By Herbert Vego
THIS writer remembers that sometime in 2016, our then-Congressman Jerry P. Treñas (now mayor), invited renowned Architect Augusto “Toti” Villalon to Iloilo City for a press conference. Villalon – a tireless advocate of heritage conservation – told us that the congressman had tapped him to restore the Jaro Plaza to its original Spanish-vintage landscape. The project would be funded (amount unannounced) by the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) a government corporation led by Mark Lapid as chief operating officer.
Mark Lapid, incidentally, together with then Department of Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo, is a respondent to a graft complaint filed by two Boracay residents at the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with an alleged anomaly in a concession agreement with Boracay Island Water Company (BIWC) for water and sewerage services for the entire island.
Now, what has become of the Jaro Plaza restoration project?
Sad to say, Architect Villalon passed away in 2018 without seeing his architectural plan implemented by TIEZA.
Perhaps, if he wins his re-election in May, Mayor Treñas would find ways and means to push through with the project. He could probably start by asking the question, “Where has the TIEZA budget for the project gone?”
I was in the office of the Iloilo City congressman when Villalon showed up with a Powerpoint presentation of his tentative sketches. He sought his audience’s suggestions on how the project could mirror Jaro Plaza’s original design. As shown by old pictures in the presentation, the plaza had a bandstand, benches, walkways and lush ornamental plants and flowers.
Since the plaza had slowly evolved from its original Spanish-vintage landscape, he lamented, its surviving pictures could not be the sole basis for restoration. Present-day realities should also be taken into consideration. He cited the need to elevate the flood-prone ground level.
Its restoration would be in keeping with Presidential Decree 1216, which provides that parks are for public use and therefore “beyond the commerce of men.” Therefore, it ought to regain its traditional image as a free tourism and recreational facility for children and adults.
The plaza restoration is just half of the Jaro Plaza Complex. The other half, already fully restored, is Jaro’s old municipal hall, which now houses a regional museum in accordance with a city ordinance donating the structure to the National Historical Commission.
The Jaro Plaza Complex is just one of seven heritage sites covered by the Treñas-authored Republic Act 10555, which declares it, along with the Jaro Cathedral, Molo Church, the Iloilo City Central Business District, Fort San Pedro, the Molo Plaza Complex and the Plaza Libertad Complex as Cultural Heritage Tourism Zone.
Like us, the ghost of our late Ilonggo hero, Graciano Lopez-Jaena, must still be crying for the restoration of the old plaza where his monument still stands.
730 FINGERLINGS FOR SUSTAINABLE FISHERY
DURING a chance meeting with this writer, Ms. Maricel Pe – head of MORE Power’s Customer Care Department – revealed that no less than their president and chief operating officer, Roel Z. Castro, led the release of 730 Bulgan fingerlings at the Iloilo River last Monday.
“It was to commemorate the second anniversary or 730th day of MORE Power’s operation as Iloilo City’s power-distribution utility,” she said.
It is the second time in so many years that the company released fingerlings for the benefit of fish anglers in the city.
The previous month of February also heralded MORE Power’s third anniversary of the law (RA 11212) granting it the sole power-distribution franchise in the city, as signed by President Duterte on Valentine’s Day of February 14, 2019.
The release of the fingerlings is just one of the many pro-people events in the company’s exercise of corporate social responsibility. More on that later, based on our interview with MORE Power President Castro.