Iloilo City through the years

By Herbert Vego

WHILE I was writing this yesterday morning, August 25, Mayor Jerry P. Treñas was busy with final activities highlighting the celebration of the 85th anniversary of Iloilo City as a “charter city” on the theme “Forging Stronger Ties in the Community”.

Two major guests, Vice President Sarah Duterte-Carpio and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, were expected to attend the Mayor’s Dinner at the Iloilo Convention Center.

Let me skip the details of the month-long activities that have already been well-covered by the local media.

Let us focus instead on the historical significance of August 25, 1937. On that day, then President Manuel Luis Quezon signed Commonwealth Act 158 declaring Iloilo as a charter city.

Let us briefly trace the history of the city.

Iloilo City has evolved out of the Spanish colonial period when it was a small and incoherent grouping of fishermen’s hamlets along the Iloilo River in the 1800s.

The opening of Iloilo City’s Muelle Loney port in 1855 triggered the boom of the sugar export industry with the active participation of Nicholas Loney, the British vice-consul in Iloilo who constructed warehouses in the port and introduced new technologies in sugar cane farming.

As written by the late historian Rex Salvilla, Iloilo was already enjoying a flourishing economy when the Spaniards colonized the Philippines in the 16th century. There were already three Malay ports catering to visiting Chinese merchants in Ogtong (now Oton), Tabucan (Molo) and Salog (Jaro).

Because of the economic boom, Moro pirates, Dutch and English invaders made raids which prompted Spanish authorities to set up defense fortresses. One of them was Fort San Pedro at the mouth of Iloilo River, ruins of which remain visible today.

In the late 18th century, the development of large-scale weaving started the movement of Iloilo’s surge in trade. Sinamay, piña and jusi were among the products shipped to Manila and foreign cities.

The short visit of Dr. Jose Rizal to Iloilo City in 1894 inspired patriotic Ilonggos to fight for Philippine independence.

By then, Iloilo, ranking next to Manila in economic productivity, had been enjoying its reputation as “Queen City of the South.”

On December 25, 1898, the Spanish soldiers surrendered to the Ilonggo revolutionaries led by Gen. Martin Teofilo Delgado at Plaza Alfonso XII (now Plaza Libertad).

The celebration of the revolutionaries was short-lived, however, because of the arrival of the American forces in the same week. The invaders subdued the armed ilonggo resistance.

The Americans would not recognize the June 12, 1898 proclamation of Philippine independence from Spain by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in Kawit, Cavite.

The American occupation, however, paved the way for the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth, with Manuel Luis Quezon as President.

The rest is familiar history.



IT was a pleasant surprise that a good number of “iskolar ng bayan” dignitaries who graced the University of the Philippines in the Visayas (UPV) 75th anniversary celebration at the Iloilo Convention Center on August 21, 2022 are UP graduates who are now connected with MORE Electric and Power Corp (MORE Power).

No less than MORE Power President Roel Z. Castro, who finished BS-Agribusiness at UP-Los Baños, is one of them. The others are retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza (UPV), independent member of MORE Power’s board of directors; bar topnotcher Benny Tan (UPV and UP-Diliman), lawyer of MORE Power’s principal owner Enrique Razon; and CPA topnotcher Niel Parcon (UPV), head of the utility’s Corporate Planning and Regulatory Department.

A CPA topnotcher who missed the anniversary celebration was Antonio Jon (UPV HS, UPV Accounting), another independent director of MORE Power.

There are other outstanding MORE Power executives who graduated from other schools.  One of them is its legal officer Alyana Babayen-on, a bar topnotcher from the University of San Agustin.

The occasion, sponsored by the UP Alumni Association Iloilo Chapter, honored former Sen. Franklin Drilon (UPV) with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Drilon was one of the senators who voted for the approval of the bill granting MORE Power’s franchise, replacing Panay Electric Co. (PECO) as the sole power distributor in Iloilo City. It is now a law known as Republic Act 11212.

He was also among those who signed the approval of House Bill 10306 seeking to expand the franchise area of MORE Electric and Power Corp. from Iloilo City to 15 towns and the component city of Passi in Iloilo province. It officially lapsed into law (Republic Act No. 11918) last July 30.