Wednesday, July 3, 2013

MOLO: A Celebration of Iloilo’s History and Beauty

For some Ilonggos unmindful of its rich history, the district of Molo possesses some of Iloilo city’s most pronounced attractions. It has an elegance derived from its beautiful Gothic church and numerous examples of early 19th century architecture with exclusive residential neighborhoods sprawling beyond the historic central areas in all directions.

Discovery and exploration over the past several hundred years by the Chinese and Spanish means that the area offers a wealth of historic landmarks, cultural diversity and other attractions.

It has a flourishing economy actively engaged in local and international trade. It was called Parian (Chinatown) and was an important economic center where a significant Chinese community, attracted by the prospect of commerce in the area, established their residence and businesses.

In 1857, Chinese mestizos totaled to 1,106 from Molo’s total population count numbering to 16,428 (Iloilo Heritage of Greatness, Museo Iloilo). Spain’s growing influence encouraged frequent Muslims raids mostly originating from Mindanao. Parian was later changed to Moro which later evolved to its present name. Molo was chartered as a district when Iloilo gained its city-hood status in 1937.

photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes
Molo is a major visitor destination. The grand monument that distinguished it is concentrated on its district plaza, in the central area. Over the centuries, the much-admired PARISH OF ST. ANNE, constructed in 1831, stood magnificently. It is one of the very few dedicated churches in Iloilo. Outside the church, the only of its kind outside of Manila, it boasts of its Gothic feature with two main towers, where a tower is said to have been destroyed by the Americans suspecting it was used for military purposes by the Japanese during World War II. Inside is a unique feature found nowhere else in the Philippines, with its two rows lined with life-size statues of beautifully carved 16 female saints on Greek columns on the way to the main altar. It is said that in August 4, 1886, Dr. Jose Rizal, on his way back to Manila from his exile in Dapitan dropped at the church to pray. The National Historical Institute declared it a national landmark in 1992.

photo by Harold Agustin Ziegenhohn
Combine a visit to Molo church with a trip to PANADERIA DE MOLO in Barangay North Avancena where you can buy cookies that are up to the present baked using the original equipment in the olden days. It is well known to many Filipinos and has a growing and loyal clientele, all attracted by enthusiastic word-of-mouth reports that have been doing the rounds since the later part of the 19th century. History of the bakeshop dates back in the 1800s. Masons used egg whites to cement bricks that make up the walls of churches; so as not to waste the rest of the egg, women in their idle time would use the yolks to bake cookies. For many visiting tourists, the obligatory pasalubong purchase is their best-selling creamy galletas.

photo by Harold Agustin Ziegenhohn
The ROSENDO MEJICA MUSEUM in Lopez Jaena Street in Baluarte is a family-owned museum set in the original house of Rosendo Mejica and features the furniture and other furnishings, clothing and the extensive papers and his collections. Rosendo Mejica He was a newspaperman, printer and a philanthropist. He founded the Makinaugalingon Press in Iloilo City that stresses the awareness and educates Filipino of the Hiligaynon Literature. Mejica was also responsible in translating Rizal's Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo from Spanish to Visayan. He founded and built the First Public Elementary School in the Philippines, the Baluarte Elementary School in 1905. The museum opens daily every weekday from 9:00am – 5:00pm.

photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes
Iloilo history is abundant with notable people. And Molo, long known as the Athens of the Philippines, have produced names whose significant efforts in fostering goodwill and enhancing and promoting the image of an Ilonggo as competent, dignified and responsible individual are etched on the Ilonggo consciousness: Senators Francisco Villanueva, Esteban de la Rama, Esperidion Guanco, Jose Ma. Arroyo, Francisco Zulueta, Jose Zulueta and Rodolfo Ganzon; Supreme Court Justices Raymund Melliza, Gregorio Araneta, Felicisimo Feria and Ramon Avanceña): and Governors Raymundo Melliza, Amando Avanceña, Gregorio Yulo; Mariano Arroyo, Jose Yulo-Regalado, Timoteo Consing and Jose Zulueta. They are remembered for greatly contributing to the socio-economic development of Iloilo and the Philippines as a whole.

It was also home to private schools such as the Instituto Inseñana de Molo; the all-girl school founded by the Avanceña sisters, the Colegio de la Santa Ana; and the Centro Escolar de Molo.

Annually celebrating its Patronal Fiesta every 26th of July, Molo’s unique local culture blends Filipino, Malay, Chinese and Spanish influences with beautiful architecture and culinary traditions.

photo by Vincent Angelo Gefes

Molo, comprised of 25 barangays, is one of the most exciting and beautiful districts in the city of Iloilo today.  It has a cosmopolitan outlook with the right combination of facilities, attractions and friendly people. It is an economic, social, educational and cultural center of Iloilo that offers a kaleidoscopic variety of experiences for everyone. It has style, color and charm where history and beauty come together.

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