Old Iloilo prov’l jail declared ‘important cultural property’

ILOILO City – The old Iloilo provincial jail on Bonifacio Drive, newly renovated as a regional museum, has been declared an “important cultural property” by the National Museum of the Philippines.

The now Iloilo and Western Visayas Regional Museum was formally turned over to the National Museum of the Philippines by the Iloilo provincial government yesterday.

According to Director Jeremy Barns of the National Museum, the old provincial jail possessed “exceptional cultural and architectural significance relative to the local area’s history and culture”, thus merited official recognition as an intrinsic part of the heritage and patrimony of the Filipino people.

Its status as an “important cultural property” was contained in Museum Declaration No.22-2017.

The 868-square meter old provincial jail was established in 1911. It was vacated in 2006; the provincial government built a modern jail in Barangay Nanga, Pototan, Iloilo.

The old’ jail’s rehabilitation was done in two phases. The first involved retrofitting costing some P20 million.

The second phase included, among others, the building of a dome and landscaping. For this, P80 million was allocated.

As a regional museum, the facility should be “a reflection of the province’s glorious past,” said Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr.

Yesterday’s turnover of the facility was part of the ongoing 117th Semana sang Iloilo – an annual celebration of the establishment of the civil government of Iloilo province on April 11, 1901.

The new museum was still empty though. When fully functional already, Barns said it would be made accessible to all. No entrance or admission fees would be imposed.

Some collections of the National Museum would be displayed at the Iloilo and Western Visayas Regional Museum.

There would be galleries for fine arts, natural history, textile archeology, and ethnography.

Ang challenge sa atin is to make sure that well-represented ang buong region para ma-appreciate ng bisita ‘yung diversity, richness and depth ng region,” said Barns.

On Sept. 25, 2014 Defensor signed a deed of usufruct turning over to the National Museum of the Philippines the jail pursuant of Resolution No. 2014-311 approved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan on Sept. 2, 2014. The usufruct has a life span of 50 years.

Defensor tasked Architect Guillermo Hisancha, former vice mayor of Pavia, Iloilo, to redesign the jail into a museum with the help of architects from the National Museum.

“This is part of our dream to transform this whole area into a park in the middle of the city,” Defensor said, referring to his ambitious P400-million provincial capitol complex re-development project.

Jose Nereo Lujan, chief of the province’s Public Information and Community Affairs Office, said when the museum officially opens, its centerpiece would be the “Oton Death Mask”, a pre-Hispanic gold mask found in a grave site in Barangay San Antonio, Oton in Iloilo.

The mask is currently kept at the National Museum in Manila. (With a report from Erly Garcia, Capitol News/PN)


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