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The Grandeur that was and the Glory that will be: The many firsts of Iloilo

Submitted by on May 22, 2012 – 7:03 pm19 Comments

Peering through many lists of Iloilo’s firsts, I was fortunate that this list was sent to me by Ma’am Victoria Jardiolin-Villa, trustee of Iloilo Cultural Heritage Foundation. The following article was published by Panay News on November 5-11 1986, more than 25 years ago. The longest list I saw, but definitely not the most complete as Iloilo up to this day continues to set records worth writing in our history. Definitely a pioneering province in the Philippines, there’s so much to add here but in so little space.

Here’s the article in its entirety:

Iloilo: The Grandeur and the Glory (by Demy P. Sonza and Teddy S. Sumaray)

Perhaps no other province in the Philippines can claim to have chalked up a record of having many “firsts” as the province of Iloilo. The list below, which is by no means complete, includes some of the vignettes of history that make for the grandeur and glory that is Iloilo. By making this compilation, the authors hope to bring the reader a state of exquisite splendor as he relives the glorious past through the great events and great achievements of notable men and women and thus though briefly, comes before the chamber for an eventful encounter with history.

Iloilo’s firsts:

1. The site of the first Malayan landing in the Philippines – Sirawagan (now part of San Joaquin) according to the Maragtas Legend.

2. The oldest Chinese settlement in the country – Molo. When the Spaniards came to Iloilo in 1570, they reported that a large Chinese community already existed in the place.

3. The first Christian church in the islands was erected in Jalaud by Martin de Rada in 1566. Jalaud is now the barangay of Ermita in Dumangas.

4. The first seat of the Alcadia de Panay with the jurisdiction over Panay, Romblon and Western Negros – Oton in 1570.

5. The first school for boys in the country was founded in Tigbauan in 1592 by the famous Jesuit priest-historian, Father Pedro Chirino.

6. The first intrusion by the British into the Philippines was in 1587 when Thomas Cavendish attacked the Arevalo shipyard in an attempt to destroy the galleon “Santiago” which was then under construction.

Miag-ao Church Iloilo7. The oldest Christian church in Western Visayas and the only Church in the region to be declared a national historical landmark (and UNESCO World Heritage Site*) – the Miag-ao Church

8. The province that produced the biggest quantity of textile (jusi, sinamay, cotton) during the Spanish era.

9. The first province to have a foreign firm (Loney & Co.) and the first vice consulate (British) in 1856.

10. The first province to export sugar directly to Australia – starting in 1859. (Also exported sugar to Britain, Canada and the United States*)

11. The first province to import machineries directly from Europe – starting 1863.

12. The first American vice consulate in the Philippines, established in 1864, with Wright B. Loring as the first US vice consul in Iloilo.

13. The first province to have a Protestant community; a Protestant cemetery was established at Iloilo in 1866.

14. The oldest existing college in Western Visayas – Colegio de San Jose, founded in 1872.

15. The first bookstore in the Visayas and Mindanao – Libreria La Panayana, establish in 1877 by Mariano Perfecto.

Hoskyn's16. The first department store in the country – Hoskyn’s, established in 1877 by Herbert Peter, Henry, and Franklin Hoskyn.

17. The first drama in Hiligaynon, “Ang Babaye nga Huwacan,” written by Cornelio Hilado in 1878 and first published in 1884.

18. The first bank outside Manila – the Iloilo branch of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, established in April 2, 1883.

19. The first provincial branched of the Chartered Bank – opened April 4, 1883.

20. The first newspaper and printing press outside Luzon – El Porvenir de Visayas, founded in 1884 by Diego Jiminez Frades.

21. The first, and now the oldest, almanac in the Visayas and Mindanao – Almanaque Panayanon, founded by Mariano Perfecto in 1884.

Villanueva Buildiung

One of Iloilo City's icons - the Villanueva Building at Calle Real Corner Aldeguer Street

22. The first province to have a cosmopolitan or international business community. By the 1880s, Iloilo already had vice consulates or consular agencies for Great Britain, United States, Switzerland, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, France, Netherlands, and Germany. Aside from citizens of these countries, there were also Lebanese, Chinese’s, Indians, Armenians and other nationalities in Iloilo.

23. The only province to have two cities during the Spanish time – Iloilo City, inaugurated February 7, 1890; and Jaro, chartered March 7, 1891.

