Why preserving the old matters
Old Jaro Municipal Building restoration to boost Iloilo’s cultural tourism
Cultural tourism has many benefits, such as positive economic and social impact, helps establish a place’s identity and promotes harmony and understanding among people, according to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Restored Old Jaro Municipal Hall now a regional office of the National Museum
To strengthen Iloilo City’s cultural tourism, Iloilo's Lone District Representative, Rep. Jerry Trenas, Department of Tourism (DOT), with the help of the Iloilo City Government, Iloilo City Cultural Heritage Conservation Council, the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) and National Museum, spearheaded the restoration of the old Jaro Municipal Building.
Built in 1934, the old Jaro Municipal Building is one of the greatest structures of Art Deco style in Southeast Asia, according to National Museum Director, Jeremy Barns during the unveiling of the restored building last February 17, 2017. It was built by architect Juan Arellano (1888-1960). What was once a station of the Jaro Police is now the regional headquarters of the National Museum.
One of the rooms inside the Old Jaro Municipal Building
Barns narrated that it was Rep. Trenas who approached him and sought support in turning the old building into a cultural tourism site.
At the unveiling, Trenas revealed that the Iloilo City government donated the building to the National Museum and then looked for a place where the Jaro Police can transfer so that the former can restore it. He added that the National Museum spent P20 million initially and are ready to spend more to make it beautiful.
He added that Jaro Plaza, which is across the said building, will also be improved. “We will have walkways with pavers from the old municipal building to the plaza and then go to the Jaro Cathedral. This whole complex will be turned into a cultural heritage complex,” said Trenas.
Newly painted walls of the Old Jaro Municipal Building
The initiative is mandated by Republic Act 10555, an Act declaring the Jaro Cathedral, Molo Church, the Iloilo City Central Business District, Fort San Pedro, Jaro Plaza Complex, Molo Plaza Complex and Plaza Libertad Complex as a cultural heritage tourism zone. Authored by Rep. Trenas, the Act mandates that the Department of Tourism (DOT) should accord these sites as priority development areas and thus incorporate it into its overall National Tourism Development Plan (NTDP) and must be jointly implemented by the Iloilo City Government, Iloilo City Cultural Heritage Conservation Council, and the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA).
It is also an offshoot of Tourism Act of 2009 which mandates the DOT to develop Philippine tourism of which conserving and promoting our heritage and national identity is a part. It recognizes that tourism is an indispensable element of the national economy. A World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) report has shown that in 2015, tourism contributed P1.43 trillion to the Philippine economy. That is 10.6 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
Well-preserved winding staircase inside the Old Jaro Municipal Building
IMPROVEMENT OF MORE CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL SITES
Barns said that their other projects are the restoration and conversion of the old Iloilo Rehabilitation Center (IRC) at Bonifacio Drive into a Regional Extension Museum-Gallery of the National Museum, preservation of the watchtowers of Guimbal, Miag-ao Church and other attractions all the way to Anini-y in Antique; and restoration of Fort San Pedro.
For Iloilo Provincial Governor, Hon. Arthur Defensor Sr, the restoration is an act of glorifying the past. “The country will not truly move forward if it fails to remember and glorify the past. It gives us strength and inspiration if we know how to recall and celebrate the glory of the past,” he said.
Defensor shared that other countries like Switzerland have policies that protect old houses from being destroyed and rather have them restored while the owners enjoy tax exemption.
One such place is the city of Bern, the capital of Switzerland. A UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, it boasts of restored old structures with well-kept sandstone facades. Its attractions include the Old Town that is popular for its well-preserved medieval townscape, the Clock Tower, House of Parliament, Cathedral of Bern and Prison Tower, among others. In 2014, Switzerland earned CHF 47.8 billion from domestic and international tourism alone.
IMPORTANCE OF PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP
“We have to be proud of what Iloilo was in the past, what it is at present and with the cooperation of Iloilo leaders and civic society for what Iloilo can become,” said Trenas.
Iloilo Provincial Governor, Hon. Arthur Defensor reminds everyone that the country will not truly move forward if it fails to remember and glorify the past.
Iloilo Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog considers the old Jaro Municipal Building restoration as an extraordinary gift that the National Museum has given to the current and future generations of Ilonggos. “What is essential is being able to maintain it well,” he said, urging that public-private partnership (PPP) must be continued. “Let us tap the private sector to partner with us in taking care of what our ancestors have given to us,” he said./Kathy Villalon
Iloilo City Mayor, Hon. Jed Patrick Mabilog urges the government and private sector to work together in taking care of what our ancestors have given to us
Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, Rep. Jerry Trenas, Governor Arthur Defensor with Vice Mayor Joe Espinosa III, DOT 6 Director Atty. Helen Catalbas, National Museum officials and Iloilo City officials.
PNP Jaro personnel. One of them showed us the tunnel from the old Jaro Municipal Building that leads to the Jaro belfry and Cathedral.