully, this helps increase the coffers of Cabatúan, a town which has been relegated to a low-income municipalidad today.

Since it was a Sunday, the plaza in front of San Nicolás de Tolentino was buzzing with human activity. I walked around the plaza and found it quite modern and spotlessly clean – cleaning is a preoccupation that the Ilongos seem to relish very much. The last scheduled morning mass had just ended. The market was packed and raucous, possibly the only time that it was like that. Many people were lining up inside what looks like a carinderia – I got curious to find out what it was all about. It turned out that the place was serving “batchoy”, an Ilongo specialty. And in this part of the province, it’s ridiculously cheap, so I gave it a try.

Manuel Bezeta, the Spanish chronicler, described Cabatúan as “de pintorescas y deliciosas vistas y el  clima es templado y saludable”. Much of what he saw is still visible today. The same Spaniard also shed some light on what the town was engaged during its heyday: “sus naturales se dedican con especialidad al cultivo de la agricultura”. And the Cabatuanons haven’t abandoned this agricultural spirit to this day. The Cabatúan was doing well then as it was commercially exporting rice outside en bastante cantidad, a successful venture that made the town progressive. Perhaps this is the golden era before the terrible events paid a visit. The wars that came – first with Madre España, then with the Yankees, and later Japan – had brought them economic ruin, much like it did to the rest of the country. They had good roads during their years of progress that are passable anytime of the year according to Bezeta (buenas calzadas transitables en cualquier época del año). A testament of this growth is the number of tributes collected from the town which was generally higher in the 1800s than any other town in Iloílo except Jaro.

And the Friar’s gave the natives crops that outlived their missions, “maíz, tabaco, cacao, azucar, trigo en abundante cantidad (in high quantities), café, pimienta, legumbres, etc” of these crops the one that has ceased to be cultivated is wheat (and tabaco in this region) – this is intriguing as this illustrates that the missions has attempted to introduce wheat culture but it never flourished (which is attributed to a number of factors). Just imagine if it had succeeded, we would not be importing wheat for our breads and poultry feeds. Unlike the other crops that have been with us for so long that we no longer deem them foreign, wheat, never quite made it. Another interesting industry that is now lost in Cabatúan (and other parts of Iloílo) is sheep raising. The taste of mutton was never palatable to us – and we had little use for its wool as our hot weather forbids its use.

The mighty Cabatuan river

The Cabatúan River, which made their soil fertile and productive was, according to Bowring, “abundant with crocodiles”. It was low and wide when I crossed it; the shoreline was lined with gigantic rocks. There is a newly constructed bridge right beside the old one. The old bridge has metal frames but utilizes wood blocks as tracks. It is single lane and incredibly, the wooden bridge is accessible to trucks.

I was interested to know if the town was named after Batúan, a souring fruit used in popular Ilongo dishes. It is a fruit related to the mangosteen: the round yellowish green fruit is unfamiliar to many Filipinos but common in Ilongo cooking. My mother told me that the town was named after the fruit, but websites like Wikipedia listed several other possible sources (but of course, you can hardly rely on what they write there since virtually anyone can edit the information). This is the dilemma with the etymology of town names since record-keeping began when the Spaniards came. It makes it difficult to trace the real origins of prehispanic names that are predominantly based in oral tradition. The name Manila alone has several possible sources that even up to this day, nothing has been proven to be the real version.

San Nicolas, the super saint of the Agustinos' massive bellfry in Cabatuan

A retablo carved in quarried stone

The Iglesia de San Nicolás de Tolentino is the “first and largest red brick” church in the Visayas region. The retablo is the tallest in the province of Iloílo. The church was considered the “Iglesia Primera En El Centro de Iloílo”during the 1800s. Its red-brick finish is one of the community’s crowning achievements. It is the only existing Spanish colonial church with three facades, six belfries, and a massive convent. For all these wonderful things, one man deserves to be credited: Fray Ramón Alquezar, who, in his three decades of leadership, also built roads and other valuable infrastructure around Cabatúan. The friar also introduced brick making in the town, possibly to supply the materials needed for his church. During the Japanese invasion, the Japs burned the convent and utilized the bricks for their landing field (the site of the new Iloílo airport). It gives you a picture of how vast the place was that mile long air strips was built using its red bricks. The next town’s church in Janíuay was not as fortunate because their church was completely destroyed and was never rebuilt.

