Thursday, April 21, 2011

Calle Real de Iloilo: A Dying heritage Site

By Patricia Dominique C. Yngcong

A QUOTE from Wednesday’s The Daily Guardian opinion column irked me.

The article was entitled, “A tourist speaks out on Iloilo”. Basically, it was about Danish history professor Julie Blegvad’s impressions about Iloilo City. I agree with Blegvad’s prior thoughts that if Iloilo governance does heed to improving the city’s tourism providing that there are street holes around the city and that the formerly popular Villa Beach is now teeming with coliform bacteria. Did I forget to mention the recent high nighttime crime rates around the dim areas of the city?

So much for the Iloilo City slogan: “My city, my pride!”

The quotation from Blegvad’s statement that frustrated me was the observation that the Iznart and J.M. Basa heritage buildings were just waiting for time to demolish them. How can the Iloilo government allow tourists to witness their neglect towards the preservation of these important heritage sites? These tourists see old decrepit buildings that need to be destroyed instead of noticing a wonderful marvel of late Spanish colonial architecture that needs to be preserved.

Calle Real, as is also called, are decorated with stunning heritage structures which display late 19th century European and American colonial design. In the past, these streets have been used as an avenue for commercial establishments. The buildings have also been considered as a residence for the members of the Ilonggo elite.

Just strolling or riding a jeepney around Downtown Iloilo makes one person feel the glorious vibrancy and pride that these buildings emanate. It almost feels that the façades of these heritage buildings boast about how they have endured the assaults of the war and the deprecating elements of time. Seeing that these buildings appear mistreated and seeing that a fast food chain restaurant across a heritage site garners more attention, really dampers the spirit.

In Iloilo City, there are some 26 heritage buildings that are situated in the central business district. A district heritage zone was placed under the Iloilo City Cultural Heritage Conservation Council (ICCHCC) following the Executive Order No. 46 issued by former Mayor Jerry Treñas. This ordinance is targeted to conserve cultural heritage buildings and structures in the city. Last March, the ICCHCC have been requesting for support for the conservation of heritage buildings in the city.

Iloilo officials seem to be more focused on the commercial developments that are being established in Mandurriao district. However if it were up to me, I’d focus on the preservation of the 26 heritage buildings that bring a distinct quality to the city of Iloilo. So please Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, leave Barbeque Park alone and leave it to be demolished by the powers of time.

 The Daily Guardian


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