By John Noel E. Herrera
Iloilo is just one of the places in the country where many old buildings and ancestral houses undergo adaptive reuse to give a new breath of life to the structures.
Some of these include turning the Iloilo Customs House into the Museum of Philippine Maritime History and transforming the century-old Elizalde Building along J.M. Basa Street into the Museum of Philippine Economic History.
And Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. envisions the same process with the old capitol building, also known as the Casa Real de Iloilo.
Though the adaptive reuse process was not new with the Casa Real building, as the Iloilo Provincial Government had already made some renovations to the structure to serve as a venue for events, Defensor stressed that it is good to add a different purpose to the building – transforming it into a museum of political history.
In architecture, adaptive reuse refers to the repurposing of an existing structure for new use, just like converting an old church into a cafe and an ancestral house into a museum.
The governor noted that they planned the Casa Real de Iloilo to house different photographs, materials, information, and other significant memorabilia of the political history of the province and city of Iloilo.
“That is very important to us because we want this building to be the start of the way forward,” Defensor added.
Being part of Iloilo’s rich history, Defensor said that he also wanted the structure, including the capitol grounds and the Arroyo Fountain, to be added to the list of historical destinations that tourists should visit while they are in Iloilo.
Defensor already asked the help of the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) for the display of the memorabilia to be donated to the Casa Real de Iloilo.
He would also send Provincial Tourism Office head Gilbert Marine, along with Public Information and Community Affairs Office chief Nereo Lujan and other department heads to NMP in Metro Manila to research primary resources like photographs and documents about the city and province’s political history.
On Tuesday, April 11, 2023, Defensor together with Dr. Jurgenne Primavera, NMP’s board of trustees, led the unveiling of the Important Cultural Property (ICP) marker of the Casa Real de Iloilo and the Arroyo Fountain, as part of the province’s 122nd founding anniversary.
Primavera said that Casa Real de Iloilo has been a witness to the transformation of Iloilo and the entire region into a progressive regional center.
“It was once a foremost tangible display of power, the symbol of our prominence as one of the points of convergence in the archipelago,” she said.
Defensor added that Casa Real possesses exceptional cultural, artistic, and historical significance, and has become the center stage of political activities in Iloilo.
The Casa Real de Iloilo was built at the start of the sugar boom after the opening of the Iloilo port to international trade in 1855, completed in 1873, and was first renovated in 1910.
Aside from the ICP declaration by NMP in December 2022, the National Historical Commission also declared the old capitol building as a historical landmark way back in 2010.
While the Arroyo Fountain, also known as “kilometer zero” of Panay Island, across the old capitol building was built in 1972 and named after Senator Jose Maria Arroyo, who authored the law that established the then Iloilo Metropolitan Waterworks in 1925.