Irong-Irong, is the old name of a tongue of land that sticks out like a nose on the south side of the Iloilo River. This tongue of land was the site of an important settlement that gave its name to the province of Iloilo. According to legend, the ten Bornean datus landed near the Siwaragan River in San Joaquin and negotiated the sale of the lowlands of Panay Island from the Negrito Chief Marikudo. Datu Paiburong occupied the territory that corresponds to present-day Iloilo.
The Spaniards established control of the vicinity of Ogton in 1565 but it was not until the capital of the region was transferred to Arevalo that effective Spanish control was established. The province of Ogton was extensive, covering all of the island of Panay and the islands of Romblon, as well as the greater part of the island of Negros. In 1719, the northern coast of the island was made into a separate province of Pan-ay. In 1734, the island of Negros became a separate corregimiento. In 1798, Antique was separated from Iloilo.
During much of the Spanish period, the coast of Iloilo was assaulted by European, as well as Moro, raiders. In 1588, Arevalo was attacked by English buccaneers. A large Moro fleet of more than 70 vessels attacked the town in 1600 while Dutch marauders also laid siege to the town during the early 17th century. In view of these threats, the Spaniards built Fort San Pedro in 1616 on a strategic location at the mouth of the Iloilo River. By 1637, government was transferred to the vicinity of the fort and in 1688, the capital of Ogton was transferred to Iloilo.
In the 19th century, Iloilo became the center of the booming sugar trade. The town was opened to foreign trade in 1856 and foreign merchant houses were established there eager to take part in the lucrative industry. Towards the end of the century, the city had become the second most important settlement in the Philippines and remained so until the 1930s. In August 1898, following the fall of Manila to the Americans, Spanish government was transferred to Iloilo. The revolutionaries liberated most of the province in November and on December 25 the city of Iloilo came into revolutionary control. They held on to the city until March 1899. The Americans occupied the rest of Iloilo in 1900 and established civil government in 1901.
People, Culture and the Arts
The Ilonggos have a great tradition for sincerity and genuine warmth. They are known throughout the Philippines as a very affectionate and genial people. About half of the Ilonggos speak Hiligaynon, a language famous for its langourous, seductive lilt, while the other half speak Kinaray-a, a very similar language that is also spoken in Antique.
Iloilo is a province rich in history and cultural heritage, reflected in its old churches, ancestral homes, aesthetically designed handicrafts, resplendent festivals, unspoiled coastal communities with pristine beaches and islands.
Jaro is the cultural showcase of the province. Old colonial houses of sugar barons and the elite still stand as testimony to the town’s cultural and economic importance in by gone days. It is also considered the seat of Catholicism in Western Visayas. The Feast of Our Lady Of Candles (Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria), held every 2nd day of February is an important religious event. The Feast is the biggest and the most opulent religious pageant in Western Visayas. The festivity opens with the blessing of candles of different sizes, shapes and colors and the yearly procession of the patroness followed by the fiesta queen and her court.
Iloilo is also known for its cottage industries. Jaro has always been the traditional center for loom-weaving and hand emboidery of pina and jusi, delicate fabrics used for the native costumes of Filipinos like the barong tagalog, shirts, shawls, tablecloths, and place mats. Shellcraft, bamboocraft, and the making of mosquito nests are also developed cottage industries of the province. In Molo, there is a capiz shellcraft industry, where capiz shells are processed into chandeliers, wind chimes, fruit trays, and other decors. There are also woodcrafts, bamboo crafts and rattan crafts primarily geared for the export market.
Iloilo is also known for superb cuisine and native delicacies. The province is home to the native specialties such as the famous La Paz batchoy a broth of pork liver, cracklings and noodles and the pancit molo, wanton noodles in chicken soup flavored with garlic. The Ilonggo pastries and confections, such as the barquillos, hojaldres, pinasugbo and biscocho, are known throughout the archipelago for their delicate flavors.
