Top Adsense

Exploring Iloilo's Rich History: A Journey Through Its Heritage Sites and Old Buildings

Iloilo City started in what was once a large swamp by the river inhabited by fishermen, before the arrival of the Spaniards. The city got its name from the local word “irong-irong” or “ilong-ilong,” which means “nose-like,” after the shape of the Catalman islet on the Batiano estuary.

Prewar view of Iloilo City
Prewar view of Iloilo City (Leo Cloma Collection)

Prior to its establishment as a separate parish, Iloilo, called La Punta in 1617, was previously under the administration of Arevalo, and before that of Ogtong (now Oton). The parish was created between 1768 and 1775 and administered independently from the neighboring towns of Molo and Arevalo by Dominican priests Diego Garrido, Anselmo Zialcita, and Jose Arritegui.

In the late 16th century, a military detachment was assigned to Iloilo, which was set up as a supply point for an aborted plan to conquer Sabah. In the early 17th century, a small wooden fortress was built in La Punta under the order of Pedro Bravo de Acuña (governor 1602 to 1606) to protect it from pirate raids and East Indies Company ships, which threatened commerce. Huts and fishermen’s stalls nearby later became Estanzuela, today identified as near the Iloilo Fish Port on Rizal Estanzuela Street. Upon the orders of General Alonso Fajardo de Entenza (1618-1824), clergymen began to serve as chaplains of the place.

In 1628, the Jesuits took charge of a nearby place called Cota in Molo and built a house and a church in Estanzuela. A street named La Compañia in Molo has been interpreted as the area where the Jesuits established themselves. During this time, the Jesuits thought of administering La Punta, possibly because of the small number of parishioners at Estanzuela. Worried of the intentions of the Jesuits, the parish priests of Arevalo built a church in La Punta and resided there for a period of time. Because of this move by the priests from Arevalo, the number of parishioners at La Punta increased. An order by General Hurtado de Corcuera (1635-1644) in 1637 for the Chinese and Spanish traders to move in further increased the population of La Punta, and decreasing that of Arevalo. This resulted in Arevalo’s annexation to Ogtong. Then, sections of Arevalo, from Salinas to La Punta, were ceded to the Jesuits by Arevalo’s parish priest, Juan Borja, to avoid lawsuits and inconveniences to the Society of Jesus. Arevalo regained its independence in 1653. Its incumbent secular parish priest, Licenciado Gregorio Bruno, protested Father Borja’s decision to cede sections of Arevalo to the Jesuits. However, after 25 years of lawsuits, the frail Father Bruno acknowledged Borja’s decision and made a pact with the Jesuits called Concordia. This agreement was met with protests from Father Bruno’s successors, and the litigation continued until 1768, when the Jesuits were expelled from the Philippines as a result of a royal decree.

In 1780, Father Juan de Figueroa became the chaplain of Cota and the parish priest of Iloilo and the nearby island of Guimaras. In 1868, Iloilo was administered by the Augustinians together with the then village of Loboc (now La Paz).

A battle between the inhabitants of Iloilo and the Dutch in 1616 resulted in the victory of the natives and the discovery of the image of the Nuestra Señora del Rosario. This image survives up to this day and is enshrined at the 19th century parish church of San Jose in Plaza Libertad.

After the triumph of the locals against the Dutch, La Punta was fortified and Cota was widened and reconstructed in stone, replacing the previous wooden material.

With the rise of the weaving industry, Iloilo became a commercial center in the 19th century, exporting products such as sinamay, cotton, and silk fabrics to Manila, Leyte, Samar, and Europe. This bustling industry came to a halt in the 1870s with the introduction of the sugar industry. Nicholas Loney, first British Vice Consul in Iloilo, was partly to blame for the decline of the weaving industry because of the increased sales of English cotton in the local market. Loney was a commercial agent for a number of British companies and he advanced British interest in sugar as a cash crop. Loney introduced steam-powered machines from Britain that revolutionized the milling of sugar and increased its production. The machines replaced the animal-driven wooden presses used to extract the juice from sugar cane, which was then condensed by boiling in large open vats, called kawa.The product was a dark, brown raw sugar, called muscovado. Local businessmen and entrepreneurs shifted their interests from weaving to acquiring sugar plantations, both in Iloilo and the island of Negros. Foreigners from France, England, Germany, and the United States migrated to Iloilo lured by the prospect of the growing sugar industry.

The opening of the port of Iloilo to world trade in 1855 contributed to the growth of the city into an important commercial center outside Manila. Its well-sheltered harbor made it an entrepot for sugar produced in the neighboring island of Negros, which up to the 19th century remained largely unexploited and sparsely inhabited. Entrepreneurs from Iloilo set up large sugar haciendas in Negros and shipped them to Iloilo. Initially, the produce from Negros was shipped on board large round-bottom sailboats, called batel. Later, this was replaced by motor-driven vessels as the growing sugar industry fostered the growth of auxiliary business like hauling and shipping. Likewise, this growth resulted in the establishment of many businesses such as banks, educational institutions, theaters, warehouses, and shops.

On 5 October 1889, the Queen Regent of Spain, Maria Christina of Austria (1885-1902), raised the status of Iloilo from a town to a city. It was formally inaugurated as a city in 1893. Because of its rise as a commercial hub, it was given the label “Queen City of the South,” the title it would lose to Cebu City in the 20th century. By a royal decree in 1896, Iloilo had the privilege of having its coat of arms inscribed with “la muy leal y noble ciudad de Iloilo” or “the most loyal and noble city of Iloilo” because of the loyalty of the Ilonggos to the Spanish crown during the early stages of the Philippine revolution.

