2016 Year-End Review: Iloilo City is evidently growing. It has been blossoming at a pace that is, at times, terrifyingly fast. I have spent decades in the beautiful and laid-back City of Love and I have never seen such uninhibited progress. In this article, allow me to look back and reminisce about the journey that we had from the month of January to the last remaining minutes of 2016. Personally, it has been a ride – an eccentric kind of roller coaster ride for me. I have no qualms with regard to blogging – of all the jobs I have had, of all the companies I have been employed in, they all come and go. But at the end of the day, whether I’d be someone’s employee or not, in an organization or not, I’d still have my camera on hand and call myself a blogger. Because I love this job!
January 2016, signals the much-awaited event that hallmarks Ilonggo culture. The Dinagyang Festival 2016 was participated by 9 tribes for the Ati competition and 10 participants for the Kasadyahan Cultural Competition. The Dinagyang Festival 2016 was my first Kasdyahan and Dinagyang ‘backstage cover’ – which I covered from Pamukaw (held December 2015) to the Kasadyahan and Dinagyang proper. I did a ‘backstage cover’ because I want to show Dinagyang from a different angle – tribe members in line, warming up before their grand performance, bystanders stretching their necks under the angry heat of the sun to see a glimpse of the performance.
February through May was a hiatus from my blogging in Iloilo City because of work responsibilities and certain circumstances. I had the chance to repeatedly explore nature’s titans in a place where the ‘mountains meet the sea’ – Antique. And it was a glorious view to behold.
It was quite July when I was able to go back to blogging in Iloilo City. Although the summer season was over but that did not stop Republika ng TM to celebrate activities best fitted for the summer season. It was the 27th of July when Republika ng TM held the TM Football Para Sa Bayan – an advocacy to find local football talents and give them a chance to join football camps in Malaysia and Europe via Astro and Globe tie-up. The event was graced by international football superstar and pride of Iloilo, Mr. Chieffy Caligdong.
When it comes to Ilonggos who have made a name in the international arena, Iloilo is lucky to have Mr. Manuel ‘Manny’ L. Librodo, a renowned photographer whose photos have appeared in international publications, including several cover pages for Asian Geographic and calendars for UNICEF. Iloilo is lucky to have the works of Mr. Manny Librodo ‘Landscape of Emotions’ displayed at Casa Real Iloilo, a newly renovated heritage site that previously housed the Iloilo Capitol.
August 25th was the city’s annual celebration of the Iloilo Charter Day. The 25th of August 1937 was the inauguration of Iloilo City and the grandiose celebration when Iloilo City received its charter during the American Commonwealth Government in the Philippines. It was celebrated with a parade that commenced from the Iloilo Provincial Capitol (now Casa Real) to the newly constructed Ayuntamiento. Since then the Iloilo Charter Day is celebrated every 25th of August, as a festive reminder to all Ilonggos of the rich history and culture that the beautiful City of Love has – that serves as a symbol of camaraderie among the Ilonggo people and prominent love to our beloved dakbanwa.
I was not blogging full-time until the 4th quarter of the year. It was then I realized that ‘progress’ is the most appropriate term to describe Iloilo. Big names – ‘mega’, per se – were investing in Iloilo City and introducing processes, systems, buildings, products, services, and technologies in the City of Love. It was October when Megaworld introduced St. Honore with a 3D Mapping Light Show held 22nd of October at the Two Global Center in front of Richmonde Hotel Iloilo. Saint Honore is a low-rise property inspired by the classic architectural designs found in Rue Saint-Honore, a historical street in Paris. With a striking and elegant façade, the new residential tower will emanate timeless luxury, comprising only 168 units ranging from studio to executive 2-bedrooms.
Another gargantuan development in Iloilo City was the opening of the two-story extension of SM City Iloilo – SM City Southpoint with a grand opening held on 11th of November 2016. The extension is projected to house top-notch restaurants and eats. As of date, shoppers can enjoy the likes of Spicy Elements, Jamie’s Steak Room, Cafe Diem, Gilligans, San Jose Cafe and Sweet Cravings by San Jose Cafe, Ocean City Bistro, The Pitstop Restaurant, Ninos Burritos, and much more. Upcoming shops include Vikings, Ramboy’s – Aklan’s Best Chicken and Liempo, Culture Table Korean Samgyupsal and Korean Shabu-Shabu, Mrs. Wharton, and much more. The grand opening also hallmarked the visit of Mr. Hans Sy, son of mall magnate Henry Sy. ‘There is no replacement for hard work. It is 50 percent hard work, 40 percent guts, and 10 percent luck’ as per Mr. Sy during an interview at SM City Iloilo.