The Cabatuanon's Spanish era cemetery

One of the many gates of the Cabatuan cemetery

The Romanesque cemetery of Cabatúan is another interesting structure in this “pilgrimage town”. A visit to Cabatúan is never complete without a casual walk, no matter how eerie or strange it may feel. Like all the other major projects of the colonial government, it was built with the highest quality and artistic design at that time. The camposanto once had a dome similar to San Joaquín’s Catholic cemetery but now only has a flat top – they probably repaired it. The gateway arch is beautifully designed. The native limestone and wrought-iron grills gives it an ancient-like appeal.

The town celebrates its feast every 10th day of September. A distinctive practice during the celebration among the Cabatuanons is the distribution of bread that has been “blessed”. These breads are known to have miraculous healing benefits. I’m curious to know if these breads are similar to the panecillos of Pampanga which also honors Saint Nicholas. While this bread ritual has lost its popularity here in our country, there are still many who still clings to this tradition. All around the country, even in old towns, traditions are slowly giving ground to modernity. Most of what is retained are tied with religious celebrations, like the fiesta and pascó for example, and with the problems confronting the Catholic church (and people losing interest in their relationship with the Church), it makes you wonder if one day we’ll have to be contented with reading our ancestral traditions only through books. Like what we are doing with the extinct Catholic celebrations and parades that once gave life and sound to the whole of Intramuros.


Guimbal: Unvisited but familiar

Photo I took inside the jeep. I was on my way back to Iloilo.

A friend reminded me to visit Guimbal while I was going around in Iloilo. In his youth he recalls how orderly and peaceful the environment of Guimbal was. I pass by the town twice on my way to the southern towns I listed on my itinerary but due to time constraints I never had a chance to walk around what is said to be the cleanest and greenest of all Ilonggo towns. I’ve heard that it’s also the most peaceful. Now, that is my kind of town!

But perhaps, what is overlooked is its history – how this town with an ominous sounding name (which in tagala means “horrible”) played a crucial role in defending the province against the Moro invaders. It was this threat that drove them to build those magnificent defense sentinel structures along its coast (Bantayan or watchtowers) Its municipal logo shows its founding date as 1703, recognition of the original date of founding. In other towns, what is considered as the foundation day is registration (as cities and municipalities) under the American colonial government – a rather unfortunate choice for local governments like Muntinglupa as this is not representative of how the community was first organized, for how could one establish something that has been in existence for centuries?

I’ll be back and be sure not to miss this place next time.


Iloilo City Heritage: La Muy Leal y Noble Ciudad (Part I)

The first church I ever visited here in downtown Iloilo is the well-known Iglesia de San José de Placer. Its storied town square, the Plaza Libertad (formerly Plaza Alfonso XII), is perhaps one of our most underrated historical gems – here the Ilonggos witnessed the surrender of Diego de los Ríos, the last Spanish Governor General of the Philippines. It is here where the sun had finally set on the Spanish empire, making Iloílo City the last Spanish capital to be ceded by the once mighty Spanish empire. The Spaniards were temporarily held in La Paz as “guest” before being deported. de los Rios has the distinguish experience of battling two fronts, the revolucionarios resistance and that of the Americans. A strange coincidence was the departure of de los Ríos’ – he left Manila for Spain on 1 January 1899. Indeed, it signified the dawn of a new chapter in our history.

Iglesia de San José de Placer. Magnificently restored by the community.

The beautiful white and green interior of Sn. Jose

The NHI marker of Plaza Libertad. Why are these only written in Tagalog?