24. The first city, after Manila, to have direct shipping lines to Australia, Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Europe, and America.

25, The first province to have a college offering courses in commerce, engineering; chemistry, arts and trades – the Escuela Professional de Oficios y Artes founded by Royal Order on 9 May 1890.

26. The biggest province in population, income, and economic production during the whole 19th century.

27. The first city outside Manila to have a telephone system – starting June 1, 1894, covering Iloilo, La Paz, Jaro, Mandurriao, and Molo.

28. The first city, after Manila, to be connected to the major cities of the world by cable – beginning November 6, 1897.

29. The first provincial capital to have electricity – starting 1890.

30. The first provincial branch of the Banco Espanol Filipino de Isabel II (now Bank of the Philippine Islands), opened in 1897.

31. The oldest machine shop in the South – Taller Bisayas de Strachan & MacMurray, first established in the 1890s and incorporated in 1919.

Sta Barbara Church seen from Victory Plaza

32. The first province outside Luzon to fly the Filipino National flag on November 17, 1898, in Sta Barbara, during the inauguration of the Revolutionary Government of the Visayas.

Martin Delgado33. The biggest army outside Luzon during the Philippine Revolution and the Filipino-American War, headed by General Martin Delgado.

34. The oldest bakery in the Visayas and Mindanao – Panaderia de Molo established in 1899 by Marciana Jason.

35. The first hospital put up by the Americans in the Philippines – Iloilo Mission Hospital, founded in 1900.

36. The first Baptist Church in the Philippines – Jaro Evangelical Church, organized in 1901.

37. The first public elementary school during the American regime  -Baluarte Elementary School in Molo, founded by Rosendo Mejica in 1901.

38. The first provincial public high school in the country – Iloilo High School, organized 1902.

Iloilo Mission Hospital

39. The first nursing school in the islands – Nurses Training School of Iloilo Mission Hospital (now CPU College of Nursing) founded in 1906. It turned out the first Filipino graduate nurses in 1909.

40. The first zarzuela in Hiligaynon, “Ang Capitan,” by Valente Cristobal, staged in Iloilo in 1903.

41. The first and only railway line outside Luzon – Philippine Railway Co. – constructed starting 1906.

42. The first novel in Hiligaynon, “Benjamin” by Angel Magahum, published in 1907.

43. The oldest school paper in the Philippines – The Central Echo of Central Philippine University, first published in 1916.

44. The first Filipino-Chinese association – the Iloilo Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, formed in 1911.

45. The oldest Chinese school in the country – Iloilo Chinese Commercial School (now Iloilo Central Commercial School), founded in 1911. (Editor’s Note:  Iloilo Central Commercial High School is the SECOND Chinese school in the country. The first one is the Philippine Tiong Se Academy in Binondo, Manila established in 1899)

46. The first concrete road in the country – the “Montinola Highway” from the Forbes Bridge to the Jaro Plaza, cemented in 1910 with cement imported from Japan.

47. The first provincial library – established on October 29, 1916, as the first branch of the National Library.

48. The oldest international business organization in the nation – Iloilo International Chamber of Commerce, organized by Esteban de la Rama in 1924.

49. The first car assembly plant in the Philippines – owned by Taller Bisayas de Strachan and MacMurray, which assembled the German car “Daimler” in the 1920s.

Iloilo Golf Club House

50. The first golf club in Asia – Iloilo Golf and Country Club in Sta. Barbara.

51. The oldest press club in the Philippines – Iloilo Press Club (now Iloilo Press and Radio Club) founded in 1936 by Exequiel Villalobos (Iloilo Press Club today*)

52. The first gravity irrigation system outside Luzon – Sta. Barbara Irrigation System, constructed in 1924.

Sta Barbara Dam Iloilo

53. The first Filipino to fly an airplane for passengers – Jose Tinsay, in 1925 flying between Iloilo and Negros.

54. The first commercial airline in the country – the Iloilo-Negros Air Express Co. (INAEC), its inaugural flight from Iloilo to Manila was on February 3, 1933, with a Stitson 3-motor plane.

55. The first luxury ship in the interisland service – the “SS Don Esteban” of the De La Rama Lines, built in 1935 at Kiel, Germany at the cost of more than Php 1 Million.

56. The first and biggest sugar bulk handling plant in Asia – owned by VISTRANCO, at Jordan, Guimaras.

57. The first province to contact General MacArthur in Australia by radio during World War II – with the radio unit operated by Mariano Tolentino.