A notable architectural remnant and testament to the economic boom experienced by this “Queen City” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries are the grand mansions of the elite that still stand today in many parts of the city, notably in Jaro, which had a heavy concentration of mestizo español and mestizo sangley entrepreneurs. The cosmopolitan education and training of these mestizos encouraged the flourishing of the theater arts, including the performances of an Italian diva. Other refinements of the well-to-do included the exclusive clubs like the Casino Español and Club Ingles, as well as horse racing and golf, which the British introduced when the Santa Barbara Club was opened in 1895.

During the American colonial period and after World War II, Iloilo remained as a commercial center. Sugar was still being produced but Negros proved to be a rival entrepot. In the 1930s, the town of Silay opened its own port, later followed by Pulupandan and Bacolod, thus diminishing the role of the Iloilo port. The weaving industry continued, practiced in towns like Miag-ao and Arevalo, but not to the extent comparable to its boom years in the 19th century.

During the Commonwealth period, on 16 July 1937, Iloilo became a chartered city incorporating the neighboring towns of Arevalo, Jaro, La Paz, Mandurriao, and Molo. Lapuz, which was formerly a sub-district part of La Paz, became a separate district in 2008. Today, Iloilo City remains as the commercial and educational center not only of Iloilo province of but the whole of Western Visayas.

Molo Church, circa 1990, a neo-Gothic church built by the diocesan clergy in Iloilo
Molo Church, circa 1990, a neo-Gothic church built by the diocesan clergy in Iloilo (CCP Collections)

In 2013, Republic Act 10555 declaring a number of sites in Iloilo “Cultural Heritage Tourism Zones” was passed into law. It listed a number of sites worthy to be promoted: the Jaro Cathedral, Jaro Plaza Complex, Molo Church, Molo Plaza Complex, Iloilo City Central Business District, Plaza Libertad Complex, and Fort San Pedro. On 16 June 2014, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines declared the Iloilo Commercial District as a heritage zone. There are several notable heritage sites in Metro Iloilo.

Iloilo City Proper is separated by the Iloilo River from Lapuz to the east, La Paz in the north, and Mandurriao in the northeast. To its west is Molo, separated by Infante Street through the mouth of the Batiano River. To its south is the Guimaras Strait.

Iloilo Provincial Capitol Building

Iloilo Provincial Capitol, circa 1915
Iloilo Provincial Capitol, circa 1915 (Nereo Cajilig Luján Collection)

The old Iloilo Provincial Capitol building was first built of wood and stone in 1840 as the casa real (royal house) for the then town of Iloilo. It officially became the Iloilo Provincial Capitol building in 1901 when the civil government of the province was established. The Japanese forces used it as garrison during World War II. It was repaired in the 1960s but was damaged by a fire in 1998. It was renovated after that fire but the provincial government decided to construct a new multistory provincial capitol building nearby as a replacement. The old provincial capitol building was declared a historical site by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) in 2010 and was restored with the help of NHCP in 2012. The facade of this two-story arcaded structure is described as eclectic with a colonnade on the second level.

Three decades after the conversion of Iloilo’s Casa Real into the provincial capitol, a new town hall was constructed in 1934 on General Luna Street. Designed by renowned architect Juan Arellano in neoclassic and revivalist styles, it has art deco and nativist elements inside. The one-story structure is marked by arched windows, stylized composite columns with a dome and high ceiling. The features of a bahay na bato (stone house) were also incorporated into the structure such as sliding main windows and ventanillas (small windows). The wooden floors are also raised. The structure has a wide court serving as an entrance foyer and also has two big patios. The main entrance is flanked by composite pilasters on both sides. Its facade features reliefs and bronze sculptures by Italian sculptor Francesco Riccardo Monti. Monti’s work on the facade include a bas-relief of human figures that depicts a Roman Court above the main entrance and male statues representing law and order flanking the main portal. The building was used as a Japanese garrison during World War II. It became the University of the Philippines Iloilo College in 1947, through a donation given by the city government. The new Iloilo City hall was constructed on Plaza Libertad.

Arroyo Fountain

Standing in the middle of the intersection of three streets in front of the old capitol building is another Iloilo landmark, the Arroyo Fountain also known as Senator Jose Ma. Arroyo Fountain. The once semicircle garden with a flagpole at the center was replaced by the fountain in 1927. Originally it had sculptures of semi-nude women which were replaced with modestly attired figures in 1929, after the Women’s Association of Iloilo protested its alleged indecency. The Arroyo Fountain is the kilometer zero of Iloilo, the point of reference in measuring distances from the city.

Old Provincial Jail and the Museo Iloilo

Also located on the same complex with the capitol building along General Luna Street, Muelle Loney, and Bonifacio Drive are the Old Provincial Jail and the Museo Iloilo. Built in 1911, the old provincial jail is set to become the regional branch of the National Museum. The Museo Iloilo, on the other hand, was built in 1971 and designed by Architect Sergio Penasales. Its trapezoidal-like facade has reliefs of significant Iloilo landmarks like the Jaro belfry, Molo, Miag-ao, and San Joaquin churches as well as the San Joaquin Campo Santo. The museum houses important ethnographic, archaeological, and religious collections from the province, like trade pottery and ceramics, jewelry, santos, human remains from an excavated site, and related artifacts. The local weaving industry called hablon is also featured in the museum.

Church of San Jose de Placer

San Jose de Placer Church and Lacson House in the foreground, circa 1920
San Jose de Placer Church and Lacson House in the foreground, circa 1920 (Franz Jereza Collection)

Facing Plaza Libertad is the church of San Jose de Placer. It was first built as a chapel of light materials by the Jesuits in 1607. In 1768, it was handed over to the Dominicans when the Jesuits were expelled out of the country. The Dominicans administered the church until secular clergy came in 1775. Around 1868, the church was ceded to the Augustinians. The present stone-and-brick church structure was started in 1873 by Father Maurico Blanco, OSA. Father Blanco added the two towers—one with a clock and the other with a barometer—flanking the facade in the 1890s. He also built the adjacent convent. Father Manuel Diez repaired the church in 1902. It was spared during World War II. Engineer Mariano Cacho restored it in 1945. Father Jesus Fernandez gilded the main altar with gold panels. The church was again renovated from 1980 to 1982 by Father Gilbert Centina, using marble on the walls of the main and side altar, transept, and for the floor.