Casa Lacson and the Botica Lacson ruins. The Ilonggos are blessed with so many fine heritage houses that are still standing.

Right beside the church sits the Lacson ancestral house. It is a massive Antillean house with intricate designs and which is solidly built. Although not as well preserved compared to the other ones that I’ve seen in town, it has still retained its grandiose and gracefulness. Undeniably, it is one of the finest houses during its heyday. That the house is located right beside the church tells of the power and influence of La Familia Lacson. Not only was this family prominent in Iloílo, it all has numerous members. All the Lacsons of Iloílo and Negros come from a single family line that can be traced here. The generations of this Ilonggo family after the Spanish rule were scattered all over the island – either by migration or by other human activities. Regardless of who and where they are, one thing that has been the signature of the Lacsons is their admirable and spirited leadership. From revolutionary general Aniceto to Manila Mayor Arsenio, from fugitive Senator Pánfilo (popularly known as Ping, whose father was a jeepney driver in Imus albeit a direct descendant of the famous Ilonggo clan) to the young Lacson entrepreneurs of today – the clan has definitely left an indelible mark not only to the Hiligaynón-speaking islands of the Visayas but to the country as a whole.

The only masonic temple (that I know) that was built exactly in front of a Catholic church.

The old Iloilo Hotel now occupied by Landbank. Nearby Calle Sto Rosario is where you can find a good concentration of Antillean houses.

The former building of Elizalde & Co (Edificio de Elizalde y Cia) made an annex of the Iloilo city hall. There are signs of deterioration but still the edifice is among the most impressive in Iloilo in terms of size and dimension.

The tree-laden plaza is a great starting point to explore the heritage sites of downtown Iloílo. Plaza Libertad is surrounded by the church of San José de Placer, the imposing white Masonic building (which oddly sits right across the aforementioned church), Casa Lacson, and the old Iloílo Hotel which is now occupied by a commercial bank. The ruins of the Botica Lacson is at the corner lot facing Calle de la Rama, adjacent to the proprietors house. A few blocks and one will find Muelle Loney, named after Englishman Nicolas Loney who pioneered the province’s sugar industry. His nephew would later establish the provinces’ first shopping bazaar. Reading Iloílo’s old history reveals that there was once a sizable English community in Iloílo that was engaged in different trades. Another illustrious English visitor is the English Governor of Hong Kong, Sir John Bowring, who gifted us with his amazing book “A Visit to the Philippine Islands”.

In a report by John Farren in 1855 to the British parliament he said, “The British trade in Las Islas Filipinas exceeded in value that of Great Britain with several states of Europe, Africa, South America (Colombia, Mejico and Guatemala)”. The opening of the Iloilo port (and that of Zamboanga) by the Spanish authorities was intended “to give development to the local interest”, and this has proven to be the greatest event in Iloilo’s economic, not only did it opened it to world trade, during these rich days they’ve achieved a cultural and economic peak unmatched by any ciudad in Filipino history. The Hong Kong Governor Bowring said of Iloilo, “the province has, no doubt, been fixed on as a seat of the government, from the facilities it offers to navigation”, commenting on the state of the province (mid 1800’s), “perhaps, the most advanced of any in the Philippines”.

 

A portion of the massive Customs house (Aduana de Iloilo).

an interisting bodega-like structure near the city hall annex. The appearance suggest its construction during the American era.

The nostalgic American era theatres (Regent and Eagle) now utilized as modern business offices

 

 

The S. Villanueva building (RCBC Bank) in Calle Arsenal

And life was sweeter then: the ciudad and the entire province can thank this money mill of an industry – from this port, Iloílo traded sugar to different nations around the globe.

Ideally, it is better to walk rather than to hire a ride. This way, one can better observe the colonial-styled buildings. The then undisputed sugar capital also became the center of style and culture; the industry spilled its riches on its houses, edifices, and infrastructure. The architectural wonders here are among the finest examples of Filipino architecture that I ever laid my eyes on. The public market, for example, is in art deco style and done with the highest considerations. An amazing mix of colonial Spanish and American structures can be seen around town.

