District of Arevalo: Arevalo is the westernmost district in Iloilo City as it borders Oton to the west. It is sometimes referred to as the ‘flower capital of Iloilo’ due to its collection of ornamental plants. It is also known for its firecrackers, fireworks, resorts, nightlife, and beaches. Apart from that, it is also home to many cultural and heritage sites such as the Santo Niño de Arevalo Parish and the Camiña Balay na Bato (Avanceña Ancestral House).
One of the prominent industries that Arevalo birthed is the weaving industry.
“Time was when Iloilo was the leading center of the textile and other weaving crafts in the Philippines. The weaving industry of the province dates back to the pre-Spanish period when the Ilonggos wove textiles from abaca, pineapple, cotton, and silk,” excerpts from the book written by Henry Funtecha entitled Iloilo’s Weaving Industry During the 19th Century.
“By the 19th century, the textile production of Iloilo had already reached a remarkable degree of development. In fact, Iloilo at that time was referred to as ‘the textile center’ of the Philippines, the main trade textile products being sinamay, cotton, and silk fabrics. The early growth of the handicraft weaving industry brought about considerable export of cloth to Manila and foreign countries and resulted in the earliest recorded capital accumulation among Iloilo’s emerging urban middle class. It also produced the region’s first urban concentrations at Jaro, Molo, and Arevalo. Iloilo’s hablon industry was concentrated in Jaro, Molo, Arevalo and Mandurriao, but other towns like Miag-ao, Tigbauan, Sta. Barbara and Janiuay were also noted for weaving, especially the “patadyong”, the common wear of women at that time” another excerpt from the same book.
One of the country’s finest fabrics was produced by Iloilo’s weaving industry. However, at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the sugar industry, the weaving culture slowly dwindled away. However, in Arevalo, it stood strong. One remarkable example is the Arevalo Sinamay House.
Arevalo Sinamay House: Owned by Mrs. Cecilia Gison Villanueva, the Arevalo Sinamay House was established in the late 19th century by her great-grandfather, Captain Victorino Chavez. The business was handed down by the captain to his son, Cornelio, and Cornelio to his daughter, Mrs. Rosario Chavez Gison. In 1958, Cecilia Villanueva, the second child of Rosario, inherited the business.
During this time, the Sinamay House had a number of weavers. The weavers worked in their own respective homes, and they were able to tend to their own households while earning a living. Cecilia provides the items to weave and, once done, be sold back to her. She had a total of ten weavers, some of which were granddaughters of her mother’s weavers. Cecilia then sells the products to outlets in Iloilo and Manila. Finished products include all clothing materials for all occasions.
“The house (Sinamay House) also has the old weaving machine which until this day functions. It is located on the ground floor of the house together with the vintage car that was used by the family until the early of 1990’s. The oldest between the house and the business is difficult to ascertain but both are living legacies not only of the Villanueva family but also of us Ilonggos,” excerpts from an article ‘Arevalo Sinamay House’ written by Wein Gadian and published in The News Today.
Camiña Balay na Bato: Another establishment in Arevalo that patronized the weaving industry is the Camiña Balay na Bato. The Camiña Balay na Bato is a century-old heritage house nestled in Arevalo, a district in Iloilo City. The structure was passed on from one family to another until it came under the stewardship of the Camiñas family. To date, it is now owned by fourth-generation Camiñas. The family thrives with its hablon weaving business and is also passed from generation to generation. Hablon is a hand-woven fabric made of different materials (cotton, jusi or banana fiber, and piña or pineapple fiber, rayon thread).
The Camiña Balay na Bato was declared an ‘important cultural property’ by virtue of Resolution No. 23-2015 and Republic Act 10066 (National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009), issued in December 2015 for its ‘exceptional cultural, artistic, and historical significance’ to the country.
“Where the past is always present. A leading platform of Western Visayas heritage experiences and products,” is a statement found on the Camiña Balay na Bato social media page. It is a “showcase of Ilonggo culture, heritage, and gastronomy” and guests can “experience how the prominent Ilonggos live more than 100 years ago in a modern setting as the 6th generation still calls this house their home.”
Formerly known as the Avanceña house, Camiña Balay na Bato is a century old heritage house nestled in Arevalo, a district in Iloilo City. It was built in 1865 and design by Fr. Anselmo Avanceña, first parish priest of Molo, for couple Don Fernando Avanceña and his wife, Eulalia Abaja.
The structure was passed on from one family to another until it came under the stewardship of the Camiñas family. To date, it is now owned by fourth-generation Camiñas, Gerard Camiña, former Director of the Land Transportation Office in Western Visayas. He looks after the ancestral home with his wife, Luth Camiña.
The overall structure was patterned after the ‘bahay kubo’, a traditional Filipino house. The roof was made of bamboo and nipa, and floors made of narra and ivory. Moreover, the foundation was supported by 24 tree trunks. The family thrives with its hablon weaving business and is also passed from generation to generation. Hablon is a hand-woven fabric made of different materials (cotton, jusi or banana fiber, and piña or pineapple fiber, rayon thread). It is a growing industry and Miagao is one of the towns in the province that capitalizes on hablon.
The Camiña Balay na Bato was declared an ‘important cultural property’ by virtue of Resolution No. 23-2015 and Republic Act 10066 (National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009), issued December 2015 for its ‘exceptional cultural, artistic, and historical significance’ to the country.
“The house is a visual delight for those who like anything vintage. There’s antique furniture, relics, altars, pottery, and old photographs. The ground floor has looms where weavers work on textiles for sale at the house. You can also buy handicrafts, including shawls, patadyongs, and slippers,” excerpts from an article published on Guide to the Philippines.
“The second floor of Camiña Balay Nga Bato serves as the dining area where you can feast on local delicacies, such as the Pancit Molo (a soup dish with clear broth and dumplings) and hot chocolate. The hot chocolate is made of cacao beans from the family’s farm. The drink is served the old-fashioned way, hot, thick, and incredibly rich. This is best paired with biscocho or local biscuits,” another excerpt from the same website.
To date, the house highlights a combination of Japanese craftsmanship, and Victorian-era architecture expressly manifested in its hardwood doors. It also has the typical features of old Filipino homes in the 19th century with its Capiz shell windowpanes, use of wood, house patterns, and use of textiles.
Apart from architecture and aesthetics, Camiña Balay na Bato is also home to excellent gastronomy. Home of the famous Chocolate Tablea, referred to by the establishment as its Hot Chocolate Tablea Espeso, the drink is made the traditional Filipino way. Cacao is grown on the owners’ family farm, made into tablea, and heated in special iron jugs over a single flame. As it boils, it is beaten with a ‘batidor’, a special whisk made from guava tree wood. It is often paired with biscocho, which is also available at the Camiña Balay na Bato establishment.
Other delicacies available at the Camiña Balay na Bato include the following: Pancit Molo, Fresh Spring Roll Lumpia, Papaya Pickles (Atsara), Malabar Nightshade, Ratotoy, Saute Bitter Gourd, Pork Binuog, Grilled Bangus or Fried Garlic Bangus, Embotido de Arevalo, Adobo Rice, Pancit Miki Bisaya, Garlic Shrimp, and Calamansi Juice. The establishment also provides heritage buffets, and heritage tours, among others.
Article originally published on www.VisitIloiloCity.com.