The entire down town area of Iloilo is now bursting to the seams with banderitas, side walk vendors and fully booked hotels. I am gearing up for the lovely “walk-a-thon” (most of the roads will be closed for the entire 2-day affair) this weekend, and I’m taking mental notes for bottled water, sun block and extra camera batteries.
Not only will Calle Real be filled to the brim with feathers, drums and beads in hundreds of colors, shades and designs. Unknown to some, it is a venue that doubles as a door to the city’s splendid past. Hence the extra batteries.
History lesson. The city started as a group of hamlets under the Spanish colonial rule. But because of its strategic location, right smack in the middle of the whole Philippine archipelago, it gradually gained prominence as a vital port of call in the entire colony. It was even aptly called “La Muy Noble Ciudad” or The Most Noble City, a title conferred by the Queen Regent of Spain. By the 20th century, Calle Real was a flourishing commercial area with stores that offered luxury goods from all over the world.
Below is a picture of Calle Real in 1898.
Fortunately, most of the heritage buildings found along Calle Real may still be around for many more generations to appreciate. Last year, efforts have been launched to renovate and restore the buildings to their former grandeur. With the help of the private sector and the owners, in collaboration with the Iloilo Cultural Heritage Foundation, the Iloilo City Government and the Department of Tourism, some of these buildings are looking picture perfect just in time for the Dinagyang festival.
One superb example, is the now much photographed vintage 1925 RCBC Building.
The 1923 Celso Ledesma Building is yellowed with age, but when you have architectural details as good as these, imagine what can happen with a coat of paint…
Across the RCBC building is the restored vintage 1925 S. Villanueva Building on J.M. Basa cor. Arsenal Streets.
The 1922 Hermos Building in full bloom.
The Eusebio Villanueva Building (International Hotel) once known as the International Hotel, Iloilo’s iconic heritage building.
Another vintage building from 1913.
The 1922 Javellana Building.
The 1928 Regent Theater. It may well be the first movie house ever built in Iloilo City. Sadly though it now only shows adult movies (that’s why I did not take a wide shot of the entire establishment, this is a wholesome blog after all, haha).
I think these wonderful old buildings are the perfect backdrop for the Dinagyang festival. With the rhythmic beat of those tribal drums, their stone facades turn just a little bit younger, seemingly reaching out to the modern Iloilo, embracing the whole Calle Real with a nostalgic presence that comes alive with or without that fresh coat of paint.
Hala Bira Iloilo!