Thursday, January 20, 2011

Western Visayas and the Ilonggos of the Philippines

THE ILONGGOS TODAY are a freedom-loving people, peace-loving, industrious, creative, adventurous, hospitable…and humble, despite God’s awesome endowments to their region and their great achievements in practically all competitive fields.

They belong to one of the three largest ethnic groups in the country. The other two are the Tagalogs and the Cebuanos. They speak Pilipino, as national language mainly based on Tagalog; English, the second language of the nation; and Hiligaynon, their main dialect which is known for its sweetly caring tone. It is mostly spoken in Iloilo and Negros Occidental.

Their other major dialect is Kinaray-a, which slightly varies from place to place and merely differs from Hiligaynon in intonation, pronunciation and some words. The Kinaray-a speaking folks, however, can easily speak Hiligaynon as the situation requires it. In the country, there are about 87 dialects that are spoken by various ethnic groups.

A well-honored people, the Ilonggos take pride of so many Firsts and Exemplary Achievers.

The national hero, Graciano Lopez Jaena, is considered as the “Prince of Filipino Orators” to this day. A fiery orator of the Filipino propaganda movement in Spain, he was also the first editor of the propaganda’s organ, the La Solidaridad. He was born in Jaro, Iloilo City.

Antique, itself, has produced a regional hero in the fight against the cruel rule of the Marcos martial law regime. The man was Governor Evelio Javier. He was helplessly gunned down by henchmen of that infamous regime. He is remembered in the whole of Panay every February 11.

To also the region’s honor and prestige are Iloilo’s Jose Tinsay, the first Filipino to fly a passenger plane; Melquiades Gamboa, the first Filipino Doctor of Laws; Victorio Diamonon, the first Filipino Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science; Pedro E. Rio, the first Filipino Doctor of Education; Josette G. Portigo, the first Filipina Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering; F. Landa Jocano, the first Filipino Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology; and Pura Villanueva Kalaw, the first Filipina feminist.

Jaime Lachica Cardinal Sin of Aklan gained prominence in the EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986 by being instrumental in the downfall of then dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos and in subsequently installing Corazon C. Aquino, widow of the slain and now national hero Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, as president. Archbishop Gabriel M. Reyes of Aklan was the first Archbishop of Manila, the country’s premier metropolis.

Manuel Acuña Roxas of Capiz was first president of the independent Third Republic of the Philippines. He served as president from the granting of independence in 1946 until his abrupt death in 1948 from a heart attack.

The late Senator Rodolfo T. Ganzon of Molo, Iloilo City is known today as the Father of Free Elementary and High School Education in the country.

Chief Justice Ramon Q. Avanceña, also of Molo, Iloilo City, holds the title of longest serving jurist in the Philippine Supreme Court. He headed the Supreme Court from 1925-1941.

The first Asian Chess Grandmaster, Eugene Torre, comes from Iloilo City. Rosendo Balinas, the second Chess Grandmaster of Asia, was a native of Bacolod City. Haydee Coloso of Dueñas, Iloilo was “Queen of Women Swimmers in Asia” in the 1954 Second Asean Games, while Inocencia Solis of New Lucena , Iloilo was crowned “Fastest Woman in Asia” in the 1958 3rd Asean Games in Tokyo, Japan.

In 1925, Pancho Villa (Francisco Guilledo) of Ilog, Negros Occidental defeated British Jimmy Wilde, world flyweight champion then, to become the first Filipino Boxing Champion of the World. Dodie Boy Peñalosa had been IBF World Junior Flyweight champion, while Gerry Peñalosa had been WBC World Super Flyweight champion.

The late Capt. Jose Calugas of Leon, Iloilo was the first Filipino to win the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor.

In the performing arts, Iloilo’s Jed Madela won the Grand Championship in the 2005 World Championships of the Performing Arts in Hollywood, Los, Angeles, California, U.S.A.

An antibiotic has been named after one of the region’s provinces (Iloilo). It is an erythromycin named Ilosone and Ilotycin. It was discovered by Eli Lily, a drug pharmaceutical in Indiana, U.S.A., from soil samples sent to it by Dr. Abelardo Aguilar in 1952.

Iloilo’s Dr. Josette Biyo, a professor in Biology, bested 4,000 teachers from around the world to become the first Asian teacher to win the “Intel Excellence in Teaching Award” for her innovative teaching techniques in Biology. She demonstrated these techniques during the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair held in Kentucky, U.S.A. on May 10-17, 2002. Dr. Biyo was even honored by the Massachussett Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory in Boston, U.S.A. with a naming of a minor planet after her. Planet Biyo, located between Mars and Jupiter, was originally named Planet 13241.

Cast from 76 sacks of coins, the old bell at Sta. Monica Church, Pan-ay, Capiz is considered as the biggest in Asia. It measures seven feet in diameter and weighs 10.4 tons.
The “Sweetest Mangoes in Southeast Asia” are produced for export by the island-province of Guimaras.

Talking of the first golf course in Asia, that one is located in Santa Barbara, Iloilo. Built in 1907 by Scot workers, who were then laying down the rails of the Philippine Railways passing Santa Barbara, it is now managed by the Iloilo Golf and Country Club.

It may be of great interest to devotees of the Blessed Virgin to know that the First Novena to Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help, in the Philippines was held in Iloilo on May 13, 1946 by the Redemptorist Fathers.

There are many more of these Firsts and Exemplary Achievers that Western Visayas has produced, but because of lack of space, we cannot all mention them here. Suffice it to say that the Ilonggos, despite not being easily apt to speak highly of themselves, are, in fact, a great and prestigious group of people in a well-blessed region of the Philippines. 

source: The Daily Guardian


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