District of Molo: Molo, a district in Iloilo City, is the most densely populated compared to other districts. Unbeknownst to many, Molo was the original ‘Parian’ (Chinese district or Chinatown) of Iloilo City. Molo used to be a separate municipality before it was incorporated into the then-municipality of Iloilo via Act No. 719 of 1903. It is also lauded as the ‘Athens of the Philippines’, as it was the center of learning in the Visayas. It is also the birthplace of prominent figures and illustrados, including philosophers, political leaders, and government officials, to mention a few.
Molo Church: Molo Plaza, with its recent renovation, is now adorned by statues of Greek goddesses and a monument of Maria Clara. A fountain is also found at the center of the plaza, breaking the monotony of artworks. One highlight is the Molo Church, also known as Saint Anne Parish, a Spanish-colonial church and heritage site. It is known for its all-women ensemble of saints, as represented by 16 saint statues inside the church. It was declared a national landmark by the National Historical Institute in 1992 and is the sole Gothic church in the country outside of Manila.
The church has been lauded as a ‘feminist church’ (also a women’s church) due to its all-women images of saints: Saint Marcella, Saint Apollonia, Saint Genevieve, Saint Isabelle, Saint Felicity, Saint Agnes, Saint Monica, Saint Magdalene, Saint Juliana, Saint Lucy, Saint Rose, Saint Teresa, Saint Clare, Saint Cecilia, Saint Margaret, and Saint Martha. Its patron saint, Saint Anne, is housed in the church’s retablo with the images of the Blessed Virgin and the Holy Trinity.
Molo Church, started construction in 1831 under Fray Pablo Montaño and was completed in 1888 under Fray Agapito Buenaflor and also under the supervision of Don Jose Manuel Locsin. It was erected in honor of Saint Anne. The Gothic renaissance highlights two pointed belfries made of white coral rock.
“La iglesia bonita” – The beauty of Molo Church was unlike any other. Even the famous Dr. Jose Rizal was enamored by its beauty. The national hero visited the church in 1886 for its then existing biblical paintings.
Apparently, the church was damaged during the Japanese regime, and it was also used as an evacuation center for civilians during World War II but was repaired later on by Rev. Manuel Alba.
“A famous Spanish colonial church and heritage site in Molo district. It is know for the prominent red spires that crown its tall bell towers and as ‘the feminist church’ because of the all-women ensemble of saints represented in 16 statues perched on the aisle pillars. Built in neogothic style, the church is one of Iloilo City’s most familiar landmark and top tourist attractions.” – Saint Anne Parish Church in Molo.
Saint Anne. Christian tradition says that Saint Anne is the mother of Mary and the maternal grandmother of Jesus. Although her name was not in the canonical gospels, it was mentioned with her husband Joachim in the New Testament Apocrypha, specifically in the Gospel of James.
Molo Mansion: Moreover, just across the church and through the plaza is the Yusay-Consing Mansion (Molo Mansion). It was built in the 1920s and has been home to Molo’s powerful and influential families. With its preservation, it is now a heritage museum housing products, delicacies, and art and crafts by Ilonggos.
The Molo Mansion was constructed in the 1920s where Dona Petra Lacson lived together with her husband, Estanislao Yusay, Manila’s judge of the Court of First Instance at the time and a prominent lawyer and judge from Molo. They were eventually joined with ten children.
After the family moved out of the mansion, it became the home of former Iloilo governor Timoteo Consing Sr. with her wife, Rosario Yusay who was among the ten children and inherited the house from the couple. The property was handed down to the governor’s son, Timoteo “Nene” Consing Jr., spouse of Nieva Ramirez-Consing, and one of the owners of the sugar mill company Passi Sugar Central which later on was acquired by the Universal Robina Corporation. Over the years, the house also accommodated two Philippine Presidents, Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmena, during their official trips to Iloilo. Unfortunately, the house was neglected for years until SM bought the property from the Consing family.
In no time, SM restored the abandoned and dilapidated house to its elegant condition as you would see it now. The plan of conservation was led by architect Augusto Villalon of the Cultural Heritage Resource Associates and Melvin Patawaran of Tropiks Design Studio. The restoration was to rehabilitate the deteriorating walls, replace broken architectural details, and repaint the structure. A garden was planted outside to welcome the guests. The interiors were refurbished and the building was retrofitted with new electrical and sanitary systems.
After the restoration, the mansion has been turned into a heritage museum with a souvenir shop that sells local products and delicacies. It was also paired with food stalls on its side to serve visitors by homegrown brands. Upon entering the house, visitors are greeted by a capiz shell chandelier that hangs on the wooden coffered high ceiling. The use of large polished hardwood planks for the floors gives the space a sense of warmth and grandeur carrying the history that the mansion has outlived.
A cultural souvenir and gift shop within the mansion was repurposed as Kultura Filipino. The newly-renovated Molo Mansion reopened in time to welcome the delegates of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Iloilo in September 2015. As part of their city tour, the delegates visited the mansion.
Other Heritage Sites in Molo: Other historically relevant sites in Molo are the following: Dominican Sister Motherhouse, Don Roque Locsin Sanson Mansion (Harp Fence), Maria Clara Monument, Molo Cemtery Arc, Molo Cemetery Camposanto, Rosendo Mejica Monument, Carpenter’s Bridge, Locsin Ancestral House, Molo Convent, Plablo Araneta y Soriano Marker, Pison Ancestral House, Rosendo Mejica House, among others.
Molo Plaza Rehabilitation: It has been known that the local government is eyeing the restoration of historically and culturally relevant sites. One of the Iloilo City Government’s initiatives is the rehabilitation of district plazas to create an environment that will encourage physical activities and interaction within the community. One of the recently renovated is Molo Plaza.
“The plazas are being restored by the city because we want to make public spaces available to our constituents for free. Public spaces are very important as it gives people a place to rethink and recharge,” states Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas.
“The revitalization of our district plazas aims to bring back community patronage and appreciation of our public open spaces where ‘everyONE knows every JUAN,’ a diminishing trait or character in an urbanized society,” states City Architect Regina C. Gregorio.
Turnover of Restored Molo Plaza: To signify the completion of the Molo Plaza restoration, a ceremonial turnover took place earlier this year (2022), and was graced by Senator Franklin Drilon, Mayor Jerry Trenas, Vice Mayor Jeffrey Ganzon, to mention a few.
“I have to admit that as I visit the other sides of the country, I would say that Iloilo was really able to preserve its open spaces, unlike in other places. Here in Iloilo most of the plazas remain open,” states Dr. Rene Escalante, Chairperson National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP)
“This plaza brings back memories of my childhood and that is why it is appropriate that I go back here as among my last visits as a senator. Two weeks from now I am no longer senator, I will just be an Ilonggo who will be a friend to all,” states former Senator Franklin Drilon.
Moreover, More Electric and Power Corporation (More Power Iloilo) President Roel Castro was also invited to partner with the Iloilo City Government and the National Historical Commission to highlight the value of Molo Church by setting up lighting facilities. The lights were donated by More Power Iloilo to add value to the restoration of the church and preserve its redevelopment while ensuring the safety of the public. According to Castro, he “plans to light up Iloilo and make it more tourist-friendly.
Article originally published on www.VisitIloiloCity.com.