Stunning Sta. Barbara, Iloilo

The municipal town of Sta. Barbara is quaint and quiet. When the jeep drops me off at the curve of the town’s Victory Plaza, the first thing I notice is its landscaped park.

Despite the town’s historical past, there is a certain newness about its central features. The plaza has been redesigned, the Centennial Museum and Convention Centre constructed, and the Municipal Building renovated for the 1998 Philippine Centennial Celebration. In addition, the Roman Catholic Church of Sta. Barbara has undergone a complete restoration, funded by the Iloilo government as well as the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP). The whole project was completed in May 2015, a month prior to the celebration of Philippine Independence on 12 June 2015 by President Noynoy Aquino.

1. Victory Plaza’s Bandstand (1925-26)

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I walk through the park and see these groups of government employees practicing for an upcoming parade. The men with make-believe swords attack and parry, while the women turn and twirl using garlands of ribbons. The women dance beside the Bandstand, an octagonal-shaped structure, constructed around 1925-26. Stella, one of the curators of the museum would later tell me that the Bandstand has been used for various political and social gatherings.

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2. The Monument of General Martin T. Delgado and the 120-feet flagpole.

Locals claim that their flagpole is the tallest in the country. It commemorates the first Philippine flag-raising outside of Metro Manila.

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The Monument of General Martin T. Delgado faces the municipal town hall and the 120-feet flagpole. General Delgado is a Visayan hero, born in Sta. Barbara, and figured in the revolution against Spain on 28 October 1898. A marker in the museum says that he took over the municipal building, organized the Revolutionary Government of the Visayas and inaugurated it at the town plaza on 19 November 1898. The body of Gen. Delgado is buried beneath this structure.

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3. The Centennial Museum and Convention Center.

The following are photos within the museum, which was constructed in 1998. One of the displays says that the museum is part of the Centennial Freedom Trail Site project of the Philippine Centennial Commission.

When I arrive in the Centennial Museum, Stella, one of the curators, takes time to show me around and allows me to take photographs. The following are what you will see when you visit Sta. Barbara’s museum. I suggest that you visit the Museum first to give you an idea of the history and the culture of the town. It will give you a context that will enrich your visit.

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4. The Sta. Barbara Catholic Church and Convent.

The marker of the Sta. Barbara Catholic Church briefs us of its existence. The church and convent were built under the auspices of Fray Francisco Aguerria OSA under the patronage of St. Barbara, a Catholic saint and martyr, in 1849. They were completed in 1878 under the supervision of Fray Calixto Fernandez OSA.

The convent was used as the headquarters of the “Ejercito Libertador” under the leadership of General Martin Teofilo Delgado, who founded the Revolutionary Government of the Visayas in 1898. The church and convent was declared a National Historical Site in July 1990.

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One of the most stunning restoration works I’ve seen is what the National Historical Commission of the Philippines has done to the Church and Convent of Sta. Barbara. I haven’t seen anything as thorough as this project. I am both awed at it, and at the same time, envious: In Bicol, where I come from, we have various historical churches waiting to undergo this kind of restoration. But let me set aside envy.

The Restoration Display

A display tells us of the Restoration Project and the recommendation of the NHCP to conserve what has been done.

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The Convent

The architecture of the convent is beautiful. I love the brick arches and the design of the windows. Let these photos speak for themselves.

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Because Stella does not have the key to the main door that leads to a flight of stairs to the second floor, I find it very amusing to take this very narrow stairs at the back of the convento. You can imagine who took the wider stairs and who used this narrow ladder in the past.

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As of this writing, the doors that you see to your left lead to empty rooms. Stella tells me that the National Historical Commission of the Philippines plans to convert one room into a museum that displays artifacts from the church itself. Some of these restored items are still in the museum (see the religious items above).

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The Catholic Church of Sta. Barbara

The exterior is the featured photo above.

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The bellringer of the church waits for the time he will ring the bells to summon churchgoers for the 5:00 PM mass.

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Know about the whole of my adventure of Iloilo here. Sta. Barbara is just one of the stops. A final photo for posterity.

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