I FIRST set foot in Iloilo City in 1989 while serving the National Power Corp. (NPC)-Visayas Regional Center in Cebu City right after college. We organized a medical mission in a city barangay (the name escapes me now) hosting the then NPC power barges.
I remember staying in Sarabia Manor. I remember how huge Sarabia Manor appeared to me then. I didn’t check its location though. When you are young, everything seems quite big and overwhelming.
Then I returned in 2009 when I was transferred to the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP)-Visayas Region (right after the privatization of the National Transmission Corp. (TRANSCO) which happened on June 30, 2009). From TRANSCO-District 6 in General Santos City, I was assigned at NGCP-Visayas. I travelled often to Iloilo City since it was part of my area of responsibility (AOR). I developed friendships here during that 2009 stint.
In 2010-2011, I returned to Iloilo City again for a job at the Panay Energy Development Corp. Since I resided in the city, I began to truly appreciate it. I remember writing a blog about it, “My City by the River”, in honor of the place. For a sentimental soul like me, the river crisscrossing the city deeply touches a sentimental chord.
I am writing this article to articulate my fascination of Iloilo City. I can’t have enough sunsets and river views! I walk the esplanade with friends and with my son Hezekiah who paid me a quick visit in January.
It’s not only the river that attracts me to the city. I respect how it preserves its culture and the arts. In December 2018 I was able to visit two lovely museums in the city plus a side trip to Casa Mariquit. I first went to Museo Iloilo in the City Proper.
Museo Iloilo features various fossils and historical artifacts. It also hosts paintings and sculptures. I understand from my talk with the museum guide that the museum hosts Ilonggo artists’ artworks. I think it’s fantastic that Ilonggo artists’ artworks are provided a good venue for exhibition and promotion. Kudos to the management of the museum!
I requested a guided tour because I find it very educational and enlightening. The greatest part was meeting the elementary teacher of Myla Dano.
Myla was all joy introducing her former teacher to me. Imagine meeting your former teacher in a museum. It’s totally serendipity and quite historical! No pun intended. Truth of the matter, I have always been bewitched by museums. I have been to several museums in the country – It’s one of my adult life’s little pleasures.
Then we went to Casa Mariquit. It was purely enchanting. The story of the house is intricately embedded in the affluence and illustriousness of the original occupants. Climbing the staircase is like entering a passageway into a powerful and riveting past. It will transport you to a time and place that’s totally preserved in history. I sat on the chair of former Vice President Fernando H. Lopez. Yes I did, and took photos!
But who was former Vice President Lopez? A little background check would be informative. Lopez entered politics when he was picked by President Sergio Osmeña to be mayor of Iloilo City in 1945. In 1947, he ran for senator and won. He served as Vice President of the Philippines for three terms: once under Elpidio R. Quirino (1949-1953) for the Liberal Party and twice under Ferdinand E. Marcos (1965-1969 and 1969-1972) for the Nacionalista Party.
Former Vice President Lopez was born on April 13, 1904 in Jaro, Iloilo (that’s right! Iloilo) to Benito Lopez and Presentacion Hofileña. He studied at the San Juan de Letran College where he finished high school in 1921, and at the University of Santo Tomas where he obtained his Bachelor of Laws degree in 1925 and thereafter, passed the bar examinations.
As I researched further, I found a speech of his in the Presidential Museum and Library published online. Delivered in 1950, it was the speech he gave on the occasion of the “Made-in-the-Philippines Products Week” celebration. It is found in the Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines, 46(2), 406-409. It is a beautiful, well-crafted and inspired speech that still resonates up to this date and age.
Returning to my surreal experience, I likewise sat on the chair where he presumably did his favorite pastime game, chess. What made it more dreamlike was the chandelier above the chess table. Probing further, I saw his Certificate from the Supreme Court of the Philippines attesting to his passing the bar exams. I must say that it is absolutely remarkable that these items are preserved up to this day and age. I felt honoured to have entered Casa Mariquit.
Reading and seeing are two different things. While it is true that reading will bring us across places in our minds and imagination, however, seeing and touching give it more flesh and reality. You can be in the present while reliving the past.
Moving forward. On the same day, we also proceeded to the Iloilo Museum for Contemporary Art at Casa de Emperador situated at the Iloilo Business Park in Mandurriao. Contemporary artworks would fill your eyes and senses inside this avantgarde museum. I had a great sense of appreciation coming from a historical perspective early in the day and progressing to a contemporary exhibition towards the end of the day. What a mighty day that was! To cap the museum tour that fine December day, we modelled by the 8.8-meter bronze statue of Iloilo’s revolutionary hero General Martin Delgado.
Iloilo indeed is a rich city. Rich not only materially but more importantly at its core – its arts, history and culture.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots. – Marcus Garvey
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