The impressive transformation of the Elizalde building, formerly known as the Commission on Audit building, into a museum is the latest in a slew of restoration of key heritage and culture sites that began five years when the Ilonggo senator launched the Iloilo Heritage and Urban Renewal Project that aims to protect and preserve Iloilo’s rich heritage and culture. The new museum, the first of its kind in the country, according to Drilon, will feature the economic history of the country and the local history of the Iloilo and industries of Western Visayas. About the photo above: Elizalde Building during its rehabilitation, photo taken December 2016.
“This new and first-of-its-kind museum will offer a window to the past – to the country’s colorful economic history and how Iloilo earned the title the ‘Queen City of the South,’” Drilon said. The new museum, a project of Drilon, will be administered by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP). The Elizalde building is a hundred-year-old complex whose architecture depicts the age of progressive commerce and trade in Iloilo during the 18th to early 20th century. It was formerly owned by one of the country’s biggest trading firms during the 18th century, the Ynchausti y Compania, of the Ynchausti family. The firm’s name was synonymous with its products like Yco Floor Wax, Yco Paints, Tanduay Rum, and Rizal Cement. By the late 1920s, Ynchausti y Compañia came under the management of the Elizalde family, who eventually acquired the firm and renamed it Elizalde y Compañia in 1936, until the COA bought the building.
Now, the Museum of Philippine Economic History boasts hundred decades-old artifacts and items on display, including old San Miguel beer bottles from the Ynchausti clan; molino de sangre, which was a very important tool in the Western Visayas region’s sugar industry; decades-old gold, necklace and other accessories from Pampanga; looms from the oldest weavers of Miagao in Iloilo, then known as the Textile Capital of the Philippines; t’nalak from Mindanao; old photographs, maps, train wheels, plates; and many others.
The new museum is just one of the must-visit museums in the province that was recently opened, Drilon noted. The Megaworld Corporation opened in 2018 the Iloilo Museum of Contemporary Arts and the National Museum opened its Western Visayas Regional Museum in the old Iloilo Provincial Jail last year. Besides the three newly opened museums, the other must-visit museums are the Museo Iloilo, Rosendo Mejica Museum, John B. Lacson Museum, and Archdiocesan Museum. Drilon’s Iloilo Heritage and Urban Renewal Project also restored the old Iloilo Customs House, called Aduana; the Sunburst Park; and the Ker and Co. Building.
The Sunburst Park, which was originally known as “Plaza de Aduana,” a description of the park fronting the Iloilo Custom House or Aduana, was developed following the inauguration of the Iloilo Customs House in 1916. It was in the plaza where the US Army 40th Infantry “Sunburst” Division helped liberate Panay from the Japanese at the end of World War II. Today, the newly renovated park boasts wide public space and features such as a walkway, a chess playground, park benches, parking area, the existing Peralta Statue, and the Sunburst area.
The new park compliments the Iloilo River Esplanade, a project of Drilon which won the Best Landscape Architecture Award in 2018, in terms of providing the public open spaces where they can leisurely walk, exercise, and enjoy the beauty of the environment, thus promoting a healthy and an active lifestyle for Ilonggos. Also restored was the century-old Iloilo Customs House, which now houses a government agency and a gallery on the history of the port of Iloilo. The Provincial Government led by Gov. Arthur Defensor has also initiated major heritage conservation projects, including the restoration and adaptive reuse of the Casa Real de Iloilo and the Prison of Iloilo.
The original Casa Real de Iloilo structure was built in 1873 but was renovated and redesigned by the Americans following the inauguration of the civil government of Iloilo in 1901. It became the seat of the provincial government and was used as headquarters of the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. The Prison of Iloilo, built in 1911, now houses the National Museum Western Visayas Regional Museum and Satellite Office, which opened in April 2018.