Iloilo’s Calle Real Redeux: The Side Streets
Calle Real, as chronicled during the Spanish times, is a winding road that was full of shops, establishments, firms and their offices, and yes, foreign consulates. Commerce was fully alive as Iloilo became the “premiere shopping center” in the country, possibly in all of Southeast Asia. Goods coming from the international port of Iloilo were relatively cheaper as compared in those times as compared to Manila. Calle Real was so popular in the late 19th Century that even our national hero, Jose Rizal, on his way to Manila, bought a hat here in Iloilo.
Editor’s Note: This is the continuation of my earlier post, Iloilo’s Calle Real: Awakening the Queen City of the South. But this time we shall explore the side streets – namely Aldeguer, Guanco, and Iznart Streets.
Today, echoes of the past still lie at the alleys and streets connected to Calle Real. They bear the beauty and artistry of the good old days. Though time had tarnished these structures, they’re still redeemable. As compared to buildings in Calle Real, structures at the side streets are younger (some were built after World War II). Let’s visit some of them here:
Iznart Street today – this branch of the winding Calle Real is now home to small businesses. Banks, hardware stores, pawnshops, retail department stores can be found here. Name it and you can buy it here at Iznart Street.
At the Plazoleta Gay end of Iznart Street is the newly inaugurated Filipino-Chinese Friendship Arch (see top photo). One may wonder if Iznart street had become Iloilo City’s Chinatown and this is because of strong Ilonggo-Chinese community’s contribution in business at this avenue.
Iznart Street is also home to some of our beautiful heritage buildings in the city. One of my personal favorites is the 1923 Celso Ledesma Building. Though it badly needs restoration, I will never miss the unique arched facade bearing the name of the building. Judging on buildings which are contemporaries of Celso Ledesma, I can only imagine how designers and owners are competing to have the best and most beautiful structure in town. Their designs are free flowing, the architects saw no boundaries in expressing themselves through their blueprints.
Art Deco was the staple of the Commonwealth era, but some already combined their designs with Neoclassical influence. A perfect example of this is the building at Guanco Street which is now occupied by MetroBank:
Even the Ilonggo Chinese community also built structures along the side streets (mostly in Aldeguer) of Calle Real. Though simple in design, they’re testament to the diversity of Iloilo City’s commerce in the height of the sugar boom.
After the War, construction boomed again in the city. Most of these buildings were designed for practicality as they’re already void of the art deco influence.
Plazoleta Gay, the main intersection of the city as it connects five streets, also did not lose its prestige. One of the oldest buildings in the city, the Villanueva Building, can be found here (too bad its face is already covered by a huge billboard). The main intersection is now a favorite venue for city events (at times causing tremendous traffic congestion).
At the tail end of Iznart Street lies another Art Deco Building – no less than the Iloilo Central Market (which soon to be revitalized, read more on: Gov’t eyes launching of Iloilo Central Market Redevelopment Project this 2012).
Calle Real and its side streets are rich repository of our rich heritage. I laud the city government and the Iloilo City Cultural Heritage Conservation Council in their efforts to revitalize our old business district.
But they also need our cooperation.
In our own small ways we can help. How? Don’t throw thrashes along the road, don’t post bills or write on the walls of our heritage buildings, even discipline in traffic will also help. Most of all, let’s patronize businesses that are occupying these buildings, and encourage them to beautify and restore these pieces of history. If you’re an entrepreneur, start your business here in Calle Real.
Let’s rebuild Calle Real and bring back its importance in our modern city life here in Iloilo.Tags: Calle Real, Iloilo City