58. The first novel written by a Filipino on the war to be published abroad – “Without Seeing the Dawn” by Stevan Javellana in 1948.

59. The first “Farmers School of the Air” – Uwa Mangunguma, founded by Pacifico Sudario in 1954.

60. The biggest single donation to the Philippine government was made before the war by Don Esteban Jalandoni, consisting of wide tracts of land in Iloilo and Negros to be used for educational purposes.

61. The first Filipino bishop – Felipe Molina y Figueroa, who was born in Arevalo in 1672 and became bishop of Nueva Caceres in 1723.

62. The first Filipino to launch the Propaganda Movement in Spain – Graciano Lopez Jaena, founder of La Solidaridad.

64. The first Filipino sculptor to gain fame internationally – Melecio Figueroa of Arevalo. He later designed the first monetary coins introduced by the Americans in the Philippines.

65. The first Filipino to serve as honorary vice consul for a foreign country – Claudio Lopez, vice consul for Portugal, whose service such started in 1877.

66. The only appointed by the Spanish crown as justice in the Supreme Court of Cuba – Raymundo Melliza who held a doctorate of law from the Universidad Central de Madrid.

67. The last military leader outside Luzon to surrender to the Americans during the Filipino-American War –  Quintin Salas of Dumangas.

68. The first Filipino cabinet member under the Americans and the first solicitor-general – Gregorio Araneta.

69. The first Filipino priest to obtain the doctor of Canon Law degree from the Universidad de Salamance – Father Amado Panes Perfecto of Passi.

70. The first presiding officer and youngest member of the First National Assembly – Nicholas Jalandoni of Jaro.

71. The first Filipino doctor of law from Oxford University – Melquiades Gamboa of Jaro.

72. The first Filipino Ph.D. in political science – Victoriano Diamonon of Dumangas.

73. The first Filipino Doctor of Education – Pedro E.Y. Rio of Jaro.

74. The first Filipino Ph.D. in soil science – Marcos Alicante of Maasin. He became the first director of the Bureau of Soils.

75. The first Filipino director of the Bureau of Agriculture – Adriano Hernandez of Dingle from 1916 to 1925.

76. The first Filipino to obtain a doctorate in pharmacology in America – Joaquin Maranon of Mandurriao.

77. The first winner of the Zobel Prize for Literature – Francisco Gomez, in 1921 for his novel, “La Carrera de Candida.”

78. The founder of the Cooperative Movement in the Philippines – Tomas Confesor of Cabatuan.

79. The first Filipino to be elected vice president of an International Labor Congress –  Francisco Varona of Arevalo at New Orleans in 1921.

80. The first newspaperman to be included in an Independence Mission to the United States – Franciso Varona with the First Independence Mission, 1921.

81. The only delegate to sign the 1935 Constitution with his blood – Gregorio Perfecto of Mandurriao (he represented Manila in the convention).

82. The only Filipino elected to the Senate but died before he could take office – Potenciano Trenas, elected in 1934.

83. The first “Manila Carnival Queen” – Pura Villanueva in 1907. She was also the first and foremost Filipino suffragette.

84. The first Filipino sisters to win the Medal of Isabella la Catolica from the Spanish government – Jovita and Ramona Avancena.

85. The first Filipino lady to be admitted to the exclusive US Congressional Ladies Club  – Sofia Reyes de Verya of Arevalo. She was also the first Filipina to be voted “the most popular woman of the Philippines” in a nationwide poll conducted by the Philippine Free Press in 1932.

86. The first Filipino lady to become president of two sugar centrals – Rosario Lopez de Santos, who headed the Central Santos Lopez in Barotac Nuevo and the Philippine Starch and Sugar Company in Janiuay.

87. The first to introduce the budgetary system in the Philippines – Miguel Unson of Molo in his capacity as Secretary of Finance.

88. The first Filipino to win the US Congressional Medal of Honor – Jose Calugas of Leon.

89. The first and only Filipino soldier to win medals for heroism and bravery from the governments of the United States, Belgium, and France in World War II –  Ramon Sobejano of New Lucena.

90. The first chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Republic – Major General Rafael Jalandoni who was appointed by President Roxas in 1946.

91. The first Filipino girl to be dubbed “the fastest woman in Asia” – Inocencia Solis of New Lucena.

92.. The first most medaled Filipino girl swimmer – Nancy Deano of Dingle.

