By: Emme Rose Santiagudo
A RESOUNDING symbol of the beaming historic heritage and culture of Iloilo City, the newly-restored University of the Philippines (UPV) Main Building, which was the first Iloilo City Hall, was unveiled to the public on Aug 16, 2019 at the UPV Iloilo City campus.
The building was restored through a P54-million grant from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).
NHCP chairperson Rene Escalante led the formal turnover to UP represented by UP President Danilo Concepcion and witnessed by UPV Chancellor Ricardo Babaran and Vice Chancellor for Planning and Development Martin Genodepa.
Dr. Randy Madrid, director of UPV Center for West Visayan Studies, said the building was Iloilo City’s first municipal hall.
Doña Juliana Melliza donated the 10,000-square meter lot in 1929 and the construction of the building started in 1931 that cost P90,000.
Madrid said the famous Architect Juan Arellano designed the building with composite neo-classical and revivalist influences and predominantly Art Deco and nativist elements in its interior.
“Essentially the building is neo-classical putting emphasis on the compactness and the space at the same time ventilation because the idea is an open and spacious office space,” Madrid explained.
Arellano also tapped the help of his Italian friend, Francesco Riccardo Monti, to sculpt the two bronze male statues (representing the abstract concepts of Law and Order) on either side of the main entrance. Bas-relief of four figures can be found above the arched opening.
According to Madrid, the building was inaugurated in 1936 alongside the elevation of Iloilo from a municipality to a chartered city in December 1936. The building was taken over by the city government in 1937.
During World War II in 1942, the building was used by the Japanese as a garrison, being the biggest building in the city at that time, he added.
After the war, the city government decided to donate the building to UP in order to establish a UP Junior College in Iloilo under former mayor Fernando Lopez.
In 1947, the UP Iloilo College (UPIC) was formally opened with Dr. Tomas Fonacier as the first dean.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and former senator and now Antique Rep. Loren Legarda were among those who pushed for the restoration of the building.
In an interview, Drilon, a graduate of the school, praised the NHCP even as he recalled fond memories in his alma mater.
“I studied high school here and it brings back a lot of memories. I am very pleased with what the NHCP has done. It gives pride to the Ilonggos that we are able to restore these buildings to make them conscious of its rich culture and historical background,” he said.
Meanwhile, with the opening of the building to the public, Madrid hopes that it will contribute to the tourism development of the city as it continues to reverberate the glorious days of the rich history and culture of Iloilo.
“When Iloilo City was dubbed as the ‘Queen City of the South’ many major activities happened here and in the different parts of the city. Now, we are hoping that this structure can contribute something to the tourism development of Iloilo City,” he noted.