The facade has an arched main entrance with two side entrances. It also has rose and semicircular arch windows. Its triangular pediment has a niche for a statue at the center and dentils at its cornice. The three-tiered rectangular towers have ionic piers at each corner. The church houses the image Our Lady of the Holy Rosary which was found in 1614, during the defense of Iloilo against Dutch forces.

Plaza Libertad Complex

Plaza Libertad Complex was so named because on 25 December 1898, the Philippine flag was raised on the spot to announce the independence of Iloilo from Spain. During the American colonial period, this area was improved. Street lights and caryatids were installed. It was marked by the National Historical Institute on 17 November 2003.

Casa de España Building

Located on Burgos Street is the prewar Casa de España building. Also called Casino Español, the building was constructed in 1926 as venue for social gatherings and events, not only by the Spaniards living in Iloilo, but also affluent Ilonggos and foreigners. As a result of the poor economy after the war, businesses in Iloilo declined. Casino Español was abandoned and is now in ruins. The building has neoclassic columns with a portico big enough to accommodate private vehicles. Above the elevated main portal, the name “Casa de España” is etched together with the date 1926. Still visible are the coat of arms of Spain, the lion of Aragon, and the castle of Castille, symbolizing kingdoms united under Ferdinand and Isabela in 1492, after the fall of Granada. This marked the beginning of Spain as a nation.

Palace and Eagle Theaters

There were two well-known theaters in Iloilo during the 1920s, the Palace and Eagle theaters at the corner of J. M. Basa and Mapa Streets. The Palace Theater, now Regent Arcade Building, was built in the neoclassical style in 1927. Its portico is formed by Corinthian capitals on fluted columns. The facade has two identical square windows with the same female figures with cherubs and floral motifs on top. To its right, across Mapa Street, used to stand the Eagle Theater, which was built during the early American period, and later renamed Prince Theater. This arcaded structure was topped by crow-stepped gable design while its windows had a configuration of a Roman arch. Standing in its place now is a modern four-story Eagle Building which has incorporated the eagle sculpture on its facade.

Ker and Company House

Ker and Company House on J. M. Basa, Macario Peralta, and Ortiz Streets was the office of a British trading company established in the 19th century to purchase and export sugar from Iloilo and Negros, with the support of British vice-consul, Nicolas Loney. This 19th-century bahay na bato, which has a gabled roof at the center sits on a 3063 square meter lot. The Ker house stands near the Elizade Building.

Elizalde Building

The two-story Elizalde Building (formerly Ynchausti Merchant House) on J. M. Basa Street was built around 1906, following the style of a typical bahay na bato, albeit bigger in size. Its first level is made of bricks while the second level is made of wood. Also, the second level is marked by sliding windows each framed by double arches. The wrought iron ventanillas have floral designs. On top of the capiz shell windows are crossbars of pierced decorative wooden panels. The eaves and the projections on the second level are supported by wood brackets that have foliated motif. The main entrance is marked by a grand staircase with banisters of two types—turned and carved. This building was previously converted into an annex building of the Iloilo City Hall and the Commission on Audit office.

Celso Ledesma Mansion

The Celso Ledesma Mansion on Rizal and Ortiz Streetss is popularly called the Eagle Mansion because of the statues of eagles perched on the cement post of the house’s perimeter fence. Constructed as the residence of Celso Ledesma in 1922, it is a Beaux-Arts style house with decorative touches of art deco and an interior furnished in the Victorian style. The exterior appears stately and formal because of its classical features, like arched windows and doors, but it is softened by the glass and hardwood door with lines of art deco and flanking panels of stained glass. Murals of tropical scenes by Vicente San Miguel, glass chandeliers from Europe, colored glass on window panes, and local interpretations of art deco expressed in furniture further mitigate the severity of the classicist style.

Fort San Pedro

Fort San Pedro, demolished in the 1900s
Fort San Pedro, demolished in the 1900s (Leo Cloma Collection)

Fort San Pedro, at the end of General Hughes Street, was the site of the fort built in 1616 as a defense against the Dutch. This replaced an earlier military station, which had been established as early as 1595 as a provisioning station for a planned attack on Borneo, led by Captain Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa. The attack failed because of Figueroa’s untimely death in Cotabato. Fort San Pedro was a fort with straight bastions at the corners. Two of the bastions were built over the sea. It was demolished by the Americans in the 1900s, and only the foundation of the seaside bastions remains, incorporated in the breakwater.

Iloilo Central Business District

The Iloilo Central Business District was declared by the NHCP as a heritage zone by virtue of NHCP Resolution No. 3 of 16 June 2014. On 8 August 2014, a historical marker was unveiled in Iloilo with the title “Distritong Pangkomersyong Lungsod ng Iloilo Bilang Pook Pamana.” The heritage district refers to the area of the former Calle Real, clustered around the Iloilo Central Market building. The Iloilo City Cultural Heritage Conservation Council (ICCHCC) further defines this district as consisting of major arterial streets Iznart and J. M. Basa and minor arterial streets Aldeguer, Arsenal, Guanco, Rizal, Arroyo, and Mapa. It includes Plaza Libertad. It lists the following as heritage buildings.

