Friday, September 3, 2010

a tale of two cities

Do you know that Panay Island has two cities in the 19th century side by side with each other?

La Ciudad de Jaro was the first city of Panay way ahead of Iloilo. It was established as a City in the early 17th century and became so to say the center of civilization in the south if not of the whole Philippines. Iloilo was made into a city in 1893 and the then governor General Valeriano Weyler came to inaugurate it. It was popularly known then as “La Ciudad Reyna del Sur” or the Queen City of the South. In 1896 the King of Spain cited the City of Iloilo as “La muy Leal y Noble Ciudad de Iloilo.” However Iloilo as a City was short-lived if not in fact but in law. In February 11, 1899 the conquering Americans took back the status of City accorded not only to Iloilo but also to Jaro and fused them to form one municipality together with La Paz, Arevalo, Mandurriao and Parian (Molo).

However, Iloilo remained as a city of importance even though it was no longer recognized as such by the law. Important personages like President Quezon and Sergio Osmena used to visit Iloilo recognizing its importance not only for the economy of the country but also because of its politics as it is the home of many illustrious men and women in government service. When they do visit Iloilo it was told that there would always be a grand ball held in their honor by then Ruperto Montinola. And it was told that everybody in the grand baile would move aside whenever Quezon would dance to his favorite tune, the Tango Argentina “La Cumparsita” played by the famous Montinola Band.

Iloilo is home to the cultured elite then. It has an opera house owned by Esteban de la Rama. It has also several theaters like the famous Teatro de la Rama, Teatro Malabor. Later, the famous movie houses came with Cine Eagle, Cine Palace, Cine Ideal and Cine Kasadyahan.
The city is equally famous for its Aduana, a golf and country club in Sta. Barbara which is the first in Asia, the International Chamber of Commerce, Casino Espanol, Stable Bilbao which was famous for its carwahe and quiles and the Auto Shop of Esteban de la Rama which is second only to Manila for selling motor cars in the Philippines. It also has the famous Gaity and Lyric Sporting Club which produced Flywieght Division champions like Pancho Villa, Small MontaƱo and Little Dado. Iloilo ruled the ring for boxing, flyweight division as world champion from 1922 - 1941.

The Port of Iloilo is another famous landmark. It was opened by royal decree on March 31, 1855 and on September 29 of that same year it was opened to international trade. It was then a 24 hour port occupying six city blocks then from calle Arsenal to the Casa Gobierno. There was then the famous Juevesan were every Thursday people from the interior would bring their produce of sugar to the port to be sold.

Iloilo was also the first to establish a company providing air transportation between Iloilo and Negros and later Iloilo to Manila with INAEC, the Iloilo Negros Air Express Company. It has also a railway system connecting the province with Roxas, the only railway outside Luzon.

Iloilo, the former Queen City of the South but now no more. Why? We don’t know. Maybe she just grew tired of being one.

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