STA. BARBARA: No Shortage of History, Culture and Activities to Enjoy

Text and photos by: Bombette G. Marin

STA. BARBARA, Iloilo is a unique blend of Spanish, American and Filipino architecture, culture and spirit. Situated 15. 6 kilometers from the city, it is just a short drive and great for short day trips.

Sta. Barbara is a colorful, romantic town rich in history and culture. Visitors should check out its historic center, the town’s most eye-catching architecture, the Baroque-Renaissance architectural style of the Sta. Barbara Parish Church and Convent. Reconstructed in 1849 and finished in 1878. The convent was built the same time as the church.

Materials used in the construction of the church and convent were of adobe and coral stones quarried from Alimodian. Red bricks were used for the flooring, walls, and posts. These were transported to the town through carts drawn by carabaos.

Connected to the side door of the church is its L-shaped convent of Antillan architectural style. The church served as the headquarters for the Ilonggo Revolutionary Forces in Western Visayas under General Martin Delgado in 1898. It was untouched during World War II and had withstood the 1948 earthquake. It was declared as a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Institute in 2013.

The town is also the birthplace of Iloilo’s hero, Gen. Martin T. Delgado, popularly known as Tan Martin. He was the Revolutionary General in Visayas and Mindanao who launched the campaign to liberate the whole province from Spain. He raised the Philippine flag sent by General Emilio Aguinaldo, the first time that the Filipino national flag was hoisted outside of Luzon Island. He was the First Governor of Iloilo province in 1901, the following year he was elected governor of Panay and served until 1904.

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After his term, Delgado returned to Santa Barbara and served for eight years as superintendent of a leprosy sanitarium. He spent his last years as superintendent of the leper colony on the island of Culion where he died on November 12, 1918 at the age of 60. A bronze statue was erected in the Victory Plaza in his honor in 1998. The Victory Plaza is also famous for its 1925 octagonal-shaped Bandstand and the monument of Dr. Jose Rizal and the Propagandist.

If Baroque architectural design was to churches during the Spanish regime, the Gabaldon for Public schools was to the American Colonial Period. The Heritage School Building of Sta. Barbara Central Elementary School along Roosevelt, Poblacion was built in 1913.

While most rural public elementary schools built during the American Colonial Period were abandoned, left to deteriorate and rendered obsolete, the Gabaldon structure of the elementary school made of wood with concrete base is to be recycled for modern academic use. Its presence in the area makes history come alive for teachers and students alike reminding them of the heritage of their academic institution.

Another interesting site within the premises is its historic “Poso,” looking similarly to an ice tea drink. It is said that the town has five sources of Poso. The one located within the premises of the school does not stop flowing even during the hottest season of the year. So, get ready to drink.

If you find yourself looking for an unforgettable experience, visit Denila Farms in Barangay Lanag, just a 10-minute tricycle ride from the town plaza. The farm is a 2.7-hectare orchard planted with rows of mostly Brazilian-variety grapes. Trellises line both sides of the farm where grapevines grow straight up.

To know if the grapes are ready for harvest, taste the fruit near the tip of each bunch and if it tastes sweet, the whole cluster is ready for picking. The fruits are harvested early in the morning by hand with the aid of a sharp shear. Grape growing is not new in Iloilo, in fact, it started in Arevalo in the 1950s. Grapes grow best in areas with warm and dry climate and where sufficient irrigation is available, Sta. Barbara provides the perfect venue for commercial vineyards. The farm also grows other fruits such as Guapple, vegetables, and flowering plants.

For more information, please contact Municipal Tourism Officer Irene Magallon at 09209697130.

Get to know the other attractions in Sta. Barbara during the 15th Tumandok Celebration as part of the Tourism Month on September 18-22, 2019 at the event center, fountain area of Robinsons Iloilo main mall. The event is brought to you by the Office of Culture, Arts, History and Tourism, DOT-VI, Robinsons Place Iloilo and the Daily Guardian.