Javellana Building

Many buildings from the American era range in style from neoclassical to art deco. The Javellana Building, constructed in 1922, is an example of classicism. Tastefully restored, with the signage of Sarabia Optical its tenant on the ground floor modified to be less intrusive, the restored neo-Renaissance building has an arcaded walk with the lower arcade supporting the arcaded balcony on the second floor. Tuscan columns support both arcades. The chamfered corner is the building facade, which is crowned by an arch pediment with a decorative occulus; decorated corbels support the arch. The S. Villanueva Building (New Central Bazaar), constructed in 1936, is in art deco with simplified fluted pilasters and course molding. Generous amounts of glass give the building clean lines.

American-period street scene in Iloilo
American-period street scene in Iloilo (Leo Cloma Collection)

Villanueva Buildings

On Iznart Street, other heritage buildings include the neoclassical S. Villanueva built in 1926. Three other Villanueva buildings are located on this street. One neoclassical, one Streamline Moderne, (1936) and the other neoclassical with parapets divided by urns on pedestals. Also located on Iznart are the prewar J. Melliza Building, 1931, Commoner, and the art deco Iloilo Central Market on its corner with Rizal Street. This particular building has a central tower flanked by step structure in the ziggurat style.

Other heritage structures on the heritage zone are the prewar, neoclassical Celso Ledesma, 1923; M. Villanueva and Dominican Sisters, 1927; neoclassical S. Villanueva, Divinagracia, Iloilo Central Trading, Cacho, and another Villanueva building. There’s also the neoclassical Pilar building which has art deco arches at the ground floor and the neoclassical with baroque ornamentation Iloilo Lucky Auto SupplyBuilding.

Postwar Javellana II, 1950-1951, was of international modern, characterized by sun baffles, together with L. J. Hermillosa, 1950. The Tayengco Building, 1950s, on J. M. Basa Street on the other hand is of the art deco revival while S. Villanueva (New Central Bazaar) is art deco. The Magdalena Building, built in 1938, rebuilt in 1948, and remodelled in 1955 is eclectic in style, probably because of the changes done on the structure over time. The building was originally designed by Architect Jose Tantoy Locsin.

Two characteristics of the streetscape of this heritage district gives it distinction. First are the chamfered corners of buildings. Similar in design to the Escolta, Manila streetscape, the chamfers open up street corners and minimize blind corners, which could be driving hazards. The second characteristic are the arcaded sidewalks that make it possible to move from one building to another while shielded from sun and rain. These building features mark the Iloilo Central Business District and give it distinction.

Muelle Loney

Muelle Loney is the principal port of Iloilo built along the banks of the deep draught Iloilo River and protected by Guimaras Island. It was opened as an international port in 1855, and was one of the catalysts for Iloilo’s wealth. It is named after the British vice-consul John Loney, who was responsible for upgrading the sugar industry in the Visayas.

Aduana or the Iloilo Customs Building

Prewar Iloilo Customs Building
Prewar Iloilo Customs Building (Franz Jereza Collection)

An important structure on Muelle Loney, overlooking the Iloilo River, is the Aduana or the Iloilo Customs Building built during the early American period. This neoclassic structure is identical to the Immigration Building in Port Area, Manila. The Aduana features a tall tower at the center of the building. The exterior of the building is marked by columns with ionic capitals, parapet walls, decorative moldings, and rows of dentils. The main portal is a semicircular arch opening topped with a triangular pediment. The interior has neoclassic elements as well. In the octagonal public area, horizontal moldings and dentils frame the octagonal coffers with inverted pyramidal moldings.

Panay Railway

Panay Railway was a subsidiary of the Philippine Railway Company Inc., which was founded in Hartford, Connecticut on 5 March 1906. It included in its assets the Manila Electric Railway and Light Company (Meralco), Manila Construction Company, Manila Suburban Railways Company, and later, Philippines Railways Construction Company. On 28 May 1906, the Philippine Commission granted the company a concession to construct railways in Panay, Negros, and Cebu.

Construction on the Panay Line began in mid-1907. It ran north to south, connecting the capitals of Capiz (later Roxas City) and Iloilo. The track ran for 117 kilometers, with its highest point at Passi’s border (Iloilo) with Dumarao (Capiz). It had 19 permanent and 10 flag stations and ran through the towns of La Paz, Jaro, Pavia, Santa Barbara, Lucena, Pototan, Dingle, Dueñas, and Passi in Iloilo; and Dumarao, Dao, Panit-an, Cuartero, Loctugan, ending in Capiz, Capiz. A total of 46 bridges were built. Its terminal in Iloilo was next to the Aduana on Muelle Loney. In Capiz, it was at Tabuc, on the southern bank of the Pan-ay River. The railway ceased its passenger operation in 1985 and its freight operation in 1989. The buildings of the Panay railway are functional. Its Iloilo depot and terminal was broad and low two-story warehouse, where the upper floor was for offices and the lower floor for the terminal. The existing stations at Roxas City and La Paz, Iloilo were both designed as one-story buildings of reinforced concrete.

Assumption College

Assumption College on General Luna Street was established in Iloilo in 1910 by the Religious of the Assumption. This congregation of women was established by Mere Marie Eugenie Milleret in France in 1839. Known for their education work, the sisters were invited by Queen Regent Maria Cristina of Spain to establish a training school for women teachers. They arrived in 1892 and established a school in 1893, which complemented the work of the Jesuit-run Escuela Normal de San Francisco Xavier. However, with the end of colonial rule, the sisters returned to Europe. In 1904 they came back at the request of the Apostolic Delegate to the Philippines. Assumption first opened on General Hughes Street but moved to its present address three years later. After World War II, its elementary and secondary schools gained government recognition, and, in 1948, it became a college. The historic buildings of Assumption College sit in a tree-lined lot. The main building is two stories high with the gabled central section projecting outwards from the flanking wings. These flanking wings have arched windows, and the upper floor have quadrilateral windows. The building is white washed and the roof has a dark green color reminiscent of the American colonial period Gabaldon schools.

