Iloilo City’s old grandeur: Our former city hall
Now that Iloilo City has finally a new and modern city hall, it is also fitting to look back to the past. If there’s the new, there was the old. An old beauty that resided for generations -preserved and still echoes the grandeur of the past. Now sitting as the main hall of the University of the Philippines (UP) in the Visayas – Iloilo City campus, the old Iloilo City Hall was once the citadel of the democratic ideals of the people of Iloilo City.
Let’s revisit the old and experience the beauty it has and will always be.
The old City Hall is considered as one of the most prominent landmarks in Iloilo – once regarded as the largest and the best of its kind in the locality at that time. Constructed during the American occupation, the building embodies the cultural and architectural influence of the colonizers mixed with Ilonggo yearning for autonomy and democracy.
With the city demoted back to municipal status during the Filipino-American War, Ilonggo legislators sought to reclaim the cityhood status of the Queen City of the South. To celebrate and immortalize the city’s unique heritage and history, a grand people’s hall was conceived.
Plans were drawn and was finally approved by the then Bureau of Public Works (in Manila). The massive structure was designed by the well-known architect Juan Arellano, while the appointed contractor was Andres Bolinas. An Italian artist, Francesco Riccardo Monti, was tapped by Juan Arellano to design the six imposing figures at the front facade of the structure.
Many will say that the structure is inherently Spanish, but I may disagree. With the use of neoclassic style such as Corinthian Greek columns and a lay-out resembling that of Washington DC’s Capitol, I would say the building was American inspired.
I would like to quote the following intricate details from Professor Funtecha:
The great outside lines of the building suggest compactness and complete dominance of the surrounding country. As it is a single-storey structure, the floor area is large. Two big patios and a wide court at the main entrance provide sufficient space for ventilation and lighting of the interior office rooms and hall. A dome with a commanding tower tops the whole imposing view.
The main lobby to which the main entrance leads is clustered with beautiful columns and artistic paneled walls. Side entrances open to two other lobbies, while the halls and private offices have wooden floors.
Looking inside the building, I was reminded of the former Senate Hall now occupied by the National Museum. The wide arching ceiling painted with white provides an impressive background to an equally imposing and spacious hall.
Outside, the spacious courtyard is now beautifully manicured with lush green bush and trees.
The structure now houses the main offices of the UP in the Visayas, UPV Art Gallery, and the Center for West Visayan Studies.
Brief History: ILOILO CITY HALL
It was constructed at a cost of almost P218, 000 in a 16-hectare government property valued at P63, 000. Its first concrete was poured Feb. 1, 1934 and was completed more than two years later. It was inaugurated on Dec. 19, 1936. On August 25, 1937, the inauguration of Iloilo City was celebrated with a grand parade that started in front of the Iloilo Provincial Capitol and ended in front of the newly-constructed Ayuntamiento in Delgado Street.
During the War, the building was used by the Japanese invaders as a garrison. Damaged during the battles, the building was repaired with aid of the US Government under the Philippine Rehabilitation Act of 1946.
The building was used as City Hall up to 1947 when the city government under Mayor Fernando Lopez passed a resolution donating the structure for use of the University of the Philippines. On May 1947, the City Government vacated the building, and a month later, the UP College in Iloilo opened. The city offices then transferred to Rizal Elemental School in front of Tanza Church. Meantime, City officials negotiated for the house of Fernando Reguera (Spanish Consul) at the corner of Blumentritt and de la Rama Streets (which they used for almost a year).
In 1948, the City Hall was transferred to the Javellana Building (above) in front of Plaza Libertad which it used until the structure was demolished and gave way for the construction of the present Iloilo City Hall.
The present Iloilo City Hall at Plaza LibertadIloilo City, Metro Iloilo - Guimaras