WANDERLUST| Calle Real on foot

WHEN visiting places, I always try to search for sites where I can see or feel a piece of culture and history. Culture allows me to learn about the ways of life of the community while history gives me a sort of sense of purpose of their being.

Last weekend end, I finally had a chance to discover by foot the historical street of Calle Real (Royal Street in Spanish) in downtown Iloilo City. Calle Real, officially named JM Basa Street (after Filipino businessman and propagandist, Jose Maria Basa), was the central business district during the Spanish era. In this bustling avenue, various commercial establishments thrived and many people flocked as the street is adjacent to the port.

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The street became a popular trading community and a shopping and entertainment mecca. Its fame reached the many islands of the archipelago that even our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal expressed his appreciation of the busy business center. Luckily, Calle Real survived the World War ll and braved the political and social changes that happened decades later.

Today, thanks to the efforts of the Iloilo Cultural Heritage Foundation Inc., a number of Calle Real’s buildings have been restored and preserved, giving young residents and visitors a glimpse of the olden days of the former Queen City of the South. The foundation has restored various commercial buildings as well as churches, grand residential houses and the town plaza within and in the peripheries of Calle Real.

Back in August 8, 2014, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines declared Calle Real as heritage zone with a historical marker planted outside the Villanueva Building.

While most of the malls and other establishments are now built in bigger township developments far from its narrow thoroughfare, Calle Real remains as busy as ever as smaller shops, eateries and bars still enliven the old hub.

During our morning walk along Calle Real, we got a peek into Iloilo’s past as we observed various turn-of-the-century art deco buildings, including the Javellana building owned by the Arenas family, the Divinagracia building of the Divinagracia and Alba families, the Serafin Villanueva buildings of the Santos family, the Eusebio Villanueva building 0now managed by the Jalandonis, Iloilo Lucky Auto Supply building, Regent building, Dominican building, Celso Ledesma building, and the Marquez Lim “Balay na Bato”.

Our Calle Real promenade did not only impressed us with Iloilo’s old world charm, in spite of the clutter of commercial billboards and electrical wires that traverse the street, but most importantly it gave us an understanding of its glorious past.

Posted in Lifestyle