The storied former Iloilo provincial capitol will add to its history on June 12 when it hosts the first ever Independence Day vin d’honneur (wine of honor) to be held outside Malacanang.
The two-story building completed in 1873 will be the venue for the traditional cocktails to be hosted by President Aquino, after the Independence Day flag-raising ceremony in Sta. Barbara town in Iloilo.
The vin d’honneur, which Malacanang holds every Independence Day and at the beginning of every year, is expected to be attended by about 120 members of the diplomatic corps and their spouses, legislators, and civic and business leaders.
The old Iloilo provincial capitol has undergone several structural and name changes reflective of the rich history and heritage of the province.
Since it was completed during the Spanish period and became the seat of the provincial government, it was called Casa Gobierno de Iloilo, Palacio del Gobernador, Casa Real, Provincial Building of Iloilo, President Garcia Hall and Provincial Capitol of Iloilo.
Standing at one end of historic Calle Real (now J.M. Basa and Iznart Streets), the building was originally built following a “bahay na bato”(stone house) design with the walls of the ground floor made of coral and the second floor of wood.
Construction of the building was initiated under Gov. Jose Maria Carles and completed in 1873 during the term of Gov. Enrique Fajardo under the direction of chief of public works Don Vicente Ruiz, according to a briefer prepared by the Public Information and Community Affairs Office of the provincial government.
The building was described by the Spanish newspaper La Ilustracion Espanola y Americana as “one of the best of its class”and the “most comfortable and most spacious in the Philippines” at the time, according to the briefer.
Even before Malacanang announced the holding of the 117th Independence Day ceremonies in Iloilo, the provincial government led by Gov. Arthur Defensor had undertaken the restoration of the old provincial capitol to its American-period architecture.
The three-phase restoration costing P53,788,598.49 was started on April 12, 2012, and is expected to be completed this month.
The restored capitol will be unveiled on June 12 for the vin d’honneur which will be held in the 300-seat session hall.
Architect Guillermo Hisancha said restoring the building to its design during the American period was challenging because the building had undergone many revisions.