Leon: Integrating History and Exploring Nature

The 1955 Municipal Hall of Leon

Text and photos by: Bombette G. Marin

LEON, ILOILO is brimming with beauty at every turn. From historic structures to pine-clad spots, this stunning quiet town is alive with culture and color.

Set among the striking verdant mountains of central Iloilo, Bucari, which covers 500 hectares of Leon’s forestlands, was declared as the Summer Capital of Iloilo. It is a rural gem situated 21 kilometers from the town proper. It is one of the provinces’ main and remote tourist destinations.

Getting there can be a little challenge with tourists often unaware of the enchantment which lies beyond its mighty mountain range. It predominantly serves as a base from which to explore the natural wonders of the adjacent mountains.

the campsite

The campsite commands a wondrous view of 773 meters above sea level, tourists are drawn to the area’s year round to experience the panoramic vistas especially at the Mansiga Viewing Deck elevated 863 meters above sea level. There are cottages for those who wanted to stay overnight with camp areas and many walking and cycling trails to give visitors an excuse to stay longer.

CPU tourism students at the camp site in Sitio Tabionan, Bucari

Points of historical interest will also make more sense, like what was known to be the biggest stone edifice in Panay during its time, the Doric and Byzantine architectural style church of St. Catherine of Alexandria measured 100 feet high and 300 feet long almost covering two streets of the town. The stones used were quarried from the hills and were shaped into parallelogram slabs measuring of 1 x 2 feet.

the St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish Church

The present church was constructed around 1876 after the original town site in Camando was transferred to its present site in 1863. The convent was constructed in 1885. The church was burned during World War II and was transformed into a garrison for the Japanese Imperial Forces. It was rehabilitated by the Mill Hill Fathers after the war. The church is the most popular stop for many visitors.

Parks are essential to a town’s happiness. It serves as an aesthetic element to the community.  It is a popular venue when we need to be around other people. It is used for recreation, relaxation, sports, and holding activities. Our parks played a major role in shaping our towns’ social, political, cultural and even religious identity.

lion benches of Leon Plaza

In Leon, many have rediscovered the meaning and significance of its monuments and other structures constructed in the different areas of the park in their local history. Two roaring lions guard both sides of the parks’ main entrance. Park benches with lion carvings found at the tip of every arm rests. The Rizal monument, with his right arm pointing upwards was constructed October 22, 1936.

the Gabaldon building of Leon Central Elementary School

The heritage school building of Leon Central Elementary School built in 1942 is an inherent part of Leon’s heritage resources. Elevated eight steps from the main ground, it was in the rooms and libraries of the Gabaldon building that Filipino educators helped unlock the potentials of students, many of them poor. The Jose Rizal monument situated in front of the main building was erected by the Parent-Teacher Association of school year 1957-1958.

the Rizal monument

Not known to many but one of the more prominent historical buildings of the town is the Municipal Hall constructed in July 1, 1955 when Benito Tabiana was Municipal Mayor. This two-storeybuilding dominated by American aesthetics is currently occupied as the Municipal Police Station with DSWD, PESO and COA.

Leon is still among the picturesque and intriguing places to visit in Iloilo. The town is far removed from the madding crowd. In fact, it is sought after by many for its multiple gems.

Leon is a Second-Class municipality located 28.2 kilometers west-southwest from the city. It is bounded in the north by Alimodian; west by San Remegio, Antique; south by Tigbauan and Tubungan; and east by San Miguel. It has a total land area 14,005 hectares politically subdivided by 85 barangays populated by 49, 875   based on the 2015 Census on Population data.

To get to Leon, jeepneys and air-conditioned vans at the Aleosan Transport Terminal in El 98 Street, Mandurriao, Iloilo City or at the Aleosan Transport Terminal in Barangay Hibao-an, Mandurriao, Iloilo City.To get to Bucari campsite, one can take a motorcycle (single) at Barangay Poblacion, SitioBuntalan starting at 6 a.m. for first trip till 5 p.m. for last trip. For jeepneys, first trip leaves at 9 a.m. and last trip is at 3 p.m.

For more information, please contact Municipal Tourism Officer Rose Lea Kilayko at 09393426040.

Know more about Leon on the 15th Tumandok Celebration in celebration of Tourism Month on September 18-22, 2019 at the event center, fountain area of Robinsons Iloilo main mall. The event is brought to you by the Office of Culture, Arts, History and Tourism, DOT-VI, Robinsons Place Iloilo and Daily Guardian.