Throughout Iloilo, centuries-old churches abound, that attest to the influence of the Catholic Church in the history of the province. The San Joaquin Church is known for its unusual facade depicting the Battle of Tetuan (Spaniards versus Moors); and the Miag-ao fortress Church, built 200 years ago not just as a place of worship but also to protect them against Moro pirates.
There are festivals throughout the year that celebrate the spirit of the Ilonggo. Pasungay held in San Joaquin, every 2nd Saturday of January. Pasungay (bullfight) is a part of San Joaquin Fiesta. The fighting bulls from the town and neighboring areas are chosen for the yearly affair accompanied by cheerers. In the hillside arena, the bulls fight each other until one tires or chickens out and runs away. By process of elimination, the fight of bull champions becomes the most exciting bout for the fun-loving Ilonggos.
The Dinagyang Festival, popular among tourists, is celebrated every fourth weekend of January. It is a frenzied spectacle characterized by stomping of feet and hypnotic drum beating; a kaleidoscope of thousands of people dressed in unique costumes, dancing and chanting all day and night. The Sto. Niño is the object of offerings and prayers.
Trade and Investments
Determined to regain its position as the economic center of the Visayas, Iloilo is harnessing the potentials of its strategic location, abundant resources and established facilities to attain revitalized growth. Centrally located in the archipelago, Iloilo serves as the gateway to Southern Philippines and holds an unparalleled advantage of being a center of trade, commerce and industry. The province sprawls over a land area of 4,719 square kilometers and occupies the southeast end of Panay Island. Its population of 1.7 million provides not only a pool of highly skilled workforce but also a growing consumer market.
Iloilo takes pride in being the "Food Basket and Rice Granary of the Philippines." Aside from being one of the leading producers of palay, its agricultural crops include various legumes, rootcrops and fruits like mangoes, pineapple and citrus. Iloilo’s fishing grounds are also some of the richest in the country and teem with grouper, sea bass, tuna, blue marlin, prawn, milkfish and shrimps. Iloilo also plays hosts to two research institutes, the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center and the University if the Philippines in the Visayas. The province also has rich deposits of metallic and non-metallic minerals.
The province of Iloilo is only 50 minutes plane ride from Manila and is linked to many provinces by major shipping routes. The local road network has a length of 885 kilometers that reaches major production areas and market centers of the province. The Iloilo Commercial Port Complex is located on 20.8 hectares of land and is equipped with modern facilities and hosts a Fishing Port Complex. The fish port offers processing and storage facilities for the province’ thriving fishing industry. It is one of the country’s busiest ports; a fine natural harbor that has three entry points, two of which are utilized for domestic and international operations. The Iloilo airport has modern facilities that can handle both day and night time flights. Various airlines offer daily flight services to Cebu, Manila and other cities. The supply of power exceeds the current demands, while the supply of water is handled by 14 water districts spread throughout the province. Iloilo has state-of-the-art communication facilities that offer landline and mobile telephone services, and paging systems. The province is also one of the country’s major financial hubs with are 107 banking institutions and 101 financial intermediaries.
The Regional Agro-Industrial Center (RAIC) in Pavia, is a special economic zone that already has the vital infrastructure facilities in place. Located approximately 10 kilometers from Iloilo airport, the RAIC could easily accommodate industries and businesses in gifts, toys and houseware items production garments manufacturing, metal products, machinery and equipment manufacturing, agriculture and aquamarine-based industries, electronics, and chemical product manufacturing. The Iloilo Fishing Port and Food Processing Complex has the facilities such as modern 300 tons cold storage room, refrigeration facilities and support systems that will allow investors to operate immediately.
Other viable investment opportunities include the production and processing of shrimps, fin fishes, mussels and oysters, seaweeds and other fish products; production and processing of fruits, nuts, vegetables, piña fiber and other agricultural crops. Non-agricultural investment opportunities include production of furniture, metal craft, ceramics and earthenware, and marble. All of these have strong support from the growing local consumer market and established export markets.
Development Initiative Highlights: