Today is Iloilo City’s Charter Day

By Herbert Vego 

THANK God it’s Friday and a special non-working  holiday in Iloilo City, which is celebrating its 86th charter anniversary.

Today reminds us of the historical event of Aug. 25, 1937 when then President Manuel Luis Quezon signed Commonwealth Act 158 declaring Iloilo as charter city, and merging the towns of Molo, Arevalo, Jaro, Mandurriao and La Paz into the old city.

As announced by Mayor Jerry P. Treñas, today’s dinner event will recognize individuals who have contributed to its growth on the theme “Trailblazing Ilonggos leading the way to sustainable progress”.  For example, first Filipino/Ilonggo chess grandmaster Eugene Torre will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for leaving a lasting legacy to future generations.

“We are very proud of what Iloilo City has achieved,” Treñas said.

The past 86 years have seen significant progressive changes in people, places and events in the bustling city.

To this day, we take pride in the Spanish phrase “La Muy Leal y Noble Ciudad de Iloilo” (The Most Loyal and Noble City of Iloilo) – a colonial title bestowed by the Queen Regent of Spain in 1897.

Iloilo City has since then evolved from incoherent groupings of fishermen’s hamlets along the Iloilo River.

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

The late historian Rex Salvilla wrote that 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).

The surviving porcelain jars, plates, cups and saucers brought by those Chinese merchants are still viewable at Museo Iloilo today.

Our identity as part of the Malay race is traceable to the lore that in the 13th century, 10 Bornean datus came to the island of Panay and made a deal with the ruling chieftain, Marikudo: a gold salakot, a gold batya and a gold necklace in exchange for the lowlands of the island. One of the datus, Paiburong, took over the territory of Irong-Irong – original name of Iloilo.

While the Spanish conquest of the Philippines was underway in the 16th century, Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi came to Iloilo to establish a settlement in Ogtong.

The economic boom saw Moro pirates, Dutch and English invaders raiding the city, prompting Spanish authorities to set up defense fortresses. One of them was Fort San Pedro at the mouth of Iloilo River, ruins of which remain walkable today.

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

On December 25, 1898 (Christmas day), the Spanish government surrendered to the Ilonggo revolutionaries 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 American occupation led to the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth, with Manuel Luis Quezon as President.

During World War II in 1942, the Japanese invaded Panay, holding the economy to a standstill.

By the end of the war, Iloilo’s economy and infrastructure had crumbled. The ensuing conflict between labor unions and industrialists, the declining sugar trade, and deteriorating peace and order triggered the exodus of Ilonggos to other cities and islands that offered better opportunities.

As I was saying in a previous column, Iloilo City today has become a jumping ground for Metro Manilans seeking alternatives to heavy traffic and human congestion. The on-going rise of plush commercial buildings and mansions in the metropolis proves that.

That explains why electricity consumers of MORE Power have leaped from 62,000 to around 92,000 in only three years.


IT’S almost all over but the shouting as 91% of Negrenses who participated in the plebiscite for a joint venture agreement (JVA) between the Central Negros Cooperative (CENECO) and Primelectric/MORE Power have voted “yes”.

So far, 67,562 (91%) have voted “yes” against 6,601 (9%) ”no”.

This percentage turned out after the 3rd and 4th days of the plebiscite held last Saturday and Sunday (Aug. 19 and 20).

Thanks to the massive information campaigns that convinced power consumers of the advantages accruing from the JVA, such as better services and cheaper electricity rates.

Even the Diocese of Bacolod City prevailed upon parishioners to vote in the plebiscite.

One recalls the first day of the plebiscite on June 24 which drew 13,587 “yes” votes (78% ) against 3,748 (22%) “no” votes.

On the second day on June 25, the “yes” had 8,087  (78% ); “No” 2,319 (22%).

Additional days for completion of the plebiscite for duly screened and qualified voters are scheduled on August 26 and 27, September 2 and 3.

The winning votes will come from the majority or 50% plus one of 177,737 eligible voters.

The total turn-out of votes cast now stands at 74,163 or 42%

This means that only an additional 21,308 votes would be needed to gain the majority votes on the remaining voting days on Aug. 26, 27, Sept. 2 and 3.

Considering that the JVA would bind Primelectric to modernize the power distribution in Ceneco’s franchise area, the winning “yes” is already everybody’s guess in the Ceneco franchise areas, namely Bacolod, Silay, Talisay, and Bago cities, as well as Salvador Benedicto and Murcia towns in Negros Occidental.