Colegio del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus

The Colegio del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus on General Hughes Street began as a modest school established by the Daughters of Charity, a female congregation established by Saints Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac. The nuns started by teaching young boys and girls near Fort San Pedro. On 14 September 1917, the school was formally recognized and the sisters were able to acquire a lot for the Escuela Gratuita (Free School). The lot was formerly owned by the English Consulate. The sisters also acquired the lot in front of it. The school was housed in a two-story bahay na bato. In the 1950s and 1960s, the school flourished and its Conservatory of Music became well known. Its post-World War II building is a straightforward structure with elements from classicist architecture. It has a central parapet decorated with neo-Gothic finials at the center and at the end of the bays flanking it. The parapet is not a solid wall but consists of a series of gothic arches. The bay flanking the center are ornamented with geometric designs in the manner of art deco.

University of San Agustin

American-period Colegio de San Agustin
American-period Colegio de San Agustin (Nereo Cajilig Luján Collection)

University of San Agustin (USA) on General Luna Street was established on 15 July 1904. It opened with an initial enrollment of 40 students. The first Augustinian community was composed of Father Bernabe Jimenez, OSA, the first rector; Father Mateo Fuentes, OSA; Father Ramon Lucio, OSA; Father Tiburcio Recio, OSA; and Father Sotero Redondo, OSA. Its pre-World War II building is in the neoclassical style, which is characterized by a central colonnade of Corinthians rising two stories, crowned by an attic with arched windows. Flanking the colonnade are stairwells with operable awning windows. On either side of the colonnade and stairwells are the wings of the main building, whose arched windows on the second floor echo the designs of the attic over the central section. This building replaced a 1939 structure, named after Father Andres de Urdaneta, OSA, Legazpi’s navigator. The earlier building also had a central section flanked by wings. This was in the style of a bahay na bato, with the central section projecting outwards and covered by a gable roof. The first floor had arched windows and the second floor quadrilateral openings.

University of the Philippines in the Visayas

University of the Philippines in the Visayas (now UP Visayas) main building was previously the city hall of Iloilo. It is a neoclassical building with monumental statuary designed by Juan Arellano and Francesco Riccardo Monti. It was built from 1933 to 1935, and inaugurated in December 1936. After being occupied by the Japanese from 1942 to 1945, it was turned over to UP on 8 April 1947 by Fernando Lopez, then mayor of Iloilo. It had been damaged during World War II, but was repaired in 1950 through the War Damage Commission.

Former city hall of Iloilo, now the University of the Philippines Visayas source of light for the sala
Former city hall of Iloilo, now the University of the Philippines Visayas source of light for the sala. (The University of the Philippines: A University for Filipinos, edited by Gloria D. Feliciano. Diamond Jubilee Presidential Commission, 1984.)

St. Paul’s Hospital

St. Paul’s Hospital, run by Saint Paul de Chartres sisters, is a pre-World War II institution and a pioneer hospital in Iloilo. Its main building in the neoclassical style goes back to before the war. It has a wide porte cochere consisting of an arcade. This arcade design is repeated in the flanking wings, which terminate in two wings that run perpendicular to the main wing. The arches are used on the first story as windows as well as arcades. The second story quadrilateral windows are protected by a wide overhanging roof. The central section, where the porte cochere is, has tree bays and terminates in a triangular pediment. Above this pediment was a short tower, probably for ventilation. In the postwar era, the porte cochere was cut to three bays, from the original five, and the tower removed. Behind the main wing is a chapel whose pediment was clearly added after the war. Also added in front of the flanking wings are the Chauvet Complex and the Cardina Dougherty Annex Building, which covers the original prewar main building.

Jaro District

Jaro, formerly called Salog —a Hiligaynon word meaning water current—was an independent pueblo, but it is now integrated as a district of Metro Iloilo. The name Salog was hispanized to Xaro or Jaro. The Augustinians placed the spiritual administration of Jaro under Oton in 1575 and it remained Oton’s visita (mission chapel) until 1584. In 1587, Jaro became an independent parish. For lack of personnel, the Augustinians gave up administration of Jaro in 1587, but took it back in 1588 with Father Juan Villamayor as prior. In 1613, the Augustinian visitor Diego de Guevara ordered Jaro reduced to the status of visita, probably because the Dutch had attacked and destroyed Jaro in 1614, and placed it under Catmon (Santa Barbara); but the order was not carried out. A council on 31 October 1636 authorized changing Jaro’s patron from Navidád de la Virgen to Nuestra Señora de Candelaria.

Jaro’s first town site was at Alanga in La Paz. But after the town suffered a series of slaving raids, Father Bernardino Alisen transferred Jaro to its present site around 1720. Fsther Juan Aguado, his successor completed the relocation from 1742 to 1746. The precise location of Alanga is disputed. Some sources identify it with La Paz poblacion, others say Alanga was part of La Paz.

On 27 May 1865, the diocese of Jaro was created by splitting the once extensive diocese of Cebu. Territorially, Cebu covered Mindanao, Guam, and the Marianas. With the split, Jaro assumed jurisdiction over western Mindanao, while eastern Mindanao remained with Cebu. Cebu lost its jurisdiction over Guam and the Marianas with the Treaty of Paris, which redefined Philippine territory in 1898. Jaro became the center of a diocese, the fifth to be established during Spanish colonial times, and the only new one to be established in more than 300 years. The Dominican Mariano Cuartero was appointed first bishop of Jaro.