Aside from business development, is also the continuous rejuvenation of Ilonggo visual arts embodied in an event called VIVA Excon or the Visayas Islands Visual Arts Exhibition and Conference held from 17th to 20th of November 2016. “VIVA Excon is an artist-run and organized biennial.. ..that aspires to bridge ‘the islands of the Visayas so as to provide a venue to facilitate dialogues, interaction, networking, and cultural exchanges, thus addressing fundamental and relevant issues among visual art communities and related stockholders.” according to the VIVA Excon website.
Apart from visual arts, Ilonggos are also active filmmakers and participants in the annual event known as CineKasimanwa: Western Visayas Film Festival. 2016’s CineKasimanwa with the theme ‘Ang Hugot sang mga Ilonggo’ showcased a roster of local films from the 1st to the 21st of December at different venues in Iloilo. CineKasimanwa, founded in 2012, is the official film festival of Region VI, Western Visayas, and has been showcasing films of and from the region. Founded by filmmaker and film curator Elvert Baňares, the festival is open to all aspiring and professional filmmakers from Region VI. CineKasimanwa boasts to have the largest number of submissions of films outside Metro Manila and films are given more exposure in other festivals such as the Cinema Rehiyon.
The latter part of December was another paramount milestone for Iloilo when the first half-covered water park in the world to be powered by solar energy was opened. Neighboring the EON Centennial Resort Hotel in Alta Tierra Village, Waterworld Iloilo offers extreme water rides, 17 slides for kids and kids at heart, a 222-meter-long lazy river, a water play area for toddlers, an open and a covered waterpark, all manned by 30 certified lifeguards. ‘You have not been to Iloilo if you have not been to Waterworld’, these are the words of Mr. Felix Tiu, the person behind the two (2) hectare property.
Speaking of Iloilo going international, how about international going to Iloilo? With a reportedly high number of sign-ups and sales, Ilonggos were immediately enamored by the selling proposition of S&R Membership Shopping. S&R, a membership shopping club modeled after the warehouse membership shopping chains in the United States, opened its arms to the Ilonggo community of avid shoppers and business owners. What does S&R Membership Shopping offer? A wide selection of local pork, poultry products, fresh chilled beef and Australian/New Zealand beef, fresh seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, appliances, wellness and beauty products, and S&R’s program. Apart from the wide selection of products, S&R also offers a food service section, deli and scooping station, automotive and hardware section at warehouse prices, in-store product sampling, and a wholesale program.
However, Iloilo City does not stop there. Megaworld, the country’s largest developer of integrated urban townships, launched the first phase of the Festive Walk Parade in the 72-hectare Iloilo Business Park township in Mandurriao, Iloilo City. At 1.1 km long and divided into four phases, the Festive Walk Parade is considered Western Visayas’ longest retail and dining strip. It will showcase local and legendary Ilonggo restaurants as well as international brands. “The Festive Walk Parade will serve as a cultural and historical manifesto for Iloilo, a celebration of its heritage and future, establishing a place of economic and civic vibrancy, life, and activity,” says Kevin L. Tan, senior vice president, and head, Megaworld Lifestyle Malls.
And just before Christmas, ‘The Virtuosos’ Jonathan Rei Dago (violin) and Rofel John Parreňo (piano) performed a violin/piano duet at the activity area of Robinsons Place Jaro, the 22nd of December 2016. The duo performed classical Yuletide tunes as well as pop renditions and provided an hour or so of musical prowess – enamoring the crowd with their talent and dexterity. The event was also graced by Iloilo’s powerful tenor, Charlie Castor, and the Mountain View Singing Ambassadors of Bukidnon. The performance is part of Robinsons Malls’ advocacy to showcase the homegrown talents of Iloilo.
With the year ending in a few days was the last event for 2016 – last but definitely not the least. The B Lifestyle Complex, a synergy of residential and commercial spaces, celebrated its Grand Launch 28th of December 2016. The event was graced by Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog, Vice Mayor Jose ‘Joe’ S. Espinosa III, Councilor Jose Efrain ‘Jay’ G. Treňas, Councilor Nielex ‘Lex’ C. Tupas, Barangay Captain Marietta V. Orleans of Cuartero Jaro, respective owners of each B Lifestyle Complex brands, Worksworth Company, the team behind The B Complex’s construction and interiors, and distinguished guests.
All I can say is, it has been indeed a ride – a roller coaster ride to the changes that have transpired in the City of Love. All I can remember were the times when amusement – to me – was a visit to the playground at Rotary Park and a Chicken Joy meal at SM Delgado. Looking back at Iloilo City and then to Iloilo City now, is definitely breathtaking. What used to be available outside Iloilo or outside the Philippines is now available in our locality. As said, progress seemed fast, terrifyingly fast.
I personally would like to thank all those who have read our articles. It is an honor to share the journey that we had in 2016. Moreover, it would also be a privilege to share it with you again in the incoming year 2017 and for years to come. Madamo guid nga salamat!