ILOILO City – Dr. Kristine Gaona Treñas, a renowned pediatrician, yesterday accused Mayor Jose Espinosa III of spreading the rumor that she was blocking his project aimed at upgrading children’s playgrounds in all city plazas.
The rumor has been reported on different radio stations.
“I have never objected to that activity,” Dr. Treñas reacted. “The mayor was telling a lie.”
What happened, she said, was that “When I saw a portion of Molo Plaza enclosed in plastic, I asked Butch Peñalosa [the city planning officer] what was going on inside the enclosure. He said the children’s playground was undergoing reconstruction and expansion. Naturally I expressed surprise why I had not been informed. I would not have blocked the project. On the contrary, the council could have done its mandated task, too.”
Dr. Treñas, a third cousin of Mayor Espinosa and sister-in-law of Cong. Jerry Treñas, is the chairperson of the board of the Iloilo City Heritage Council since 2003 which is under the jurisdiction of the mayor.
“I heard that Joe flared up,” she said, “and threatened to revamp the council.”
So far, however, he has not made good his threat.
Dr. Treñas knew also too late that a similar work was being done on the children’s playgrounds of Jaro, La Paz, Mandurriao and City Proper’s public plazas.
She stressed that the Heritage Council has a right to be heard, especially because it is not monopolized by the Iloilo City Hall. It has representatives from the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Education, and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), among others.
Asked if she and the mayor had tangled in whatever way, she begged to disagree. She recalled that when her mother died in December 2018, he was among their relatives who came to the wake.
“His mother was very close to my mother,” she reminisced. “His mom was an only child who lived temporarily with my grandparents.”
She made no mention of whatever political issue Espinosa must have raised against her family. But it is public knowledge that her son, re-electionist councilor Jay Treñas, belongs to the Team Uswag ticket of Congressman Treñas. Jay’s late father Francis, was a younger brother of the congressman.
Congressman Treñas is the opponent of Espinosa for mayor. Being magbilas (their wives being sisters) and erstwhile allies, they could have run in tandem. In fact, Treñas had asked Espinosa to run for congressman to avoid collision but the latter refused.
A political observer (name withheld), on the other hand, expressed the opinion that Espinosa had also openly turned his back on another ally, his predecessor Jed Mabilog, to identify himself with President Rodrigo Duterte.
“He would only listen to utos ni Duterte and utos ni Misis,” the observer commented.
Going back to Dr. Kristine Gaona Treñas, she said Espinosa should have set politics aside to work for the implementation of the Treñas-authored Heritage Law (Republic Act 10555) “declaring Arevalo Plaza, Jaro Cathedral, Molo Church, Central Business District, Fort San Pedro, Jaro Plaza Complex, Molo Plaza Complex and Plaza Libertad Complex as heritage and tourist spots.”
Tourism regional director Atty. Helen Catalbas has been busy echoing in tourism brochures the congressman’s historical grounds for citing the seven landmarks as heritage and tourist spots. The Jaro Cathedral has the distinction of being the first and only cathedral built in Panay in 1864. It was in this Neo-Romanesque structure where Ilonggo hero Graciano Lopez Jaena was baptized in 1865.
The Molo Church, constructed in 1831, earned the admiration of the national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, because of its distinctive Gothic architecture. He made his first and only drop-by visit here while sailing back to Manila from Dapitan shortly before his martyrdom in 1896.
The Central Business District, also known to this day as City Proper, boasts of old buildings dating back to the Spanish and American eras. Some of them have already undergone preservation and restoration through the Iloilo City Cultural Heritage Conservation Council.
Fort San Pedro, built between 1603 and 1616, was the bastion that protected Iloilo from invading foreign pirates. Destroyed by the Japanese during World War II, in its place has risen a park with a statue of Jesus Christ standing amid the fort’s ruins.
The Jaro Plaza Complex includes the Jaro Cathedral, the Jaro Belfry, the Archbishop’s Palace and the old Jaro City Hall that now houses the city branch office of the National Museum.
The Molo Plaza Complex consists of Molo Church (also known as St. Anne’s Church) and the Molo Plaza Gazebo.
It is only Iloilo City that boasts of a heritage-tourism law, Republic Act 10555, for the improvement of the heritage areas in the city./PN