Last April 4, five of us trainees along with our facilitator walked and went around the city of Iloilo, Philippines, as part of a “challenge” for our CTP discussion on Learning How to See Again. The objective was for us to revisit places that we actually encounter almost daily, but take for granted.
The city of Iloilo is marked with different sculptures/monuments that showcase the province’s rich history. These monuments are placed in honor of the efforts of our fellow Filipinos in times of war, to showcase and to preserve the superstitions of our ancestors, and to remind us Ilonggos, of what our province once was. Though we pass through these landmarks, considering them only as “tourist spots” and never truly understanding its purpose, we fail to see the culture it is trying to portray and that culture is our very own. When looking at these pieces of art with a deeper curiosity, we may not only see of what the Illonggo people once were but also of the culture we have carried with us from those times.
First off, we visited the Donato M. Pison Monument, which is actually a chimney that was once part of a muscovado sugar factory in the area. To most of us, the area is simply known as a roundabout. I later learned that the structure was actually a monument to the great patriarch of the Pison family, Donato M. Pison, who owned a great part of the estate of that area, and who started his fortune with a sugarcane mill.
For our next stop, we visited Punong Hangaway (head warrior), a sculpture of Datu Paiburong, who, legend says, was the first ruler of Iloilo.
Third, we visited the Casa Real or the Old Provincial Capitol of Iloilo and Iloilo City Hall, to look at the exhibits, most especially for the Dinagyang Festival, which is one of the largest and most awaited festivals in Iloilo. The festival, similar to other feasts being celebrated in the time of January, is a celebration and thanksgiving to the Child Jesus.
Festivals are important in the preservation of a province’s culture and it also reminds us of our history and heritage. Dinagyang is not only present to bring relief to the people through the celebration itself, which involves a lot of dancing, and a lot of food, but also to spark a better understanding of our own culture. Exhibits in the city hall show how festive Dinagyang can be and when you visit the highest floor of the city hall you can see the entire city and you can just imagine the festivities going around during Dinagyang season.
After the exhibit at the City Hall, we proceeded to the Plaza Libertad, where the flag of the Philippine Republic was first raised after the last colonizers surrendered as Iloilo was its last capital in the Philippines in the 19th century. Lastly, we visited the UP Visayas Cinemathque, a small scale movie theater, that showcases Hollywood classics.
We all live in this world, some privileged to see what’s around us, some not. As we see art, as we feel cultures and experience cultures, we should realize it’s true importance. Every day, we may pass by structures and not really think about what they actually mean and symbolize. But that’s really the beauty of it. Because art and culture surround us, there’s really so much for us to see and understand. We just have to open our eyes and our hearts to them.
Written by Sara Abuelhawa and Frances Lorraine Teodosio, members of the World Youth Alliance Iloilo Chapter.