Groups see Iloilo title as ‘badge of betrayal’
ILOILO CITY—As Iloilo hosts this year’s Independence Day celebration, Ilonggo groups and individuals are calling on the government to stop brandishing Iloilo City’s honorific title as the most loyal city to Spanish colonial rule.
The city’s tag as “La Muy Leal y Noble Ciudad (The Most Loyal and Noble City)” is “a badge of betrayal that is not something to be proud of,” they said in a statement being circulated in schools, offices, communities and churches. The words are inscribed in the city’s official seal.
“It is … anachronistic and unpatriotic to continue flaunting the label today … to promote Iloilo City to Filipinos and foreign tourists,” read the statement issued by the groups, including the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and the National Union of People’s Lawyers, as well as several faculty members of the University of the Philippines Visayas (UPV) and religious leaders.
Citing excerpts from the book “ILOILO, The Most Noble City: History and Development 1566-1898” written by the Augustinian priest Policarpio Hernandez, the campaign organizers said the title was conferred on the city by Spain’s Queen Maria Cristina in a special royal decree on March 10, 1898.
The decree cited the city’s “exemplary conduct, its laudable actions during the Tagalog insurrection, and for being the first in organizing, arming and supporting the Ilongo Volunteers” in recognition of the loyalty of the local elite that supported Spain against Filipino revolutionaries in the early stages of the insurrection.
Hernandez wrote: “When Andres Bonifacio’s Katipunan launched the revolt against Spain on the outskirts of Manila on August 30, 1896, the Ilongo (sic) elite were caught by surprise. They immediately responded with protestations of outrage and affirmed their loyalty to Mother Spain. The Ilongos themselves were united in their support of Spain during the first two years of the revolutionary period, nipping in the bud local separatist movements and eventually battling the troops of General Emilio Aguinaldo.”
The Ilonggo elite backed by Spanish and foreign communities in Iloilo organized volunteers to be sent to Luzon to help quell the rebellion, raising P40,000 to support them—an amount that could support them for four months, Hernandez said. The Ilongo Volunteer Battalion was supervised by mostly Spanish officers, he added.
“As expected, the Ilongo Volunteers established for themselves a distinguished combat record in the battles of Cavite against Aguinaldo’s revolutionary forces. Once the pact of Biak-na-Bato was signed, the Battalion returned to Iloilo in April 1898,” Hernandez wrote.
Tomasito Talledo, who teaches political science and sociology at UPV, said Iloilo’s hosting of the Independence Day commemoration would provide an opportunity “to rethink about how we understand our past.”
The notion has been propagated that the title is a badge of honor, Tallego said. “It [symbolizes] loyalty to Spain at that time when the revolution was advancing in the archipelago. The nationalistic duty at that time was to fight against Spanish rule,” he said.
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