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Casino Español de Iloilo: Abandoned and Ruined

Submitted by on February 27, 2012 – 9:49 am7 Comments

Casa De España

Long before Smallville in Mandurriao was crowned as Iloilo City’s nightlife center, Ilonggos are already used to nocturnal parties and gala. During the height of the sugar boom, the elite usually converged around Muelle Loney and Fort San Pedro for their business and recreation. At the tail end of Calle Real, near Plaza Libertad, stands General Hughes and its side streets – once the center of the elite’s luxurious living. A remaining testament to the street’s lavish life is the ruins of Casa De España, also called Casino Español.

Located at Sto Rosario at Barangay Duran, the ruins of Casino Español lies quietly – like an old lady overseeing the once busy street she called home. All the grandness and the luxury that the structure had witnessed in its heyday were all gone. But nevertheless, even in its dilapidated state, it still speaks of its beauty and the lost grandeur. How could this be that the former playground of the elite now abandoned and almost destroyed?

Casa España

Casa De España was erected in 1926 (as etched on its facade) by the Spaniards still living in Iloilo during the American Era. It was a private club whose patrons include foreigners and the Ilonggo rich and famous who frequented the place to party, mingle with the alta de sociedad, transact business with each other and discuss the latest issues (contrary to its name, it’s not used for gambling). Of course, all of this are done in Spanish (the language of the elite, English is for the masa as the Americans made every effort to teach their subjects the mother tongue). Casa De España saw its climax before World War II.

World War II damaged the economy of Iloilo so greatly that the elite cannot anymore maintain their lifestyle and later decided to take their business elsewhere (mostly in Negros). As Iloilo Port gradually lost importance, and the sugar boom halted to a standstill, the area around Fort San Pedro and Calle Real also declined. Casino De Español was abandoned and left to rot in a now empty lot.

As if in an effort to hide an aging old lady from public view, the ruins are now surrounded by a high concrete wall. The skeleton of the building is what’s left – the facade, once imposing, is bare and even deprived of roof. Based on the remains of the structure, automobiles can pass in the portico. Guests arriving will be greeted by an elevated grand entrance supported by neoclassical columns. They will then be ushered into the main hall – a huge high-walled chamber which I believe is the area where all the events are held. The main hall is flanked by rooms at both sides which can also serve as galleries during performances.

Espanol-Casa

Casino Español de Iloilo

What now? Can we still restore the building? In my inexpert eye, I can say yes and no – it might be fragile and brittle. But given today’s technology and modern restoration techniques, I still believe we can strengthen the structure and hopefully make it a tourist attraction once again (aren’t the Greeks rebuilding the Parthenon now? Well if they still have cash though). Why not build a hotel in there and incorporate the existing structure? Unfortunately, rumors say that the owner plans to demolish the ruins and actually build a hotel in there. I wish they will be enlightened on the building’s heritage and its worth in Iloilo history.

Coat-of-Arms

So for now, all we can do is wait and pray that somehow somebody will take the initiative to rescue Casino Español (if possible).

Addition: Thanks to my fellow Ilonggo blogger, Berniemack Arellano of Habagat Central, I can share with you how this piece of Ilonggo heritage looked like in the prewar years (photo property of LIFE):

Note: As of now, only Casino Español in Manila (1844) and Cebu (1920) are maintained. Below are pictures from their official websites. Hopefully we can learn from them on how we can revitalize Casino Español de Iloilo. 

Casino Español in Manila:

 Casino Español in Cebu:

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7 Comments »

  • You might try checking this out: http://a8.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/396320_317439068303232_104141716299636_857363_1020078943_n.jpg

    >> That’s Casino Español de Iloílo in its full glory before the war.

    I’ve interviewed the Spaniards (probably already insulares since they have Spanish lineage yet born in RP) in Cebú and Manila and said that the only thing that may revive that is a significant community of Spaniards in the city. Unfortunately for our city, we don’t have that much as compared to the transhipment haydays of the past.

    No words from ICCHCC though since Casino Español is not under the jurisdiction of the local ordinance that protects Calle Real and the six district plazas. Laguda Mansion ruins was demolished and it is now a basis as some observers say, “political battle” between the city government and the one who demolished it (who owns the adjacent hotel in front of it).

    I just hope adaptive reuse would be done here. If ever it is given a new lease of life, at least its architecture should incorporate the old Casino Español and not suffer the same fate as those who have been demolished here in Manila.

    • Mark Segador says:

      Hi Sir Berniemack! Thank you for visiting my blog. I’m an avid admirer of your website, Habagat Central. Thank you also for sharing this picture. This was my first time to see how Casino Español de Iloílo in its heydays.
      Hopefully, politics aside, we can restore this tarnished piece of our heritage and make it at par with its contemporaries in Manila and Cebu.

      I guess we really need to “invite” our Spanish friends here in Iloilo. I hope the King of Spain would be glad to send back some of his subjects to do business here again. =)

  • Vic says:

    Helo Mark Segador , very beautiful article.
    From now on , I will visit your site frequently.
    As far as I know , theres Casino in Iloilo around 1940’s.

    • Mark Segador says:

      Thank you Vic! yes, the Casino Espanol was operational up until the pacific war. it was later on abandoned after the elite moved out their business in Iloilo after the war. Hope some businessman will have the initiative to restore it to its former glory if possible

  • Wow. This is amazing. I am from Iloilo but I don’t know that there’s a Casino Espanol here before. I might visit the site. Thanks for this post! 🙂 Keep it up.

  • marithes says:

    oh! it’s sad to know that the owner plans to demolish the ruins, the gov’t must do something about it, the place is historical isn’t it? the site must be preserved..

    looking forward to see the ruins mark 🙂

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