In the 20th century, Jaro became an affluent suburb of Iloilo. For many years, there was only one bridge across the river which led to Jaro. The bridge to La Paz was wooden and had a limited load-bearing capacity, thus all traffic in and out of Iloilo City passed through Jaro. Once farmlands, Jaro became the center for schools and large convents of priests and nuns. Located along Eugenio Lopez Street, Colegio de San Jose, founded on 1 May 1872, is one of the oldest educational institutions in Iloilo.

Around the Jaro cathedral, and along the main road of Juan Luna, which runs south (E. Lopez) to north (towards Iloilo) are rows of large mansions. Sitting on wide tracts of former farmlands, some on a hectare of property or more, these mansions in various styles were mostly built in the late 1920s and 1930s.

Casa Mariquit

Antedating all these mansions is Casa Mariquit on Santa Isabel Street, two blocks northeast of the cathedral. Oral tradition claims that the house is two centuries old, but no clear records of its construction or architect are available. It is claimed that the house was built either by the grandfather, Ramon, or the father, Julio, of Maria “Mariquit” Javellana. It became the home of former vice president Fernando Lopez who married Doña Mariquit. The house is a straightforward two-story box made of a lower story of bricks and an upper story of hardwood. It has a balcony that runs the length of the facade and sides of the house, with delicate metal grille work in repetitive geometric patterns of cartwheels enclosed in a frame.

The zaguan or first floor was formerly the office of Don Julio Javellana and housed a bank. Later, it was used by Lopez as an office. The area presently displays memorabilia from the vice president. Access to the second floor is through a wide hardwood staircase in the zaguan. The staircase leads to the sala and the adjoining rooms upstairs, namely the dining room and bedrooms. The hardwood walls are varnished and the interior is quite dark, especially if the three French doors that open to the balcony are closed. The open doors are the principal source of light for the sala.

Lopez Mansions

The Lopez clan has three notable houses on E. Lopez Street which are next to each other. Built in 1928 by Vicente Lopez and his wife Elena Hofileña, this large villa is in the Beaux Art style. It is dramatically set back deeply from the street by a wide formal garden called Nelly Garden, after Lopez’s eldest daughter, Nelly. It is set in a four-hectare property, about a kilometer from Jaro’s center.

On the same road is the neoclassic residence built by the former vice president, and inherited by his children. It has been painted in eclectic pink, which does not enhance its neoclassical features.

Another Lopez family mansion, an example of the art deco in the streamline modern house, is the Boat House, so called because it resembles a steamship with its porthole windows and upper story that resembles a ship’s deck. Designed by Fernando H. Ocampo in 1935 to 1936, its present owner, Oscar Lopez, has restored the building and the adjoining maids and drivers’s quarters to become a house for training executives of ABS-CBN in the Visayas. The house straddles the boundary between Jaro and La Paz and is technically listed under La Paz. The National Historical Institute declared it as a heritage house on 13 March 2002 and marked it on 28 March 2004.

Sanson y Montinola Residence

Sanson y Montinola House
Sanson y Montinola House, 2013 (Constantine Agustin)

In the north, near the cathedral, is the delicately designed Sanson y Montinola Residence, referred to as Antillan because some critics note affinities with tropical architecture in the Antilles. The name Antillan came from the work of Fernando Zobel de Ayala, a pioneer art historian, who did not claim that the house was Antillan in style but that it resembled houses in the Antilles because of its light and airy look. The house is best described as Victorian gingerbread for its delicate wooden cutouts. It was built in the early 1900s, and was the home of Gregorio Montinola and Matilde Jalandoni. The house has been recently restored by a descendant Gregorio Sanson and his wife Marilou Tirol.

Ledesma Mansion

Built around 1925, the Ledesma Mansion was the residence of Joaquin and Pilar Ledesma. Facing the Jaro cathedral, the mansion’s central entrance was a colonnade of Corinthian columns that supported a half-circle balcony on the second floor. The Corinthian motif is repeated in the pilasters of the sections that flank the facade. A roof deck surrounded by balusters was used for grand occasions, when the weather allowed.

Jalandoni and Ramon Lopez Mansions

Other mansions in Jaro are the Jalandoni and Ramon Lopez residences, which are along a side street perpendicular to E. Lopez. In its neighborhood is the Dellota residence, noted for its collection of santos. Near the cathedral is the Beaux-Arts Montinola residence known for its elegant, ceremonial staircase and a tower where a playhouse has been built. The half-size house comes complete with half-size furniture.

Lizares Mansion

On MacArthur Drive, in the direction of the neighboring town Zarraga, is the grand Lizares Mansion. Built by Emilio Lizares in the 1920s for his wife Conchita Gamboa, it stood on one of the largest pieces of urban property, which consists of 16.5 hectares. The property is marked by gates which still stand to this day. During World War II, the house was abandoned by the family, who sought the safety of the inland town Pototan. Japanese troops took over the house. In 1950, after the death of Don Emilio, his widow moved to Manila and leased the house to a businessman who made it a casino. In 1962, the house was sold to the Dominican order, which the following year turned it into a house of formation. In 1978, the Dominicans turned it into the Angelicum School.

The three-story house, with basement and attic, is an eclectic mix of styles. Classical rounded arches are used for windows, but the rounded portico and winding staircase are more akin to those in Renaissance palazzos. An open deck with a trellis copies Mission style architecture. The twisted columns of the staircase and the wide overhangs of the roof, supported by zapata or corbels, are baroque.

