JM Basa Might Just Be the Next Bourbon Street.

Nov 30, 2011 by

In other countries, particularly Europe, any structure that’s old is considered precious. Because it is precious, it is treated with care and respect. Because it is cared for and respected, it is valued. And the sense of value brings forth the preservation of stories of the past allowing the people of today to understand who they really are and the possibilities of what they can become.

Avoiding all my cryptic thoughts, what I’m saying is: all these precious old structures that ought to be valued are just all around us. Especially here in Iloilo. Walk the streets of JM Basa (otherwise known as Calle Real — the heart of business and trade when Iloilo City was once hailed as the Queen City of the South). Here you will find edifices that carry with it the spirit of grandeur it once had. I fear it has lost its charms. The careless development of the modern world neglected the physical aesthetics of these structures. They were treated as mere structures, whose job is to stand the test of time and be a dwelling to anything that generates money. It is just a hollow block that should function the way it should function. What a sad attitude. Blame it on the weak teachings in art appreciation and the pathetic governance of the past regimes.

But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

During the term of the then Mayor of Iloilo City, Jerry P Trenas, the Iloilo Cultural Heritage Foundation has been organized by Manuel Villa Jr., Arch. Tony Sangrador, Marilou Lacson – Arcelo, Manuel Joseph Barredo, Mary Rose Cacho, Joemari Chan, Susan Florete, Sebastian Jardiolin, Pedro Ortigas, Yolanda B. Pajaro, Sarah Salcedo, Jomarie Treñas, Kristin Treñas, Felipe Uygongco, and Victoria Jardiolin-Villa to try to restore Iloilo’s Heritage building and houses to some of their old glory.

Plans have been laid out and although these sounded ambitious, I personally have faith that for as long as there are people who have the means and the clout to materialize these plans, then Iloilo will get back on its feet and be the beauty that it really should be. Campaigns were done on tri-media, linkages with the private and government sectors, involvements in city-wide projects to promote awareness among the residents of Iloilo and exhibits and fund-raising endeavors were put together by the team composing the council.

One of the visible steps being implemented right now is the restoration of the Serafin Villanueva building facade located at corner J. M. Basa and Arsenal streets to how it originally looked back in 1925. According to Vicki Jardiolin-Villa, the Foundation is also writing to the management of RCBC to request a repainting of the already restored building across the street. The sidewalks fronting the two buildings will also be retiled and antique lamp posts installed, again hopefully with help from RCBC for their buildings frontage.

This is indeed wonderful news. We Ilonggos should put our acts together and work towards a better Iloilo. We should help one another to enhance our tourism and not limit our visitors to food and people. Come to think of it, where exactly do you bring your guests whenever they visit the city? Right in our midst is calle real and how it looks like now needs a lot of work, really.

This cannot be done by the Foundation alone. Your help in whatever possible way can truly make a difference. It’s a really good feeling if you know that you live in a city that prides itself with the old charm that can offer so many interesting facets of its wonderful history. Serves for a good alternative other than stuffing your guests with seafood and batchoy half of the day.


The Serafin Villanueva building's facade, at corner J. M. Basa and Arsenal streets (photo from

Arch. Tony Sangrador's perspective of the proposed Villanueva building restoration

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  1. i’m actually one big fan of Iloilo City Cultural Heritage Conservation Council. Have watched videos of these heritage sites and been wishing these edifices one day be restored to its original glory. :)

  2. bobby

    Baw, if you can get funding from Japan perhaps? =)

  3. I suppose this building is still privately owned?

    • bobby

      I suppse so, Jello. =) The family owns several period buildings here in the city. =)

  4. Then the fate of that beautiful building on the hands of the owners. I highly doubt if the government will take initiative to rehabilitate it. Btw, the cathedral of Iloilo just had a make over. And the 1920s set of magnificent santos just had fresh paints! (or was that last year?) :)

  5. Each time I pass along Calle Real, I am really amazed by the Celso Ledesma Bldg. Its ornate, Baroque-style architecture plus imposing Greek columns are the epitome of Commonwealth era grandeur that highlighted Iloilo’s prominence at the Queen City of the South. Aside from what you featured, I also would like to mention other “decaying” structures of historical, cultural, and artistic significance, like the Antillan House and the two mansions, the names of w/c I don’t know, right at the heart of Jaro Plaza. They’re worth preserving!

  6. Selkie

    The so-called international hotel in Iloilo before the advent of WWII is along this street, no? Will it also be a part of this project?

    • bobby

      I will inquire with Maam Vicki Jardiolin-Villa about that. Thanks for the query. Will post information soon. =)

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