Let's keep these wonderful relics of our past.

The Celso Ledesma Mansion.

Another Villanueva!

Still in JM Basa, the Pilar building

I sure hope that young people in Iloílo can do a much better job in promoting their province –  the city’s inhabitants actually needs to start promoting its heritage. Being part Ilonggo, I’m mighty proud of its great heritage and culture. A tour of Calle Real or even Calle Sto. Rosario, where many antillian houses remains, would really be an interesting walk. Tourism should not just be a monopoly of government officials.

There exists a bountiful number of heritage sites waiting to be explored and promoted. The past mayor had launched a very commendable project, a promotion called “Heritage Zone” – major streets, plazas, monuments, and churches were placed under a conservation council. Its aim is to conserve the heritage structures. Hopefully, it works towards the full restoration of vintage buildings around the old center.

Here is a list of some of the most recognizable heritage buildings along JM Basa Street: Celso Ledesma; Dominican Sisters Pilar; Javellana II; Iloílo Lucky Auto Supply; S. Javellana; Villanueva; Divinagracia; Iloílo Central Trading; Regent Arcade; Commission on Audit Office, and; the Magdalena, Cacho, and Villanueva buildings

Heritage buildings along Calle Iznart are: Villanueva; S. Villanueva; Iloílo Public Market; J. Melliza; Tayengco; LJ Hormillosa, and; the Celso Ledesma buildings.

Calle Real is the site of many old structures that are now being utilized as shops. As long as it is useful, it will continue to exist. Improving its structure and its appearance should be planned. It had seen better days but judging on what I’ve observed so far, the conditions of these old buildings are much better compared to those in Manila which, of course, were not only heavily bombed by its “liberators” but has been the victim of its people and leaders’ ignorance and ungrateful attitude towards their ancestors heritage.

One of the gates of Universidad de San Agustin

The iconic Arroyo Fountain (Fuente Arroyo) the province's "Kilometer Zero"

The traveler beside the marker of the old Casa Real

The northern tip of Calle Iznart is where one will find the old provincial capitol: Casa Real. In front of it is the abandoned Casa Ledesma, owned by one of the foremost families of the Ilonggo aristocracy. Another attraction in this area is the city’s iconic fountain decorated with maidens and gargoyles dedicated to Sen. José María Arroyo (grandfather of ex-First Gentleman Miguel “Mike” Arroyo) in the early 1900s. He was the initiator of the first waterworks scheme in the city. The fountain comes to life after dark, lighted by a soft lamp. Probably the smallest Rizal monument located within a capitol or municipal office can be found in the center pedestal of the rotonda in the vicinity of the capitol. It is a bust of the hero’s head, the size of a small watermelon. Why is it small? I don’t have the answer.

Casa Real. The old Capitol Building.

A top notch hospital and medical school. During the time of my visit, I went to see a recovering relative. A Tia told me that there was once a beautiful garden here reminiscent of English gardens.

The new Iloílo capitol was built behind the old one. A few steps away from the present capitol building is the Iloílo museum, a very artful and intriguing building that houses some of Iloílo’s priceless heritage pieces and art works. It is said that it has a wide collection of Santos and antiques items. Unfortunately, it was closed the last time I visited it. I lodged somewhere in Gen. Luna, in front of San Agustin, one of the foremost educational institution in the region. It was the first school in Western Visayas to be granted a university status. It is still being administered by the oldest of all Catholic mission in the first and only Christian nation in Asia, the Augustinians, whose membership includes one of our founders, the great Andrés de Urdaneta y Cerain.

My room in Luna overlooks the beautiful wide river of Iloilo which produces a breeze that’s cool and, surprisingly, pleasant. On a clear day, I could see the bell tower of Jaro. The suburb where I’m headed next…

(End of part I)

Click here for part II


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