Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Iloilo City Charter Day: What happened in 1937

Exactly 73 years ago to this day on Aug. 25, 1937, the inauguration of Iloilo City was celebrated with a grand parade that started in front of the Iloilo Provincial Capitol and ended in front of the newly-constructed Ayuntamiento.

The route was from Bonifacio Drive to Iznart St., J.M. Basa towards Plaza Libertad, Rizal St., Mabini St., Ledesma St., Rizal Estanzuela, and Infante St. up to the grandstand in Delgado St. in front of the Iloilo City Hall.

The parade was made of four divisions. The first division which assembled along General Luna St. was composed of the lead flags – American and Filipino colors, the Grand Marshall, Miagao Band, the Military, Police, War Veterans, Schools, and the Media. The second division at Jones-Quezon Sts. had the Alimodian Band in front that was followed by civic and business organizations. The third division gathered at Bonifacio Drive and was accompanied by the Dumangas band, followed by hospitals and government employees. And the fourth division which lined up at Jobeler Drive had the private establishments and the parade floats.

The activities for the celebration of the inauguration of Iloilo City were “diana de las bandas de musica” at 4 a.m., “salvas de morteretes” or salvo of cannons at 12 noon and 5 p.m. parlor games and sports at the city hall grounds, serenade in front of city hall at 6 p.m., and “fuegos artificiales” or fireworks at 8 p.m. There were “lechon” served to those who came for these activities.

The grandstand program after the parade consisted of an opening message by Provincial Governor Timoteo Consing, introduction of the appointed Mayor Ramon J. Campos, swearing in of the mayor and other city officials, and the inaugural speech of the Alcalde.

Aside from these, there was a banquet tendered in honor of Vice President Sergio OsmeƱa and the Secretary of Interiors Elpidio Quirino and of course the parade which also had its assembly time at 7 a.m.

For this 73rd anniversary, the charter day parade will take a different route starting from La Paz Plaza to Plaza Libertad. It will pass by the streets of Huervana, Luna, Bonifacio Drive, Caram Avenue, JM Basa to Freedom Grandstand as the review stand and dispersal at Plaza Libertad.

It shall have four divisions as well: Division 1 to assemble along Huervana St.; Division II at Jereos St., fronting La Paz Catholic Church; Division III by the side of Burgos St.; and Division IV laterally gathering at Huervana Extension.

About 4,000 students, government and private employees, professionals, military and police personnel, war veterans, barangay residents, civic leaders, and civil society are joining the parade.

The inauguration of Iloilo City was first scheduled on July 16, 1937 but was postponed to Aug. 25, 1937 because of the pending appointment of a permanent Mayor. During that time the interim Mayor was Angel Tadeo, the former provincial treasurer, and there were 24 persons interested to become Alcalde. Eventually, it was Dr. Ramon J. Campos who was sworn in as mayor of Iloilo City.

Just like in 1937, either by coincidence or by the stroke of fate, history repeats itself. The 73rd anniversary parade was also moved to Aug. 25, 2010, instead of the actual charter date of July 16.

The idea to celebrate the charter of Iloilo City was initiated only upon his assumption of office last July 1, by the incumbent Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog because it appeared to him that nobody knows how old Iloilo City is. A hasty review of the past with some help from historians and museum owner pointed to July 16, 1937, as the date when Commonwealth Act No. 57 became a law converting Iloilo as a city.

Fifteen days was not enough to prepare for such a big event, thus only a thanksgiving mass was done last July 16. The highlight of the celebration was then moved to August 25 or 40 days later to accommodate various activities which showcase the distinctive character of governance in Iloilo City. Forty days is a providential number.

The condition for the conversion of Iloilo from town to city was its consolidation with the towns of La Paz and Arevalo to meet the population requirement. Prior to it, the towns of Molo and Mandurriao were already made part of the Municipality of Iloilo. With the consolidation, the total city population was increased to 53,353 enough to meet the needed number. At that time, Jaro was still a separate municipality that has both Leganes and Pavia areas attached to it. Several years later, when Jaro was also made part of Iloilo City, the two adjoining towns were declared independent.

Prior to the inauguration of Iloilo City was another big event held eight months earlier in December, 1936 – the inauguration of the newly constructed Iloilo City Hall which is now the UP Visayas Main Building. It was constructed at a cost of almost P218,000 in a 16-hectare government property valued at P63,000. Its first concrete was poured Feb. 1, 1934 and was completed more than two years later. It was inaugurated on Dec. 19, 1936.

The massive structure was designed in the Bureau of Public Works in Manila by a well-known Filipino architect, Juan Arellano. The center area served as the Municipal Council Hall that was later named Lozano Hall in honor of Crescenciano Lozano who authored the first bill presented before the Philippine Legislature granting a special charter to Iloilo. The city hall was first called the Iloilo Presidencia since the town head was then called presidente. The last president to hold office there was Eulogio Garganera.

La Ley Organica de la Ciudad de Iloilo was the title of Proyecto de Ley No. 2368 which contains the city charter consisting of twelve sections and 83 articles. It was passed as Commonwealth Act No. 57 and was amended by Commonwealth Act No. 138.

Today, as we look back to what happened on these two inaugurations, we can only imagine how proud our people were to have their conurbation and city hall. Our urban sprawl of six districts reminds us that they were once separate municipalities having their own presidents but now they are one under an Alcalde who together with half a million city residents can only hope that very soon the New Iloilo City Hall will rise to inspire us more to become a premier city by 2015.*

By Ben Jimena

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