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Iloilo City: A city that remains loyal to Spain

By Wenceslao E. Mateo Jr.

Iloilo City, as known at that time, was the old municipality of Iloilo raised to the status of a city by the Queen Regent of Spain on October 5, 1889. By this time, it was already an urban center mainly propelled by the opening of the Port of Iloilo to international trade on September 29, 1855.

It did not include today's districts of Jaro, Lapaz, Molo, Arevalo and Mandurriao, which were themselves municipalities then.

In fact, long before Iloilo became a city in 1889, it was once only a suburb of Jaro, said to be one of the oldest municipalities in the Philippines. Jaro also once included Lapaz as only a barrio named Bagong Banera. Lapaz became a pueblo later in 1856.

Iloilo City then must have substantially covered only the jurisdiction of today's City Proper.

Iloilo City, as known today, was created on July 16, 1937 under Commonwealth Act No. 158, which incorporated to the old Iloilo City the surrounding towns of Lapaz, Mandurriao, Molo, Arevalo and Jaro. This was 36 years after the Americans reverted the old Iloilo City into a municipality on April 11, 1901.

The Iloilo City that we know today was inaugurated on August 25, 1937.

MANY of the Ilong-Ilonganons, themselves, I am sure, do not know this.

The Iloilo City they know so well to be dignified in its well-known sense of independence as a highly urbanized chartered city and, perhaps, as the most intelligent voting group in the whole country has remained a "loyal subject" of Spain.

Proof? The seal of the City which is proudly displayed at the session hall of the city council speaks it.

That seal carries the inscription: "La Muy Leal y Noble Ciudad".

This title was awarded to the City on June 11, 1897 by Queen Maria Cristina of Spain.

The text of the royal decree granting said title states "...for its exemplay conduct and all its laudable action during the present insurrection, in organizing and equipping an Ilonggo Volunteer Battalion."

The insurrection referred to by the royal decree was the Katipunan-led uprising in the outskirts of Manila which was responded to with outrage and protestations by the Ilonggo elite.

A few days after news of the Cry of Balintawak spread across the plains of Iloilo, the Jaro ayuntamiento convened in a special session and condemned the uprising as an "unpatriotic act".

The local Spanish community initiated the formation of loyal volunteers in the region - the Ilonggo Battalion, composed of 500 native troops and a cadre of mostly Spanish officers. The troops fought against the Aguinaldo forces in the battlegrounds of Cavite and established for itself a distinguished combat record in Luzon for nearly a year.

Noted financial supporters of the Ilonggo Battalion were Don Felix de la Rama and Don Eugenio Lopez.

After the Pact of Biak-na-Bato, as Aguinaldo went into exile in Hongkong, the Ilonggo Battalion returned to Iloilo.

Later, however, when the Ilonggos heard of the defeat of the Spaniards in the hands of the Americans in the battle of Manila Bay, they changed their attitude towards the Castillians and took up arms against the latter. In December 1898, Iloilo City fell into the hands of the local revolucionarios.

The uprising against the Spaniards in the island of Panay was first started through the joint efforts of the patriotic residents of San Enrique and Dingle under the leadership of Gen. Adriano Hernandez.

Gen. Hernandez established his headquaerters in Puti-an Mountain of San Enrique, a few minutes walk from the Poblacion.

Prominent San Enrique residents who figured in the organization of the movement in this place were Hugo Paez, Marciano Sadiang-abay, Tereso Da-anoy, Juan Palabrica and Marciano Palabrica.

This organization played an important role in bringing down the Spanish government to its defeat in the entire island of Panay.

The initial success of this local movement against Spanish tyranny attracted the attention of revolutionary leaders throughout the island of Panay.

Eventually, Puti-an Mountain was made the permanent headquarters of the staff officers with Gen. Martin Delgado as the chief-of-staff of the Revolutionary Forces of Panay.

It is these forces under Gen. Delgado that forced the Spanish authorities to evacuate Iloilo City on December 25, 1898.

At this point in history, we note that the so-called "loyalty of the Ilonggos to Mother Spain" was abandoned. This turning around on Spain should be enough evidence that the Ilonggos denounced that title as early as December 1898 when they took over Iloilo City from the Spanish authorities.

It is, therefore, a wonder to us why the seal continued to be used to this day. Despite that clear act of renunciation. How long will it take us more to realize this mistake? (Historical facts taken from "Historical Landmarks of Iloilo" prepared by the Visayan Studies Program, UP in the Visayas, and "Iloilo: The City, The Province (July-December 1994 edition)" published and edited by Atty. Cornelio Panes.)

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All rights reserved. Sun.Star Weekend 2001

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.APRIL 29-MAY 5, 2001

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