93. The first Filipino Lady Ph.D. in civil engineering – Josette Garcia Portigo of Jaro.

94. The first lady to win the Cultural Heritage Award in Literature – Magdalena Jalandoni of Jaro.

95. The only man to occupy four cabinet positions under one administration – Rufino Hechanova under President Diosdado Macapagal.

96. The first winner of the Ten Outstanding Young Men award in music – Gilopez Kabayao.

97. The first winner of the Ten Outstanding Young Men and Cultural Heritage awards for anthropology – Felipe Landa Jocano of Cabatuan. He is also the first Filipino Ph.D. in anthropology.

98. The first Filipino president of Central Philippine University – Rex D. Drilon of Dumangas.

99. The only Filipino who has been elected thrice to the vice presidency – Fernando Lopez.

100. The first Filipino international grandmaster in chess – Eugene Torre.

101. The first Visayan supreme bishop of the Philippine Independent Church – Msgr. Macario V. Ga of Buenavista, Guimaras.

102. The first Filipino secretary of the Department of Mindanao and Sulu and the first governor of Agusan, Teopisto Guingona of Buenavista.

103. The first elected senator without opposition – Francisco Zulueta of Oton who won in the Senatorial District in 1934.

104. The only poet to reject a major national prize in the face of President Quezon – Flavio Zaragoza during the first Commonwealth Literary Contest.

105. The only seminary in the Philippines that has produced two archbishops of Manila – Seminario de Vicente Ferrer, Jaro; alma mater of Msgr. Gabriel Reyes, first Filipino archbishop of Manila, and Jaime Cardinal Sin.

Whew! And that’s only 105, 25 years later, definitely many records have been set by Iloilo and her children. Let me add up some other Iloilo’s “firsts”:

1. Dr. Josette Biyo – One of few Filipinos whose name was used in naming an asteroid – “Planet Biyo” or 13241 Biyo (1998 KM41). She was a teacher at Philippine Science High School cited for winning the 2002 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Louisville, Kentucky. She was the first Asian teacher to win the Intel Excellence in Teaching Award. (entry corrected)

2. John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University – the first Maritime University in the Philippines. Formerly Iloilo Maritime Academy – founded in 1948. It was renamed after its founder Master Mariner Juan Bautista Lacson in 1985.

3. Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center or SEAFDEC – first intergovernmental aquaculture and fisheries research institute in the Philippines. Member states include  Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Located at Tigbauan, Iloilo. Founded in 1967.


4. Iloilo Dinagyang Festival – first tourism event accorded with the title, Queen Festival of the Philippines by Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP) in 2011.

5. Oton, Iloilo – origin of the preHispanic gold death mask, unearthed in the 1960s. The mask is dated from  the late 14th to the early 15th century A.D. Now declared a National Cultural Treasure.


 6. Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral – National Shrine of Our Lady of Candles – first national Marian shrine in the Visayas. Declared in 2012.

7. The Iloilo Provincial Capitol (Casa Real De Iloilo) – the oldest existing provincial capitol in the islands. Built in 1840.

8. SM Delgado – the first SM Mall built outside Metro Manila, and the fourth SM branch in the country. Opened in 1979.

paraw regatta festival

9. Iloilo Paraw Regatta Festival –  “The Oldest Traditional Craft Event in Asia” and “The Largest Sailing Event in the Philippines”, judged as the Best Sports Tourism Event in 2009. First race held in 1973.

If you can add further information, please feel free to share them through the comments section.

Iloilo’s unparalleled heritage must be retold for generations to come.



  • Darlene says:

    Wow! What a rich history of Iloilo and its people. Very proud to be an Ilonggo. Thank you for sharing this information with us! 🙂

  • Tim Libunao says:

    Nice article. By the way, with my research, Iloilo Central Commercial High School is the SECOND Chinese school in the country. The first one is the Philippine Tiong Se Academy in Binondo, Manila established in 1899

    • Mark Segador says:

      thanks. will add that to the notes, the numbers 1 to 105 was the actual article that appeared in Panay News in 1986.

    • NEDALNIB says:

      Another contribution of Iloilo in the field of football.. The first asian to play in the Spanish League/European League is an Ilonggo – his name is Paulino R. Alcantara. until today, he remain the highest goal scorer of FC Barcelona – a legend of FC Barcelona but also of FIFA.

