Memories at Plaza Villa: Heritage and Prestige
La Villa Rica De Arevalo, one of the first pueblos established by the Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century, enjoys the prestige and honor brought by her children through the centuries. These memories are all enshrined in the heart of the Arevalo district, Plaza Villa or the Villa Arevalo District Plaza.
I had visited the place twice for my coverage of the plaza, one in the afternoon and the other in the morning. It was an experience for me as a blogger and a visitor as the place is full of interesting historical markers and monuments. Any visitor of the place would be reminded of the great history and social contributions of the people of Arevalo by simply walking around the area.
La Villa Rica De Arevalo: the First Pueblo with Spanish Name
In 1581, Gonzalo Ronquillo de Penalosa (3rd Governor General of the Philippines) decided to establish a Spanish settlement at Arevalo, a territory of Oton. Described as, “a land that is very fertile and the inhabitants rich”, it was first named as La Nueva Villa de Arevalo, after the hometown of the governor. The inhabitants soon flocked the area making it one of the best provisioned and most developed districts in the colony. The district declined in activity after Governor Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera ordered the people of Arevalo and the nearby Parian (today’s Molo) to move to Punta de Iloilo.
The Queen’s Crown: A testament to Iloilo and Villa’s prominence
In 1896, a replica of the Queen’s Crown was given as a gift by then Spain’s Queen Regent Isabel to the noble people of Iloilo. The replica is made of metal (brass?) and is placed on top of a stone column. An engraved inscription seen at the base marble serves as a marker for the crown and its story. The crown can still be found at the plaza today.
This monument invokes mixed feelings on my part as the gift is a reminder of the Queen’s fondness of her people on a time of a revolution, being recognized as one of the few remaining jewels of her crumbling empire, but at the same time a repudiation of the revolution being carried out by Filipino patriots. The monument is in itself today a mixed and even conflicting piece of historical artifact as a marker of Panay heroes are placed in front of the crown.
Sofia Reyes De Veyra: Educator, Suffragette, Civic Leader
Another interesting find at the plaza is the marker in memory of Sofia Reyes De Veyra. What drew my attention is that Sofia Reyes De Veyra’s name is very familiar to me. She was the vice president of Centro Escolar University – Manila, my alma mater, from 1934 until her death in 1953. A civic leader, she was appointed as Social Secretary under the administrations of Manuel Quezon, Sergio Osmeña, Manuel Roxas, and Elpidio Quirino. She was also an active member of the Feminista (a group championing women’s suffrage), the Philippine National Red Cross, and the Anti-Tuberculosis Society. She was the president of La Infancia and of the Catholic Women’s League. Truly, Sofia Reyes de Veyra was an exemplary child of Arevalo, an influential leader of our society in her time.
Chief Justice Ramón Avanceña: Patriot, Jurist and Statesman
A distinguished Ilonggo, Ramon Avancena had been a source of pride for Iloilo. At the outbreak of the Philippine revolution, he was named as Vice President of the Republic of Visayas and led the negotiation of the surrender of the Spanish forces in Iloilo City in 1898. Upon the establishment of the judicial system under the American occupation, he was appointed as assistant attorney, assistant justice and later as Chief Justice by US President Calvin Coolidge in 1925.
As a common feature in all Filipino plazas, a statue of the national hero is found at Plaza Villa. But what I find very interesting is that the monument may have been erected during the Commonwealth era as evidenced by the coat of arms engraved at the statue’s pedestal. The statue is in a circular elevated platform surrounded by a beautiful garden. An auditorium is found at the back of the monument.
Flower Capital of Iloilo
Today, Villa Arevalo is also known as the Flower Capital of Iloilo due to its flourishing flower and garden business. Even at the plaza, stalls for plants, pottery, and flowers are erected. Instead of crowding the place, the plants add beauty and sense of green living for those who walk around the plaza.
Tags: Iloilo City, Metro Iloilo - Guimaras, Plazas, Villa Arevalo
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