By Herbert Vego
FRIDAY night, the facade of the majestic Roman Catholic church at Molo Plaza, Iloilo City, glittered like gold with the switch-on of its newly installed floodlights.
“Rightfully deserved” was how Sir Roel Z. Castro, president and chief executive officer of MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power), described the special contribution of the city’s power-distribution utility to the special occasion – the turn-over of the restored Molo Plaza to the Iloilo City government by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).
The bright lights, to quote the city’s tourism officer Junel Ann Divinagracia, “brought out the splendor and majesty of Molo Church.”
In his speech, Castro vowed to brighten up the other heritage structures of Iloilo City: “We really have to look back and preserve whatever history, heritage that Iloilo is very known for.”
That night’s turnover ceremony – graced by Sen. Franklin Drilon, Mayor Jerry P. Treñas, Vice-Mayor Jeffrey Ganzon and other local government officials – was just a partial fulfillment of Republic Act 10555, the Heritage Law which we shall discuss later.
By strolling around the Molo Plaza or praying inside the church, one travels back in time. Molo, which is now a district of Iloilo City, used to be the municipality of Parian during the Spanish occupation. It is still known as the “Athens of the Philippines,” where prominent life-size statues of Roman Goddesses and infamous women warriors still abound.
The Molo Church (Sta. Ana parish) which stands across the plaza, originally built in 1831 or 191 years ago and expanded in 1888, is famous for its Gothic edifice of massive white coral rock. It is unique for having larger-than-life images of female saints lined in two rows (eight on each side), each standing on a pedestal attached to a massive stone pillar.
I recall a speech delivered on Rizal Day on December 30, 2018 by former Sangguniang Panlunsod member Dr. Perla S. Zulueta, who said, “Our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, had a chance to visit Iloilo on August 4, 1896 when the steamer España landed at Muelle Loney. He toured the city, bought some items from a Lebanese store and rented a calesa that brought him to Molo.
“What did our national hero do in Molo? According to his own diary, Rizal visited his friend Don Raymundo Melliza, who had just arrived from Cuba where he served as magistrate of the Supreme Court there.”
This was indeed recorded in Rizal’s diary: “We went to Molo to see the church painted by a lad who has left the locality.”
The restored Molo Plaza and the Molo Church are two of the seven “heritage sites” included in RA 10555 as a dream by the now Mayor Jerry P. Treñas. It was in his capacity as congressman that he proposed the bill which was signed into law by President Benigno Aquino III in May 2013 as “An Act Declaring the Jaro Cathedral, Molo Church, the Iloilo City Central Business District, Fort San Pedro, Jaro Plaza Complex, Molo Plaza Complex and Plaza Libertad Complex, all Located in the City of Iloilo, as Cultural Heritage Tourism Zone”.
All these heritage sites have either undergone, or are still undergoing, restoration. As such, they are being accorded priority development by the Department of Tourism (DOT).
The “heritage law” harks back to an earlier law, the Tourism Act of 2009 or Republic Act 9593, which pinpoints tourism as “an indispensable element of national economy and an industry of national interest and importance.”
DOH COURTS PUBLIC INDIGNATION
EVEN as the present administration is about to give way to a new secretary, the Department of Health (DOH) seems to be scaring people anew with a guess about “an increasing number of COVID-19 cases that could see as many as 800 to 1,200 cases per day by the end of June.”
Rather than care, the DOH scares, if we go by the reactions posted on Facebook by readers of that story published in the Manila dailies yesterday.
“Kunyari nagmamalasakit,” wrote Christopher de Silva. “In the end, pabakuna kayo.”
From Edith Amil: “Hindi naman na ganon kabagsik ang strain ng covid ngayon. Nagiging over reactive lang ang mga nagpapatupad ng restrictions.”
From Alexander Gazo Endrina: “Stop the madness. It’s not true. Show us the names of those infected and we’ll check.”
“Dahil vaccinated naman tayo, why worry?” asked Joviel Piedad.
Two months ago, Senator Franklin M. Drilon called out the Department of Health (DOH) and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Covid-19 over the 27 million doses of nearly-expired vaccines at their disposal.
Oh well, nakakatakot ngang magpa-booster pa.
No problem here. After recovering from Covid-19 in April 2021, I have refused to be vaccinated and am still alive and kicking.