Jaro Cathedral

Prewar Jaro bell tower
Prewar Jaro bell tower (Leo Cloma Collection)

Santa Isabel de Hungria Cathedral (Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria) and the adjoining plaza complex which houses the Jaro campanario or bell tower can be considered as one entity. Although the Cathedral is presently named after Santa Isabel, the patroness of Jaro is Our Lady of Candelaria, whose feast is celebrated on 2 February. In 1865, the Augustinians handed over the parish to become the episcopal see of Jaro; Bishop Mariano Cuartero implemented an earlier plan by Father Aguería, OSA of rebuilding. The church was completed in 1874. The church was damaged by the earthquake of 1848. Only the first floor of the bell tower remained. Damaged further during World War II, the church was repaired and renovated under Archbishop Jose Maria Cuenco in 1956. Galende claims that only the remaining portion of the tower and the church plans can be attributed to the Augustinians. The facade was renovated during the Papal visit of John Paul II in 1971, with the addition of a balcony above the main door. Jaro Cathedral was declared a National Historical Landmark in 1976 by the NHI.

San Vicente Seminary 

San Vicente Seminary on Seminario Street was inaugurated as a diocesan seminary in 1869 at the Archbishop’s Palace. It was under the supervision of the Vincentian Fathers (Padres Paules). In 1871, a building was raised for the seminary and the following year classes opened. It was to be known as Colegio Seminario de San Vicente Ferrer. In 1899, during the Filipino-American War, American troops occupied the building. After the conflict, the building was returned to the Vincentians but in 1906, the building was burned. A new structure was completed in 1912, but this was damaged during World War II.

In 1946, the school was reopened in makeshift quarters until a new building was completed and inaugurated in 1954. The 1954 structure, which still stands today, hews very much to the 1912 design, which was in the Mission style characterized by arch windows at the facade, an arcaded corridor at the back and exposed corbels supporting the roof and upper story. The central section, which housed the chapel, was taller than the two-story wings that flanked it. The lower floor was used for classrooms, offices, and commons spaces, while the upper floor was used for bedrooms and dormitories. In the 1954 reconstruction, the corbels were no longer built, the central section was lower than in the 1912 design and a porte cochere added to the entrance, which was not found in the earlier design. Recognizing its pivotal role as pioneer in higher education in Western Visayas, the NHI marked the building as a National Historical Monument in 1990.

Arsobispado de Jaro

Arsobispado de Jaro, which faces the plaza of Jaro, is a post-World War II work by Juan Nakpil, built under the incumbency of Archbishop Jose Maria Cuenco (term 1951 to 1972), first Filipino bishop of Iloilo. The house uses elements from classical architecture like the arch windows. It is laid out in the manner of a residence, where the offices are on the bottom floor and the residential area is on the upper floor. Because of road widening, the street in front of Arsobispado runs very close to the structure, with only a narrow sidewalk separating it from the street.

Jaro Municipal Building

The old Jaro Municipal Building was designed by Juan Arellano in 1934. It no longer functions as municipal building but as the police station. It is in the art deco ziggurat style, because its lines allude to ancient Persian stepped temple architecture. It has a central tower buttressed by decorative pilasters, a lower floor, and a still lower and wide podium, that gives the whole facade the look of stairs. Pilasters mark the division of the bays. Decorative grille work, an outstanding feature of the building, adorns all windows and openings. The building has been restored and inaugurated in 2017 as the Iloilo branch of the National Museum of the Philippines.

Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buenviaje Church

La Paz, a district of Metro Iloilo on the northern bank of the Iloilo River, was formerly known as Loboc but was renamed La Paz after the patroness of the parish Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buenviaje (Our Lady of Peace and Safe Voyage). This title of Mary was originally given to an image of the Immaculate Conception, given as a gift in 1626 by Governor Niño de Tabora to the Jesuit parish of Antipolo. Since the 17th century, a number of parishes in the Philippines have taken the Nuestra Señora de la Paz as patroness.

The present church was completed in 1870, under the incumbency of Father Candido Gonzales, OSA. The church was severely damaged during World War II, with only the facade remaining. The church was rebuilt after the war and was renovated in the early 1990s. The church’s heritage facade belongs to the neoclassical style and is divided into five bays. The central bay corresponds to the nave, the pair flanking it corresponds to the aisles, and further to the left and the right are bays on which bell towers are located. The central bay is defined by a Greek temple-type facade, including a decorative faux pediment under the principal triangular pediment of the church. Fenestrations and the main door use the Roman arch. The central bay is decorated by a pair of unfluted Corinthian columns, resting on a plinth and rising to two stories. The other bays are separated from each other by pilasters. The church is an entirely new reconstruction, although the altar and the arcade separating the nave from the aisles follow the neoclassical style. The upper octagonal stories of the bell tower are likewise reconstructions.

St. Clement’s Church

St. Clement’s Church was constructed by the Redemptorist Fathers in 1931. Beside the church is the main house of the Redemptorists in the Visayas. The church is a modern interpretation of Romanesque architecture with an art deco touch. The general lines of the facade, with a narrow central section flanked by lower sections, are reminiscent of the Jaro Municipal building of 1934, an art deco building. However, the arcaded vestibule with a balustraded balcony above it is more in the line of Revivalist architecture. A four-story bell tower flanks the right side of the facade. The church is a popular destination because of the Wednesday novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, introduced in St. Clement’s in 1946.

Iloilo National High School

Iloilo National High School on Juan Luna Street was established in 1902 as the Iloilo Normal School for teachers’s training. But when the Iloilo Normal School transferred to a new location and became the West Visayas State University, the high school remained in the historic building. The date of construction of the heritage building might be the same year that the Normal School was established. The building’s architect is uncertain, but the structure has all the marks of a project of the Bureau of Public Works. The main structure is a longitudinal single-story building raised from the ground in the style of the Gabaldon Schools. An external double staircase leads to the main building, which is characterized by an arcade. Perpendicular to the main building are flanking wings, connected to the main building by an arcaded bridge. The facade of the flanking wings is ornamented with a winged figure wearing a helmet and holding a book, symbolic of education.

