Monday, March 21, 2011

Jaro - Iloilo's Cradle of Old Treasures

It was my first time in Visayas. Our plane landed Iloilo Airport just before lunch. We have a reservation at the Ong Bun Pension house and going there is a breeze. Vans and cars are readily available right in the airpot. It is well organized and the airport even posted tariffs for transportation to make sure nobody gets deceived.

We left our things in the pension house and looked for a place to have lunch. What we found nearest is a local eatery. Since we're on a backpacking trip plus we're all very hungry, we tried their dishes and I'm surprised that the meals are satisfying enough. I tried their own version of La Paz Batchoy.

We then proceeded to Jaro to see the famed Jaro Cathedral (Church of St. Elizabeth of Hungary). Upon getting inside the cathedral, what I noticed first is the painting at the ceiling right at the entrance. I suddenly remembered Michaelangelo, lol!

Seeing the interiors, it featured round arches similar to Romanesque architecture, only the arches seemed simpler, without too much ornate designs. I said my prayers, took pictures then went outside where I saw a tablet with inscriptions containing basic facts about the cathedral.

Jaro Cathedral was built in 1874 but was destroyed by an earthquake in 1948. It was then reconstructed in 1956. Graciano Lopez Jaena, one of the Philippine heroes was baptized here in 1856.

The facade of the building didn't strike me as grand. What I'm amazed with is the fact that the bell tower is detached from the church, something that is not common even with old churches. I am thinking that maybe the belfry is a remnant of the original structure that was annihilated by the earthquake. It now stands in the grounds of Jaro Park (Graciano Lopez Park) just across the present cathedral, separated by a national road/highway.

Based from my research prior to this trip, I know that there are several old houses in the district. Problem is, to our hurry going to the airport, we left the print outs and I don't remember how to get to each of those houses but I remember what my quiz bee coach in Hekasi (way back in grade school) told me, mansions of wealthy families will be very near churches and parks during Spanish era in the Philippines, it has something to say about their status quo. We then just decided to walk around the area.

There's this house that's just right beside the Cathedral called the Lopez-Vito House. The lower ground is being occupied by a bank but that fact doesn't take away the charm of the old house.

The first old house that wowed me is the Ledesma Mansion, just a short walk from the cathedral. Nobody lives there anymore but we we're allowed by the caretaker to enter the gate and capture some pictures. It may have to do with us buying lots of their bibingka (rice cake), lol!

After eating bibingka, most of us got really thirsty, added the fact that it is a very hot and arid day. We decided to look for something cold to drink but ended up ordering halo-halo (a Filipino desert of mixed sweet beans, sweetened fruits and custard cake topped with shaved ice and evaporated milk) in Carlito's, just few blocks away from the Jaro Plaza. We felt more comfortable afterwards then continued looking for old houses.

We've passed by the Sanson-Montinola house. It looked really old yet there's something about this house that's striking. Like other old houses, it is made of stone and wood yet the color palette set the difference. The glass windows and intricate designs of the exterior added to the grandeur of the house.

We also passed by other old houses while riding the jeep.

What really mesmerized me is the Nelly's Garden. It is a mansion with expansive lawn. The white color of the mansion just showcased what's already regal with this place. Seeing it made me want to be a queen, one of the only few people who can live in a kingdom like this, even just for a day, haha!. It's really beautiful.

Jaro is right to be named the historical district of Iloilo, evident of those old structures I saw. It will always be a reminder of how our country was once. I hope that these houses will always be preserved for the younger ones to see.

My eyes had so much feast, I guess all my companions felt the same way so we thought it's about time our stomachs have theirs :) We left Jaro and headed to SM Iloilo to have dinner. ^_^

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