Iloilo is a province of the Philippines located in the Western Visayas region. Its capital is Iloilo City and is located in the southeast portion of Panay Island, bordering Antique to the west and Capiz to the north. Just off Iloilo's southeast coast is the island-province of Guimaras and across Panay Gulf and Guimaras Strait is Negros Occidental.
|Region||Western Visayas (Region VI)|
|Governor||Niel D. Tupas|
|Area|| 4,719.4 km²|
|Total (2000)|| 1,925,002|
People and culture
People from Iloilo are called Ilonggos. There are two local languages spoken in the province: Hiligaynon and Kinaray-a. Hiligaynon and variants of it are spoken in the city and few towns of the province. Outside the city, majority of the people speak Kinaray-a. Each town has its own distinct variation of Kinaray-a. Most Ilonggos are bilingual, speaking both English and Hiligaynon; English is taught from grade school to college.
Spanish architecture can be seen in old buildings in downtown Iloilo. Merchants from China and India have long traded with the Ilonggos even before the Spaniards came. The Spanish colonial government encouraged these foreign merchants to trade in Iloilo but they were not given privileges like ownership of land. The mestizo class eventually was born from the marriages of Spaniards and merchants with the local people. They later emerged as the ruling class of the Ilonggos (see Principalía).
The town fiesta is one of the most important events of the Ilonggos. Almost every town (municipalities) in Iloilo has a fiesta celebrated on different times of the year. During a fiesta, you can eat for free in any house in town, if you go with somebody who knows somebody in that house.
EVEN BEFORE the Spanish colonizers came, Iloilo had a flourishing economy. In the 13th century, according to legendary writings, ten Bornean datus came to the island of Panay and bartered a gold hat (salakot) for the plains and valleys of the island from a local Ati chieftain. One datu, named Paiburong, was given the territory of Irong-Irong.
In 1566, as the Spanish conquest of the Philippines was underway and moving north toward Manila, the Spaniards under Miguel López de Legazpi came to Panay and established a settlement in Ogtong (now Oton). He appointed Gonzalo Ronquillo as deputy encomiendero, a position which would later become governor in later years.
In 1581 Ronquillo moved the town center approximately 12 km east due to recurrent raids by Moro pirates and Dutch and English privateers, and renamed the area La Villa de Arevalo in honor of his hometown in Ávila, Spain.
In 1700, due to ever-increasing raids especially from the Dutch and the Moros, the Spaniards again moved their seat of power some 25 km eastward to the village of Irong-Irong, which had a natural and strategic defense against raids and where, at the mouth of the river that snakes through Panay, they built Fort San Pedro to better guard against the raids which were now the only threat to the Spaniards’ hold on the islands. Irong-Irong or Ilong-Ilong was shortened to Iloilo and with its natural port quickly became the capital of the province.
In the late 18th century, the development of large-scale weaving industry started the movement of Iloilo’s surge in trade and economy in the Visayas. Sometimes referred to as the “Textile Capital of the Philippines”, the products were exported to Manila and other foreign places. Sinamay, piña and jusi are examples of the products produced by the looms of Iloilo. Because of the rise of textile industry, there was also a rise of the upper middle class. However, the introduction of cheap textile from UK and the emergence of the sugar economy, the industry waned in the mid-19th century.
The waning textile industry was replaced however by the opening of Iloilo’s port to world market in 1855. Because of this, Iloilo’s industry and agriculture was put on direct access to foreign markets. But what triggered the economic boom of Iloilo in the 19th century was the development of sugar industry in Iloilo and its neighboring island of Negros. Sugar during the 19th century was of high demand. Nicholas Loney, the British vice-consul in Iloilo developed the industry by giving loans, constructing warehouses in the port and introduced new technologies in sugar farming. The rich families of Iloilo developed large areas of Negros, which later called haciendas because of the sugar’s high demand in the world market. Because of the increase in commercial activity, infrastructures, recreational facilities, educational institutions, banks, foreign consulates, commercial firms and much more sprouted in Iloilo. Due to the economic development that was happening in Iloilo, the Queen Regent of Spain raised the status of the town into a city, honored it with the title La muy leal y noble ciudad de Iloilo, and in 1890, the city government was established.
In 1896, the initial reaction of Ilonggos in the outbreak of the Revolution in Manila was hesitant. Yet because of the Spanish colonizers blow by blow defeat by at first with the Katipunan and later by the Americans, Ilonggos later on got involved with the fight for independence. On the other hand, after surrendering Manila to the Americans, the Spanish colonial government moved their seat of power to Iloilo.
In October of 1898, the Ilonggo leaders agreed to revolt against the Spaniards. By December 25, 1898, the Spanish government surrendered to the Ilonggo revoltionaries in Plaza Alfonso XVII (Plaza Libertad today). Although the Ilonggos were victorious, the American forces arrived in Iloilo in late December 1898 and started to mobilize for colonization by February 1899. Resistance was the reaction of Ilonggos upon the invasion which went up until 1901.
When the American colonizers came, Iloilo city's status reverted into a township again, yet because of the continuous commercial activities still retained as an important port of call in the Visayas-Mindanao area. It gained cityhood status again in July 16, 1937 incorporating the towns of Molo, Jaro, Mandurriao, La Paz and La Villa de Arevalo. During the Commonwealth era, Iloilo was prosperous and was popularly known as The Queen City of the South.
However, prosperity did not continue as the sugar’s demand was declining, labor unrests were happening in the port area that scared the investors away and the opening of the sub-port of Pulupandan in Negros Occidental, has moved the sugar importation closer to the sugar farms. By 1942, the Japanese invaded Panay and the economy moved into a standstill.
During World War II, Iloilo was controlled by several Japanese Battalions, Japan’s ultimate goal was to entrench itself deeply into the Philippines so that at the close of the war they could occupy it just as the Spanish and the Americans had years before. However, when American forces liberated Iloilo from Japanese military occupation on March 25, 1945 the remnants of these battalions were held in Jaro Plaza as a make-shift detention facility.
By the end of the war, Iloilo’s economy, life and infrastructure was damaged. However, the continuing conflict between the labor unions in the port area, declining sugar economy and the deteriorating peace and order situation in the countryside and the exodus of Ilonggos to other cities and islands that offered better opportunities and businessmen moving to other cities such as Bacolod and Cebu led to Iloilo’s demise in economic importance in southern Philippines.
By the 1960s towards 1990s, Iloilo’s economy progressed although slowly but surely. The construction of the fish port, the international seaport and commercial firms that invested in Iloilo marked the movement making the city as the regional center of Western Visayas.
The completion of the new Iloilo Airport of International Standard in 2007 will enhance better business opportunities that will affect local, national and international markets in agriculture, finance, tourism and other vibrant sectors of the Philippine economy.
- the Province of Iloilo Website
- Iloilo Wikimap
- Western Visayas Local Urban Observatory
- Metro Iloilo-Guimaras Economic Development Council
- Canadian Urban Institute, Philippines
- Municipality of Cabatuan
- Municipality of Igbaras
- Explore Iloilo
- Iloilo City Official Website
- Iloilo Dinagyang Foundation Inc.
- New Iloilo Airport Project Blog (IloiloAirport.com)
- WOW Philippines
- Iloilo Web Directory
- Podcast Stories from Iloilo
- Philippine Headlines - Iloilo
- Town of Igbaras website - Iloilo
- Iloilo Blogs
- The Ilonggo Online Gathering Place