Molo Church 

Molo was the Chinese enclave or Parian of Iloilo. Its parish church dedicated to Santa Ana, the mother of the Virgin Mary, is one of a handful of Spanish colonial churches known to have been built by the secular or diocesan clergy rather than by the religious orders. The church started as a structure of tabique pampango with a tile roof. The church was replaced by a nipa structure in 1863 by Father Jose Ma. Sichon, a Chinese mestizo priest. A plan to build a new church of stone was presented in 1866 and approved by Bishop Mariano Cuartero, OP in 1869, after which work began immediately. In a style that blends neo-Gothic and neo-Renaissance, the church is noted for its gothic spires resting on lower floors pierced by semicircular, rather than lancet, arches. The church interior is divided into a central nave flanked by aisles. On the posts of the arcade are women saints. The central altar is in the neo-Gothic style. Built in the 1920s, this wooden altar is varnished in a dark stain. The image of Santa Ana is in the central niche. The church was marked by the NHI in 1992.

Built during the American era, probably around the 1920s, the plaza’s centerpiece is a circular reinforced concrete gazebo supported by six Doric columns. Such gazebos were a common feature of American period town plazas. Providing shelter for promenaders, on Sunday afternoons, the gazebo became a bandstand for a brass band that played music.

Asilo de Molo

Asilo de Molo on North Fundidor Street began as a home for the elderly poor run by the Sisters of Charity (Madres Paules). It was noted for the fine embroidery of its wards. Presently, the sisters have expanded their outreach to the urban poor and employ women from poor communities as embroiderers. Asilo was established on 27 September 1912 by the Daughters of Charity and incorporated in 1933. Little remains of the pre-World War II buildings.


Arevalo traces its roots to a settlement founded by Governor Ronquillo, who named it a villa, indicating that it was primarily a settlement for Spaniards as distinct from Molo, which would become a Chinese enclave, Jaro and La Paz, settlements for the local people and later as the mestizo villages of Iloilo.

Parish Church of Santisimo Nombre de Jesus

The Parish Church of Santisimo Nombre de Jesus is a post-World War II church built upon the foundations of an earlier Spanish colonial church. The present church is a two-story structure with a triangular pediment. Lancet arches pierce the facade wall. To the left of the facade is the bell tower resting on base with arched windows. The convento beside the church stands as an independent structure. It is a two-story bahay na bato with a lower floor of stone and an upper floor of wood. Grille work decorates the lower windows, while sliding capiz shell windows decorate the upper windows. The convento’s date of construction is uncertain but it may have been built in the early 20th century.

Arevalo Sinamay House

Arevalo Sinamay House on J. V. Hocson Street is marked by a large sign that says “Sinamay Dealer and Mama’s Kitchen.” Built in the late 1800s, it is a typical bahay na bato. Its upper and lower floor are whitewashed and sliding capiz windows allow light to flood the upper floor. The lower floor houses frame looms that weave sinamay from jusi fibers, and hablon from a mix of cotton and other fibers. The use of the lower or ground floor as a workshop was not uncommon during the heyday of the bahay na bato. The upper floor, once the living area of the house, is now a store selling handmade cloth.

Monument to Reina Isabela II

Monument to Reina Isabela II is a 19th-century monument in honor of the Spanish monarch Isabela (reigned 1833 to 1868). The monument stands beside the Parish Church of the Santo Niño in Arevalo. It consists of a plinth on which stands a fluted Doric column. Above the capital is a tapered base on which a metal crown rests. The present monument appears to be a reconstruction because it has a plinth on top of another. Early 20th-century photographs of the monument show a single plinth and a far taller column. The earlier column displays entasis, that is, the bulging of a column at about midpoint found in classical Greek architecture. The lower half of the column has disappeared replaced by a plinth above an older plinth. This older plinth has inscriptions that are abraded and are difficult to read. Oral tradition states that the coral stone used for the monument came from the Jesuit church. Which church, however, is uncertain.


  • Alejandro, Reynaldo Gamboa and Santos, Vicente Roman S. 2009. EstiloIlonggo: Philippine Southern Lifestyle. Studio Graphics Corp.
  • Fernandez, Juan OSA. 2006. Monografias de los Pueblos de la Isla de Pan-ay. Iloilo City: University of San Agustin Publishing House.
  • Funtecha, Henry Florida. 1997. Iloilo in the 20th Century: An Economic History. Iloilo City.
  • Galende, Pedro, OSA. (1987) 1996. Angels in Stone: Architecture of Augustinian Churches in the Philippines. Metro Manila: G.A. Formoso Publishing. 1996 hardcover ed. Manila: San Agustin Museum.
  • Hernandez, Policarpio F. 2008. Iloilo, the Most Noble City: History and Development 1566-1898. Quezon City: New Day Publishers.
  • Javellana, René B. 2010. La Casa de Dios: The Legacy of Filipino-Hispanic Churches in the Philippines. Pasig City: Ortigas Foundation, Inc.
  • Javellana, René B., Elizabeth V. Reyes, and Fernando N. Zialcita. 1997. Filipino Style. Singapore: Periplus.
  • Layug, Benjamin Locsin. 2007. A Tourist Guide to Notable Philippine Churches. Quezon City: New Day Publishers.
  • Reyes, Elizabeth V. and Luca Tettozini. 2013. Philippine Style: Design and Architecture. Manila: Anvil Books.
  • Valera-Turalba, Maria Christina. 2005. Philippine Heritage Architecture: Before 1521 to the 1970s. Manila: Anvil Publishing Inc.
  • CCP Encyclopedia of Philippine Art Digital Edition. Iloilo Heritage Area. Edgar Allan M. Sembrano, and René B. Javellana (2018). November 18, 2020

No comments:

Got Something to Say? Thoughts? Additional Information?

Powered by Blogger.