      • Carlos Bedia Dongor says:

        Although Alcantara’s 369 goals for Barca was surpassed by Messi in 2014, it took 452 games for the latter as against Alcantara’s 357. Had Alcantara also played 452 games he would have around 100 goals above Messi. But why did Alcantara play only 357 times as against Messi’s 452? The Filipino was studying medicine and became a good doctor while the Argentinian is a full-time footballer. Take note that FC Barcelona is the world’s best today and its fame was started by Alcantara himself. Messi is also today’s best footballer. Imagine beating the average scoring of the best player in the world at the best football club today in the most popular sport of all. It was Paulino Alcantara Y Riestra born in Iloilo!

  • Wapogwapo says:

    Please rectify the above article.

    Dr. Biyo is not the first filipino to have an asteriod named after her. 6282 Edwelda is an asteroid named in honor of Filipinos Edwin L Aguirre and Imelda B. Joson by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 1995 is the first. She constitute the second batch of Filipinos (6282 Edwelda, 11697 Estrella, 12522 Rara) who have been awarded a planet as part of their prize in the 2002 Intel Science and Engineering Fair.

    Also, Dr. Biyo is not a teacher from Iloilo National High School but Philippine Science High School Western Visayas

  • Alfred Adrian P. Chavez says:

    Wow!!! Great job!

  • Wapogwapo says:

    Elvegia Ruiz Mendoza – First Woman Nurse General, Armed Forces of the Philippines

    Ramona Go – First Woman General in Active Service, Armed Forces of the Philippines

    • Mark Segador says:

      thanks for sharing this wapogwapo.
      i also would like to share:
      The Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria of Jaro – canonically crowned by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, during the Roman Ponriff’s visit to Jaro in 1981. Until the present, the miraculous image is the only sacred icon in the Philippines ever crowned personally by a Pope.

    • Geoffrey Leysa says:

      Brig. Gen. Elvegia Ruiz Mendoza -is a BSN graduate of CPU.
      Brig. Gen. Ramona Go – is a BS Chemistry graduate of CPU.

  • lady museum says:

    Iloilo was at 105 “firsts” but look what happened since then? Can anyone explain what WERE the causes why Iloilo stagnated since then and until 1980’s and even 1990’s?
    These “105” are historical facts of the GREATNESS THAT WAS ILOILO and I FOR ONE IS VERY VERY PROUD OF OUR HERITAGE, and since coming back to the city last year I began my sojourn telling the whole world that ILOILO IS THE “ORIGINAL QUEEN CITY OF THE SOUTH” – THIS TITLE ALONE COULD HELP RETRIEVE BACK THE GLORY AND GRANDEUR THAT WAS ILOILO.

  • Vic says:

    Iloilo remains the Queen City of the South its irrivocable.
    It can be only enhanced it cant be lost.

  • Pani says:

    So proud to be an Ilonggo! That’s why I keep coming back …. yearly for the last 20 some years!

  • W. de la Peña says:

    Just to correct #77: The first winner of the Zobel Prize for Literature is not Francisco Gomez, in 1921 for his novel, “La Carrera de Candida” but GUILLERMO GOMEZ WINDHAM.

    See Lourdes Brillantes’ book, “80 Años del Premio Zobel” (2000) and two literary histories in Spanish, “Literatura filipina en castellano” (1974) done by a Spaniard, Luis Mariñas (former Spanish ambassador to the Philippines), and “Historia Analítica de la Literatura Hispanofilipina (Desde 1566 Hasta Mediados de 1964) [1964] done by a Filipino, Estanislao Alinea (former professor at the Ateneo de Manila University).

  • Cosette says:

    Proud to be an Ilonggo HALA BIRA ILOILO

  • PJ Moreno says:

    First university in western visayas- University of San Agustin, formerly Colegio de San Agustin de Iloilo, founded in 1904. nder the leadership of Fr. Dolse Garcia, O.S.A., the Colegio de San Agustin de Iloilo was granted University status by the Philippine Government. It earned the singular distinction as the first university in Western Visayas.


  • Geoffrey Leysa says:

    Can we include also the First Three Graduate Nurses of the Philippines who graduated from Union Mission Hospital (now IMH, then CPU) schools nursing in 1909.?

  • Mon barairo says:

    Pius XII Institute,jaro iloilo. The pioneer catechetical school in the philippines

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