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Iloilo’s Calle Real Redeux: The Side Streets

Submitted by on March 1, 2012 – 5:31 pm13 Comments


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.


1923-Celso-LedesmaIznart 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:





1936 P. Dulalia Building


1931 J. Melliza Building at Aldeguer Street

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.


1934 Tiampo Building at Aldeguer Street



The renovated Tayengco Building


Another Tayengco Building, this time at Iznart


The 1931 Cantonese Club Building

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.


1950 LJ Hormillosa Building at Iznart


1958 John A. Tan Building


1953 Javelosa-Gorres Building


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).


Villanueva Building along Ledesma Street


Another Villanueva Building at Iznart Street (near the Central Market)

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).

Iloilo Central Market


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. 

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  • Mary H.Marcella says:

    I would like to extend my thanks to Mr. Mark Segador for showing the different sites of Iloilo City, the place of my roots and my birth place. Even he is not from this place he surely acknowledge the beauty of this place my sweet hometown.

  • Alfred Adrian P. Chavez says:

    I appreciate the efforts of this young gentleman in documenting what Iloilo has to offer for everyone.

    • Mark Segador says:

      yes, by looking at these tarnished jewels of our history we can see through the past as they serve as reminders how beautiful and progressive our city was, and hopefully we can regain that again.

  • Glenda Obrero says:

    Mr. Segador,
    I congratulate you and applaud your efforts in bringing Iloilo to us, your readers and viewers. I left Iloilo in 1967 and I remember a beautiful city. I can’t believe how shabby downtown Iloilo looks now. I’m glad there are plans to renovate and restore the buildings. Most of them just need a coat of nice paint that would make them blend together, not clash. Also, those billboards should be taken down. Thank you for the wonderful job you’ve done and keep up the good work. I look forward to reading more of it.

    • Mark Segador says:

      yes, calle real really needs a makeover. I’m very excited how these plans will turn out. In terms of restoration projects, the 1925 S. Villanueva Building along corner Arsenal and JM Basa is playing out pretty well. If we can imitate that on almost all of the heritage area, make electrical cables go underground, pedestrianize calle real and invigorate the commerce in the area, we can make this avenue a must see for our tourists and, hopefully, a world class shopping center as well.
      Thank you Ma’am Glenda for visiting my site!

  • Alfred Adrian P. Chavez says:

    Hi mark. What are they doing now after the onset of S. Villanueva rennovation?

    • Mark Segador says:

      Hello Alfred! By now, the renovation is almost complete. what’s exciting is that they’re also repainting the other S. Villanueva building (now occupied by RCBC). I’m excited to see these “twin” buildings in their now-restored former glory. As to the other heritage buildings at Calle Real (sorry, i have trouble calling it JM Basa Street), we still have to hear from the Iloilo City Cultural Heritage Conservation Council on their next plans. I’m glad to share that the Council are already online at http://www.icchcc.com/. =)

      • Alfed Adrian P. Chavez says:

        I’ll be in Iloilo before Holy week. I will have to see the mentioned improvements — repaintings, rennovations and repairs! I’m excited also to see these buildings in their former glory.

  • Alfred Adrian P. Chavez says:

    Mark, I have seen just this evening the newly restored S. Villanueva! It is wonderful! I think you should post some pictures at night mark. Nami pag-restore nila. The lightings are also romantic. Tahum gid.

  • iloilo_dream says:

    Also In Calle Real there are 2 large vacant lots, the first one just around the rotonda is temporarily used by large ukay-ukay shops and I could remember its more than 15 years, I guess, it has been left vacant. the other one next to the Dison Appliances.
    I dont have any idea what are the plan of its owners. If the city gov’t could only come to the rescue, a plazuela de iloilo look-alike design could be just perfectly built in conjunction with the heritage site restoration, just like what they did in Intramuros. Manila.

  • Alfred Adrian Chavez says:

    Exactly! That’s a nice idea. I am hopeful to see that years from now.

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