ILOILO CITY: 122 Years of Cityhood
La Muy Leal Y Noble:
Dakbanwa sang Iloilo, Palangga Ko!
Iloilo City, the beacon of culture and arts, the sentinel of industrial and economic progress of Western Visayas, and the home of the loving and gentle Ilonggos – it is fitting to celebrate the date of birth of this sprawling metropolis. By looking back, we are as well looking into our future as a city – ever progressive, peaceful, and famous worldwide.
To start this campaign, we have first to review the history of our city’s foundation:
As the town of Iloilo is flourishing due to sugar trade and its subsequent opening as an international port, the town still lacks a bureaucratic structure to immediately address its needs. Much of the decision making and approval of plans, projects and papers was still being done in Manila, and this caused tremendous delays. To ease governing the growing town of Iloilo, the Governor General Valeriano Weyler saw the need to establish a constituted local authority to handle its affairs. In accordance to rules of that time, ayuntamientos (city halls) could only be instituted in provinces where people were cultured and with progress and industry. This prompted the colonial government to send a well-documented report to Madrid for approval on establishing ayuntamientos.
On November 1889, the Becerra Law was passed by the Spanish Cortes and led to the establishment of the Ayuntamiento (City Hall) of Iloilo. The following year, after the signing of a Superior Decree of 31 January 1890, the City Hall of Iloilo (Ayuntamiento de Iloilo) was inaugurated in a solemn ceremony in February 7, 1890.
The question that begs to be answered, “When should we celebrate the Cityhood of Iloilo?” One may be curious on why we’re asking, but sadly we had conflicting views on determining the proper date. Here are the candidate dates being considered:
October 5, 1889 - By Royal Decree of Queen Regent Maria Christina of Spain, the town of Iloilo was elevated to status of a city. The actual words of the decree were:
“A propuesta del Ministro de Ultramar, y teniendo en cuenta el creciente desarrollo que en la industria y el commercio ha alcanzado la cabecera de la provincia de Ilo-Ilo, la más importante de las islas de Filipinas, despues de la de Manila; En nombre de mi Augusto Hijo el Rey D. Alfonso XIII, y como Reina Regente del Reino, Vengo en conceder el titulo de la Ciudad á la cabecera de Ilo-Ilo, en dichas islas. Dado en San Sebastian á cinco de Octubre de mil ochocientos ochenta y nueve. Maria Cristina”
(At the suggestion of the Colonial Secretary, taking into account the increasing development in the industry and the commerce has reached the capital of the province of Ilo-Ilo, the largest of the islands of the Philippines, after the Manila, on behalf of my August son Don King Alfonso XIII, and as Queen Regent of the Kingdom, I hereby grant the title of the City at the Capital of Ilo-Ilo, in these islands. Given in San Sebastian to October 5 of 1889. Maria Cristina)
January 31, 1890 - In my understanding, the Superior Decree is much like an implementing rule issued by the chief executive, or in Spain’s Monarchy, the King (or the Queen Regent). It was like the pre-requisites set by the Becerra Law was applied to Iloilo’s application for the establishment of a ayuntamiento. Upon approval, the Superior Decree was signed and Iloilo was granted the authority to have its own city council. This was also the date the City Council of Iloilo adopted in the Spanish times as its foundation day (needs citation). The year 1890 was also inscribed in the city’s coat of arms until today.
February 7, 1890 – The installation of the government of City Hall of Iloilo with Don Tirso Lizarraga as Alcalde Mayor, with Don Sabino Ordaz and Don Isidro de la Rama as tenientes de alcade, and nine councilors.
August 25, 1937- Upon the outbreak of Philippine revolution and colonization by the United States, the City of Iloilo was reverted to municipality to facilitate governance by the new colonizers. Almost three decades later with the efforts of Ruperto Montinola, an Ilonggo assemblyman, Commonwealth Act 158 was passed and restored Iloilo to its former status as a city. The towns of Molo, Arevalo, La Paz and Mandurriao was incorporated to the city; Jaro was added 3 years later. On August 25, 1937, Iloilo City was then inaugurated with Dr. Ramon Campos as Mayor.
So which one?
Currently the City commemorates the Iloilo City Charter Day on August 25, making the years of city hood at 75 this 2012 (at its Diamond Jubilee). Another resolution was passed on October last year declaring October 5 as Iloilo City Day, making the actual years of city hood at 123. But the city seal, derived from the actual coat of arms fashioned and given by the Queen Regent, placed the foundation year at 1890 or 122 years this 2012. Take note also that when the former status as a city was restored in 1937 and in succeeding years, the year 1890 in the seal was retained. It seems our city government can’t make up its mind.
The city officials admitted that the Spanish dates were “historically” correct, but not “politically”. Reason? In the first quarter of the year, we have Dinagyang, Paraw Regatta, Candelaria, and the Chinese New Year. They fear that we’re crowding events in a very short time leading to fatigue on sponsors. So we ended up with the August 25 Iloilo City Charter Day. (Why not include all of this events under one umbrella, let’s say, celebrating Iloilo City Day?)
I do believe getting the date right is needed for us to preserve our heritage and remembering the past. This is one of the reasons cited by then President Diosdado Macapagal when he moved the Independence Day on June 12. By remembering June 12, we’re commemorating the Philippine revolution and our struggle for freedom.
By remembering the first time Iloilo was granted cityhood, we’re also commemorating her glorious days as the Queen City of the South. We have to recognize that Iloilo earned its city status by being progressive, with its economic and industrial might in the late 19th century. I may be nostalgic about Ciudad De Iloilo’s heyday, but I believe remembering it keeps me hopeful that our city’s greatest potential is yet to be reached.
So in line with this, Iloilo I LOVE! is launching a campaign called, “La Muy Leal Y Noble: Dakbanwa sang Iloilo, Palangga Ko!“, in disseminating information and in preventing confusion among our people about Iloilo’s Cityhood. It was my firm belief that we should follow the original resolution of Iloilo’s city council declaring January 31 1890 as the official date of foundation. This discussion may never end, but let the city’s founders be our arbiters. Look in the records and see for ourselves what history has to teach us.
ILOILO I LOVE! is very much interested in getting this date right. If you have documents or papers that may authenticate this or may say otherwise, please contact us. Iloilo City is noble and great, let’s get it right.